Food trucks offer a quirky and convenient alternative to the brick-and-mortar restaurant norm. However, as temperatures drop, owners may find themselves wishing for a warmer shop to bring in customers.
Food truck operators generally expect to lose 50 percent of its business during the winter months. With customers no longer wanting to wait outside in the cold, lines that once stretched for blocks can quickly disappear with the winter’s first frost.
However, as the industry grows and evolves, more owners are finding ways to turn winter months into periods of growth.
Check out these six ways food trucks can shine all winter long.
1. Look into catering. When it’s too cold to stay outside, start looking for customers that will welcome you in. Reach out to local businesses, offices and schools to offer catered goods for events. “We’ll work with other types of caterers, even corporate stuff where we try to do special events," says Dean Medico, the founder of catering truck company Pizza Luca. "In the winter, people are still having parties."
2. Mix up your menu. Many food trucks have goods primarily aimed for summer crowds. To grab customers’ attention in the cold, food trucks may need to change it up. “During the winter months, my sales from the food truck are significantly lower due to the fact that we are typically known for smoothies,” says Maui Wowi franchisee Jason Sorrells. “With few outdoor events going on, I utilize this lull to build my catering sales through our coffee program (espresso, hot chocolates, lattes, etc.).” Think of warm and hearty twists on current offerings to keep up with customers' seasonal tastes.
3. Develop partnerships. Partner with an office building and deliver menus, upping delivery services in the area. Seek out events, such as sports tournaments and conventions, which may need your services. “The colder months are my busiest time of the year due to all the indoor events I work with my mobile carts,” says Sorrells.
4. Build your customer base year-round. Set the groundwork for bringing in customers in the winter before the weather gets grim by developing relationships with regulars. “We connect, we get to know their name and they’re happy to stop by for a cup of coffee,” says Medico. “Stopping by becomes part of their day, and you become part of their life.”
5. Look out for employees. Your customers aren’t the only ones getting cold in the winter. Keep morale high by leading by enthusiastic example. Keep body temperatures high by revamping your truck or buying a new vehicle if your current ride isn’t properly prepared for the cold.
6. Embrace mobility. While operating a food truck presents a number of challenges, it also offers unique opportunities. Use the winter as a time to cover more ground. “Figure out how to make your mobile business even more mobile,” advises Sorrells. Remember, mobility can allow you to set up shop places brick-and-mortar businesses can’t.
“We can be mobile and actually go to places while other businesses are actually stationary,” says Medico. “I think that last year that Hurricane Sandy was a perfect example of there being such a need for food trucks, or food period, and we could get there.”