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How to Plan a Profitable Ice Cream Trucking Vending Route

Summer is fast approaching. When we reflect on the summer season, we’re reminded of baseball games, lazy summer days on the water, and of course ice cream trucks!

If starting an ice cream truck is part of your summer plans we’ve got you covered. In today’s post, we will help you build a specific vending route that will have you bringing in profits all summer long. This piece is based on our 15+ years experience working with customers starting ice cream trucks to shaved ice trailers and everything in between.

In fact, if you sell just about any frozen summer treat you can follow this success formula to generating sales on a mobile food unit. It does not need to be ice cream to make this basic plan work.

How to Build Your Ice Cream Route

When new ice cream truck owners start out one of the biggest challenges is figuring out where to vend. With a truck you have a nearly limitless number of vending options that can lead to what’s called analysis paralysis. In simple terms it means you have so many options that you get stuck in place thinking about what to do. Don’t let this happen to you!

The first place we recommend testing is your area is driving around to residential locations and playing your music horn. We’ve spoke to dozens of vendors that we’ve worked with in the past and this is almost always how they get their start in the business.

Thanks to Google Maps, it is very easy to get an overview of where the different residential areas are in your city.  We recommend selecting two – three suburbs or cities first to get started. Ideally, these locations will be nearby your home base since you’ll be able to save on gas.

In the example below, we’ve used the city of Woodbury, Minnesota as our home base. We have also selected the nearby suburbs of Maplewood and Oakdale. These three suburbs combined have a population of over 100,000 people. They are also made up of lots of families, which is ideal for for an ice cream business.

Building an Plan for a Ice Cream Truck Route.

You can create a similar plan for the city you live too. We recommend limiting your route 2 – 3 suburbs at first to establish a presence in the local area. In the future, you can always expand your route into more areas if needed.

As an ice cream truck or van serving novelty ice creams, your bread and butter will be residential areas. These are areas with a lot of single family homes, townhomes, and even apartments with families. Even at the time of writing in 2019, kids are familiar with the jingle of the ice cream man (or woman). It’s an affordable experience continues to be as relevant today as it ever was to families.

Daily Service Schedule

After you’ve identified a vending area, it’s time to determine a service schedule. A service schedule will help you plan the weeks and months of your business operation. This can be created simply using a calendar or spreadsheet. Below is an example of a daily service schedule for one week.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Off Off 11 am – 5 pm 11 am – 5 pm 11 am – 5 pm 11 am – 8 pm All Day Event
Evening Catering 7 pm – 9 pm Evening Party All Day Event

With an ice cream business, the majority of your sales will happen in the afternoon or evening. A larger percentage of your sales will occur later in the week too. As a result, in our sample service schedule we’ve blocked off Monday and Tuesday as a day off.

Starting on Wednesday, we will begin driving through neighborhoods. Overtime, you will begin to identify the most profitable neighborhoods in your city. The profitable neighborhoods where sales are generated, you will return to. For the areas that you don’t get a return on investment, you can stop going to those neighborhoods and swap them out for more profitable spots.

How to Increase Profit on an Ice Cream Route

Coming up with a starting routes should not take a lot of time. You can likely come up with a solid route within 2 – 3 hours to test out. You shouldn’t get fixated on a specific route. The most important thing at first is simply getting out there and begin figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

One thing that you’ll learn with an ice cream truck is that the more time you spend driving through neighborhoods, the more income you’ll make. It really is as simple as that. Assuming you are vending during the summer time and during days when people are usually at home, you can expect to sell more cones, ice cream sandwiches, and shaved ice. The more you drive, the more you earn in this industry.

The second way you can increase profitability by offering catering services at birthday parties or corporate events. Believe it or not, catering is one of the easiest ways you’ll make money in this business. You’ll learn that as you begin driving your vending route, people will ask if you are able to serve at their event. Be prepared to give your customers a clear response to this important question!

You need to figure out the minimum amount you can drive to a location to vend at and how long you’re willing to serve at an event for that price. For example, you may be more than happy to come to an 9 year olds birthday party for 20 minutes if you’re able to generate $250 in sales to distribute 75 ice cream sandwiches. However, you may not want to take the same party if you are obligated to be there for 3 hours.

The third way that you can increase the profitability of an ice cream truck is by building partnerships with local sports teams and charities. It may come as a surprise to you, but middle and high school sports teams are always looking for new sources of funding. Thanks to the high-profitability of an ice cream truck, you can do a revenue split with these organizations.

This type of arrangement creates a win-win for both parties. You as the truck owner are provided with new customers and marketing for the business. The sports team is provided with a cut of a sales that can be used for a special trip or to purchase equipment like jerseys or pay fees. This strategy is so powerful that many ice cream trucks focus on this revenue channel exclusively.

The Conclusion

The mobile ice cream business is one that will continue to remain relevant for decades to come. In fact, some of new marketing channels like social media make the business an even bigger opportunity than in the golden ages of the the ice cream truck. At the end of the day, if you’re able to be consistent with the frequency of your vending route this is a proven business model for someone that likes bringing joy to others and delivering exceptional customer service.

 

Five Breakfast Food Truck Ideas Worth Waking Up For

Offering breakfast service on a food truck can be a major revenue source even though if regularly overlooked in the industry. In today’s post, we evaluate some of the most popular breakfast menu ideas we’ve seen work in the A.M. so you can add them to your menu.

