How To Run A Successful Food Truck (And Why Others Fail)

Food trucks make it much easier to access exciting and vibrant food no matter where you end up. Of course, it’s in the nature of a food truck to travel about and deliver its goods in a wide variety of places, so you can always depend on a food truck and its delicious contents not being far away.

However, as much as food trucks are an exciting and still relatively new venture within the world of food, and while they may offer great opportunities to fledgling chefs who cannot afford their own restaurants, there is still a great inherent risk of failure. 

With the right business practices, and with some good business thinking, food trucks can prove to be very profitable and can generate more sales than even some restaurants. However, on the flip side of the coin, without the correct business acumen and clever thinking, it is very easy for them to fail before they can truly take off. 

How To Run A Successful Food Truck (And Why Others Fail)

So what are some of the major reasons why food trucks end up failing, and how can you make sure to avoid them for your business?

If you want to make it in the food truck world, read on, as we are going to explore how you can make yours thrive.

Why Do Food Trucks Fail?

Food trucks are not inherently prone to failure. With good business practice, any food truck can make it well into the future. However, there are many bad business traps that many food trucks find themselves falling into. 

So what are these common failures that can lead to food truck ruin? Why don’t we find out?

Ignorance Of Health Codes

Unfortunately, a large number of food truck businesses find themselves failing to meet standard health and safety practices. Food trucks, often by design, have a somewhat rustic and handmade feel to them. 

While this is definitely a charming aspect that makes them very attractive to their many customers, often some food truck businesses decide that because they have a rustic image, they can afford to ignore health codes. 

Even if you are striving to meet the most basic of health codes, you may find yourself tripping up when it comes to meeting health codes in different areas.

Many different states across the United States have their own sets of health codes, but many people are completely unaware of this and find themselves failing to meet certain codes in certain states, which can spell doom for any food business.

In order to avoid the risk of failing to meet health codes, you should make a point of researching exactly what the basic health codes are so that you can uphold them everywhere. And when you plan to drive your truck over to a new location, make sure to research the unique health codes of that area, so that you cannot be caught unawares. 

No Business Plan

While food truck owners may seem like the free-wheeling type, they have in fact done masses of research to make sure that their truck can survive in this crowded and competitive market.

Many food truck businesses simply pack a bunch of ingredients, a few chefs, and little business sense into a truck and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this, more often than not, leads to the business failing right out of the gate.

Many food truck businesses fail to perform the requisite research and forecasting to ensure that their business can survive, and this can lead to a weak business plan if there is any plan at all! 

If you want your food truck to last for years and years, you need to ensure that your profits outweigh your food costs. Many food trucks that have failed previously have spent massive amounts on creating the best food only to find that they undercharged for their products, and were completely unable to profit. 

Market research and business plan making may sound incredibly boring, and it is definitely the least exciting part of running a business, but it is crucial to getting off to a running start right out of the gate! 

Choosing The Wrong Employees Or Partners

Choosing The Wrong Employees Or Partners

Again, another reason why many food trucks have failed in the past is due to how the food truck life is viewed. Many believe that it sounds like a great and easy way to make some money while being able to work around friends all day.

Thus, they set out, with a bunch of friends, and try to take over the food truck industry. Unfortunately, working with friends is never quite as easy or as enjoyable as it sounds…

Arguments and disagreements soon begin to arise, which are both disastrous for business, and can even permanently damage an otherwise strong and healthy friendship.

Even if such businesses were to hire or work with anyone entirely outside of their social circle, there is still the risk that the other person may be entirely untrustworthy or completely lacking in business and sales skills. 

Thus, we cannot stress enough how crucial it is to fully check the credentials of any person you plan to work with, so as to avoid any potential headaches and disastrous arguments and disagreements.

The Wrong Mindset

Many food truck businesses have started up and then failed within months due to the mindset and expectations of the people running them.

When many people first toy with the idea of opening a food truck, they imagine it as a hobby or a side job. A small way to earn some extra money. The success stories of many top food trucks prove that it is no small feat to run a food truck.

Not only do food trucks operate for long hours at a time, in order to turn a profit, but there are also multitudes of costs, such as maintenance, procuring ingredients, and paying staff that many somehow neglect before they start out. 

Running a food truck is a full-time endeavor, and thus it requires your full attention and a serious business mind. This is not to suggest that running a food truck cannot be fun and have its many joys, but you need to be able to deal with the ups and downs that the industry will throw at you.

