When you start any type of business, you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. But the important thing is that you learn from these mistakes.

In today’s blog post, we share some of the top five mistakes first time food truck owners make so you can avoid them. Some of these mistakes end up costing people their business because they aren’t able to course correct in time. Others never recognize they are making these errors at all and ultimately fail.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Saving Money on Branding

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

There’s a lot of things to invest in when you’re starting a mobile food business. The food truck, cooking equipment, the wrap, inventory, licenses, insurance, and everything else that goes into this business. It’s only natural to look for ways to save money along the way.

But one place you shouldn’t cut corners is in the overall appearance of your brand. Something as simple as spending a couple hundred dollars to have someone take professional food photos of your meals that you can use on the menu or online will continue yielding returns for years to come.

One way to affordably get professional food photos taken is to reach out to your local community college or university for design or photography students. These students are often as good as full-time professionals, but charge a fraction of the price and are happy to do some work as a resume builder.

If you’re struggling to get a professional looking menu created, check out the website Fiverr.com. This is a website where designers for websites, banners, menus, books, and just about anything else you can think can be hired on a project basis. You’ll find that $100 will get you some high-quality work here.

Finally, you see saving money on branding trickle down to the design of the food truck wrap and even the vehicle itself.

We know a particular vendor that had some difficulty getting business in their hometown. They sold tacos and had a great product, but couldn’t get any traction whatsoever.

The problem is they had failed to put a professional wrap on their vehicle. After a professional wrap was placed on the exterior, the business owner was stunned that he was suddenly being offered catering opportunities and more people were approaching the truck at events.

This is the power of a brand in the food truck industry. A brand helps pull people to you so you don’t need to work as hard.

Too Many Menu Items

chicken burger

A fried chicken burger.

Adding too many items to your menu can hold you back in a number of ways. First, your menu will have a lack of focus menu that prevents you from perfecting processes and food items. If you’re offering lasagna bites, hamburgers, and hand-made cookie dough it can be a lot to manage from an operation standpoint. Add too much and things will start getting overlooked.

Not only will ticket times be longer for guests, but you’ll need to source product from more suppliers. Sourcing product from more suppliers means driving around, calls, and coordination.

From an operation standpoint, you’ll need to train employees on how to make more dishes. If you’re planning to cook everything yourself, you may need to switch back and forth between kitchen equipment. Again… This slows you down.

Finally, too many menu items can increase costs. By adding more food items (some that are unlikely to be top sellers) you’re going to have more food waste. This means more money down the drain.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we recommend starting with a focused menu of only 4 – 6 items on a food truck. This keeps your menu focused and easier to operate.

Putting all Their Eggs in One Vending Basket

blt meal

This meal could come from five or more suppliers… Or only one.

Sometimes first time vendors have a vision for where they’ll vend. Maybe it’s a particular parking lot with a busy gym and no food options. Or it could be at a big event that the are sure will be a winner.

But sometimes locations don’t work out for all sorts of reasons. Maybe the gym where you planned to park is charging too large of a fee to vend. Maybe zoning laws in your city prohibit vending in a certain area. Maybe there was rain on the day of the big event.

Either way, you don’t want to get emotionally connected to any certain vending location. If one vending spot dries up or doesn’t work out, view this as part of the process of running a successful food truck.

This is also one of the big advantages of operating a food truck. If a certain area doesn’t work out… You can move!

Pricing for Profit

prevent food trailer theft

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

If you’re a first time food truck owner, it might appear that there’s a lot of profit in your menu. And there very well might be depending on your menu. But have you thought through the food costs beyond ingredients like meat, bread, seasonings and packaging?

Have you considered how much prep time it will take? A lot of trucks that get this wrong are in the baking space. From an ingredient standpoint, you can product cookies, cakes or pies very affordable. But the flip side is these products require a lot of labor to produce. So unless you want to be kneading dough yourself in the early morning (not advisable) then you will want to include labor in your list of expenses.

Finally, you also need to consider overhead like insurance and gas. You want to make sure your pricing product in a way that covers all your expenses. Not just food costs!

Failing to have a Business Plan at All

Last but not least is planning. When you open a food truck, you’re building a real business. Respect the process!

Take the time to draft a business plan, compete a competitive analysis, and figure out your operation costs. By completing these simple steps you’ll avoid most of the first-time food truck owner mistakes out there and greatly improve your odds of success.