This guide outlines the best-proven approaches to attracting customers to your food truck. However, before applying the strategies outlined in this guide, it’s essential to understand a few things (preconditions) first. Otherwise, your efforts towards a successful customer attraction campaign may prove futile.
If you aren’t using a digital menu, your customers aren’t offering the complete treatment in terms of experience, which can affect your overall sales. In that regard, we’d recommend you switch to a digital menu in your food truck business. You can design one for free with Menuzen for online and offline use.
Preconditions for Attracting More Food Truck Customers
At first, these preconditions might seem irrelevant to the topic. However, the truth is that many food trucks see dwindling visitor traffic for violating one or more of the points outlined here.
We’ve presented more than five responses to the question of “how to get customers for a food truck” in the latter part of this article. Still, none will work for you unless you satisfy the five preconditions discussed here:
- Understanding your market’s demographics.
- Offering the right cuisines.
- Evaluating your competitive strength.
- Giving customers a great dining experience.
- Make sure you’re online.
1. Understanding your market’s demographics.
Before introducing your cuisines to a particular market, study its demographics to get a feel of who’s likely to patronise your business and how they behave.
A study by IBISWorld revealed the following food truck customer demographic data based on age:
- Below 25 years: 19.7%
- 25–44 years: 43.4%
- 45–54 years: 17.7%
- Above 55 years: 19.2%
Based on this data, it’s clear that more than 63% of food truck customers are below the age of 45. This age group represents the most active group of people on social media, as revealed by reports published by Pew Research Center.
You should be on social media, too, and for good reasons — not just as a seat warmer but as an active user promoting your food truck business. We’ll talk about social media in the latter part of this guide, mainly focusing on increasing food truck sales by driving more foot traffic from social media with your promotional materials.
The locations you park your food truck, events you visit, areas you frequent, and online communities you advertise to must have sufficient people within the aforementioned social media-inclined age group. Otherwise, you won’t sell much. Now that you know the age group of likely food truck customers let’s talk about the cuisines you’re trying to sell them.
2. Are you offering the right cuisines?
Ensure that your cuisines aren’t choking on an oversupplied market. Many people make the mistake when starting a food truck business of not conducting an inquiry into the availability or abundance of their kind of menu items in the market.
If there are already too many sellers of the dishes you intend to offer, making substantial profits would be an uphill battle no matter the tricks you employ. Sales might drop to a point where almost price alone influences a customer’s purchase decisions.
A market flooded with your type of cuisine has another significant disadvantage concerning your ability to access events. A common enquiry relates to how to get your food truck into events as easily and quickly as possible. This can be a big challenge even when your cuisines aren’t common in the market, let alone when many food trucks sell them.
If it turns out you’re selling a less-demanded or over-supplied dish, take immediate action and do one or more of the following:
- See if it’s possible to stand out in the market.
- Modify your recipes with add-ons or extras.
- Introduce new dishes into the collection.
- Switch from your current cuisine to a less popular but attractive one.
That being said, here’s how to create a menu for your food truck that is easily adaptable to your circumstances.
3. Evaluate your competitive strength.
Start by evaluating your current status.
Did you make any severe mistakes while setting up a food truck business, and could any of those mistakes be taking a toll on sales?
Are you facing off against industry heavyweights in your primary cuisine(s)?
You may also need increased connections for big events to enable you to showcase your cuisines to a larger customer base.
The restaurant industry has always been competitive, but there’s even more competition in the food truck sub-industry. The reason is that a mobile restaurant is relatively easy to set up and can be scaled up quicker and easier than a brick-and-mortar restaurant. If customers desert your business because you are operating from a weak position, fixing that weakness should be your top priority.
4. Offer the best user experience you can.
While planning how to attract customers to your food truck, focus on attracting more than just first-time customers. You’re likely to have more old customers if your business has been around for a while, and they’ll typically account for the bulk of your sales.
If you have many people eager to eat from your joint often, your business will continue to flourish. On the other hand, if you struggle to attract even the person who ate your food yesterday, there’s a severe problem with your mobile restaurant. One of those problems could be customers’ displeasure over how you treat them.
When driving your food truck out in the morning, have two missions at the back of your mind:
- Pleasing anyone who eats your food.
- Selling all the food in your mobile kitchen.
Accomplishing the first mission above is a prerequisite for the second mission and will affect your sales for many days ahead.
5. Make sure you’re online
When elaborating on the need to understand your customer demographics, we mentioned that you need to establish an online presence for your food truck where you can promote your food business. However, we’re emphasising this point due to the boost your sales can benefit from a well-established internet presence.
Menuzen.site offers you the perfect opportunity to scale your business by creating a free website for your food truck, all for free. Moreover, it allows you to integrate links to digital menus crafted on Menuzen to your food truck website, making the process of online ordering seamless for your customers.