One thing we want to point out is even if you don’t plan to operate a breakfast truck exclusively, many trucks are able to adapt their menus to serve the most important meal of the day. Being able to change the menu for breakfast will open up all sorts of opportunities from catering to events frequently held in the morning like marathons, church services, farmer’s markets, or catering.

If you like to wake up early anyway this could be an efficient approach to running a successful food truck. Here are a few of the most popular breakfast menus we’ve seen in our 15+ years of manufacturing mobile food units.

Coffee Trucks

Refuge Coffee Co. Truck in action.

Coffee trucks and trailers are some of the most popular breakfast food trucks out there. One of the organizations we built two trucks for is Refuge Coffee Co. Refuge Coffee Co. started their non-profit by serving coffees from a truck, but expanded quickly into multiple trucks and they now have a retail coffee shop location too. Their goal is to offer job training in the hospitality industry to refugees. Refuge Coffee Co. grew in part by offering catering services to the production companies on the set of different shows in the greater Atlanta area.

As you know, coffee is usually consumed in the morning with breakfast. Some simple menu items you can include on a coffee truck include pastries, donuts, muffins, and various breakfast sandwiches. The other advantage of operating a coffee truck is that you have a high-margin product. While you can sell a cup of drip coffee between $2.50 – $4.00 in most areas the product cost may only be .50 cents. That’s a pretty attractive margin compared to other food businesses!

Waffle Truck

Waffle trucks are another popular breakfast item that works in just about any tier 1 or tier 2 city in the United States. Waffles provide flexibility from a menu perspective too. You can have a sugary taste with syrups, powdered sugar and fruits of all kinds. On the contrary, you can make it a meal by adding fried chicken. There’s lots of options and is a recognizable food enjoyed by young and old.

Crepes Truck

Crepes is another food truck concept that does well at breakfast and lunch service. In the a.m., the menu item has a lot of flexibility. The crepe can be paired with strawberries and whipped cream for something sweet. On the flip side it works just as well with ham for a hearty breakfast.

Crepes got their start in France where they are a popular breakfast item. For the past few decades the food item has become more popular state side as well.

Taco Trucks

Believe it or not the taco truck can do really well in the morning by adding a dozen different spins on breakfast. There are breakfast burritos that come with eggs and your choice of meat. In fact, you could do extremely well by only doing breakfast on a Mexican food truck.

Mexican food has an incredible amount of flexibility. Here are a few breakfast menu ideas that sell well even if you aren’t South of the border: Steak and Egg Burritos (featuring steak, eggs, potatoes, and cheese), Sausage and Egg Burritos (with sausage, eggs, potatoes, and cheese), Breakfast Bowls (featuring potatoes, eggs, and choice of protein), Huevos Rancheros (Tortilla, Eggs, Salsa, Beans, Sour Cream). There’s no limit to the options available with this food concept.

Smoothie Trucks

Smoothie King Van Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Another great breakfast option is the smoothie truck. This item has a distinct advantage especially for the health conscious consumer that attend events like 5Ks, weight lifting competitions, or mud runs. But these nutritious beverages also taste great attracting observes at these events just the same.

Different variations of fruit smoothies can work well as a healthy breakfast meal, but continue to sell well throughout the day. The menu item sells well as a mid-afternoon pick me up as well so you can continue to sell the same menu throughout the day.

Keep in mind that the food truck ideas listed above do not need to vend during the morning exclusively. Coffee trucks can add nitro or iced options to attract the afternoon crowd. Taco trucks can essentially remove eggs from a product and the burrito can become a lunch or dinner option.

When most folks think about operating a food truck, they usually think about the lunch or dinner options first. While both of these are important, breakfast can be equally profitable if you have the right menu.

Three Ways to Design Your Own Food Truck and Layout Online

Thinking about designing a food truck yourself? The good news is you’ve got options on ways you can approach this important project. Some of the options require zero technical knowledge or fancy tools at all, while others do require a certain level of experience. Without further delay, let’s outline the options so you can choose the best route for your situation!

Before we dive into the meat of this post, one thing most people don’t realize is that when you create the layout for your food truck, you need to plan for more than just the kitchen area. Many chefs will have an idea of how they want their kitchen equipment setup, which is a great start. Understanding where to put the ovens, the sandwich prep table and the serving windows are all important.

But the kitchen is only one component of the design process! Before we start work on any food truck, we develop three specific design layouts:

bedroom concession

Concession Trailer Kitchen Blueprint #1.

1.) The Kitchen Blueprint: This is what most people think about when they envision the layout food truck design. This is the commercial kitchen section of the vehicle. The layout of this area is extremely important to ensure food can be prepared efficiently and comfortably by operators.

2.) The Electrical Blueprint: This is a blueprint most people don’t think about, but it’s extremely important. Developing a specific layout that will efficiently power each piece of cooking equipment on your truck. Without having a solid layout or blue print in place to handle the electrical requirements of your commercial kitchen, you could find out that your electrical foundation wasn’t built correctly at an opportune time. Many food truck owners discover their electrical hookups and installation where done wrong after using all their equipment at once during a dinner rush. When you have a long line of hungry customers this is not the time you want to experience a blow out.

3.) The Plumbing Blueprint: This layout ensures your hot and cold water hookups are setup correctly and waste water is going to the correct tank. The health department in most areas has very specific requirements for the size of waste water tanks, and hot / cold water flow in a food truck so you want to make sure you’re working with a professional.

To view examples of each type of concession blueprints, read our previous post on the topic here. We complete all three of these layouts at no charge for our customers or potential customers.

