Why Your Restaurant Expansion Plans Should Include a Food Truck
Food trucks commonly serve as a testing ground for budding restaurateurs. But these days, the opposite, too, is true as established restaurateurs are expanding with food trucks alongside their brick-and-mortar locations.
According to Statista, the value of the food truck industry in the U.S. grew to an estimated $856 million in 2015 and is expected to increase by another $140 million by 2020, proving to be the fastest growing segments in the food industry.
Opening a food truck is the most efficient way to gaining critical mass within your restaurant’s market as it expands your restaurant, attracts more customers, and builds your brand on a budget.
To find out why restauranteurs should consider expanding with a food truck as their second location, we speak to Chris Cox, regional director of operations at OMG Hospitality Group in San Diego. The company manages a chain of restaurants and recently launched a food truck alongside its two Union Kitchen & Tap restaurants.
Expanding with a food truck as a second location serves as:
A roving marketing billboard
A launchpad for catering opportunities
A testbed for menu items and concepts
Food trucks serve as a roving advertising billboard
Billboard advertising on high traffic and high visibility areas can be extremely costly for a food establishment.
And while your restaurant’s location is fixed, food trucks are mobile and can go just about anywhere. Every time you’re on the road, your truck is advertising itself, expanding your restaurant’s visibility, and potential customer base.
It can also serve to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar restaurant, says Cox. “If someone has not been to our restaurants and they enjoy our food, there will be a higher chance for them to visit our brick and mortar stores,” he says.
At the same time, the brand recognition that you’ve built from your restaurant can drive more traffic to your food truck, as Cox has seen.
“We thought brand recognition alone could give us a step forward over food truck options that do not have a brick and mortar store,” he says. Both Union Kitchen & Tap restaurants have established a significant following and street cred in San Diego’s Encinitas and Gaslamp community over the years.
Union Kitchen & Catering food truck launched in May 2019
Food trucks serve as launchpads for catering opportunities
While restaurants have the ability to offer catering services, having a food truck makes it even easier to run a catering part of the business. Not only does it have all the facilities you need to cater at an event, it is also mobile, making it easier to run your catering business anywhere.
Catering can help expand both your food truck and brick-and-mortar presence rapidly for the following reasons.
It’s always the perfect location: “The most exciting part about the food truck is that we are looking at it as an opportunity to expand into offsite catering,” says Cox. With a business on wheels, you can go to wherever your clients are and not be limited by location.
Food trucks build a separate clientele: “Having the truck advertise our offerings helps build a different clientele who may not have thought about using us as a catering option for their event.”
It becomes its own business: One catering gig can sometimes lead to a repeat business. Overtime the food truck becomes its own small business, on top of an additional catering business, building supplemental income for your overall food establishment.
Food trucks serve as a testbed for menu items and concepts
According to a survey on the mobile food industry by Off the Grid, over a third (34%) of mobile food business owners said having a food truck allows them to regularly experiment with new menu items while 26% say the “sky’s the limit” towards risk taking. Additionally, nearly a quarter see it as a way to stay ahead of changing trends.
Getting a sense of what your audience wants can give you a competitive advantage, says Cox. “[With a food truck] we’ll be able to test market potential new items and gain valuable feedback on some offerings,” he says.
Because of its mobile and out-of-the-box nature, your food truck serves as a perfect launch pad for testing new menu items and concepts that you’re considering introducing at your restaurant. Doing so enables you to get creative without any risk to your brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Ready to expand your restaurant with a food truck?
Your expansion to a food truck won’t be complete without the right software. Now that you’re convinced that expanding with a food truck is the next step, here are a few ideas for how to roll out your technology.
Research and speak to other food trucks about their technology stack: Picking the right tools can be challenging. Some products have a steeper learning curve while others are more suited to achieving various priorities. Talk to other business owners about what they’re using and why.
What Union Kitchen & Tap uses:
For its brick-and-mortar restaurants: Aloha POS
For its food truck: Clover POS
For events booking (both restaurants and food truck): Tripleseat
For staff scheduling: HotSchedules (interacts with Aloha)
“Because the restaurants and food truck are all individual LLCs, there is not a comprehensive software that would combine all sales. There is software out there that will showcase individual stores’ live sales and such, but there is no real need to combine.” –Chris Cox
What The Peached Tortilla uses:
For its brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks: TouchBistro POS
For staff scheduling: When I Work
For catering bookings: Total Party Planner
“Even though we use TouchBistro across all businesses, they don’t really integrate. There are different log-ins for each business.” –Eric Silverstein
Based on these two technology stacks, it appears like managing employees’ schedules across one unified POS platform is more beneficial (and necessary) than operating separate POS systems for your restaurants and food trucks.
Assess the needs of your new setup with your vendor: Most likely you already have an existing POS and management platform for your restaurant. Talk to your vendor about your plans for launching a food truck, what you’ll need to operate your food truck and how they can help deliver that through their platform.
Give us a call: Still unsure about what software or technology is a good fit for your potential food truck expansion? Our expert software advisors are here to help. Call (844) 687-6771 for a free 15-minute phone consultation for a full assessment and product recommendations.