As street food trends continue to peak throughout the UK, research shows that foodies are now prepared to put their money where their mouth is (literally) in order to feed their growing desire for artisan foods. It is no surprise to see a promising growth in mobile catering and food truck start ups!
Although this industry offers affordable entry, flexibility and mobility, many mobile traders go out of business within the first year due to a lack of planning, research and dedication. Trailblazer BBQ have highlighted some do’s and don’ts to take into consideration when starting a food truck or mobile catering business to help ensure you reach success.
There are many reasons why mobile catering is such an appealing industry to enter for entrepreneurs.
Firstly, who doesn’t want to run their own successful business?
Have control over every aspect in your business… Where and when you trade, the marketing strategy you develop & the ability to get creative with menu choices etc.
What people fail to understand is the time and effort that goes into a mobile catering business. Take a booking for 250 people that you need to be on site for 1pm – 3pm many people forget the work that is done beforehand.
Pricing, ordering the foods, preparing ingredients etc. not to mention the time spent clearing up after an event, washing utensils, equipment etc. The hours soon rack up.
You need to ask yourself… Are you prepared to work in all weather conditions?
The mobile catering industry isn’t cut out for everybody! You must have the desire and will to work in all weather conditions. It isn’t enough to only cater throughout the sunny days, you must be out providing a service whatever the weather.
How to make it in the food truck industry (The Dos & Don’ts)
Keep start up costs low
One of the biggest killers in the food truck industry is inadequate capital or lack of fall back funds.
Although starting a mobile catering business is much more affordable in comparison to a brick and mortar restaurant, many excited entrepreneurs like to jump the gun as soon as they have enough funds to start trading. What they don’t plan for however is any unexpected circumstances such as mechanical problems or slow starts.
As a startup, you’ll want to keep costs to a minimum, however it is important that you have additional funding on hand to cover for any of these unexpected circumstances. If you don’t have a lot of capital raised perhaps finance options may be more suitable for you.
Trailblazer BBQ find finance to be a popular choice. Trailblazer Finance allows traders to have their Trailblazer out on the road from the first monthly instalment meaning they can save their cash for a rainy day and let the high performing Trailblazer pay for itself. Get a Trailblazer 600s Grillmaster for as little as £155 per month!
Rapid Return on Investment
If you’re going down the finance route, take into consideration your ability to get a return on your investment. How long will it be before you start seeing profit or how many events/days a week will you be required to work to ensure you are covering any finance or loan costs?
Despite the uncertain financial climate, the Santa Maria street food report found that 64% of street food consumers interviewed said they were happy to spend more than £6 on street food.
We have owners charging €6.95 for a burger on their Trailblazer 600s Grillmaster, that has an output capability of 600 burgers per hour! 600 burgers X €6.95 = €3445 per hour…..not bad!
Choose your food truck/trailer wisely
You will need to distinguish what type of catering unit will best suit your needs.. some food for thought before you commit to making a purchase.
● The changing perception
Out with the old and in with the new as people now stereotype the term ‘catering van’ as a cheap fast food unit parked in a muddy concert venue or market square, restricted to selling greasy burgers and chips and are therefore attracted by new, unconventional mobile units.
● How much are you willing/can afford to spend?
A survey conducted by ‘Streetzine’ found the average US food truck costs around £63,000. This is a hefty amount to fork out, not to mention the majority of food trucks averaging as little as 10-15 MPG making transportation costs a high unnecessary overhead.
If you restricted to a second hand budget consider the age and milage of the unit. If its a second hand food truck and breaks down, your whole catering business will also be out of action.
‘NCASS’ provide a rough food truck/trailer costing guide, showing what you can expect to spend in relation to your truck/trailer choice. Click here and we will send you a Trailblazer BBQ price list & brochure.
● What food do you plan on serving?
This can be challenging, as a start up you may enter the market then weeks down the road realize through customer feedback that you have mass demand for coffee, burgers, or fried foods. Do you need mass diversity within one unit?
Keep in mind current trends. Although healthy eating is on the increase, dont be afraid to offer the old classics as McCain’s food service 2018 report highlights ‘“people still enjoy indulgent and flavoured packed choices like American BBQ, ‘Dirty’ burgers and topped fries.”
Watch the video & see how Feast have transformed their street food game with Trailblazer BBQ
Have you read through the Trailblazer BBQ street food trends report? If not click here and see what current foods and menu offerings are trending to ensure you are offering what customers are demanding!
● The areas you will be targeting
As many UK street food meccas and trading spots are in tight, narrow courtyards with access limitations you may want to consider manoeuvrability and size when selecting a unit as a large trailer may not be suitable for local areas.
Consider pitch fees, will you be charged accordingly depending on the size of your unit and the space you are occupying?
Read here how ‘Feast’ got their trading location updated due to their Trailblazers small footprint and eye catching slick design.
● How many people do you plan to serve each day?
In order to succeed, you need customers! Therefore you will want to be serving as many customers as possible. In order to keep customers happy you will need to have high output capabilities to keep things running smooth and efficient.
Research shows that customers are only willing to spend 5 minutes when waiting before they start looking for alternatives.
Don’t get confused, long queues are a good problem as it shows that your food is a popular choice and will likely create extra hype. The problem occurs when you don’t have an efficient food truck/trailer that’s output performance can match the demand. This will lead to long queues, lengthy waiting times and an overall hinderance in your mobile catering profiting ability!