Tony’s Clam Chowder Food Van Conversion by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Option #1: Have Us Design Your Food Truck for Free

If you’re in the market for a food truck or concession trailer, we will develop each of these layouts free of charge even if you decide to choose another manufacturer for the job. After 15+ years of manufacturing concession units, we understand the how important it is to be able to demonstrate to our customers exactly how their layout and design will look in a truck before outfitting a truck.

By doing all the designs first, it allows us to have discussions with you about the ideal layout that will work best for your commercial kitchen on wheels. It’s not uncommon at all for us to share ideas about the optimal placement of refrigeration, flat tops, or propane tanks on a mobile unit. We believe this collaborative approach helps us deliver world-class trucks that will serve you and your business for years to come.  Click here to sign up to get a custom concession quote from M&R Specialty Trailers and trucks. This is the first and easiest way to get your food truck designed!

Option #2: Learn CAD Software

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we layout each of our designs using a program called AutoCAD. This is industry standard software used by architects, engineers, and food truck manufacturers to build plans. You can learn more about CAD software here. This software is now available online as well.

While there’s a bit of a learning curve with CAD software, anyone can learn to use it if they dedicate themselves. If you do with to go the DIY route with design, we recommend consulting with someone that understands the plumbing and electrical aspects as well to ensure that you’re designing something functional. We also advise speaking with a professional chef or someone that’s operated in a busy commercial kitchen before to get their feedback on the flow of the kitchen and installation of equipment.

Option #3: Back of the Napkin

Believe it or not, you can use a good of fashion pen and paper to get the idea for your first food truck down. If you prefer, the free program Paint could also be used. While these basic renderings may not be to scale, it’s a good way to brain storm ideas for your equipment if you’re just starting out.

We’ve had more than one customer over the years bring us a drawing they’ve sketched on a notepad to see if we could make the kitchen a certain way. These can be a helpful visual starting point for us to understand your goals and discuss the options to make it happen.

This is at the point that we always like to sit down and have a discussion, either at our offices or over the phone to discuss your goals and share our perspective on the optimal layout and process that we recommend. After having this discussion, we can move forward with a finalized blue print that we create and present the plan to you at no charge.

If you’re in the process of designing your food truck, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 904-397-0246 with questions.

Are Food Truck Owners Required to Get a CDL?

Are you required to get a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL if you drive a food truck? In most situations, you don’t need a CDL to operate a food truck. A standard Class D driver’s license issued by the state you live is sufficient to legally drive and operate a food truck.

There are of course always exceptions to this general guideline. We will spend the rest of the post exploring some of the rare situations where you might actually need a CDL to drive a food truck. If you’re unsure, make sure you contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state you plan to operate for more information and guidance. Requirements for CDLs vary slightly from state to state so it’s important to understand the local laws.

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Rare Situations You Would Need a Food Truck CDL

Weight: If you plan to operate a food truck with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) 26,001 pounds or more then you will need to obtain a CDL.  The total weight of a unit includes the mobile kitchen equipment and employees that are expected to be on and operate the unit.

Although food trucks are heavy, a typical food truck won’t come close exceeding the 26,001 pound weight limit. Since the weight of a food truck is dependent on the size of the unit and equipment installed the final weight will vary. But based on our experience a typical food truck will weigh 12,000 – 16,000 pounds. You find food truck weight estimates for trailers, food trucks, and food buses in our previous post.

If you plan to convert a school bus into food bus, you’ll want to keep weight considerations in mind and may actually need a CDL. Depending on the type of school bus you acquire it may fall under or over the weight requirement depending on the size. Some larger school buses weigh approximately 30,000 pounds when you include seating so this is a scenario where you might need to obtain a CDL.

If you have a food trailer that you plan to tough to events that is over 10,000 pounds, a CDL will also be a requirement. Even large 22″ food trailers weigh about 8,000 pounds so most vendors will fall well below the threshold.

Passengers: You are required to obtain a CDL regardless of vehicle size if you plan to transport 16 people or more. This 16 person limit includes the driver.

In our decade and a half experience manufacturing food trucks, we’ve never built a food unit for someone that intended to transporting more than 16 people. When you get more than five people working inside a larger sized food truck, you’ll hit a threshold where there are literally too many cooks in the kitchen to operate comfortably.

The Final Word

Bottom line, most food truck owners don’t have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Odds are you won’t need one either if you don’t fall into one of the rare scenarios listed above. If you want to learn more about the CDL process, check out the informative resources below:

Who Is Required to Get a CDL? This piece is published on TruckingTruth.com and outlines in plain English who is required to obtain a CDL. The piece also explains the exceptions for individuals working on farms or driving an RV.

CDL Class Types: Learn about the different class types for CDL driver’s licenses.

How to Start a Healthy Juice Bar Food Truck in 2019

Happy 2019! The start of a new year always marks a time for reflection and looking ahead to the future. Some of the top resolutions you’ll find each year is the goal to eat better and get healthier overall. According to a 2017 poll by YouGov, eating healthier is actually at the very top of the resolution list, tied with saving more money and working out.

While eating better is a common goal it’s not as easy to accomplish as you might already know. Eating consistently healthy meals means investing the the time required to meal plan, prepare and shop for healthy food items.  This can be tough if you’re busy running a business, have a job, or a family to take care of. It’s easy for busy people to fall back into a routine of eating fast food or other meals out of convenience only a few weeks into the new year.

