You opened a food truck, and customers love your food. You’re confident your fan base will follow you on your culinary journey. Soul-searching for your business’ next step? According to a 2015 National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel Show educational session, food truck owners opening brick-and-mortar establishments is a trend. If you’re looking to capitalize on your food truck’s runaway success by adding a brick-and-mortar restaurant to your fold, keep these tips in mind:
Reflect on your original goals. What made you want to open your food truck? Was it a part of your growth strategy? Did you want to be a chef or owner, but didn’t want the overhead of a brick-and-mortar at the time? Now that you’ve achieved success with your food truck, how would you like to grow professionally? Remember why you wanted to get into the business in the first place.
Dan Pennachietti, co-founder of Philadelphia Mobile Food Association and partner at FoodFellas food truck consulting, opened Lil Dan’s food truck in 2009 with his wife. They named it in honor of a late family member and strove to launch a brick-and-mortar restaurant following the truck. “We wanted to show that our food would be well-received by the public.”
Research locations. You already serve popular meals on wheels; use your truck to test out neighborhoods for a brick-and-mortar. If customers follow your truck to new-for-you locations, they may very well follow you to your anchored restaurant.
Crunch the numbers. With a brick-and-mortar comes a slew of additional expenses: furniture, décor, insurance, more staff and more food. Renting an entire restaurant space is considerably more expensive than renting a commissary. When you’re weighing cost versus profit, examine your food truck’s accounting records – what sold, what flopped, what became integral to your brand – and apply that historical data to the assessment of your new venture. Reduce guesswork for you, landlords and your employees.
As an owner, “you have to have the math to back up [your decisions],” said Pennachietti.
Strategically plan your menus and allocate resources. You may not need many additional menu items for a brick-and-mortar establishment; plus, maintaining simple menus can reduce food waste. Since your brick-and-mortar kitchen will likely also double as your food truck’s commissary, scheduling respective employees and food prep requires time management.
Analyze your truck’s place. Opening a year-round brick-and-mortar may mean shifting your food truck’s purpose. The truck can maintain its established routes, business as usual; or you can switch gears and exclusively use it for special events and catering opportunities. Essentially a mobile billboard for your brick-and-mortar regardless of its function, your food truck can be an invaluable marketing tool.
Brian Reed, National Food Truck Association board member and Columbus, Ohio-based owner of the Mojo Tago food trucks, recently debuted a brick-and-mortar establishment. With the launch of his new venture, he delved into more catering with the trucks.
“People in Columbus hibernate in the winter,” said Reed. Though the trucks were busy in the summer, he sought to “scale the business” by opening a brick-and-mortar.
Navigate the legal landscape. When negotiating lease terms, determining company classifications and tackling taxes, consult legal representatives to ensure all your ducks are in a row.