Every food truck has to display their menu on something, and every business owner has their preference. Some go for the simplest methods at their disposal, with the barest outline of items and prices (with or without descriptions), while others go for big pizzazz, flashy designs and sometimes even tech help! Does one’s choice in mediums for this affect final outcomes and success in any way? Ultimately I’d say that depends on the business owner’s perspective, the answer being similar to your thoughts on the necessity for a highly attractive and interesting wrap/graphic design for your truck/trailer as opposed to keeping a single matte color with minimal display.
At the end of the day it’s all about presentation, with various arguments going back and forth for what truly is necessary for the most successful. If there is anything truly important, however, it’s making sure to choose the right menu display option that fits YOUR business and particular needs. One can always change it in the future, supposing you’re starting off with an easily ditched style and replacing it with a just-as-easily attached one, but getting it where you want right at the start leaves one less hassle down the line. Of course sometimes one simply has to settle for a different idea due to lack of funds, yet another factor to take into consideration.
So towards this end, I thought it’d be fun to go over a collection of the main food truck menu styles that have seemed rather popular here and there, listing the Pros and Cons of each. For your consideration, here they are:
The a-typical display in office board rooms and small neighborhood cafes, this smooth blank surface houses the familiar space to be filled with notes, drawings, and other things via marker, coming with an eraser that clears every bit of it within the blink of an eye.
Pro: Very inexpensive, super easy and fast to clean/wipe off and redo each day, so very accessible to changes. Also easy to find and set up on the side of the truck.
Con: Little to no real presentation value, tacky, often looking as cheap as they are unless one REALLY puts a lot of attention and effort into designs and writing on it. Parts of it can smudge/smear/wipe off easily from outside factors, so sections can need frequent re-writing and fix-up to keep looking decent (though not a problem if already planning to clean off and redo every day).
One of the favorites for menus both on the truck and sign-posted outside, something about the simplistic and sorta-rustic, sorta-old-school feel of the chalk board has seemed to thrum amongst truck owners. Likely due to the ability to portray their personality through its particular medium.
Pro: Much more attractive than the white board, seeming clean and smooth when done well, still in an affordable range, and with the ability to erase and change menu when needed. Very good at displaying one’s artistic sense if so inclined.
Con: A little more labor intensive when it comes to cleaning off as well as writing (if trying to make it look very clean, attractive, and professional; simple printed ‘item+price’ styles are easy), not to mention there ARE a lot of trucks using them so it’s not that unique on its own. One of the menus you’ll be spending the most time with very likely.
Laminated Custom Menu Display
When you just have a design, logo, layout, and all manner of ways you want your menu to look that can’t be portrayed another way, getting something made custom to slap on the side is the way to go. These babies are usually laminated and/or placed under a case, are often made of unique set dimensions, and fit exactly what the truck owner wants (very much the difference between restaurant daily print-out menus and the ones that you know were hired out to have someone make at one point in time).
Pro: Custom, attractive, very presentable, this is purely expressive of YOUR truck and food, and needs no further effort once installed (besides giving a spray and wipe to make all shiny and stuff, but that’s done with cleaning).
Con: Specialty stuff always costs more money; and if you want it bolted on in a solid presentable way, then that will take some work (or likely, money to have someone else do). Also, this is one of the set menus, this is what you WILL be serving from now on, though there is the possibility for swapping it out with another custom menu later, but again that will be a cost. Additions can always be handled via extra cards and stuff attached/written on the side.
Metal/Hard Board Attachments
Whether it’s a piece of metal bent and displayed beside the window, hard plastic filled with slider slots, or the typical cork-based tack-boards, having something more solid brings a clear and orderly approach to the customer’s eye. Many of these styles, custom made and attached, can have the menu painted on or used in conjunction with tabs that are attached or slid in on a daily basis.
Pro: Custom, often very nice and presentable looking, can be made to hold interchangeable menu item slots/cards for adjustable daily options, especially durable and long-lasting. Computer/spray printed words carry less worry and effort into the effect of writing it by hand every day.
