How Food Trucks pick the very best locations
Food trucks seem to grow in popularity every year, and they're a common sight in busy areas. There are literally thousands of food trucks across the nation, each with their own delicious menu offerings.
But how do the operators know which locations are worthwhile? After all, unlike a conventional restaurant, a food truck can go anywhere.
First of all, it's crucial to know the legalities before you begin. You don't want to park somewhere it isn't legal and end up getting a ticket.
Check your city ordinances first, to figure out where you can and can't park, and then you can choose from the following options:
Food Truck Parks and Pods
Sign up for events that have food trucks offering complimentary or different foods.
Although you might be concerned about the competition at food truck parks, these places tend to have plenty of hungry customers who are only there for the food!
Working together with other food trucks means there are lots of different options for potential diners to choose from, and offering a wide range of different cuisines attracts even more, since they will have plenty of delicious food possibilities to choose from.
Something else worth doing is signing up for events that have food trucks offering complimentary or different foods. For example, a snow cone cart should do good business next to a hamburger truck or a pizza truck.
A lot of diners love to try some of everything, rather than being limited to one food cart, which is another reason food truck parts are a great place to sell. If there is another truck selling very similar food to you, you could work together on complimentary schedules, and be there during different hours.
Although picking a great location on the street can mean not much competition and will attract plenty of foot traffic, it can be tricky to find that perfect spot.
So think about who your targeted customer is going to be. Is your menu likely to attract visitors to a nearby shopping center, staff from the downtown business district, moms and kids from the nearby park, or local construction workers?
Once you determine what kind of customers your menu is most likely to appeal to, you can look at different street parking sites. If you are selling ice cream, setting up your truck near a playpark should attract parents and kids, especially on a hot summer afternoon.
If your menu boasts a variety of sandwiches and lunch type dishes, setting up near busy office buildings could be great for business. If you know who to target and you can find a great location, street parking could be an excellent choice.
Office Buildings and Business Districts
If allowed by the city, you can park by large office buildings around lunchtime, and the delicious aromas from your truck should appeal to the 9-to-5 crowd.
Take a look at the downtown area in your city, and then ask permission from the businesses to provide food onsite. Print some flyers so the workers know you'll be there.
Many business owners will be happy to be able to offer their staff a nearby, tasty option for lunch. Determine whether you'd do best parking there once or twice a week and elsewhere the rest of the time, or whether it's busy enough to hit the spot every weekday.
Nightclubs and Bar Food Trucks
After a typical night on the town, a lot of people are ravenously hungry, which is why targeting your local entertainment district can prove fruitful.
Some states require food to be served in bars that don't have kitchens, creating a great opportunity for food trucks to create a partnership with bar owners.
Introduce yourself to the owner of the nightclub or bar, building a relationship so he will let you park your food truck on or outside his property - close enough for the hungry patrons to smell the tempting food smells.
If you're happy to work late at night, you'll find you only need to be there a couple of hours, around the time the bars and nightclubs close and people are leaving.
Farmers' Markets Food Trucks
Although not suitable for every type of food truck, a farmers' market can work well for some.
Customers at these markets are shopping for locally-sourced ingredients, so a food truck offering fresh dishes preferably made with local ingredients, could do very well there.
Find markets happening around you and reach out to organizers for application process.
There will certainly be plenty of people wandering around with food on their minds.
Sports Venues, Events and Festivals Food Trucks
State fairs, sports events and festivals are great places to be situated, since the audience will already be there with money in their pockets.
It can be expensive to rent a space at a major event though, so some food truck operator prefer to park a bit further away from the venue itself, on a street leading to it.
Possibilities include event centers, concert halls, carnivals, movie theaters, aquatic centers, and spots close to public transportation.
College Campuses Food Trucks
Often overlooked, a college campus can be great for your bottom line. College students are always looking for unusual, quick food options.
You may need a special permits to operate on a campus, so ensure you get one first, and then set up during lunchtime, dinnertime and maybe also at basketball and football games, to draw the largest crowd. College diners are often seasonal, so be sure to look at how school attendance will affect foot traffic on campuses.
Food Trucks at Gas Stations
People often buy food and drinks when they get fuel from a gas station, which is why setting up near one can be lucrative.
When faced with the choice between questionable gas station snacks and delicious, fresh food from a nearby food truck, it's a no-brainer.
Choose a gas station near the interstate or freeway and you can also attract hungry travelers.
It's important to get the gas station owner's permission before parking there. Explain that your food truck will attract more business for his gas station, and vice versa, which should make him amenable.
More Tips for Food Truck Success
While working on your list of possible locations, investigate them on foot, like the customers you hope to attract.
Make sure there is parking nearby, enough space for them to form a line and, depending on the kind of food you serve, somewhere they can sit to eat it.
Your food truck will do best if you're visible and easy to find. Make sure the area is safe for pedestrians to walk to and from your truck, and somewhere it's easy to pull off the road and park.
Successful food trucks often like to keep prime spots to themselves and send a 'staging car' to park there and hold the spot before the actual food truck arrives, so consider doing this!
A Final Word
Although parking somewhere at random can end up being lucrative, there are far better ways to get a great spot.
Before parking somewhere, ask yourself a few questions to make sure it's a good fit for you:
- Do you need permission from a business owner to park there or a permit from the city?
- How much does it cost to park and are you likely to sell enough to make the food truck fee worth it?
- Is the space big enough for the truck itself and also for customers to park their vehicles nearby and to line up safely?
- Are there other food trucks or restaurants there and, if so, what kind of food are they offering?
Once you've settled on a great spot, go there consistently and inform potential customers that your food truck will be on site, using flyers or social media to grab their attention.
Most food trucks to like rotate between several prime locations. Although changing locations too often can be bad for business, finding a few winning spots and rotating them often is normally a good balance.
Heading to one or two locations a day can work well, such as near office buildings during the week and maybe outside a movie theater in the evening and at weekends.
Location research and planning ahead can make the difference between your business barely scraping by and a healthy bottom line!