June 4, 2013
Several months ago I had the honor of moderating a panel of successful food truck owners to learn what can make or break a food truck. One of the things that came out of the panel discussion was that food trucks needed to be willing to take catering gigs, especially for weddings, in order to stay cash flow positive. The good news is that brides and grooms are looking for food trucks. A study by The Wedding Report indicated that having food trucks at weddings are one of the top trends these days. So how can you benefit from this and capture some of those wedding dollars?
For brides and grooms, food trucks aren’t just a way to showcase that they’re on the cutting edge food-wise. In some cases, food trucks might be their only option if their venue doesn’t have the kitchen requirements needed by a traditional caterer. For others, having a food truck come to their event might prove to be a way to cut costs and still provide great food. For others still, a food truck is just fun! Here are some tips to help you get started on the road to wedding catering:
1. Determine what it is you’re going to offer. Are you willing to step outside your normal menu fare and offer weddings guests something they can’t get off your truck day-in or day-out? Or would you prefer to what you know (and what’s made you locally famous) and offer your normal menu? Neither option is wrong, just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start marketing your truck for weddings.
2. What services are you going to offer? Many people think that when it comes to weddings they either cater the whole shindig or nothing at all, but with a food truck you have more flexibility. You can certainly offer to cater the entire event but you should also think about marketing yourself as a late night surprise that can come and feed the guests long after the caterer has cleared out. Or perhaps you can be a ‘Sweet Spot’ compliment in addition to the traditional wedding cake? Leaving yourself open to different options leaves yourself open to the possibility of more business.
3. How are you going to price your services? Obviously, if you’re going to spend time going out to these events then you want to make sure that they’re making you money. The beauty of weddings is that you typically are going to have a very firm idea in advance of how many people will be there which can minimize your inventory risk and waste. When it comes to pricing, several models that are popular amongst food trucks is to offer that to the bride and groom to pay a ‘total guest’ fee in that you provide a price for your services based on the total number of guests at the event. Alternatively, you might choose to offer a ‘per plate’ fee in which you would only be paid for those guests that actually get something from your truck (and if guests come back for seconds then that’s another plate!). It’s also not unheard of to add in an hourly fee that would cover the cost of your time or your employees time during the event. Whichever model or combination you use is up to you but make sure it’s clearly documented in the contract and understood by all parties.
4. How do you plan to get the word out? Now that you’ve figured out those other pieces of the equation, you have to make others aware of it. You should have a marketing strategy in place to help you spread the word. Depending on what your goals are with this program, you should consider doing things like putting this information onto your website and any marketing collateral you have (ie, a print menu if you have one, rack cards, even painted onto your truck itself!). Don’t forget to add something to your Facebook page in the About section and your Twitter profile as well as any other social media tools you use. Ask for the couple’s permission to post pictures of your truck at the wedding onto your social media pages after the event to help others visualize how your truck might look at their venue.
If it’s in your budget, you may also consider advertising directly to brides and grooms. You can do online advertising or pay-per-click advertising targeting brides and grooms (or wedding planners – don’t forget them!). For some, advertising in local wedding magazines can prove to have a high ROI. Try doing a little research too and see if there is a wedding planners association in your area and whether you might be able to spread the word through them.
5. Who is going to service these accounts? Weddings are notoriously ‘high touch’ and by that I mean that they can require a lot of handholding to keep your brides and grooms happy. You need to determine if you have the time or have the staff to manage these accounts and keep the wedding party (and their guests) happy.
If you’ve taken your food truck to weddings and have any other suggestions I’d love to hear them!