Enter the business opportunity of the increasingly popular juice bar food truck. A smoothie or juice truck provides customers a no-hassle way to get their daily serving of fruits and vegetables. The juice and smoothie bar industry overall has continued to grow over the past 5 years according to IBISWorld industry reports. According to the report industry revenue will hit $3 billion 2019. In the United States alone there will be approximately 5,861 businesses that fit into this business classification.

With a mobile food unit, you can deliver this healthy product to customers with money to spend, but the lack of time to make a healthy drinks themselves. Some proven popular locations for smoothie trucks to serve are at large corporate offices and special events that focus on active lifestyles like 5K runs. You can take a video tour of a Smoothie King ProMaster Food Truck below that was built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks below.

Depending on your needs a truck, trailer or step-van can be all be converted into mobile juice bars so plenty of flexibility in the build out of these units.

You should expect to invest well over $100,000 to start a retail juice bar location. You will be able to invest well under $50,000 on a mobile juice unit. Aside from a lower cost to get started, some of the unique advantages to mobile juice bars is that you won’t be locked into a longterm lease. One of the biggest risks with a juice bar when starting out is finding a profitable retail location. If you end up opening in a location without sufficient foot traffic or the wrong demographics of people, the business could fail. Finding the perfect location is not as important when going mobile because  you can move to greener pastures at any time.

Crafting the Right Menu

Coming up with a menu for your juice truck is part art, part science. You may need to tweak the recipes of the beverages you sell depending on the location you plant to vend. If you are willing to listen to your customers and continually refine the menu overtime, you’ll figure out what’s most profitable.

With that being said here are a few type of beverages you should consider for your future menu:

Cold-Pressed Juice – This is an increasingly popular form of juice that is made without heating up the fruit to retain its vitamins and minerals.

Organic Juices – If you’re catering to a more healthy conscious audience, knowing whether or not the fruit you use is organic or not is important. You will need to pass along the added cost of organic ingredients to customers.

Traditional Smoothies – Traditional smoothies made with fruit have gotten a bad wrap as of late since so many of them contain high amounts of sugar. Still these beverages remain top sellers at juice bars nationally.

Coffee and Other Beverages – While you may not specialize in serving coffee or other drinks, it can be beneficial to offer this beverage. It’s not at all uncommon for juice establishments to sell a type of coffee that aligns with overall mission of the business.

Equipment List Considerations for a Juice Truck

Some basic things to keep in mind is that if you want to keep the cost lower of these units, a van or trailer conversion will be more lower cost than a food truck. If you plan to serve drinks and basic add-ons like pre-made muffins or energy bars a van can be a great option and will run well with regular maintenance for years to come.

If you plan to have more than two people working in the juice van or if you need larger menu, a van won’t typically work due to the space limitations. If you need to fryers, prep table, coffee makers, and blenders all installed onboard a step-van the equipment can be extremely tight. Give us a call if you’re working to determine the layout and type of equipment that will fit comfortably into your unit.

The final equipment consideration to make is that blenders, ice machines, and other equipment that you need on a juice truck is going to take a lot of power to run. If you plan to serve gourmet coffees on the unit, you’ll need even more power and will need a generator with sufficient wattage. You can read our previous post on how to determine the electrical power needs of a food truck if you want to go more in-depth on this topic.

Here is a list of commonly installed equipment on a juice truck: 

  • Prep Table / Cutting Boards – You’ll need plenty of space to cut fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Refrigerator – This will keep product like milk, fruits and veggies cool.
  • Ice Machine – Products like smoothies and juice require ice so you’ll need a reliable machine that can keep up with sales volume.
  • Commercial Juicers – A way to quickly extract pulp and seeds from oranges and other product.
  • Commercial Blenders – You’ll need at least two reliable blenders installed on the unit to keep up with rush time periods.
  • 3-Compartment Sink + Hand Washing Sink – This is a requirement for washing knifes, spoons, cups and other utensils on the truck.
  • Coffee Maker – Even if you specialize in juice and smoothies many vendors increase their sales by offering coffee as well.
  • Display Unit – We recommend installing a customer facing display unit into the vehicle to increase sales. You could choose to display food or drinks in this area.

Market Analysis and Competition

Before jumping into any business opportunity, it’s wise to check out what the local competition is doing in your area. More than likely there will already be some brick-and-mortar juice bar locations operating successfully in your area. Two of the most popular franchises in this industry are Smoothie King and Jamba Juice. Smoothie King has over 1,000 locations globally with an average gross revenue of $681,724 for the top 25% of locations in the United States. Jamba Juice has over 900 locations according to their franchise website. You can’t hit this level of locations without strong market demand for the product.

If you do plan to open a smoothie truck, you should visit these local stores to view their menu and taste their products. You should also hang out in these locations and observe the clientele. What kind of people frequent these establishments? How busy are the locations? Does this seem like the type of business you would like to operate? What is the price being charged in your area for a small, medium, and large size juice? This is an easy and fast way to help determine if this is a business opportunity you would like to explore further.

Should You Take a Food Truck Training Class?

Why you should take Food Truck Classes.

Running a food truck is just as hard if not harder than running a restaurant.  Would you start a restaurant without any formal training? Probably not, right?

You should be taking training of some sort before you get started on type of serious business endeavor. There’s literally no profession or real business you can start with a realistic chance of success. Would a dentist hang up their shingle without first attending school and acquiring the necessary certifications? We certainly hope not!