How to Attract Customers to Your Food Truck
Now, we’ll start giving direct, actionable answers on how to get customers for a food truck. Our past discussion was on the prerequisites of the methods discussed in this section.
Here, we’ll cover the following areas:
- Food truck design
- Visible hygiene
- Attending events
- Grow your connections
- Using publicity stunts
- Leveraging social media and offering online ordering
1. Give your food truck a nice look.
Usually, every food truck would have a decorated exterior. In most cases, the entire body is covered in graphic design cartoons, icons or logos.
We know that a lack of stylish design can’t prevent any truck from carrying food. In fact, there are food trucks whose bodies look exactly as they did when they were bought — yet, they still make sales. You’d find them in less developed countries, cities, and towns.
Most of these undesigned trucks usually operate in low-competition areas. But when the competition heats up, some trucks would start to adopt unique colours to distinguish themselves and attract more foot traffic. So, it’s crucial to fix the appearance of your food truck anywhere you are.
How to dress up your truck:
There are two ways to do this: you can use a vinyl wrap or paint to adorn a truck. Both have worked wonders for different people, but the vinyl wrap has been more successful. In essence, either can work for you if you implement great sketching expertly.
Now, let’s expound on how to increase food truck sales via truck design.
Using a vinyl wrap.
Vinyl wrap companies typically have in-house designers or non-staff they can direct you to. It’s unlikely to buy a wrap from them and not find designers around.
Both freelancers and vinyl companies will show you different samples that can match your food truck. You can even show the samples to people and note which ones they like best.
A virtual simulation of your truck donning these designs will offer the best judgement on how attractive it will look in action on the street. Some vinyl wrap companies have the technology to depict your food truck on a computer screen featuring different designs. They can also do the installation for you.
Using paint for food truck aesthetics.
Few modern food truck businesses use paint for the exterior design of their vehicles. Most paint users do so to avoid breaking the bank.
Paints can produce a good design, but they fade faster. If you have no budget constraints, it’s better to use a quality material that will remain bright for a long time. For instance, vinyl wraps can last up to 3 years without any signs of fading.
If you must use paint, don’t try to do it yourself unless you’re a qualified artist and painter. Otherwise, you’ll mess up your truck’s body, and people are less likely to trust it and come close to it, let alone make a food purchase.
Our recommended approach to getting customers for a food truck via painting is by working with a local artist to renovate the colour of your vehicle to an appealing standard.
2. Maintain good visible hygiene.
What people see in your food truck business first is the food truck itself. Food is your merchandise, and people don’t tolerate anything related to dirt or carelessness with their food. They’d like to see a clean, orderly, and smart environment in the food area.
Anyone buying food from you is almost sure to scrutinise the outlook of your truck even if they don’t say anything in that regard. Food safety and cleanliness is necessary to attract more customers.
Are there food truck businesses you know that get more customers than you?
Compare the level of cleanliness between you two, and you’re likely to find they’re better.
However, offering the right food in a clean truck and environment alone isn’t enough to maximise sales in your food joint. Some people need additional incentives to approach your truck. That takes us to the next important point on how to attract customers to your food truck: attending events.
3. Attend and serve at many events.
There are bound to be events in any city or town you live in; some can be huge. Try to attend many or at least some of these events. They’ll give you extensive and immediate market exposure because events provide an avenue to display your food in front of a crowd.
If your recipe is tasty, customers will remember it and seek you out later. That’s why any staple you take to an event should be your best creation, or at least among the best.
It’s unlikely to show off your food at an event and not acquire new and probably long-term customers. People’s appetites tend to grow during events, maybe because many onlookers or guests are eating or drinking something. Whatever the reason, you want to tap into this sea of appetite to harvest some permanent leads.
Make sure you don’t miss most big gatherings, even if it requires registering with the event’s planners as a food provider.
If it’s a night event, secure a strategic location early on and make arrangements to ensure your truck is visible to most attendees. The location should also be easily accessible by foot. Moreover, there should be enough lighting around you since people are typically aversive to darkness or semi-darkness under normal circumstances.
4. Grow your connections.
Catering for events typically requires registering with the organisers. The main challenge is getting your food truck into festivals around you. Since you won’t be the only one seeking these opportunities, paving your path beforehand would make it easier for you to be discovered and accepted to provide food at these events.
Do everything necessary to persuade event planners to put you on their file of food vendors in case something comes around. Make sure you follow up to remind them or make inquiries from time to time lest they forget about you.
You shouldn’t limit your connections to event planners. Many organisations plan their own events. Approach the right people at these organisations, and get acquainted with those you plan to work with.
Most prospects will expect you to operate legally in the food truck business to get their cooperation. This article doesn’t discuss getting your food truck licence, but you can find tons of materials online to guide you on acquiring all necessary licences.
