Before starting any venture you need to have a solid business plan and the first thing you should ask yourself in the food truck business is, “What type of food should I sell?” There has to be a market for your grub, or if you’re starting something new like Frysmith, you have to take a gamble that people will want your funky food concept. Before starting Frysmith, we had numerous taste-testings and anonymous surveys to judge demand and find the perfect mix of tasty and affordable. But, we still had to take a gamble that enough people would want to eat fries with stuff on top as a meal!
Once you’ve narrowed down what you’d like to sell and are confident there is a market for it, be sure to check out the competition. If your concept is similar to a truck already in existence, by all means visit that truck! And don’t go just once. Go several times, preferably in the same week. See how much business they’re doing on different days. This is something you should do if you’re planning to open any truck. Too many people only visit trucks during special events and aren’t getting an accurate idea of the business volume.
In the Los Angeles food truck scene, new trucks seem to pop up every week. It’s impossible to know about every truck coming down the pipeline, but you can always search the food blogs to see if any truck similar to your concept has announced they’re opening soon. After investigating your competition, you may want to alter your concept and business plan.
Customers & Locations
Figure out which demographic would be most interested in your product and where you can find them. For the Frysmith truck, we quickly determined that younger people of the male persuasion would want to eat fries as a meal (especially if alcohol was involved). So, the first locations we contacted were bars. We then moved on to colleges, theaters and other venues that had high concentrations of our demographic. We didn’t think lunch would be in demand, but once we leaked that we were opening, a lot of those menfolk started requesting that we stop by their workplaces. Definitely keep lines of communication open between you and your fans as they’re a great source of location ideas.
Choosing where to go is the hardest part of running a food truck. If you’re like Frysmith and plan to go to different spots all the time, it’s especially stressful, but you don’t have to start from scratch all the time. One savvy trucker I know visited all the popular lunch areas before she opened and made a spreadsheet of where different trucks went. It’s a little more difficult now that there are almost 100 nouveau food trucks in Los Angeles, but it’s a good idea to scout popular locations beforehand. We spend hours each week determining where to go, often mixing popular locations with new ones.
In the next post, I’ll go into details about the costs intrinsic to running a food truck.