February 25, 2014
Winter has walloped the US this year. With places like New York City reporting 40-inches more snow than normal and places like the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest receiving upwards of 8 feet of snow in 10 days, folks are scrambling to shovel out and stay warm. But between road closures and people holing up at home to stay warm, how can a food truck owner make sure their revenue doesn’t go into a deep freeze?
Jeff Schuaf, owner of The Flying Stove food truck, is no stranger to winter. Based in Wichita, Kansas, a place where it’s not uncommon for temperatures to hover at or below 0F, Schuaf knew weather was going to be a nemesis. “The cold weather drives down sales,” he says, “however, a bigger weather factor for us is wind. It seems to amplify cold and hot temperatures…or just annoy people, not sure which!”
To keep his customers out of the cold and wind, Schuaf looks for innovative ways to keep his customers comfortable even though as a food truck he doesn’t have an indoor seating area. “We do have tricks to make the cold more bearable. For instance, we encourage call or text in orders. We also make sure to deliver food out to people’s cars.”
With more than 10,000 fans following The Flying Stove on Facebook, Schuaf also relies on party catering to help boost sales during the coldest months when sales decline.
Winter weather doesn’t just affect those areas struggling under extreme cold and snow. Fort Lauderdale is a retreat for many ‘snowbirds’ during the winter, but for Carlos Fierro, owner of Zombie Ice, sales during his winter months are typically 60% lower than summer sales. “December and January are the worst months for my truck because not a lot of people want a shave ice when the weather is in the 50s,” Fierro says.
Fierro looks for ways to cut his operating costs during the colder months in order to save money. Even when his sales increase in the warmer months, Fierro is always looking ahead to the upcoming winter and saving money to help him through the lean period. “I need to be very smart with saving my money when we do well during the summer months and also cross my fingers that we do not experience major breakdowns with our truck or other major equipment.”
Another way Fierro looks to generate sales during the winter is by strategically participating in area events that he believes have the best potential to bring him business. Fierro also heavily promotes those events to his over 11,000 Facebook fans to encourage them to come out and participate and Zombie Ice’s “Zee the Zombie” mascot comes to those events as well to help draw a crowd.
Ultimately though, Fierro also uses the quieter months to regroup and look for ways to continue growth during the next busy season. “We take these months to plan ahead for the warmer months.”