• Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Tips on Becoming A Mobile Catering Food Truck Entrepreneur

ByDave Stopher

May 24, 2021

Opening a new business in the food industry starts with talent. If you go into catering, you must prepare foods that people will enjoy enough that word will spread about your skill. Word-of-mouth is the optimum marketing tool.  

Unfortunately, you will run into hundreds of competitors (if not more) who can do the same thing, some better. It would help if you found a unique niche like perhaps a mobile catering truck with a specialty product that will make you stand out from the many others in this industry. 

While looking from the outside, it seems as though operating a mobile catering business would be simple. Becoming the head of any small business might appear a straightforward process. Still, there’s much time, effort, investment, and many intricacies you don’t see as a “wannabe” entrepreneur. 

An ideal way to get the inside track on the startup phase of ownership and operation of a catering truck is to research reputable, successful competitors. Find out where you can invest in operable units from Reward Catering food truck & catering trailer manufacturer for vast options you can choose from. Speak with operators in your local area to see how they run their businesses. Look at those who are profitable and ones who are struggling to learn the differences.  

The ideal scenario is to become an employee with one of the businesses to learn the ins and outs of running the business, including the financial aspects. That relates to whether it is better to build a personalized place or possibly take over an already existing unit.  

Some questions you want to inquire with your new employer (along with full disclosure that your goal is to open your own business) include: 

  • Will you initially rent, or should you invest in a purchase straight away? 
  • How would you find a location to park where utilities are available to you? 
  • Have you determined a niche that is not too unusual but will sell as a favorite?  
  • Did you consider a way to introduce yourself and the brand?  
  • What are some creative ways to promote the catering business that no one else has thought of yet?   

Once you have some experience under your belt and feel you have a sufficient understanding of the operations, you can begin developing your business plan. One thing to understand upfront, if you see no opportunities in your area to either talk with competitors or work with some vendors, do not look at the location as a prime spot for your business. 

Either the area has stringent rules most caterers choose to avoid, the law does not allow these businesses in the area, or there is not enough of a target demographic in the vicinity to generate revenue. You want to take more time to research the area, consider moving locations, and put in extra effort to prepare. Learn pros and cons of food truck operation at https://45magazineiwa.com/2020/07/14/pros-cons-of-operating-a-food-truck-in-2020-2021/. 

Becoming A Mobile Catering Food Truck Entrepreneur 

No one should ever rush into starting a business. The process should be slow and gradual, with much time, energy, thought, and practice put into the effort. Not only should you become an employee in the field for some time to see how the operation works from the ground up, but you should also be doing small gigs during that period to get your “feet wet” in the industry. 

One of the most effective marketing schemes is word-of-mouth. If you have a specialty food item that people praise, get it out there so that the word spreads. Start with small catering jobs like wedding receptions, intimate parties, social events where people aside from friends and family will learn your name. 

The confidence you develop from customers who pay for your talent allows you to pursue the business plan free from doubt. Initially, it might be wise to consider renting a truck to test the popularity of your product with the market. After consistent feedback, you can then decide if you want to design a mobile unit that will stand out from other trucks and draw the audience in your direction. 

If you are budget-restricted in the beginning, use a cart until you become profitable. The food will draw the crowd if it is unusual enough and better than the next. Open here for guidelines on opening a new truck. Some tips to follow as a new mobile caterer include: 

 Designate the Ideal Location for Your Mobile Unit

Suppose you place your mobile catering vehicle in an area with no demographic to take advantage of the products. In that case, you will be doing yourself a great disservice and possibly putting yourself out of business before you even get a chance to start. 

Fortunately, if you pay attention to the lack of traffic and see the location is not a success, you can merely move the truck to a vicinity that has a good crowd. One benefit of operating a mobile unit is that the people who buy tend to become regular followers. Wherever you find a popular spot, it will ultimately develop into a trend for the locals if you have a good product. 

The most crucial step is to contact the motor vehicle department and the city to ensure you are complying with the local rules and regulations when operating your business and as far as parking in the location you choose. You do not want to develop the ideal spot only to have someone ask you to move. 

Promotion and Marketing

Competitors do not want you to succeed. They will not be spreading the word about your business. Word-of-mouth is effective, but you need to be visible to your target group before they can enjoy your goods and tell others about them. Promotion and marketing are things that need to start well before you open the truck for the first time.  

There is a quote that goes, “Not the best product will win – the best-known product will.” The audience needs to know about you. Make sure you develop a great website that draws people and creates your profile on social sites. Interact with everyone who visits as a way of bringing recognition to your brand and you. That allows the consumer to become familiar before you pull up. 

