Do you run a food truck business and need ideas on best places to park? If YES, here are 7 tips on how to find a perfect parking location for a food truck.
The food truck business is quite popular in the United States and has continued to grow. According to the National Restaurant Association, food trucks generate $650 million in annual revenue. But, even with this impressive statistics, and the fact that food trucks are expected to jump nearly 4% in the next five years, a survey from St. Leo University shows nearly half of respondents had never eaten at a food truck.
Maybe this can be attributed to the fact that a lot of people do not know where they can find their local food truck. In order to be able to succeed as a food truck owner, you should know how to find the best locations for your food truck.
Unlike a brick-and-mortar restaurant that can’t move around, deciding where to park your food truck can make or break you. Picking the best location is fundamental to your success. One very impotent part of starting a food truck business is to determine how you can position your business for the best exposure. For some people, this might be an easy decision; for others, the opposite rings true.
Whether you are trying to figure out where you should park for the first time or are in the market for a new location, there are a lot of factors you should have in mind. Finding the right location for your food truck business can be the difference between the success or failure of your business.
If you pick a location that doesn’t have much foot traffic, then you might not get enough customers to patronize your food truck, which could be a serious problem when it comes to sales and the growth of your business.
In order to be able to run a successful food truck business, you not only have to plan a good menu, you also have to map out the best locations in your city to park your food truck. Here’s how to find that perfect parking location for your food truck that will maximize your profit.
8 Factors to Consider When Finding a Perfect Location for your Food Truck
a. One of the most important factors you should have in mind when choosing a perfect position is the proximity to your food preparation location. This factor only comes to play if you prepare your food off-site. If you prepare all the food in your truck, then this should not bother you.
b. Customer: customers are the lifeline of any business. You certainly won’t sell any food if you aren’t where the people are. To be successful, you have to meet the demand, and the demand comes from the customer.
However you can bet that anywhere a lot of people are, a lot of competition will also be there. Staying with other food truck businesses in the same vicinity makes a lot of sense. When a bunch of food trucks are clustered together, they tend to generate interest from the community.
If your competition consists of five established pizza trucks, and you are a pizza truck as well, you might want to pick a different location. Now, if your competition is a pizza truck, taco truck and Hawaiian truck, and you are a Thai truck, then you might have found the perfect spot.
If your competition is already established and seems to be taking all your customers, then it will be in your best interest to move to a different location. Just like any other industry, competition will motivate you to get better, it will help keep your prices reasonable, it will inspire you to try new things, et al.
You can go the alternative route by distinguishing your truck from competition, test the waters on this one. You may find it doesn’t work as well as you’d thought.
c. Obey the Law: another very crucial aspect to getting a perfect position for you food truck is to obey the law in all you do. If you are not allowed to park in a specific location — even if it seems like it is the best location — then you simply can’t park your food truck there. This is just common sense.
Every city has its own rules and regulations governing where food trucks can and cannot conduct business from. For instance, in Kansas City, food trucks can’t park within 50 feet of any type of restaurant. They also have to maintain a three-foot passageway for pedestrians. In Los Angeles, you must have a trash can outside your food truck and it needs to be clearly marked as a trash can and have a sign attached that requests customers to dump their trash in the receptacle.
In addition, they also can’t park within one block of a school on a school day during the 30 minutes before school starts and after school ends. There are a lot more rules guiding food trucks and it is up to you as the owner to know these rules so that you do not contravene any of them. You can Google your city and food truck laws to get a full rundown of the do’s and don’ts.
d. If you have to park your food truck in a location where other food trucks are, you should not park your truck close to another truck selling similar food. Give your truck a fighting chance and park next to trucks where you’ll stand out.
e. Find a location that has a lot of foot traffic: just like any other business, a food truck business requires that the owner should make business-driven decisions. No matter how perfect you think a location may be, without a lot of foot traffic, it makes no sense.
