Food Truck Management: Responsibilities and Essential Skills of a Great Food Truck Manager in 2024
Food trucks might be small restaurants on wheels, but they’re still big business in the United States and across the world. Despite a small dip in the size of the food truck market during the pandemic, the industry of 36,324 trucks in the United States alone is still estimated to be worth $1.48 billion. Food trucks have grown up from their stereotypically greasy past to offer healthy options and gourmet experiences. Food trucks are going to continue to play to their strengths and offer convenience and great meals.
To do this successfully, they need great food truck managers. With so many options out there, mobile restaurants need people at the helm who are highly skilled, motivated, and experienced to beat the competition. Food truck managers have to take on a wide range of responsibilities to make their businesses work. Let’s take a look at all the skills needed, plus some top tips to help food truck businesses succeed.
In this article, you’ll learn:
The responsibilities of a food truck manager
The essential skills needed as a food truck manager
Tips for food truck management success
How to Manage a Restauarant
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Food Truck Manager
Food trucks are almost micro restaurants, but that doesn’t mean they need less management. Often, a food truck manager needs to take on more roles and responsibilities than other small business managers.
Let’s see what their main tasks are.
Hiring and staff management
A typical food truck can only hold two to six staff, so you might think that most managers have very small staff teams. However, the reality is that one brand may run several trucks and may even have a commercial kitchen to support them, so staff teams can be a lot bigger than expected. It’s the manager’s job to recruit, hire, train, and manage a highly efficient staff team.
Supplier coordination and inventory management
Food trucks don’t have the storage capacity of full-sized restaurants. For that reason, it’s essential that the manager stays on top of inventory and supply management. Any miscalculation can strand the business and cause revenue loss. The manager’s job is to ensure stock is on board and supplies are delivered or picked up from suppliers regularly so everything is able to run smoothly.
A food truck manager must have a firm grasp of financial management. This includes budgeting, pricing, cost control, and accounting. An effective financial strategy can help your restaurant remain profitable, even in times of economic uncertainty.They don’t need to be chartered accountants, but a bit of experience sure wouldn’t hurt.
With a small food truck business, there’s usually no sales and marketing team. Instead, it normally falls to the manager to market the business. They may hire an independent marketer to help create and implement a marketing plan, or they might do all the work themselves. This can include designing ads, promotions, and even events to market the business. The manager is also responsible for any market research or feedback that can help the business improve.
Because food trucks are mobile, they can provide services that other types of restaurants can’t. This includes catering for outdoor events and serving different crowds at different times in different locations. People normally expect the service from food trucks to be minimal, but that doesn’t mean it can ever be poor.
It’s up to the manager to create a standard for service and train staff to provide it. They also need to monitor customer satisfaction to ensure they’re taking the right direction in their service. And should any issues arise, it always falls to the manager to solve problems to the satisfaction of the customers.
Regulatory, safety, and legal compliance
On average, it costs over $28,000 just to purchase the permits required to run a food truck business. That’s not chump change, and it represents a big part of the business’s start-up costs. It’s crucial for a food truck manager to keep up with standards of hygiene and safety so that those permits are never lost. The manager has the responsibility of training staff for their own safety in the workplace, as well as for maintaining standards of cleanliness to keep food safe from contamination.
Essential skills of a food truck manager
It’s not enough to know the roles and responsibilities a food truck manager needs to take on. They also need to possess a wide range of skills and abilities that will help them succeed at the job. Here are some of the main ones you’d want to see in a great food truck manager.
The food truck manager is like the captain of a ship. They need to inspire and lead their crew to the right fishing grounds and ensure they’re fully prepared to do their jobs when they arrive. They should show a high level of motivation and dedication to the job so they can lead by example.
Just like a ship’s captain needs to issue their orders loud and clear, a food truck manager has to have great communication skills in order to lead their staff. But they also need to communicate effectively with suppliers to maintain good relations and get everything they need to produce their products. Plus, the manager is the go-to person to deal with customers, especially when there are problems and concerns. They should be able to speak to customers effectively, politely, and in a way that makes them feel important and recognized.
Imagine driving the truck across town from your commercial kitchen to your normal lunch spot, only to realize that you’ve left an important ingredient behind. In the food truck business, this simply can’t happen, and that’s why the manager needs to be highly organized.
They need to keep track of inventory, staff scheduling, finances, marketing, and more, so this is a complex job that requires someone with a great head for details and systems.
When problems bubble up, the manager is the one responsible for solving them. Whether these are supply issues, problems with the truck or equipment, or food concerns, a great manager should be able to think on their feet and provide solutions. This also goes for solving customer concerns to their satisfaction.
Understanding of the industry
As celebrity chef Tyler Florence says, “Today’s food trucks are far from cheap eats on wheels. There are some seriously gourmet offerings on four wheels.”
An ideal food truck manager will have experience not only in the food and beverage industry but specifically with food trucks. They’ll be able to examine the competition and help their truck find a niche that fits its food and style. This includes knowing where to park to attract the appropriate customer base and also scouting events that match well with the truck’s cuisine. They should also know what their customers are looking for in their food truck experience and be able to do what it takes to deliver it.
Tricks to being a successful food truck manager
Build an outstanding company culture
In the food truck industry, each truck is a unique brand with its own food, style, and way of doing things. Cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment will keep your team cohesive and sticking with the job long term. It will also help you provide consistent service to the people who give you their continued support.
Create a great guest experience
Food truck customers want more than just great eats. Even on the side of the road, they’re looking for a certain amount of atmosphere and friendly service. When they get the experience they desire, you win them as customers who will keep coming back and recommend your business to help you grow.
Stay up to date with staff training and cross-training
Even though you trained your staff on intake, they may still need refreshers once in a while, especially if you’ve introduced new equipment, systems, or procedures. Cross-training your staff to help them learn each other’s jobs is a great idea to help them appreciate everyone’s efforts. This technique also lets them swap positions and fill in shifts on short notice when needed.
Never stop learning
The best managers in any industry know that there’s always room for improvement in both the business and themselves. That’s why they never stop learning and trying to improve themselves. There are lots of courses, workshops, and online resources they can use to help them improve the quality and efficiency of their business.
Great Food Truck Managers
The best food truck managers have a wide array of skills and aptitudes that they can apply to the different responsibilities needed for running a mobile restaurant. With these skills and experience, plus a big dollop of motivation, they’ll be able to succeed in this competitive industry.
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