Flocks of street food lovers line up at food trucks across the United States in record numbers, searching for local, fresh and unique menu offerings. While food trucks and food carts aren’t new to America, they are exploding in popularity.
Since most food trucks connect with their customers via Twitter, researchers used Twitter and determined that more than 4,000 food trucks are operating in US cities. What keeps these food trucks in business?
Some experts venture to say location is even more important than your menu. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how successful food trucks pick the best locations. This will help you find consistent, profitable locations to park your truck. Plus, we’ll give you two terrific tips at the end.
Take a look at this list of proven, prime, successful locations that usually have enough people to support a food truck, or several.
On-the-street parking is a logical choice for your truck, but not always the easiest to find. To discover the best parking spot, decide on your target customer. Are they moms at the park, shopping center visitors, construction workers or downtown business district employees?
Once you’ve decided on the audience, you’ll need to find a venue they frequent. For example, if you specialize in lunchtime diners, you’ll have better luck on a street near the bustling business district; if you specialize in cold, sweet treats, try side-street parking near a park full of hot, hungry youngsters. Target your audience, and you’ll have a thriving food truck operation in no time.
Food Truck Parks
You might think parking next to the competition is a bad idea, but this isn’t always so. The food truck revolution has exploded, and many owners have decided working together is good for everyone. Maintain a good professional relationship with competitor food trucks so you’ll get invited to “their” food truck park.
Food truck owners meeting in a single location on a consistent day and at a consistent time often attracts more attention than a single food truck.
At a food truck park, diners have more choices, so it’s easy for a family to find menu items to satisfy different tastes. Successful food truck owners often find their sales increase when their chosen location is a food truck park because diners want to sample a bit of everything.
Additionally, sign up for events that include trucks from non-competing menu categories. If you sell ice cream, you’ll do a great profit parked next to a pizza truck, bistro truck or a beverage cart. You can also work with trucks who offer similar menu options to create complimentary schedules so you both aren’t there at the same time, and you are sharing the heavy workload.
Business Districts or Large Office Buildings
If the city allows it, park near major offices and business locations where the 9-5 workers can easily reach you during their lunch breaks. Your city’s downtown area is a great option.
Successful food trucks incorporate marketing into their location choices. Contact the businesses in the large office building, ask permission to park in their lot and provide food for their employees. Drop off flyers announcing when you’ll be at their location and what you’ll be serving. Entice employees with your offerings. You’ll find that business owners are excited to offer this fun, food option to their employees.
Perhaps the business will let you park outside their offices every day or once a week. This ensures your success as you’ve now landed a steady location with a consistent supply of hungry lunchtime diners.
A Farmers Market location works better for some menus than others. The most successful trucks parking at Farmers Markets offer locally-sourced ingredients such as home grown meat and picked-that-day produce. Test the market as this location can supply a recurring, ample supply of foot traffic.
Bars and Nightclubs
People get hungry after a late night out on the town. They’re starving, and they’re willing to pay for delicious food. Target your city’s entertainment district or your local, popular night spots.
Introduce yourself to the bar/nightclub owner, frequent his establishment and build your relationship to ensure he allows you on his property to earn these nighttime profits.
If you don’t mind working late at night, you’ll find you only need to stay open for a few hours. Make sure to park your truck close enough to entice patrons with the delicious smells from your food truck.
Festivals, Events or Sports Venues
Mobile vendors have a history of success when selling food at festivals, state fairs or large events. You’ll find a ready-made audience with money to spend. This is an excellent time to introduce your truck and its menu to large crowds of people.
If you can’t afford to rent the space, you’ll still catch a lot of traffic entering and leaving the event if you park on a street leading into the event venue.
You’ll often find a busy gas station/convenience store during the lunchtime hours as people are purchasing drinks, hot dogs and sandwiches with their fuel. If there was a better option just outside the door, many of those customers would appreciate the convenience and definitely better menu from your food truck. If you park at a gas station near a highway or interstate, you’ll end up serving hungry travelers, too.
Before you park at a gas station, get prior approval from the business owner. Your truck will draw more business to his gas station, but you’ll want to make sure he is okay with the competition.
This is a superb, but often overlooked parking location. Successful trucks know that college students look for different, unique and quick dining experiences. You’ll need a permit to park on campus, so make sure to get this first. Consider setting up during the lunch and dinner hours or at football and basketball games.
Two Tips for Maximum Profits
The Staging Car: Successful food trucks are often tight-lipped about this tip! Consider sending a “staging car” ahead of your truck in order to grab a prime spot before another truck claims it. If you’ve found a successful location, odds are other food trucks will know about it, too. Send a car to your desired parking spot hours before mealtime to secure your lucrative location.
Twitter Usage: Twitter is a dynamite way to let customers know about your location. Yet, Twitter also acts as a giant billboard for your food truck competitors. A great parking location with a lot of foot traffic and hungry customers won’t stay secret for long. Consider letting your customers know when you’ll post your location, go park your staging car or your truck, then let your customers know where you are.
There’s more to your food truck success than just parking somewhere and hoping people will show up. Finding the right place to park your truck may involve some experimenting. Before you park, take these factors into consideration:
- Is there a permit required to park your truck?
- Do you need permission from a business owner?
- What is the cost to park your truck? Can you sell enough to make the fee worth it?
- Are there laws preventing you from parking?
- Is the space large enough for your truck and your customers?
- Is there enough foot traffic (people) to make the location viable?
- Are there other restaurants or food trucks in the area?
- What hours will you need to park to access the most customers? Are those acceptable to you?
Once you’ve found those “winning” locations, establish a consistent presence and good communication avenues so your customers know when and where to expect you.