You need to pick a place where a lot of people are going to be. You can’t just rely on friends and family member to buy what you sell. Even when you have return customers, a lot of your sales will still come from people who have never purchased food from your food truck. That is why it’s so important to pick a destination that is flocking with people. If you didn’t take this into account, then it might be why your food truck business is failing.
f. Will you have one location or multiple locations? a very important question that a new or even already existent food truck owner has to ask is “am I going to have a prime location, multiple locations or do I plan on hitting up food truck event after food truck event?” The choice is yours! You can, of course, have the best of both worlds. Since your food truck is mobile, you can set up shop in many different locations.
There are a lot of food trucks that have a main location but also venture to other locations. For instance, your food truck might park outside a huge business building where there are bound to be plenty of people flocking to your truck at lunchtime.
Likewise, you might have a prime location during the weekdays and hit up food truck events on the weekends. Food truck events could be a fall festival all the way up to a concert. Just know what is going on in your area, and then see if your food truck is allowed to crash the party.
For instance, your prime location can be a food truck near a populated locale, downtown, near a business district, et al.
Here is a tentative plan for the week of a food truck owner: on Monday and Tuesday you can go to the farmers market. On Wednesday you can go to the business district. On Thursday and Friday, you can stay in your normal spot and then hit up a food truck event on Saturday and Sunday. It really just depends on the food truck and how adventurous you want to be. You can change your locations on a weekly basis.
g. Offer mobile ordering and payment: When it comes to the food business, mobile is the future; and food trucks are no exception. There are a couple of things that you need to cover in other to ensure that you are going mobile the right way.
In order to help customers find your food truck, there are mobile apps such as Roaming Hunger and Eat St. that you can use. You just have to list your food truck in apps such as the aforementioned.
In addition to using third-party food truck locator apps, you can also consider creating an app specifically for your own food truck. The process may sound intimidating, but in reality, it’s relatively simple. Also, you should have a website that is optimized for mobile use.
Finally, if you really want to stand out, consider offering mobile payment and mobile ordering options. In the fast-food world, mobile ordering is a huge trend. As a matter of fact, restaurants like Taco Bell have seen 20 percent average higher value orders when customers used their new app versus ordering in-store.
To take full advantage of the move to mobile for your food truck, the key is to be seen by relevant, third-party apps; to make your website mobile friendly; to consider creating an app; and to offer mobile services such as ordering and payment.
h. Increase your presence on social media: social media marketing has come to be a very important aspect of business and marketing today. However, the fast-paced nature of the food truck industry makes having an equally responsive, up-to-date social media presence of huge importance.
To make more money for your food truck through social media marketing, you will need to get creative. Don’t just position your business physically, you should also position it well in the cyber space.
9 Best Location ideas for your Food Truck Business
1. Special Events: if you stay in a city that is socially vibrant, then you should take advantage of this. Stay up-to-date on all the social gatherings that take place in your area such as festivals and concerts and ask around on which of these social gatherings are open to food trucks.
Get to know the key contacts at the visitor’s bureau and the organizers at all the popular events that happen during the year in your area. You will get more invitations to participate in these events, if you start developing good relationships right from the start.
Special events can be a very profitable place to park your food truck because it will give you access to the guests that are in attendance to the events, which means that you do not need to do much in the way of promotion. Be on the lookout for annual events and try to build a good rapport with the organizers of the event so that you will always be invited on a yearly basis.
You should take note that in the event of an unforeseen bad weather; the event may be canceled leading to a loss of money on your part. In addition, if the audience at the event does not match your customer profile, you may end up not making a lot of sales even though there are a lot of guests present at the social gathering. For instance, burger and fries might not be as popular at a health and fitness festival as it would be at say a band concert.
2. Business Districts: If you’d like to grow a steady following for breakfast and lunch, then hit the business and financial districts in your area. Hungry employees looking for a quick but tasty meal in between meetings could create some good revenue for you.
Park in the same area at the same time every day and you will get to know your customers by name and develop a loyal following that will help grow your business. Due to the popularity of business districts, you should expect to find a lot of completion from other food trucks and as such you should try to not to set up near one that is your direct competition.