5. You may also afford a publicity stunt.
A publicity stunt is an unusual event or message designed to draw people’s attention, stir curiosity, earn media coverage, and provoke viral sharing on social media. Its primary use is to make people who ignore your food truck suddenly get curious and excited about your brand and share their feelings with others online or in person. Incorporating a PR stunt into your food truck marketing strategy will help increase sales and awareness of your mobile food brand.
If a PR (public relations) stunt is strong enough, it’ll go viral within minutes and create a scale of brand awareness you can’t achieve even with a multi-grand advertising budget. However, be careful with publicity stunts because they can be a double-edged sword. If you come up with something that the public rejects, it can quickly become a scandal that upsets or drives away even your existing customers.
Designing a successful publicity bombshell can be possible if you’re creative and humorous. The easiest way is to use an advertising agency with a track record of designing successful PR stunts.
Another way to increase food truck sales via publicity stunts is to research past publicity stunts—unheard-of by your target market—that other food trucks or similar businesses around the world have used with excellent results.
A good example is the three-day marketing tour organised by Twitter in New York City in 2019. The PR stunt which championed support for women’s sports—after the feminine side of the US National Soccer Team won it’s fourth World Cup—involved transforming a branded food truck into a lively encounter and sharing prizes and free meals.
As a food truck owner, you can organise a cook-off for your patrons and offer to include the top recipe in your menu. Alternatively, if you sell pizzas, you may host an event to attain the record of the largest pizza ever made/sold in your state.
Why publicity stunts are the way to go:
People never realise these affairs are stunts until hours or even days later. The excited chatter on social media and around town is what the stunts’ masterminds are after, and they get it.
You could also stage a successful stunt within your market that many will discuss on social media. However, you must be creative and hire a good planner to see results. The easiest option is to contact a marketing agency for a marketing plan that also designs stunts.
6. Leverage social media and offer online ordering.
At the beginning of this article, we understood from statistics that most food truck customers are on social media. If you can successfully get those within your market segment to follow your social media page and share your posts with others, the sales result of such a campaign can be immediate and massive.
One way to leverage social media is by posting content that vibes with well-known and important events. You can start by checking out our recently published 2023 social media calendar for food businesses. Our guide on the best social media campaigns for food joints throws even more light on creating viral posts.
Another approach to getting customers for a food truck via social media is by introducing online ordering on social media, websites, or apps. You can achieve this when you create a digital menu for your food truck business with Menuzen.
If you design an app that simplifies the buying process for customers, it could also be an avenue to bring in more customers and encourage higher purchases.
Considering that society is increasingly digitised, an excellent menu app will be an added advantage over food trucks without one. To get the most out of your menu app, it must be aesthetic, easy to navigate, and fun to use.
Menuzen provides a free avenue to design and share food truck menus on a website or social media. You can use it to draw the attention of new buyers on social media and enhance the experience for existing fans.
The Menuzen.site platform alone can be a significant driving force behind repeat customer purchases. Online menus are imperative, even if you don't offer a food delivery service.
Instead of a person moving to your truck to see the menu, they can just pick up their smartphone, open your Menuzen.site page and see the offers in real time. Moreover, you can incorporate Google Map directions into your food truck website when you create a website with Menuzen.site.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you attract customers to your food?
There are different methods of attracting customers to a food truck. We’ve discussed these methods extensively in the post, but let’s see a summary of the tips and probably a couple of others not mentioned:
- Get a stunning food truck design.
- Maintain proper and visible food hygiene.
- Craft a suitable digital menu.
- Create a website and enable online ordering.
- Show up at events.
- Provide impeccable customer service.
- Grow your connections for events.
- Try to locate new unique market spots in the city or town.
- Try publicity stunts.
- Advertise on social media.
- Engage in popularised humanitarian charities.
What are the most popular ways that food trucks advertise?
Most food trucks advertise more via exterior truck design; it’s one of the easiest methods that produce immediate results. Another popular advertising option is social media — almost all food trucks would have a social media presence.
What are the top 3 most popular food trucks?
The most popular food trucks in the UK are:
- Daddy Donkey
- Brewed Boy
- The Meat Wagon
What are the top 5 reasons food trucks fail?
Food truck businesses fail for various reasons, including:
- Planning without sufficient market intel.
- Poor advertising strategies.
- Lack of branding.
- Going for low-quality equipment.
- Competing against market giants.
This article regarding how to attract customers to your food truck doesn’t cover every possible way to do so, but it explains methods that yield the most ROI (return on investment) so far. We didn’t elaborate much about online ordering because it’s evident that every customer would love the option to order without moving an inch. As such, your food truck needs a digital menu, which is obtainable for free with Menuzen.