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February 24, 2015 Staff

How to Build Your Concession Business Through Fundraisers

Food Truck Fundraising Events aren’t just a great way to give back to the local community and charities, they can offer amazing opportunities for promoting your business, along with an extra kick in revenue of course. We all know the importance of events (as discussed Here), keeping a regular schedule of them being almost vital to maintaining steady year-round profit. Even after scraping off the traditional 10% revenue (give or take however much you do, or might do, in your separate event) as donation, the remaining income and other benefits are not to be ignored. Making fundraising events an integral part of your truck’s business plan can lead to a strong strategy for survival.

So how can we connect with these events, while also making sure to keep enough of a profit margin to ensure happiness for both you and those you’re working with?

Raising Funds

Well first off, for those instances bereft of any entrance fee (a definitely great event one should try to take part in, as that fee can usually take care of the majority of the donation, leaving your donation requirements to a minimum while customers continue to pay full price for menu items), one may want to work on building some additional margin into the food served. Obviously, simply RAISING your prices for this is a big no-no, since by then there are at least some people who are likely aware of how much you charge. Besides, it’s simply scummy; so is replacing one’s normal ingredients with cheaper, lower-quality versions.

That said, many of these events are great places to introduce or try out ‘new,’ special products just for the crowd looking to help out their local charity! Ideally these should be either highly indulgent, quality, ‘fancy’ items (either through special ingredients or techniques) that bolster a reasonable cause-and-effect for higher prices, and thus higher profits, in the end result; OR making smaller, simpler items people can quickly grab-and-nibble before moving onto the next truck, which though small in cost (and thus profit), one can more easily use cost-effective ingredients and increase the normal percentage margin.

There is of course also the strategy of limiting menu items; instead of offering one’s normal list of options, use the excuse of needing to feed large crowds or wanting to focus attention on certain items (which will often need to be done for Food Truck Battles, which we’ll discuss a bit later) to only have 2-4 offerings. One can then pick the options that typically make the highest profit, or profit margin, to then sell.

And it sounds cold how I say it, I know. But as we make more profit in these ventures, the surer of survival we can achieve, and thus the more fundraising events we can attend and the more money in the future we can give back, thus bolstering the familial community we’re all looking to foster.

The Events

Finding events created by other people to participate in can vary in difficulty depending on your city, but why wait for others to get the ball rolling in the chance that you MIGHT be one of the trucks to take part in the cause? Why not work with people to create their own opportunity?

It shouldn’t be that difficult, simply approach a nearby school, church, or other charitable organization which you have, or would like to have, good connections with. These places will often have different events going on every month, and if not it shouldn’t take too much convincing to plan something new between you. Most of people should be quite eager to partner up; with the culinary and street food culture that’s developed in the last decade, the addition of Food Trucks to any event quite often adds a lot of excitement and additional attraction for attendance. And with more attendance, more revenue for both you and the organizer in question.

Put simply, they should WANT your help with these events; it’s simply up to everyone now to bring their A-game and make everything a success. Which first means Marketing: obviously there should be much mentioning of this event on your and other trucks’ twitter and Facebook leading up to it, but remember to have the organizer take part too (remind those new to doing these events, like schools, as there has been stories in the past, like what happened with FTF, that ended up bombing their first fundraisers). But take some extra steps; do an actual Press Release if possible, bring it to the attention of local media and bloggers. Create a Facebook page just FOR the event at least a few weeks ahead of time, use it as an information link and a way to get people buzzing; plus, if it turns out well, one can make it a seasonal or yearly thing and use the site to build things up higher each time. And don’t forget flyers; they’re simple, but a colorful piece of paper in the window of a popular truck can do loads for informing truck foodies about an awesome event coming up.

Now that we’re aware of how to build buzz and crowds for the upcoming festivities, what exactly are we going to do? Trucks can be applied and interjected in many different ways for these kinds of things, so if the organizer doesn’t already have a simple “Food Truck Fundraising Rally”-type event with a location already set, you can supply a few of these ideas for their consideration.

  • Use as Catering/Food Source for Sporting Event
  • Attach to upcoming Carnival/Fair to draw further crowds
  • “Food Truck Brunch” in church lot after services
  • Family Movie Night Out, getting a screen and player with Truck/s providing snacks
  • Place at Finish of Run/Walking events
  • Partner with local Breweries for Fundraising Rally
  • “Food Truck Battle,” event focused on a friendly “competition” between attending trucks

In any and all of these events, you need a few things, especially if you’re trying to convince other trucks to join you. It should be in a high-traffic location, or one that’s easy to get to with notable ease-of-parking, lots of the afore-mentioned publicity, and a big crowd (in case of the Battle, some local ‘celebrity’ judges, as far as you can acquire in that regard). Second to that, it’s basically mandatory that there be something else going on at any of these events; as much as we love them, one should never have food trucks be the ONLY entertainment at these things. One is gathering a large crowd of people to come and eat food, they’ll need source of drink (great to have local microbrews contribute), and if possible some other entertainment to tie the event together and give a reason why food is needed; in this way the food truck ‘battle’ is an easy go-to or Plan B for one to utilize when needed, as it provides its own excitement.

These factors will ensure high attraction for other trucks to participate, making even more people aware, building more attention and donation for the charity, and thus spreading your own truck to an even wider audience. Just ask some of the other experience truck owners that have done a good deal of work with Fundraising for their catering business, such as Kona Ice, HipPOPS, Topolo Tacos, and DUB Pies.

With luck, you can navigate your own way into a regular schedule of fundraising opportunities for your mobile business as a great benefit for yourself and the community. Don’t be afraid to ask some of the other local trucks, delve into the city’s scene to see what kinds of events and marketing strategies work best. To help, we’ve also offered a few links which discuss different aspects of the topic in separate detail. Good luck to you all!

LINKS AND RESOURCES

Fundraiser Help – a particular post that talks about the benefits, ease, and directions to doing a Food Truck “Competition” event, along with links to other fundraiser Idea Help in the sit

Food Truck Connection – mostly detailing the benefits of getting food trucks for Organizer purposes, always great for insights (and to help you build a convincing speech for new partners)

Fundraising Idea – all the steps and considerations when organizing one of these events; not made for the truck owner’s perspective, but good to know all aspects in case you need to step in and participate

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