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National Restaurant Association - Strong brand impression is key to food truck success

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Strong brand impression is key to food truck success

Pitfalls to avoid in launching a successful food truck received special attention at a recent education session at the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at McCormick Place in Chicago.

In "Roll Out the Right Way: Starting a Successful Food Truck Program," presenter Ross Resnick of Roaming Hunger cited a survey by Technomic Inc. finding that 91 percent of respondents said food trucks are not a passing fad, but are here to stay and are cropping up in cities of various sizes all over the country.

The first mistake a food truck entrepreneur can make is to fail to create a strong brand impression. "You have to build your brand before anyone has a bite of food," Resnick said. "Develop your concept and menu first-don't buy a truck and then plan your concept."

Menu "mishmash" is a second common mistake. The menu must be small enough to execute in a small kitchen, said Resnick, adding that the menu and concept should be determined before the kitchen is built.

Another mistake is to choose the wrong location that doesn't fit the customer demographic. Of course, operators also must learn about legal restrictions, health permits, business licenses and all such details. "Join food truck associations that can look after the rights of vendors," he said.

Operators must get out of their trucks and promote their businesses. "You must not run your business from your kitchen," Resnick said. Owners can hand off chores such as cooking and cashiering to employees while they meet their customers, hand out samples or take orders outside of the truck. "Promotion is critical," he said.

Don't go into this business expecting to get rich quick, he said, adding, "It's not an overnight sensation kind of business." Food trucks are no longer a novelty and must be built as sustainable businesses where customers want to eat frequently, he said.

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