3. Street Parking: in order to street park the right way, you will need to have a good knowledge of where hungry people are. For instance, if you have local parks in your area or historical sites that a lot of people flock too, then check out the local ordinances for parking on a street nearby.
If there are no legal restrictions, these could be prime spots for catching passersby’s. If there is heavy construction going on in a certain neighborhood, you could also park for a while during breakfast and lunch hours to feed all the hungry workers.
4. Shopping Districts: granted, most big indoor shopping malls will definitely have a lot of restaurants and usually a food court inside smaller strip malls or smaller shopping districts inside busy metropolitan areas on the other hand usually don’t have a lot of quick, good eats options. These could be a good place to set up shop in the evening or on the weekends.
5. Farmers Markets: during the spring and summer months, a lot of people shop at farmers markets to get fresh fruits and vegetables. As such, this may just be a very good location to park your food truck for sometime if you primarily use local-sourced, organic ingredients in your menu. In addition to gaining new customers, you might form new relationships with local growers as well.
6. College Campuses: a lot of college students find the food that is served in their dining halls to be less than satisfactory. College students are always on the move and are always looking for quick meals to grab in between their classes and activities.
And if you don’t mind working late into the evening, you can capitalize on the late night cravings that always hits college students whether it is after a long night studying in the school library or after an evening of partying.
7. Truck Parks: In recent times, food trucks have increased in popularity. In order to further increase their popularity and maximize profit, a lot of food truck owners have started to work together for the common good. This has given rise to multiple food trucks parking in a single location on an agreed day and time. Usually, a group of food trucks together in one place has the ability to pique the interest of people more than one single truck in a particular spot.
One of the benefits of networking with other owners is that you’ll become aware of the location and time of these truck parks. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but try to keep a professional relationship with your “competitors” to ensure you get invited to these lucrative events.
8. Bars and Nightclubs: if you do not mind working late hours, then bars and nightclubs may just be a good frontier to explore. When people drink, there is always the tendency that they will get hungry and don’t mind buying food. If there’s a popular bar in your area, you could end up making a lot of money for just a few hours of work.
One of the best strategies is to position the truck within eyesight (and smell sight) of the entrance. This way, bar patrons will smell the delicious fare when entering and especially exiting the building. It’s a winning formula for a successful location.
If you discover a bar or nightclub that proves to be consistently profitable, you should try your best to be in good terms with the owner or manager of the place as this type of relationship can yield a lot of profit for you in years to come.
9. Gas Stations: with the right approach, gas stations can prove to be a very good location to park your food truck. A lot of times, workers that are employed in construction, shipping, or law enforcement end up purchasing a 5-hour old hot dog or microwaveable sandwich from a convenience store for lunch while filling up with gas. However, if these individuals can find a better alternative, they will not mind spending a few extra dollars to have a decent meal.
Usually, gas stations owners and managers appreciate the presence of food trucks around their premises because food trucks can draw more attention to their business and keep people in the area longer. As long as you get approval prior from the business before showing up, this can be a win-win scenario both for yourself and the gas station.
When identifying good gas stations to prospect, consider larger convenience stores or “super” stations that get a lot of customers. One place to begin the search is near major highways and interstates because you can also end up serving hungry travelers as well.
In conclusion, food trucks have been rising in popularity over the years and if you are already in the industry or would like to get into the industry, you have to realize how important your location is to your success.
It is just as important as the quality of food that you cook because even if your food is good but it is parked in a place that is inconvenient, then people will find it difficult to comeback. Where you park your truck determines your financial success. It can be the difference between seven customers and seventy. To be successful, you have to be seen. That means finding the best location for your food truck.
You may find out that finding the perfect location can involve trial and error; and when you find that perfect spot, you should guard it jealously. You can do this by sending out a staging car ahead of your truck to grab your favorite spot before someone else does. Word spreads, and you have to do your best to keep this location to yourself.
Make sure to tell people where you’ll be. Use your website and your social media platforms to broadcast your daily location to help people find you. Be creative and check your local regulations, and you’re sure to quickly build a loyal following.