Welcome back folks, in the second article of this three part series, we will be getting into how to get your food truck up and running. This may be the most strenuous aspect of your business. This is where all the preparation and not taking any short cuts in building your truck really comes in handy in making your work days easier for you and your employees.
First what is a commissary? Well a commissary is a commercial kitchen that multiple mobile food businesses can come to prepare their food, store their food, and even park their trucks overnight. The point of a commissary is for the government to know that your food is being prepared in a up to code kitchen with the right equipment. In most counties and cities having a commissary is required, therefore renting space in one is cheaper than owning your very own space. On the other hand if that is not what you are looking for then you have other options to look into…
- Rent a shared commercial space
- Rent your own private commercial kitchen
- Rent out a restaurants commercial kitchen
- Rent a pre-existing kitchen, for example a church, or hotel kitchen
Renting your own private commercial kitchen may be the most expensive option, but it will give you the most freedom. You will not need to work around anyone’s schedule and it will be your own space.
Now renting a restaurants kitchen when they are not using it will benefit both sides because you are saving money and they are gaining money when they’re not even open for business.This will be a great option because you can cut costs down, and also have access to an up to code kitchen.
Another great option is to go to local churches or hotels and ask to rent their commercial kitchens out. You could also save money by offering a catering option for them when they need it, this could potentially lower your rent each month and give you good business and promotional opportunities.
Not all mobile food businesses will require you to have a commissary, in order to find this out you need to check with your local city health department. Even though it may be an added cost, they really are beneficial for you and your employees to have. They create a base for your truck to be parked, for your equipment to be stored, and for you to prepare food.
When you start to look for employees to work for you, you’re not only looking for someone who shows up, there are many aspects that go into hiring.
First you need to
- Figure out your hours of operation
- Then you need to figure out what will be your busiest time of day (for example, if you sell coffee you can safely assume that the morning will be when the most foot traffic is.)
- How much of your product will be sold in a day
Once you figure these things out you can move on to looking for candidates. You need to make sure that they are on time, listen to instructions well, and are respectful of the customer. If your product is amazing, but your customer service is rude, it is not likely that you will have repeat customers.
Sitting down with George, he tells me that he is the manager of his shop, he knows every detail that is being put into each project. Therefore he hires people that may only specialize in electric. This way they know exactly what job they are assigned to do and he can over look everything. On an end note, you should be able to share some of the goals you have for your business with the interviewees they should want your business to do well as much as you do.
Marketing your Product
Once you have hired your new employees, you need to get the word out about your new food truck. In order to do this you will need to do a few things… start up some social media accounts strictly just for your business. Facebook may be the best one for business because customers can like your page and visit it for hours of operations, location, and any event that you may be catering to.
Other social media is important too, like Instagram to load pictures of your food and customers. Twitter is also useful because you can live tweet about what is happening in real time. You also will need to have a personal email that business and other customers can contact you for catering and other business inquiries.
Also remember that word of mouth is still a real thing so you want to make sure that every experience is great for the customers, whether the customer is in line at your truck or looking up your Facebook page.
Immersing your new truck in food truck rodeos and local festivals is a great idea to get people to try your food and see what you have to offer. You also can use those opportunities to see your completion and see what they are doing for publicity and exposure.
Maintaining your Truck
Once you have hired your employees and started to get your cuisine known by the public, you need to make sure that you keep your truck maintained. You never know when you could have a customer with a “big order” stop by, so not only does the inside of your truck need to be sanitized and up to code. The outside of your truck should be cleaned too. You also need to make sure that your equipment’s up to date and working properly. If it is a bigger appliance the builder of your truck should be able to fix it if it is under warranty. Small details count when trying to impress customers with a new business, so always keep that in mind.
Having a good mechanic on hand is a helpful thing. When winter months roll around, you never know what might happen to your truck. most mobile food business will keep their original schedule so you need to have someone on hand. You have to remember weather you have a trailer or an actual food truck, you’ll need your oil changed and regular things that an auto mobile will need too.
Think about when you walk up to a food truck or into a restaurant, you will notice yourself looking at the details of how clean the kitchen is and how updated the establishment is. Therefore, remember this when you’re designing and maintain your truck.
In Part Three we will be wrapping up how to start your mobile food business!