Con: Besides the tack-boards, more costly still for the custom work compared to buying something one can put on the side of the truck yourself. If getting one made with painted on menu, then flexibility in future offerings once again drops.
Menu Cards, with or without Pictures
When you just wanna take the lazy way out, one can print out squares of paper from your own computer, each with a food item name, price, even description and/or picture if you want some. These can be attached to the afore-mentioned hard boards, stuck onto the side of the truck, or taped to a window.
Pro: No cost, very easy to put up as well as change display depending on menu for the day, the pictures CAN be a good way to give customers an understanding of what they’re getting. Presentation is also quite flexible, getting it wherever on the truck you want without being tied down.
Con: It’s tacky; even the pictures, which CAN be used positively, can often be viewed just as low quality (think of restaurant menus with pictures of almost everything vs simple, clean text). It’s often quite obvious that it came out of a word document.
“Butcher Paper Roll”
Whether it’s attached to the truck like a big brown toilet paper on a giant handlebar, or simply pulled off in sheets at home when needing to make a change, brown butcher paper (or similar material) can act as a quick and easy source of providing a BIG and LONG menu for a dynamic yet sort of rustic display.
Pro: Easy to change and redo, little actual maintenance (what’s ruined gets scrapped for something else), unique look, can be rather cheap up front depending on what and how used.
Con: Will have to continue buying more as time goes on and you run out of the roll. Black marker handwriting CAN come with similar associations as whiteboard look as opposed to clean text font if not done well enough (it’s less a pro-con situation and more just a choice on decided final look, unless handwriting of whoever does it sucks). If you have the roll attached to truck, it does LOOK nice and cool, but need to ensure proper protection in case of rain, so a small awning of sorts over it will be needed.
Oh yes, why stick with simple boards and printed pieces of paper with stuff written/printed on it when you can just get a Flatscreen Television stuck into the side of your truck!? These have definitely become popular with some of the new wave truck owners, connecting it to the computer and pasting a slide of their menu to cover the whole screen as their choice of menu display.
Pro: Very distinctive and eye-catching, easy to see when dark out, and with a graphics screen purely in control by your computer, you can make the menu look however you want. Can also be used to show movies, sports games, slideshows, and other fun things depending on your crowd and event’s interests. Obviously also easily changed to meet seasonal menu needs.
Con: Usually needs to be installed IN the truck during the initial design, ending up a very costly choice for menu; and come on, TV vs Cheap board, it’s already a pricey upgrade. One also needs to ensure absolute protection, being difficult and costly for fixing and replacing once issues come up (luckily it’s being used for simple purposes). Depending on where it’s placed (most trucks have it in the notable open space to the side of the window, but I’ve seen ones that are peaking from within the serving window, requiring you to step up to see), one may want a secondary standing or side menu for people to study from a distance/off to the side.
Probably the simplest idea and most popular idea for food trucks, not even messing with getting something else and having it printed on the side of the truck along with whatever graphics you’re getting it ‘wrapped’ with. No room for wondering, people can just come up, look at the truck and know what’s there.
Pro: Fully Customizable, easy to see, attractive/interesting, no need to worry about special maintenance or cleaning, and if you’re already getting the truck wrapped/painted in unique graphics than there’s no extra cost in it.
Con: There is NO changing this menu at all, so you BETTER be confident that this is the food you’ll be serving from the truck from now on. Little seasonal additions can be added on with some printed paper and tape, but if you want a notable menu change then you’ll need a new wrap, and that’ll cost you. Thus it should only be attempted by certain kinds of trucks.
However you choose is up to you, there really is no right or wrong option here, so long as you find the one that fits YOUR Truck best. With luck hopefully this has helped your narrow down, or at least widen your idea to some of the different options. And I’m sure that’s not even all that’s out there, heck we didn’t even mention having it spray/painted on the window. If you want to explore even further or think of something new and unique all your own, go and do it! That’s the great part about this business, the adventurous spirit.