These days, food trucks are more than just a place to stop to have a bite out of pure convenience. A food truck with the perfect menu concept can carve out a niche market of customers that’ll willingly trek across town to get their favorite delicious food.

Even if you’re an experienced restaurateur, starting a food truck business might be confusing. That’s why we’ve put together this short guide to teach you everything you need to know about expanding your business into the food truck sector. We’ll cover everything from how to plan out your menu concept to how much you should expect to pay to set up your own food truck business, as well as some of the most popular types of food trucks operating in the United States at the moment.

How Do You Create the Perfect Food Truck Menu Concept?

Before doing anything else, savvy food truck owners define their truck’s menu concept. This is an essential first step because other aspects of the business will derive from this concept. For example, the truck’s name and branding, your employees’ uniforms, and possibly even your marketing strategy.

Establish What Type of Food You Want to Serve

Before you start to plan out each of the individual items you’d like to see on your menu, begin by narrowing down which kind of cuisine you’re going to be serving. When working on a food truck theme, be sure to think about your strengths while analyzing the competition and trying to find a gap in the market. Providing customers with a variety of options may seem like a good idea at first, but the broader the options, the more complex the daily preparation. You may also encounter issues when trying to store the sheer number of different kinds of ingredients you need to execute a highly diverse menu concept.

For example, you wouldn’t want to have a menu that comprises dishes as varied as clam chowder, Korean BBQ, and burritos. Instead, pick your signature style and focus on it. Do you want to serve burritos? That’s fine. Keeping in mind that a food truck doesn’t have the capacity of a brick and mortar kitchen, you should stick to serving tacos, enchiladas, and other Mexican-inspired dishes. One of the shortcomings of owning a small food truck is that you’ll be pretty low on space. This can make stocking ingredients to make truffle fries, clam chowder, and all of your other Mexican-inspired dishes fairly tricky. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t stray from your concept ever. It’s okay to throw in some variety, just make sure these items are marketed as ‘specials’ so that customers are aware of their limited availability.

 

SEE ALSO: Expert Tips on How to Make a Profitable Restaurant Menu

Seasonal Specials with Your Own Unique Twist

Seasonal specials are a smart way to add variation to your menu while ensuring it stays true to your original concept. For example, some comfort food during the winter and a chilled dessert during the summer are fantastic ways to provide your menu with a bit of variety. Don’t forget everybody’s favorite fall ingredient either — pumpkin spice. Assuming it works with your overall concept, pumpkin spice adds a wonderful flavor to many types of foods and beverages and can help transform your food truck’s most popular offerings

Even the most basic meals on your menu can be customized or personalized. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a massive change to the core ingredients. Perhaps you could think about creating your own unique twist on how it’s served. Remember, serving food in a unique way can really help you to stand out from the competition. Plus it makes for great Instagram fodder, which can help you market your business via word of mouth.

Be Inventive with Your Product’s Names

People looking at your menu will not be wowed by names such as ‘cheeseburger’ or ‘fries.’ Don’t be afraid to get creative and really market the food you’re selling. Photographs are another tool at your disposal. They can make all the difference when it comes to helping you to sell your products — and as long as you deliver on what you promise — customers will keep returning to you.

food truck menu concepts chalkboard menu

Don’t Forget About the Drinks Menu

If you have space, it can pay off to have a coffee machine, especially during the winter months when customers will be looking to warm up. Offering a variety of sodas and bottled water is also essential. Having a selection of drinks available can help you to make sure that customers return to your food truck time and time again.

What Are Some Popular Food Truck Concepts?

Some of the most popular food truck concepts have been around for decades. Ice cream trucks and hot dogs carts will never go out of style, but customers expect so much more these days that it normally pays off to be bold with your concept.

Whatever concept you choose, it’s important to remember that the most successful food trucks get to be in the position they’re in by offering something that makes them stand out from the competition. Don’t be afraid to make things different, as utilizing your creative side can be the difference between failure and success.

SEE ALSO: How Much Does It Really Cost to Start a Food Truck?

Barbecue
BBQ is a fantastic concept for food trucks and is sure to be a hit among customers. With the combination of the low cost of the ingredients and the intense flavors, you’re able to create a menu that’s sure to benefit your bank balance — and satisfy the customer’s hunger.

Paninis
Offering gourmet sandwiches and paninis requires little investment in equipment and allows you to create a menu that has something for everybody on it. Paninis and sandwiches also give you the opportunity to let customers get creative when making their selections from the menu, which is always a plus point.

Desserts
Dessert trucks are just as popular as ice cream trucks these days, and offering a place for people to satisfy their sweet tooth could work out really well for your business. Menu items such as hot crepes and waffles are always a hit and allowing patrons to customize them with a variety of toppings, such as syrups, whipped cream, bananas, strawberries or chocolate chips, is sure to prove popular.

Before deciding on what your food truck is going to serve, always do market research, as there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Just because there are already four food trucks in your neighborhood serving Mexican food, that doesn’t mean that a fifth truck will succeed. If a particular market is saturated in your city, you should perhaps consider offering a different type of cuisine. You could also set up your truck in a different area. After all, that’s the beauty of a food truck, if necessary, you can follow the crowds and move somewhere else. Just make sure that you have the required permits.

Use a Point of Sale System to Improve Your Food Truck Menu Board

Using a POS, such as Shopkeep’s food truck point of sale system will not only allow you to revolutionize the way you take orders, it can also help you to optimize your menu, attract new customers, and run a generally more efficient business.

Shopkeep’s POS system can help you to note when you need to make changes to your menu. For example, automated reports will tell you things like which menu items are most popular, as well as which ones aren’t selling as well. With this insight, you can update your menu to ensure you’re offering the kind of dishes that your customers actually want.

POS systems can also streamline how you take orders and payment from customers, leading to shorter waiting times and a more organized food preparation process. When everything is done digitally, it’s much faster than writing down orders manually. There’s also a much lower risk of error. Lastly, a POS system like ShopKeep can revolutionize how you monitor your stock levels by showing you exactly when you need to reorder supplies, without the effort of having to count things manually.

Starting a business is never an easy process, especially in a market as crowded as hospitality. However, with a unique or time-tested food truck menu concept, you’ll have the solid foundation you need to give your business a realistic shot at long term success.

Ryan Gilmore is a writer at ShopKeep.

Ryan Gilmore

As Inbound Content Marketing Manager at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Ryan Gilmore uses his extensive experience in small business technology to create educational content that helps merchants run and grow their businesses more effectively.