But for some reason there are plenty of people that think they can start a food truck business without any sort of mentorship. Keep in mind that there are plenty of different ways to learn. You can certainly learn a lot of the concepts and numbers behind operating a food truck business in a class, but working part-time or being an intern on a food truck can often be even more valuable. Ideally, you would get trained on both aspects of the business before rolling out on your own.

A lot of community colleges are now offering food truck classes and we think the perfect mix is online training and class based training now that they are being offered. Also, community college classes are always more affordable than universities and you might even be able to figure out a way to get some of your books and schooling paid for with a scholarship.

Tony’s Clam Chowder – Built By M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

What should you be learning?

This is really tough to say because each food truck owner brings a different and unique set of skills and knowledge to their business but here is a general list of things you should be competent in before you set out to start your truck:

  • Food prep and Food Safety
  • Marketing and Menu basics
  • Managerial Leadership and Conflict Resolution
  • Truck Safety and Rules of the Road
  • Food Truck Regulations for your city
  • Food Truck Finance
  • Marketing
  • How to Pull off a Catering Event
  • How to Create a Weekly Operations Schedule

This is a basic and sparse list of everything you’ll master as an experienced food truck owner but you don’t have to know it all before you get started.  After all, you’ll never be a food truck owner if you don’t take the first step, right?

Start your apprenticeship

We highly recommend reaching out to a local food truck and ask to tag along or work for free.  Yes, we said work for free.  Every great technician, professional or master of any craft always served under an apprenticeship.  You should too.

Pick your favorite food truck and call the owner up.  Tell him about your dream and offer to help for free for a few months.  It’s gonna suck, but its the best way to learn the job on the go and those are when the real lessons get absorbed the best.  Good ‘ol hands on training.

This is one of the approaches that Dave Krolak of the of the Cas’ Pierogi and Kielbasa food truck used to start his business. Instead of going it alone, he reached out directly to one of the prominent local food truck owners in the area and offered to compensate him for training. That modest investment in training has yielded all sorts of benefits for Krolak’s business in return.

First, he got an understanding of what it really takes to operate a food truck from someone that’s successfully operating the business. Questions that could take other inexperienced vendors weeks to figure out on their own could be quickly solved by Dave’s mentor.

In addition to a better understanding of the business this arrangement yielded some immediate monetary benefits as well. As you may know, a lot of owning a food truck is getting to know the players in your community. Specifically, getting to know the people that are organizing events in your town, other food truck owners that understand the most profitable daily service locations, and the corporate contacts that book catering events.

Having a teacher rapidly increased the speed the Dave’s food truck business that would have otherwise took years to experience the same levels of success. Why not fast forward through early stages of trying to figure out who the local players are and where the biggest events are in your area? Instead find and compensate a mentor to send your success into hyper drive.

Crepe Myrtle Cafe Food Truck – Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

Apply what you learn

You don’t have to have your food truck to apply what you’re learning already.  If you can try a pop-up or catering event for a friends birthday party…then apply and practice these skills before you start your food truck. Imagine yourself in the food truck while you’re practicing some of these skill sets.

If you’re putting together your business plan for your food truck with all of the financials, apply that new knowledge to your business as well.  Most of the skill sets your learning translate over to what you’re currently doing so flex these muscles as much as possible.

If you’re going to be investing tens of thousands of dollars into a food truck or hundreds of thousands into a restaurant, it makes sense to spend some time investing in yourself through classes, a mentor, or reading blogs and blogs like this. While taking a class is no guarantee of longterm success it will certainly increase your chances.

How to Create a Weekly Operations Schedule For Your Food Truck

Before you roll your food truck concept out into the world, it’s a smart idea to build out a tentative daily or weekly operations schedule. This is also referred to “daily service” by those in the industry. This operations schedule will give you a sense of the frequency you plan to work and the days you plan to take off for downtime.

One mistake that beginning mobile food vendors make is that they don’t build a plan of where and when they plan to vend. The other frequently made mistake is that they don’t build out enough prospective locations to vend at. These new business owners may have a local flea market in mind or an event they plan to serve at. But if the first location or two doesn’t work out they struggle to figure out what to do next.

When you start a food truck of your own, you’ll be doing a lot of experimenting with locations in the early days to figure out what spots and operation times are the most profitable for your business. It’s important to keep in mind that just because a certain event works well for a pizza truck, doesn’t mean that it will be a home run for a donut trailer. Consumers eat and drink different items at different times so it’s important to give yourself time to figure this stuff out in the first few months of the business.

If you plan to open a specialty coffee truck, like the one shown above, your highest profit hours will be at different times than a pizza truck.

Building out a daily operations plan doesn’t need to be complicated either. You can open up a Word Document and start planning out what you think a Sunday – Saturday would look like as a food truck operator. A cheap calendar and a pen will accomplish this task just as well. This is a great time to begin thinking about the times and locations your food truck would be most profitable to operate. For many food vendors, the question of when to operate will be straight forward. If you’re planning to serve meals like hamburgers and french fries for example, the most profitable operation hours will be lunch and dinner on Fridays and weekends. If you plan to focus more on beverages, like coffee for example, your most profitable hours will be in the morning.

As you begin to build out this operation plan, be honest with yourself if this is the type of hours you want to work. If you’re a morning person, operating a food unit that will generate most of it’s sales in the evening might not be the right choice. If you’re still in the planning and prep phase of your business this is the ideal opportunity to reflect on the what type of a lifestyle you want to have in addition setting business and revenue goals. The business should serve you as much as you serve and grow the business.