Yes, your recipe needs to be top-notch, and the truck needs to have an awesome design for those who come to visit, but the key to success is letting people know you exist, to begin with. That never stops. Even if you have a broad reach, you want to continue to evolve and grow beyond that. 

Make Sure to Have the Right Team by Your Side

It will not be possible to do all the work yourself. Though, it appears a mobile business would be something done solo. You have to move fast when you prepare food for people on the go, and few companies can succeed without a good team of people working together. 

In most cases, due to budget constraints, a caterer will have to go it alone. At some point, however, it comes down to growth equating to success, meaning you need to build, and that entails hiring people to help you.  

Otherwise, you have restrictions keeping you down to what you can produce on your own within the hours you are able to keep. You might, in fact, be turning people away because you cannot make enough time, particularly at a rush time like lunch or dinner. 

The employees you consider need to have the same outlook for the business, making them engaged in the process with impeccable training provided to produce a similar quality product plus offer an undisputed sense of loyalty. The team’s overall production will determine the company’s success. 

It does not stop, though, with the people with whom you work directly. The contractors, vendors, suppliers, all the outside resources should have the consideration as “partners” in your success and be treated accordingly. The company relies on these services to thrive and survive.  

Open communication, keeping in touch regularly, responding to messages, and developing respectful working relationships should be key priorities. These individuals will also spread the word about you as a businessperson. You can set either a good reputation or be known as a challenge with whom to deal. 

Increase Your Revenue Opportunities

Everyone in business looks for opportunities to grow the business and generate greater revenue. If your mobile unit is doing well, you do not have to limit yourself, especially if you have the potential for more. While you might have the truck as a dream, that does not mean you cannot develop multiple resources for income.  

These would offer a backup if the mobile catering were for some reason to fall through or slow down. It could be due to a change within the location or a potential natural disaster. No one can foretell when something might happen out of your control. That is the reason you should continuously diversify with investments and business opportunities. It is wise to add to your current strategy in some of the following ways: 

  • Perform private/public catering for occasions. 
  • Park at arenas for concerts, festivals, or other massive events. 
  • Offer online ordering and delivery services to your target. 
  • Sign on with some of the apps or websites that allow food ordering. 
  • Become a consultant for newcomers to the mobile catering business. 
  • Offer up franchises to your business. 
  • Design and create food vehicles. 
  • Create Recipes and develop specialty cookbooks. 
  • Become an e-course teacher on catering for a food truck. 

There are so many profitable opportunities from that one business experience. It is only a matter of strategizing how you want to branch out because you want to maintain that same reputation regardless of where you take your business. It is challenging to develop a trusted positive reputation with your primary source of income.  

You do not want to sully that with one wrong move in a “side hustle.” If a catering event goes awry, that feedback has the potential for getting back to your target group. Followers are typically loyalists, but depending on the input, it can work against you. Strive for the same ethic in each endeavor so that there is no fear for negativity in any. 

A Mobile Unit vs. a Restaurant 

Some people allude that running a mobile food truck is an easy way to go into the food industry compared to the brick-and-mortar restaurant. That is an inaccurate assessment. For one thing, mobile catering and real-time restaurants are two entities that are very similar in operation yet entirely different in numerous ways, so comparisons are not realistic.  

Each needs to prove trendy and appealing to their target demographic and serve specialty dishes that make them stand out from the crowd. The truck generally only carries that one specialty dish while a restaurant carries a full menu. The mobile unit caters to people walking along the city streets. A restaurant can do this as well, but generally, individuals need to have a reservation for a restaurant.  

People enjoy the unit because there is typically no wait. A person can get food on the go and keep going. A family needs to set aside a specific period to sit down and enjoy a meal with a restaurant. 

Each needs to promote their establishment to be visible to their specific demographic, but there are different target groups for the individual facilities. So, while it might appear to some that a caterer in a “vehicle” would have a more straightforward, easier job than those working in a brick-and-mortar restaurant, that opinion would be subjective. 

Final Thought 

Before you dive in an attempt to start a catering business in a vehicle, do your homework. You might believe you have the logistics all lined out, but if you never operated a truck food catering business or any small business, success would likely elude you. 

It is essential to put in the time to do your homework on the industry before formally developing and implementing a business plan. Part of that should involve working with a successful mobile operation with whom you can learn the ropes (disclosing your desire to start your own business) and performing small catering jobs to introduce yourself and your dish. Self-promotion is key to brand recognition, and that needs to happen even before there is a company. 

If you don’t become visible to your chosen demographic well before your business comes into existence, you will likely open to a crowd of none.