Remember, HIGH NUMBERS = HIGH PROFITS
“We got a big job thanks to Trailblazers output. We were asked to go in and cook as much food as we could in the space of an hour. This was great crack and £800 for an hours work isn’t bad!” The Kitchen Letterkenny
Where to trade
Are you going to have a prime location, multiple locations, focus on private events or try to secure trading pitches at large festivals and markets?
Mixing up your services is a great way to increase revenue, experience and overall satisfaction as you are trying new things. Trailblazer BBQ owners have found great success through targeting a combination of each. Due to the diversity of cooking Trailblazer offers you can go from selling burgers at a local sporting event as a quick and easy money generator to cooking for the most discerning guests at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open…. Now you can!
‘Street Dots‘ is a brilliant app that allows traders to secure different trading locations throughout the UK on a daily basis. Consumers can then access the app to find where you will be located that specific day. This is a great way of securing different trading locations at an affordable price.
‘Food Trucks‘ is another great platform for securing street food trading pitches throughout the UK. In fact, just recently I caught up with a Trailblazer BBQ trader who made £600 profit over a two hour period through a trading post he secured through Food Trucks. So definitely a route worth researching!
‘NCASS’ also offer a fantastic, free benefit for their members through Work Opps. Work Opps sends live work leads and opportunities to you via text. A great means of securing work & contacts. Read more here
Private events and corporate parties are beneficial as you can pre plan and forecast. We have numerous Trailblazer owners who solely focus on offering private services as this way they know exactly what they are expecting at each event, and they can plan in terms of resources, staff and time needed.
We go into more depth on where to trade in our ‘location & event targeting’ article.
Stand out from competition
As a street food trader, you have one chance to impress each customer. If the customer has a bad experience it is unlikely they will return due to countless alternative choices.
Think of the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ This saying would never have been created if it wasn’t human nature to automatically judge things by their first appearance. Focus on creating theatre to draw customers to you, an intriguing name to encourage “mentions” through written media with an artisan and cohesive menu to draw customers back for more!
As people ‘eat with their eyes’, a great way to create theatre is through open grill cooking. Sear large chunks of marinated meats over Trailblazers impressive open grill, letting the fats drip onto a bed of scorching hot charcoal to really entice the crowd!
Use your food truck as a mobile marketing billboard
Use your food truck/trailer to promote your logo, services, contact information and social profiles as this will act as a free marketing billboard when travelling to and from trading locations.
Make sure that when you are in position and trading your branding is on display. Have business cards on hand ready to dish out to interested customers. Especially if you are aiming at targeting private events too. We regularly hear that our customers are securing private such as wedding bookings and private parties through people seeing them in action. Visibility is key!
Many people are under the impression that once you have your truck/trailer ready to trade, you simply pull up to a location and people will just flock to you.
Unfortunately this is not the case! You may be a wizard in the kitchen but who is going to buy your great food if no one knows you exist?
In todays society, you can market, manage, converse and sell your catering business through the use of social media platforms, for virtually no cost at all. Therefore making it a sin to neglect!
Facebook provides a cost free opportunity to present visual and creative content to your audience, keep up to date with current trends, gain customer feedback or reviews and most importantly engage and get to know your followers.
Boasting over 1.37 billion daily users, Facebook is a platform you can’t afford not to be using so you may need to skill up if you are not yet familiar with it.
Facebook also offers paid promotion opportunities that let you target people with specific interests, buying behaviours and location demographics. This is a perfect opportunity to run tailored campaigns to specific audiences. For example you may be running a new health focused menu, so you may wish to target people in your location, that have an interest in street food and health & fitness.
Instagram is currently the fastest growing social media site of 2019. 2018 saw a 33% increase of restaurants utilising Instagram as their platform of choice to market their catering business!
Create Insta-perfect menu offerings to encourage millenial customers to snap and share pictures of your food to their followers. This is a great way to increase reach and brand awareness.
Get to know your audience
‘The company that knows its customer is the company that wins!’
The key to attracting new and retaining existing customers is by offering what they want, it’s no secret. So take the time to get to know your audience, focus on what they do and don’t like and research current eating habits and trends.
Santa Maria’s ‘What’s Next for Street Food’ report found that millennials are at the front of the queue for street food.
“Our research shows that consumers, especially millennials, have embraced street food as part of their everyday routines, and what’s more they’re happy to pay extra for it.” Eimear Owens
Therefore provide offerings that will appeal to millenials! This generation can be simply defined using two words: technology and food and for that reason technology is becoming mainstream!
Technology improvements such as Apple Pay and contactless debit cards means people now refrain from carrying loose change. People want the ability to use their mobile, PC or tablet to order food ahead of collection, removing the need for them to queue in line or pay. They simply just walk up and collect.
McCain foodservice ‘Whats Hot’ 2018 revealed that 40% of 25-37 year olds prefer ordering food on their phones to table service, whilst 67% will spend more on their phones than when ordering in person.
Get in touch
The food truck business has changed incredibly over the past few years, becoming one of the hottest new businesses. If this is something that interests you and you are ready to start making money then please get in touch. We will be more than happy to explain the unique and unmatched benefits and opportunities that Trailblazer BBQ can bring to your business or new business idea. We can even offer you the opportunity to make use of our outdoor demo area so you can see for yourself!. In the meantime have a read throughout our customer testimonials and case studies and hear first hand how Trailblazer is financially benefiting them throughout a wide range of industries.