Yes, food trucks operate during winter but it is mostly the season of disconnection. The long queues of hungry lunch seekers are negatively affected by the threatening wind. Customers no longer want to wait outside in the cold, lines that once stretched for blocks can quickly disappear with the winter’s first frost.
Food truck owners report that business revenue drops by 50 percent or more during the cold months, with some days dwindling to a just a sale or two when the weather is harshest. It’s a chilling — sometimes killing — season for micro businesses that may have jumped in during the summer only to be caught unprepared when January sends the numbers over the cliff.
Indeed, owning and running a food truck in the winter can be quite a task, however there are many different factors you will have to consider as a truck owner if you are looking to do business during the winter.
Before you begin anything, it is better you first analyze your strengths and weakness. You will have to find out if you bake the best cupcakes in town or have exceptional customer service. Note that it is important to recognize what makes your food truck unique. Only after you must have done this can you know what special strategy to use for winter.
Another wonderful thing about the food truck industry is the strong sense of community among owners. Before you decide to venture out during winter, it is advisable you talk to your fellow truckers to find out what they plan on doing in the winter months. This could provide you additional ideas and inspiration as to what decisions your business should make.
10 Ways Food Trucks Can Survive the Winter Freeze and Grow Their Business
The winter season can be very challenging for food trucks because there is significantly less foot traffic and customers aren’t inclined to wait for their food in the cold. But instead of packing up for the winter or looking for a regular job, you can use winter food truck strategies to encourage increased off-season sales.
Strategies like special promotions to expanded business offerings, just a little adjustment in your business model can keep your cash flow going. Try these winter food truck options mentioned below for the winter months.
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1. Winterize Your Truck
The very chilling temperatures that comes with winter doesn’t just affect your number of customers, it also affects the truck and it will be wise to first make sure that your food truck is prepared for the chilly winter months. One very crucial thing every winter truck needs during winter is good snow tires.
Food trucks are heavy and prone to slipping and sliding when driving in inclement weather, but snow tires provide more traction to make driving safer. You will also want to ensure that the sidewalks and pathways to your truck are snow-free and safe for customers.
You should also install heaters inside your food truck as well, so your employees can stay warm and comfortable during the winter season. You should also consider getting a propane stove to help keep all of your food items heated.
Along with owning a propane tank, it would also be helpful if you buy any other kinds of special equipment to keep all the food items at the exact temperature you want them. Another alternative is to get an electric garage heater, which works great and are far less dangerous than having a propane tank on board, provided you can power them on you truck.
2. Dress for the Season
You and your employees should also wear heavy clothes that will keep everyone as warm as possible so that they can continue to do their job efficiently even during those freezing months. During winter, people still go about their jobs. The employees can also help to keep the truck warm because they are creating and gathering heat by moving around. There is no time off just because the weather changes and that also involves summer months along with the winter months as well.
When it’s too cold to stay outside, start looking for customers that will welcome you in. Waiting for customers to stop by your truck is often unpredictable, especially in colder weather. A catering gig offers you the opportunity to generate extra guaranteed amount of business.
Typically your truck offers a mobile kitchen option for cooking food on-site at the event venue. You can also use it to transport food, ingredients, and equipment to the location if you plan to cook the food in a commercial kitchen space.
4. Head to Warmer Weather
As we all already know, one of the good things about food trucks is the mobility aspect. When you’re the boss, you decide where to set up the truck. If cold winter weather negatively affects your business, you can choose to head towards warmer climates for part of the year. Think of yourself as a business snowbird instead of a retired one.
Note that this option works best if you already own a home or have relatives in a warmer climate. You can also find a short-term rental in your new location. You will also find temporary employees once you get to your new destination if you think you can’t run the truck yourself. You’ll also need to get permits and follow food truck regulations in the new area.
5. Create Winter Specials
Have it in mind that your customers might need a little motivation, a little incentive, to line up outdoors for your food. You can create a special winter discounts to motivate your customers. Agreeably, you will take a small hit to your profits, but you’re not making any money if no one shows up to your food truck.
For instance, you can choose to offer a meal bundle for a cheaper combined price or a freebie with a meal order, such as a free coffee or hot chocolate with every entrée. Aside motivating customers, you could also encourage them to bring their friends by offering a buy-one-get-one-free promotion during the winter.
6. Accept Winter
Instead of cursing the cold and flurries, you can instead inculcate it into your seasonal food truck marketing plan. Have it in mind that a winter menu or a few additions to your normal menu will help draw crowds. You can consider dishes such as soup or coffee drinks to help customers stay warm.
Also strategically get the customers who brave the cold to help you promote your food truck by offering branded winter gear. Scarves, ear warmers, and gloves are examples of items you can print with your logo as a special winter promotion.
You just have to accept the season and try to adjust and have fun along the way. You can also put a few sleds that customers can use on a nearby hill while they wait for their food. Consider offering free coffee to anyone who makes a snow angel, or start a snowman-building contest among your customers. All these activities make the wait more enjoyable and make your food truck memorable.
7. Boost Your Online Presence
When business is slow, it is advisable to take the spare time to focus on promotional efforts. Winter is an ideal time to grow your online presence, as this can help drum up new business in the winter. It can also help grow awareness about your food truck in the coming months.
If you don’t have a website and social media channels, it will be the ideal time to set them up and start sharing. Remember to share information about your menu, your business, and your employees.
Post about any winter specials you create to encourage people to visit. You can also approach local food bloggers, newspapers, and other media outlets about your food truck. Invite them to try your food or do an interview with you. Note that being promoted on those local channels can help new customers find you.
Have it in mind that partnering with other businesses is a mutually beneficial way to attract more business. If you prefer the lunch crowd, locate a large employer in the area who lets you set up in the parking lot. You can then get the captive audience of the company’s employees to keep you busy during the lunch rush.
Also note that you can set up a table inside the business. Prepare food in your truck, and pack it up in a warmer. Head inside the business to sell to their employees! Also consider partnering with local breweries and similar businesses that don’t serve their own food. Alcohol tends to leave patrons hungry. The brewery can promote your food truck to help draw more customers into the establishment. Both businesses benefit from increased sales.
9. Talk to Your Guests
Since your guests are the ones waiting in line for your food, talk to them and find out what you could offer or do better that would make braving the freezing temperatures worth the wait. Note that you can do this simply by having a conversation with your regulars or by sending out a survey via email or paper and offering an incentive for completing it.
- Offer Delivery
The traditional food truck model involves parking your truck and waiting for customers to swarm. But since the winter season makes people prefer to stay indoors where it’s warm, consider altering that model. So instead of making customers come to you, go to them.
For instance, if you park in a busy commercial area, your truck can serve as your hub. Then you can hire a delivery person to run the food to nearby office buildings. If can add online ordering to your website for this delivery service, it will make it attractive and even easier for your customers to get their food.
Winter is the most difficult season for food trucks, but this doesn’t mean that your food truck needs to shut down for the season. Getting creative with your food truck advertising, menu planning, promotions, and services can help keep your income up during colder periods.