Colorful street food is a popular trend that shows no sign of going away. The Instagram generation like to be surprised and delighted with food, and a street food business or food truck is a low-cost way to enter the restaurant game, allowing innovate young entrepreneurs to build a following, experiment and make their mark without the high overheads of a traditional bricks and mortar operation. Consequently, there’s been an explosion in variety and gourmet foods, with everything from wood-fired pizza to delicate patisserie on offer. Running a street food business can also present an excellent opportunity to travel and be present at major festivals and events across the country, while social media allows you to build a fan base and reach customers in new ways. Low start-up costs, lots of travel, and unlimited creativity? Where’s the catch? Well, here are the secrets to making a business like this work for you:
Location, Location, Location
One thing counts about all others when running a mobile catering business – and that’s where you are. It’s a huge business advantage being able to take your culinary creations to people rather than having to entice them to your premises – but you won’t just be able to set up freely wherever there’s a crowd. You’ll need to read up on the restrictions and licensing in your local area and make sure that you have the permits you need, as well as making sure you find out if you need a food handler certification. Popular areas or regular events, such as farmer’s markets, are often over-subscribed and you may find that the number of permits granted is capped, which may mean a waiting period to get the pitch you want.
Think Beyond a Burger
Mobile food venues can afford to experiment more and capture current trends in eating to maximize their appeal to customers and sales opportunities. Customers are very cosmopolitan these days and used to seeing ever more exotic cuisines on offer – standing out and deciding what your USP will be is critical. Many customers want healthier options these days, so more and more street food vendors are proving vegan meals, or sourcing organic, locally produced ingredients to give them an edge.
Leverage The Power of Social Media
Quick, visual and very responsive – social media will be your best friend for promoting a business that is always on the move. A couple of carefully chosen channels could be all you need in the way of a marketing strategy. Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to communicate where you will be on any given day, while Instagram and Snapchat let you show off appealing shots of your new menu options. It’s also a fantastic way to test out new concepts, do some market research and understand what your audience really wants. Build relationships with people by getting involved in chat about local events. Don’t be tempted to use your channels as a soapbox where you just push out endless marketing messages – you need to grow relationships organically, by participating in genuine conversations and using humor to your advantage. Use promotions and loyalty cards to turn customers into advocates and have them spread the word for you.
Pull in Extra Finance
Although start-up costs are relatively low, you may still need to locate investors who are willing to finance such a venture. A food truck can be an investment, even if you purchase one second-hand. Would the business work initially as a cart instead? Consider setting up in this way to check that the concept works and generate some financials to present to potential investors or banks, and you’ll still need to write a great business plan. Equipment and servicing costs also need to be factored in, and fuel as well as a generator or other power source. Consider all the ways you can make your business profitable – catering private parties and weddings can be a great option and is becoming more popular than hiring a catering firm as it can have more of a wow factor. Your business plan will need to contain a study of the market conditions and make a case that what you want to do will sell. You may find that, even though they are the competition, other street food vendors can often be your biggest support. Develop a great network, and you’ll find that many pass on information and bookings to each other, and help out with lost kit. Remember that the nature of the business means you can also be flexible. Something not selling well? Change the menu. Speciality waffles not as popular as you’d hoped? Start doing breakfast bowls instead. Embrace your flexibility.