As an example, we’ve published a sample operations plan that you can use as a guide for developing your own operation schedule to show you just how easy this is to get started with. In the example below, we’ve created the plan for a coffee truck business, but you can edit the hours of operation and strategic selling locations to reflect your future business and geographic area.

Operations Plan 

Serving hours are built to capture both weekday mornings (high-demand time for coffee), as well as weekend evenings (high projected demand for pre-made dessert items). The specific locations we plan to vend are outlined below in the Strategic Selling Locations for Daily Operation

Weekly Operations Schedule

Serving Days: Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

Serving Times: Morning

7AM- 12PM 7AM- 12PM 7AM- 12PM 9AM- 2PM

Evening:  6PM- 10PM 6PM- 10PM

The desserts and baked goods being sold are already prepared and packaged. Since we want to focus primarily on serving coffees and teas, we will purchase food products from other vendors. The following schedule outlines when food preparation is done as well as the equipment maintenance and communication / business development with other clients. Although we will be handling regular business communication throughout the week, we want to carve out specific times to conduct this work as well to avoid overwhelm.

Food Prep, Equipment Maintenance, Business Development

Tuesday: 2 – 6 p.m.

Thursday: 2 – 6 p.m.

Friday: 2 – 6 p.m.

Strategic Selling Locations For Daily Operation

Selling locations will represent where the coffee truck parks most of the time. These locations are businesses who have given written permission (often times by email) to park its truck at their location. Businesses will do this for goodwill, symbiotic benefit, or sometimes revenue sharing opportunity. At most selling locations, our business will be the only mobile food vendor present. Strategic selling locations inside our city include:

The Temecula Library, Weekly Farmer’s Market at the Promenade Mall, Weekly Farmer’s Market in Old Town, Saturday flea market on Winchester, outside of the wineries, outside of local breweries.

Strategic selling locations nearby Riverside County include:

Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Avocado Days in Fallbrook, numerous hot rod events around the area.

Gourmet Aviator

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Strategic Events

Strategic events are festivals, fairs, and public gatherings that include mobile food vendors. Strategic events very often must be booked very far in advance of the event. They represent opportunity for high volume of sales in a short period of time. In future years as we develop additional relationships, we expect to participate in more of these lucrative annually held events.

Strategic events in Riverside County include:

Ballon and Wine Festival, Summer Concert Series, Summer Movie Nights, Temecula Food Truck Rally, Pet Adoption Events, High School Homecoming, High School Sporting Events, Sport Team Fundraising events, Fall Festivals, Halloween Festivals, Christmas Tree selling locations.

We hope you use this post to develop your own operations plan. If you’re having trouble figuring out where and when to vend one of the best places to start looking is at the social media profile of other food truck vendors in your area. The most popular food trucks will regularly publish their hours of operation / where they plan to vend on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. This makes it easy to find locations that allow mobile food vendors on a regular basis.

Finally, start to be more aware of where you see food trucks operating around the city. If on your next trip to Home Depot, you see a concession trailer take note of the location and add it to your list of potential vending locations. Simply being aware of your surroundings as your doing your regular routine around the city will help you identify other profitable vending locations.

Real-World Food Blogging Topic Ideas for Food Truck and Restaurant Owners

Own a restaurant or food truck, but aren’t sure if you should take time to publish a blog? The reality is if you’re operating any type of food business finding the time to sit down and write a blog post or record a video won’t be easy. After all, you’ve got a business to grow and customers to serve.

Truth be told, if you own a restaurant and are trying to decide what type of marketing tactic you should invest your limited time and effort into, we don’t recommend blogging as the first option. There are plenty of other ways that are going to get you a faster return by driving more customers to your business.

Some faster ways to increase awareness of your business online include focusing on generating positive reviews for your restaurant on websites like Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Consumers use these websites to discover new places to eat and decide where they want to dine. Other strategies such as offering coupons or limited time discounts work well to drive more immediate traffic to your establishment. Both ideas will bring diners to you faster than a blog ever could.

Is Blogging Right For Your Food Truck Business?

The Benefits of Publishing a Blog

After reading the first section of this post, it might feel like we don’t believe in blogging. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Assuming you have the time and ability to publishing entertaining or helpful content regularly, it can deliver an astronomical return on investment. The point is you aren’t going to realize the benefits today, this week, this month, or even this year if you’re just starting out.

But if you can push through a couple years blogging and come out the other side, you’ll realize some incredible benefits like massive awareness and increased loyalty. Essentially, you’ll have a digital magazine that people enjoy consuming regularly.

We’ve found our blog to be extremely helpful in educating food truck owners about running a food truck and answer frequently asked questions about operating business. Consistently blogging has helped us grow our business, but it didn’t happen overnight.

Blog Ideas You Can Start Writing About Now

Of course, simply setting up a blog or not putting much effort into the posts you publish isn’t going to get you far. Getting traction with your blog will have a lot to do with your consistency publishing and quality of content. The easiest way to ensure consistency is to set a schedule for yourself. For example, you could make a commitment to publish two blog posts per week for the next two years. This sort of commitment will take a lot of time, but it’s what’s required if you want to see results. Due to the length of time required to get any results is why we recommend other marketing methods first.

After you’ve got a schedule in place, it’s time to come up with a list of ideas to write about and publish on your blog. Keep in mind that you could publish all sorts of multimedia content on your blog including text, audio in the form of a podcast, images, or video. In fact, the more ways you can include video and imagery the better your posts will be.

