10 Mobile Concession Commandments
Running a concessions business means that you have to follow a long list of rules that regular restaurants don’t even think about. If you follow these 10 mobile concession commandments, you should stay out of trouble and help your business thrive. Be certain, though: not all of these commandments are easy to keep.
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Know the Rules and Regulations
Food laws can vary significantly by city and state. That makes it difficult for vendors that travel to meet their customers’ needs.
Before you complain about the complexity of food regulations, you might as well know city inspectors don’t care. They have one motto: blessed the mobile concessions vendor who follows the regulations of my jurisdiction.
If you decide to take your concessions on the road, read food regulations before you pull into a city. If you don’t conform, you might as well move on to your tour’s next stop.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Put Nothing Before Quality
Never think that your customers have to come to you. They don’t. It doesn’t matter whether you sell concessions at a baseball park in Miami or a harbor in Nome, Alaska. Your patrons deserve high quality food that makes them happy they came to you.
As a mobile vendor, you already face some disadvantages. A handful of people will automatically think that you don’t meet cleanliness standards. Even more will think that you offer a sub-par product. Prove them wrong if you want a steady stream of customers raving about your food.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Protect Thyself With Insurance
Insurance is serious business, especially if you know you can’t afford to replace your equipment out of pocket.
Food trucks need vehicle insurance. That should go without saying. If you really want to protect your business, though, you also need insurance for your equipment. What would you do if a vehicle accident ruined your oven or refrigerator?
These items can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace. Without the right insurance, you’re on your own. Don’t put yourself in that position.
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Fill a Unique Niche
There are already 11 food carts selling hot dogs in your city. Don’t drag another one out to the street.
You need a unique niche that will gain popularity. If you’re really into hot dogs, then turn to artisanal products that stand out from the regular wienies.
Better yet, try experimenting with other foods that no one else makes. It might take you some time to find your customer base, but you’ll have a devoted following once you snag them with your unique recipes.
Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Offer Fresh, Seasonal Foods
Speaking of unique recipes, always try to use fresh, seasonal ingredients. Some of the people visiting your concession truck just want to grab a fast lunch. Others want artisanal foods made with the finest ingredients.
Mashing local foods together with gas-burning trucks might seem contradictory, but such is the way of the world.
Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Know Thy Customer
Image via Flickr by tedeytan
How do you know what your customers want? You talk to them. Start with the recipes that you know and love. Then you can expand into other areas.
It’s best to let your customer best dictate the direction. If you feed people at baseball games, then they might want hotdogs and pizza. If you cater to people who follow Phish religiously, you might want to sell organic hummus and pita sandwiches.
You won’t know until you talk to your customers.
Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Follow Phish if That’s What it Takes
That brings us to number 7. It’s important to know what your customers want, but it’s also important to know how you can choose your customers.
If you’re dedicated to serving venison, then you don’t park your truck outside of a PETA convention. If you serve homemade veggie dogs, don’t park outside of an NRA meeting.
You have to know what you’re good at making. If you’re the kind of person who excels at making falafel sandwiches, and you can only make a living by following Phish, then that’s your calling. Go do it.
Following your culinary dream will hopefully help you find customers who appreciate your work.
Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Understand Maintenance Like a Professional Mechanic
Mobile concessions mean mobile problems. It’s like putting Murphy’s Law on a set of wheels: if something can go wrong, it will destroy your truck, oven, and refrigerator.
That’s why you need to understand basic maintenance like a professional mechanic.
Your truck is the easy part. Given the option between fixing a truck motor and refrigerator, anyone would choose the comparatively spacious interior of a truck’s hood.
Once you decide that you and your food belong on the road, you need to pick up skills to make sure you arrive at your destination on time. No one cares about your excuses. If you show up to an event half an hour late, someone will already have your spot.
Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Offer a Variety of Dishes
Focusing on a niche will help you appeal to a small, dedicated group of people. That’s awesome and it will help your business thrive. But you also need a variety of dishes that will bring in newcomers.
Create a menu of diverse dishes so you can serve more people. It will make you popular no matter where you go.
Commandment #10: Thou Shalt Help Thy Fellow Vendor
You have to watch out for yourself, but you also need to keep your other food vendors in mind. Anything that happens to them can happen to you. If you spot a fellow traveler on the side of the road, pull over and offer your assistance. If someone runs out of hamburger buns, offer to sell them some of yours.
Helping others doesn’t mean that you have to undermine your own business, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to put your guard up every time you meet someone in your industry.
Help each other. You’re all underdogs in the food industry.
What mobile concession commandments do you follow? Do you feel that most vendors in your community follow the same rules?