Build Your Brand: How to Market Your Food Truck
Marketing a food truck is a unique challenge that requires lots of creativity and broad thinking. A mobile concession truck is a unique cross between a food cart and a brick and mortar restaurant. Your marketing strategy needs both traditional tactics and surprising ideas to keep your mobile food business on the map wherever it goes.
Create a Signature Dish
Image via Flickr by j_lai
Food trucks often get most their traction from a single signature dish. The popular Boston food truck, Clover, is best known for its chickpea fritter sandwich. Although the menu includes plenty of other options, the Boston Globe reported that this particular dish made up two-thirds of the truck’s orders at a recent farmer’s market. Create an original item with plenty of flavor and flair that will become your own signature dish. Since you’ll probably serve up this recipe again and again, make sure you can prepare it quickly.
Focus on a Simple Menu
A food truck kitchen gives you only limited space to work with. Russell Concession & Mobile Kitchens, can give you a custom-built space that’s streamlined for your particular type of specialty, but even the largest food truck space can’t offer the same versatility as a brick and mortar location. Choose just one type of food and focus on preparing this dish to the very best of your ability.
Nearly all good food trucks focus on a specific niche. The Red Hook Lobster Truck in NYC offers fresh Maine lobster in a handful of stellar dishes. This focused menu helped the truck land the number one spot on The Daily Meal’s list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
Give Your Food Truck a Distinct Personality
A bland white truck won’t command nearly enough attention in the competitive world of food trucks. Give your brand a distinctive look so loyal customers can spot your truck in a crowd. A colorful paint job on the outside of the truck is just the beginning. Design employee uniforms, menus, napkins, and other accessories to match as well. The more cohesive your look is, the easier it becomes for customers to identify your brand.
Ideally, your logo and colors will give customers an idea of what to expect from a distance. Neapolitan stripes just scream dessert, while an iconic red crab lets hungry customers know to expect seafood. Whether you go for a retro look or a modern streamlined design, the aesthetics of your truck say a lot about who you are as a business.
Social media marketing is essential for constantly moving food trucks. You can use Facebook and Twitter to keep customers updated on your current location and next big event. Social media sites make it easy for fans to find you and learn more about your product. You can also use social media to communicate directly with your customers. Pay attention to what they’re saying and respond promptly. This is the ideal place to cultivate a personal relationship with the people who are after your eats.
Update your social media sites regularly. There’s nothing worse than a stale page that hasn’t been active in days. When you’re at a special event you can even update your pages as the day goes on, sending out special promotional codes and news about the event.
Send Out Press Releases
Press releases are short notices that you send out to media outlets, letting them know what you’re up to. You’ll usually want to focus on local papers. Send out press releases any time you’re participating in a big event, rolling out a new menu item, or trying something innovative. Don’t feel discouraged if the paper doesn’t pick up your story. Just keep sending your press releases out any time there’s something potentially news-worthy to share.
Get Involved Locally
The mobile nature of food trucks makes them ideal for local involvement. Work with local companies and organizations when possible. Offer to set up outside an office building for lunch once a week and provide special discounts for certain employees. Take your truck to charity events and provide food for participants while donating a portion of your profits to the charity. Find out when your local high schools have band camp or football camp and bring your truck in for lunch or dinner. Always stay up to date with what’s happening around town and look for ways to get involved.
Host a Contest
Contests are great for marketing your food truck. Focus on those where the participants are also spreading the word about your business. Challenge your customers to post creative pictures with your food on Instagram, make funny promos for you on Vine, or tweet about your food with a specific hashtag. These activities will reach all the participants’ followers as well as your own. Reward the best entries with free food, t-shirts, or other promotional products.
If you’re thinking about changing things up, get your customers involved by asking them to contribute their ideas. Reach out to your fans for new recipe ideas, logo designs, or sandwich names and you might be surprised at the creative responses. This will also give you a little insight into the tastes and personalities of your most loyal fans. The suggestions they’re making are what they would most like to see from you.
Celebrate Special Events
Get involved with as many fun celebrations as you can. Offer special menu items for the holidays. Create new promotions for certain occasions. Whether it’s the centennial of your town or a new mayor, get your food truck involved with marketing campaigns that are on trend with what’s happening. Always snag a spot at food festivals and fairs. If you’re not finding as many opportunities as you’d like, create your own by hosting a special event. Partner with other local companies to come up with a promotional event that benefits everyone.
A well-identified brand with a clear menu is easy to market to a local audience as long as you stay on top of regular updates and promotions. These marketing tactics will keep you ahead of the game.