Below is a list of topics ideas you can use that work well for both a restaurant, food truck, or any type of food business really. These ideas are intended to be interesting and or helpful to the right person. More than half of the restaurants trying out a blog get their content wrong initially because they only write about themselves or what they write is extremely boring. Don’t expect to get any results with boring content. It won’t work. You can start with these ideas below to get started the right way.

Cooking Demonstrations: Whether you operate a food truck or restaurant, you’re going to be in the kitchen cooking different meals all the time. Why not use this time to demonstrate to prospective customers how you make the food? This is the ideal way to generate high-quality blog content while being productive in the kitchen. You may even find a certain chef or yourself has a great personality and works well on the camera. These individuals are perfect to feature.

Notice I said you could record a cooking demonstration. You won’t need any special equipment for this as most cell phone cameras are good enough to pull this off. From there you can upload the video into YouTube or Facebook and embed the video into a blog post on your website. Follow this process and you’ll have an effective way to develop blog and social media content.

Test Menu Items: You should also be coming up with exciting new menu items for your restaurant. Testing out new items, even if you don’t plan to put them on the menu is the ideal type of content for a blog. People love to give their opinion on almost anything and testing out new menu ideas and getting feedback from your audience on if you should keep it is a great way to encourage people to participate and get involved in your brand. You could even create a “secret” test menu for hard-core customers.

Interviews: You shouldn’t only talk about yourself in a blog. In fact, it will help you out a lot of you feature other people and businesses. One way to generate content while featuring other businesses is to conduct interviews of other people. We recommend publishing either print or recorded interviews with chefs or other restaurant owners in the area. Asking for an interview is an effective way to start a relationship with someone you’ve never met and help to build awareness of your spot among influential folks in a market. The more local relationships you can build in your market the more opportunities will generally be sent your way.

Promote Events: Any time you serve a corporate catering event, work with a non-profit on a fundraiser or attend a local event like a fair it’s an opportunity to publish a recap about the event on your blog. Other businesses or event promoters love it when you help you promote their stuff on social media or a website. Doing so can also be interesting to attendees and it’s yet another opportunity to produce content of interest to a local audience.

In conclusion, blogging serve as the publishing focal point for your restaurant or food truck. But you’ve got to be willing to put in the time and effort before you will see all the positive results even with a list of content topic ideas.

Five Healthy Side-Dish Recipe Ideas For Your Food Truck

All food trucks can benefit from offering healthy side dishes.

As a society, we are trying to live healthier lifestyles than our parent’s generation. There are plenty of reasons for folks to make a conscious effort to improve one’s health, including weight loss, live longer, or simply to feel better. No matter what the reason behind a living a healthy lifestyle, for most folks this means doing more of two things: exercising regularly and improving diet.

While budgeting time to exercise or eat better is simple, it doesn’t mean this will be easy to accomplish. Between work and family obligations it can be difficult to put in the time to grind out a few miles on the treadmill. Likewise, eating nutritional foods aren’t always convenient. If you’re at a street fair, baseball game, or the shopping mall it can be almost impossible to find healthy options. Even if you’re at home and have all the healthy ingredients you could want, doesn’t mean you want to cook meals yourself each night.

Should You Serve Only “Health” Food on a Truck?

From a logical standpoint, one might think that your food truck could be the business that fills in the need for healthy foods in your area. But before you start serving organic Quinoa bowls or vegetable based bacon, you need to consider that what people say isn’t always what they do.

For example, even if you intend you make lifestyle changes, you probably have a cheat meal or two built into your weekly routine. Chicken breast with a side of organic carrots and broccoli for a weekday lunch might be tolerable for a while, but once the weekend hits most folks are looking for a change. For this reason, we do not recommend starting a healthy food only truck. Friends and family may applaud your efforts for trying to improve the well-being of the local community, but the concept is unlikely to take off.

Instead of starting a “healthy” food truck, consider adding better options to your existing menu. To seek inspiration for this approach you won’t need to look far. Take the global restaurant chain McDonald’s as an example. With the kid’s meals you used to only have one side option… a small French fry. Today, you have the option to order sliced apples as a replacement. You also have the option to replace the cheeseburger with all-white meat chicken nugget.

Notice how the burger chain didn’t drop their quarter pounders and other recognizable meals. They simply adapted a bit to provide some healthier options. You can use the same approach with your food truck as well! Don’t get rid of the core menu items customers crave because of media reports that people want to eat better.

Think about it. Are there any successful restaurants that highlight serving health food meals? Probably not because there just simply isn’t enough demand to support this concept in most areas. Instead of completely changing up your menu trying offering simple and health side dish options like the ideas listed below. Each idea below can be tweaked to align with your menu of offerings.

All aboard The Vegetable Express Food Trailer Built by M&R Speciality Trailers and Trucks.

Apples: This is a product that can be purchased affordably year round in the United States. In the fall months, you may even be able to serve locally grown varieties like honey crisp. There are a limitless number of ways you can utilize this fruit, by simply chopping chopping apple slices or amping them up with some sprinkled cinnamon and sugar. Viola, you’ve transformed a boring apple into exciting apple fries!

Smoothies: If you happen to have the right equipment onboard and a blender, smoothies can be a terrific healthy option. This beverage pairs well with coffee or breakfast trucks specifically. Just make sure you’ve got the appropriate electrical capabilities setup on your unit… blenders are electricity hogs on food trucks!

