Is your food truck negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic? If YES, here are 10 creative ways your food truck can adapt and grow during the pandemic. Coronavirus is changing everything, including how we eat, and the impact on the food industry can’t be overemphasised.
During the first 22 days of March 2022 alone, the restaurant industry witnessed a $25 billion loss in revenue. That number grew exponentially to $80 billion in April, but concerns go beyond the sobering statistics.
Within this period, many food trucks voluntarily closed down and reassessing each week based on how their state and local government are reacting. Other trucks have closed down simply to protect the public and their own families, especially if they have family members that are immune-compromised.
But there are some food trucks who believe that selling in a safe manner is a necessity to support local communities. After all, with so many restaurants closed, people have fewer options. Especially individuals and families that depend on buying hot meals and cannot easily prepare meals for themselves.
However, the impact of Covid-19 on the Food Truck Industry cannot be neglected, and aside the fact that it extensively affected business revenue, here are some other ways this pandemic dealt and adjusted the industry entirely.
4 Ways Covid-19 Pandemic Impacted the Food Truck Industry
1. Cancellation of Events
In the United States, so many food truck operators were affected by cancellations of events such as festivals, parades and fairs. These businesses also witnessed lower sales as a result of more people staying at home. In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, the food service industry had to close dining rooms and move to offering take out.
Food truck operators were already used to operate a grab and go model which has allowed some to continue operating throughout the pandemic.
2. Change in Business Models
Some food truck operators needed to adapt by travelling to residential neighbourhoods rather than setting up near office buildings many of which are closed. While some have parked near hospitals or other essential workplaces or operated as mobile grocery stores.
Also note that so many operators have made use of apps and software to stay connected with customers and allow them to order takeout online. Since April, the Federal Highway Administration has allowed food trucks to set up on highway rest areas in order to feed truck drivers affected by food service closures.
3. Altered Food Supply Chain
COVID-19 also imposed shocks on all segments of food supply chains, simultaneously affecting farm production, food processing, transport and logistics, and final demand. Bottlenecks in transport and logistics also affected the movement of products along supply chains.
Generally, agricultural and food products needed by food trucks are transported into the United States market using three main modes of transport: bulk (ships and barges); containers (by boat, rail or truck) and other road transport; and air freight.
The disruption in food and Supplies is caused by the steep decline in passenger air travel, which normally accounts for the majority of air cargo capacity. Disruptions to container and truck transport fall somewhere in-between; the number of container ships is currently 8% below normal due to COVID-19 restrictions such as limitations on crew changes, additional screening, mandatory quarantines, and reduced demand.
4. Increase in Food Prices
COVID-19 also lead to higher food prices owing to disruptions to normal logistics. Disruptions in processing, in particular for meat, ultimately “disconnect” supply and demand, creating unbelievable surpluses for producers and shortages for food truck owners, while for some specific products demand has also decreased, leading to a temporary oversupply (e.g. potatoes for French fries, or milk for cheese).
Also, shoppers sometimes experienced empty shelves in markets during the early days of COVID-19, as food supply chains adjusted to the sudden demand surge.
10 Creative Ways Your Food Truck Can Adapt and Grow During the Pandemic
Food trucks are more popular today than ever before. Unfortunately, many of the food businesses that existed just a few months ago will not recover. The fact that some are still very successful, however, gives hope to the industry about what the long-term future holds. The demand for food service is still there, just now in different formats. Below are few strategies to leverage to improve and grow your business during these trying times.
1. Partner with neighbourhoods and homeowners associations
Note that with the restaurant industry on hold for the foreseeable future, there has been an increased demand to bring food into communities, specifically neighbourhoods and apartment buildings. Unlike delivery, a food truck showing up creates a culinary event to break up the monotony of the week.
In addition, the food is prepared fresh and on location. People still crave the community aspect of eating out, and you can capitalize on that demand, even if they’re just walking outside to pick up their dinner.
2. Wear a cloth face covering
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are very hard to maintain, especially in areas where a lot of people are infected. Have it in mind that cloth face coverings may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others.
These face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators and are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required.
3. Leverage order-ahead systems
Have it in mind that mobility combined with order-ahead is indeed a winning combination during the pandemic. For the customer, order-ahead allows for a safer experience. Customers are still eager to get hot, fresh food from a truck, but are able to do so without standing in line with potentially large crowds. Note that this kind of swift, efficient service is a primary draw for health-conscious consumers who still want to participate in getting a delicious meal.
During these times, over 50% of revenue has come from order-ahead sales. The coalescence of order-ahead and mobile dining recreates food experiences for a changing world; it also maintains some social aspects of eating out, but does so while minimizing health risks now associated with indoor dining.
4. Clean and disinfect
Get and carry cleaning and disinfectant spray or disposable wipes and a trash bag with you in your truck. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces at the beginning and end of each shift, particularly if your truck has other employees, following the directions on the cleaning product’s label.
Clean surfaces that are visibly dirty with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Wipe down items such as pens and electronic signature pads / mobile devices if shared with a delivery recipient after each use.
5. Learn creative marketing tactics
Marketing is one of the keys to business success, especially at this time when business models are changing. Take the time to design a creative marketing strategy that involves multiple tactics. Consider digital marketing strategies such as Facebook ads, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and email marketing.
Combine them with traditional marketing initiatives like direct mail and event marketing. Your marketing efforts should be ongoing and will evolve over time as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
6. Limit contact
Avoid close contact with individuals as much as possible when picking, delivering or serving up food or other items. This helps protect you, your workers, and your customers. Practice contactless deliveries to the greatest extent possible.
Contactless deliveries allow you to leave a delivery at a doorstep, move back to a distance greater than 6 feet away while verifying receipt of the delivery with the person getting the delivery, and try to do all interactions electronically (e.g., in an app or over a phone). This eliminates the need for close contact between you and the person getting the delivery. Avoid sharing scanners, pens, or other tools with customers.
7. Adhere to Government mandates to food trucks
Increase frequency of cleaning of menus, cash registers, receipt trays, condiment holders, writing instruments and other non-food contact surfaces frequently touched by patrons and employees. Ensure that social distancing of six feet per person for non-family members. Limit the number of people in lines and increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing per CDC Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection guidance of all hard surfaces.
8. Set a solid budget
A solid budget is a very crucial aspect of a food truck business plan. To set one, write down the amount of money you want to spend for each component of your business. These components may include kitchen equipment, staffing, vehicle maintenance, and marketing.
Also remember that due to Covid-19, the market, regulations, menu changes, and other factors will likely cause you to change your budget over time. Also, make sure your budget is realistic and allows you to take on as little debt as possible. An unlimited budget can lead to financial hardship in the future.
9. Keep an eye on your reviews
Owing to the effects of Covid-19 and changing business models in the industry, reviews can make or break your food truck business. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to monitor your reviews regularly. If possible, respond to all reviews, good and bad. This way, a prospective customer who searches for you online will know that you value your customers and are always eager to improve.
10. Stay home if you are sick
If you develop a fever or symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice before visiting their office. Also remember not to move out with your food truck until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, after talking with your doctor.
As things continue to develop, note that every city, county, and state is at a different stage in their response. Food trucks in the middle of the country are dealing with things differently than food trucks in major coastal cities. However, one thing that is clear is that most food trucks are trying to do the right thing.
No one wants to spread the virus but some feel a responsibility to go out and sell, while others feel that it’s better to stop operations and wait out the Pandemic. The intentions, however, is to get through this time and come out healthy and with your business intact.