How to Run A Successful Lunch Truck Business…
…and avoid falling prey to the 10 most common mistakes new lunch truck owners make!
If you’ve been thinking about opening a lunch truck in your city, you could really be onto something great! It can be a fulfilling and highly rewarding way to earn a great living if you truly love making delicious food and giving people a reason to smile.
But it’s also a lot of hard work, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to get it street-ready.
And if you go into it blind, without knowing what pitfalls lie ahead, then you could be setting yourself up for utter and dismal failure.
So let’s take a moment and go over the most common reasons lunch truck businesses fail:
#1 – Bad Budgeting
Millions of people make this mistake in their personal lives, so it’s bound to carry over into their business. Unfortunately the risks are a great deal higher when you’re the boss of your own lunch truck company, so don’t go into this lightly! Make sure you have more than enough funding to cover everything:
- Your truck
- Cooking and serving equipment
- Electricity, water and gas
- Employee pay
- Food and supply costs
- Permits, licenses and fees
- Taxes and bookkeeping
And if you’re smart, you’ll always keep at least 6 months of payroll for you and all your staff tucked away safely in a savings account…just in case.
WORDS OF WISDOM: Always expect the unexpected and be prepared!
#2 – Making It All About You
Love the food you cook and cook it well, but make sure it’s what the crowd craves! You may love peanut butter and pickles on rye, but if your crowd doesn’t fancy it as well – it will just sit on your counter drawing flies! Your menu is what makes you different from every other street vendor out there and it’s what keeps your loyal followers coming back over and over to feast on your goodies. So spend some time doing research on what the people in your area love to eat most, what’s on your competitor’s menu, and what niche is missing that people are crying out for – and factor all of this into your menu plans.
#3 – Suffering an Identity Crisis
You need a ‘hook’ to draw people in and create a brand that your customers can really get behind. What makes your lunch truck unique? Are you all-vegan? Or maybe your thing is being ‘green’ to cater to the eco-minded crowd by using a hybrid or electric truck and serving only organic foods? Maybe your heritage is a beautiful blend of ethnicities and you have family recipes handed down from generation to generation that you want to share with the world… whatever your uniqueness is, make sure it’s clear and that you capitalize fully on it to show off how special you really are.
#4 – Inconsistency
People are funny in the way they expect everything to always be the same when it comes to the things they love. They get furious when you run out of what they usually order, or when today’s lettuce isn’t as fresh and crisp as yesterday’s…or when you switch brands of tortillas on them. And if you change a recipe they love or make it spicier (or not as spicy!) as it’s supposed to be, they’ll hunt you down and hang you from your own awning! In other words – be consistent in all you do! Once you find something that works and it makes your crowd happy, try your hardest to keep it that way.
#5 – Crappy Employees
We all have bad days – it’s inevitable and unavoidable. But there are people out there who for them, every day is a BAD day! Don’t hire these people!! And when you do find the ones with the attitude, qualities and skills you desire – train them well. Make sure they have your menu down to an art and they practice consistently to be faster and better in all they do. You and your staff are the face of your business and a truly essential part of your success.
#6 – Lack of Skills and Management Training
This is a biggie! We all have to start somewhere, but getting it right the first go-round is so important when managing your own lunch truck business. Are you prepared to handle all the office duties like bookkeeping, taxes, staying up-to-date on all permits and licenses and permits and ordering supplies? Can you stay calm when something goes wrong? How will you react when your generator gives out or your fryer breaks? What if every employee calls in sick on the same day or you can’t park where you always park? What if the Health Department wants a surprise inspection during lunch rush hour? It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t know what you’re doing, so either call in professional help or make sure you work on these aspects of yourself before jumping into this.
#7 – Not Enough Inventory
It’s hard to serve your famous Polish Goulash when you run out of spoons…or the main ingredient. It doesn’t matter if your supplier dropped the ball or you undershot your needs for the week, or just plain ran out of money – this is a bad situation to be in! Hopefully you don’t find this out during rush hour, but even if you catch this before you head out, a lack of sufficient supplies and inventory can stop you in your tracks – meaning NO MONEY that day! And in a tough business like the lunch truck crowd, that could mean thousands of dollars lost.
#8 – Not Knowing Your Market
I know it seems like we already covered this, but it goes deeper than just what your target crowd likes on their hot dogs. It’s about location – what is the average income where you want to set up? Can they afford your fare? Are you allowed to park in that area? Has someone else already ‘claimed’ that area as theirs and will you have to fight them for it? Who is your competition? What are they doing that’s better and more effective than what you’re doing? Is the local demand equal or greater than the supply? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, call in a marketing expert to help out – they can make or break your success.
#9 – No Business Plan
Ouch. This is a painful lesson if you’re forced to learn the hard way! While most of the time you’ll need a stellar business plan to bring your lunch truck business before a bank for financing, this is something you must absolutely do even if you already have the cash to bankroll this yourself. What are your long term plans? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Do you want to grow into a whole fleet of lunch trucks or do you want to stay small? Do you want to be a nationally-known brand with t-shirts and bumper stickers and your own line of BBQ sauce? Without a vision, you won’t go far and when the tough times come (as they always do), you won’t have the energy and drive to stick with it.
#10 – A Less than Stellar First Impression
Imagine it’s opening night at Cirque Du Soleil and the entire troop gets up on the stage and the music starts and…utter chaos. Everyone’s doing their own thing and it’s a total disaster! You’d want your money back, right? Indeed. Well it’s the same way with your lunch truck – opening day shouldn’t be left to chance. You should have several full run-throughs in the days before your grand opening so that everyone knows their place, learns their responsibilities and can get comfortable in their workspace. Work out all the kinks and bugs before you have a line of starving people, already late for work, taking out their stress and hunger on you! It’s true what they say – you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, so make it the best one possible!
It’s OK – You’re Not Alone!
I know all of this seems overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be! Take it one bite at a time and you can make this work. Owning your own lunch truck can be an exciting and extremely satisfying way to make money and be your own boss if you just take the time to prepare!
If you want to get a head start and some professional advice on how to do it right the first time, Click here now and get instant access to the FREE video series we have created that will reveal the experts’ secrets on how to start a profitable lunch truck business on a shoestring budget.
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