Veggie Snacks: Create a mini veggie tray. Cut some carrots, broccoli, celery in an attractive way. Serve with a side of ranch or premade hummus. This creates a healthier option to fried foods and is extremely easy and affordable to make. Everyone loves a personal veggie tray!

Potato Alternative: All sorts of restaurants use some form of potato as a side. Why? Almost everyone likes potatoes in their various forms (fries, mashed, bakes, waffle) and they are cheap to make. The down side is that is that many reports associate eating potatoes with weight gain. Most people don’t associate the spud with the example of health.

Instead, look to offer foods that are perceived to be healthier on the side. Some recipe ideas include: Califlower rice. Asian green beans. Cranberry almond coleslaw.

French Fry Alternative Recipes: Squash Fries. Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Roasted carrots. All of these items can be chopped just like an old-fashioned French fry and served! Bon apetite!

Do you offer healthier food options on your concession unit? If so, let us know what approaches you’ve used. We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

Starting a Mobile DJ Trailer Business in Florida?

Thinking about starting a mobile DJ trailer business in Florida? A trailer can help you safely transport audio and visual equipment, while setting your business apart from other DJs in the local market. Below is an overview of this high-profit business model.

Mobile DJ Trailer Business Model Explained

Being your own boss and becoming entrepreneurial disc jockeys (AKA DJ) is something most on-air talent considers during their career. After all, most small radio markets pay on-air talent under $40,000 annually if you’re just entering the workforce. It’s not that small-market radio wouldn’t like to pay their employees more, it’s simply a matter of revenue generated through advertising can’t support higher salaries in these markets.

The flip side is that you can earn a very healthy six figure or higher annual salary as an independent DJ and owns his or her audio equipment and a trailer to haul equipment from venue to venue.

When you’re starting out, finding events to DJ will seem difficult. Like any other small business, no one will know about your services at first. In the early days, you will need to pay your dues to get your name out there and into the public. This could mean bringing your talents at no charge to local charity events or fundraisers. While you won’t get paid for these events you will introduce your services to the community and start generating leads for paid gigs at events like this.

There are a few different strategies you can use to build an income as a DJ. Many DJs will use a combination of these approaches:

Bars and Clubs – Small bars, especially those without built-in audio equipment or lighting may hire out third-parties to provide entertainment on busy nights like New Year’s Eve. These venues will likely only pay $200 – $500 for an evening of entertainment. If you perform well, you may be invited in play again at a future date or even operate at bars run by the same owner.

One important aspect to remember is the business aspect of paid entertainment in a bar or night club. You are being paid by the business owner to provide a fun night for guests and keep people happily ordering drinks throughout the night. If you can accomplish both, you’ll likely be hired for future events.

Weddings – This is the holy grail of DJing event. A wedding provides the opportunity to charge higher prices in the $1,000 – $3,000 range per event. Depending on the service you offer and night of the wedding this quote could be even higher.

You’ll need to prepare more for a wedding than you will a bar event, however. What is usually forgotten about is the amount of planning that goes into a wedding. You’ll need to determine things like what will the father daughter dance be? What will the couple’s first dance be? What songs do they not want played at the wedding? Will the chicken dance be played? You’ll need to bring your A-game for more formal events like weddings.

School Dance – Want to go back in time and relive those awkward teen years? You can do just that as a disc jockey for school dances. Remember that while you’ll need to adapt the music to what a younger demographic wants to hear, you also need to remember the school is paying your fee. Don’t make them regret the decision to hire you.

Street Dance – Playing at small town street dances or centennial celebrations can be lucrative events to book. Usually, you’ve got to have a well-established track record before landing these big events, but some can pay $2,000 – $6,000 for a single night of entertainment assuming you’ll be providing equipment like stage lighting and a dance floor.

Fairs / Carnivals – County fairs and street carnivals regularly hire DJs to provide free entertainment at events.

Advantages of Operating a Mobile DJ Business

  • Be your own boss.
  • Retain all revenue from DJ events.
  • You hand pick the events you book.

Disadvantages of This Business Model

  • You will need to work nights and weekends to make good money.
  • Seasonal demand for DJ services.
  • Low barriers to entry from local competitors.
  • This is not the ideal business model for reserved personality types.

Best Practices for Running a Successful DJ Business

The best paid DJs are the ones that act professionally. They understand their role at an event. Establish a routine of showing up early to events so you can setup audio / visual equipment to ensure everything is ready to go at the agreed upon start time. Remember, you’re essentially a temporary employee of the business that hired you.

Next, check your ego at the door. You’re not a famous rock star that can show up late and disrespect other employees like wait staff, bartenders or bouncers at an event. In fact, you should put your best foot forward with venue employees as they are often the eyes and ears of the check writer.

Third, it’s your job to bring the party and have a good time at events. But never drink in excess or curse on the microphone. It’s bad taste and will earn you a bad reputation that you may not be able to bounce back from.

Fourth, you will encounter other DJs and local cover bands on your journey to building this business. Be nice to these guys and gals, especially if they are popular acts in your region. Popular acts know who the decision makers are in your area and might even help you secure more business in the future if they respect you and can vouch for your talents and professionalism. Many of the popular acts will be booked quickly at the start of the year and can only entertain one venue at a time. Believe it or not, your competition may actually help you book more business if you give them a reason to help you.

Finally, every gig you play is an audition for your next event. If you make it a point to do your best at each event, you’ll find that you are able to regularly meet new people that need paid entertainment for events. Your calendar will start to fill up and you’ll be able to gradually increase your rates.

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