Bad Marketing

Many of the biggest food truck successes have built their reputations on strong marketing and an understanding of advertising. Think about the number of times you’ve seen an exciting recipe for a decadent cake made up of ingredients you’d never expect.

These recipes often go viral on social media thanks to their unique appeal, and this has proven to be a great source of revenue for numerous restaurants and food trucks across the world. 

In the modern age, it is crucial to use social media to your advantage at all times so that you can stay ahead of the competition when it comes to trends, and so you can always give your customers exactly what they want when they want it.

Many failed food trucks simply weren’t able to build up a reputation on a local level and were unsure how to build a brand image online. Food trucks thrive on word of mouth and social media attention, so you need to make sure you’re up to date with how to utilize social media to your advantage. 

Weak Brand Image

When people think of food trucks, do they think of your business? Do they find themselves randomly craving those delicious burgers you make? Or those delectable sweet treats that they cannot get enough of? This could well be what your business is missing. 

As we have mentioned earlier, food trucks are a very competitive market. As such, if you want to make it, you need to be able to stand out from the competition. 

Many food trucks have come and gone purely because they were not distinct enough. They just looked like any other food truck you could find anywhere else.

Does your business have a unique selling point? A specific product you specialize in that you feel has not yet been seen? Make the most of that!

Be sure to promote that unique aspect wherever you can. Perhaps you could base the name of your food truck around the most popular item on your menu, so that whenever your customers think of that food they will no doubt think of you, and likely come back wanting more, or suggest it to their friends. 

Inconsistent Or Terrible Service

Inconsistent Or Terrible Service

Customers head to food trucks for their vibrant combination of friendly and personal service and amazing and fresh food. It may come as a surprise to hear, but many fledgling food truck businesses fail to recognize this and fail to invest time into creating a service that is consistently friendly and of high quality. 

First impressions are crucial, and many failed food trucks have stumbled right out of the gate by providing a terrible service and making sub-par food from day one.

If you want your business to be off to a running start, be sure that everyone involved with the endeavor is confident in cooking the food on the menu, and that you have a more than adequate supply of everything you need (without overstocking, and thus overspending). 

You should also make sure that anyone working within your food truck has experience with customer-facing jobs so that you can be sure they will be able to treat customers respectfully and in a friendly manner. 

It is also important that your service is consistent and the food quality even well into the future. You want your customers to know that they can come back to you to receive the same satisfying flavors every single time. If your customers receive a good experience one time, and then a terrible service the next time, they are very unlikely to return again. 

Investing time and money into your business plan and your team can go a long way toward ensuring that your business remains consistently strong in the future.

Quality tends to begin slipping when your employees or partners become unmotivated. It is crucial to plan ahead so that there is always a goal for everyone in the team to work towards, and that your team is being appropriately rewarded for all of the work that they do. 

Quality Over Quantity 

Finally, we think it is very fitting to mention that, while it is important to always strive for a high-quality service and product every time, you need to ensure that you can provide massive numbers of that product while not buckling under significant pressure.

Thus you should ensure that your market research considers all sorts of things such as how much your ingredients cost, and how much profit you are making so that you can consistently be earning money from month to month and period to period. 

Let’s Wrap Up

Running a food truck is no small feat. While there is lots of joy to be had in running a food truck, and while it can be a great way to express yourself, you need to ensure that you are ready to take on the task. 

Be sure that you do all of your market research ahead of time, and fully consider whether you are ready to take on the task. Are you working with the right people? Can all of you provide quality service and products to every single customer every single time?

These are scary things to have to tackle, but in order for your food truck business, they are things you will no doubt have to do. You’ll be thanking yourself, years down the line when your food truck business has taken off!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Weaknesses Of A Food Truck?

One of the biggest hurdles that food truck owners have to frequently face is that of space. Food trucks are often very small and yet filled with lots of people working towards the same goal. Without proper space and team management, it is very easy for a food truck kitchen to fall into abject chaos. 

Why Are Food Trucks Bad?

Food trucks are not inherently bad, but while they have a massive wealth of benefits, they can also occasionally have a negative environmental impact, as they often rely on fuel-based electric generators to keep everything running, which can create quite a significant carbon footprint.

Which Is Better, A Food Truck Or Restaurant?

Neither eatery is any better than the other. Each one offers a very different style of service, but both focus on delivering top-quality food every time. Some may prefer restaurants to food trucks or vice versa, but neither one is definitively ‘better’ than the other.

Hilary O’Shea