The days of the traditional food truck, parked on the curb offering greasy, substandard fare like burgers and fries, are over. These days, the food offered on mobile platforms has exploded with more availability and choice than ever before. Yet with such proliferation comes new challenges as the industry continues to change and innovate. Indeed, we have identified four key trends in this ever-evolving industry, all of which will help your new mobile food business succeed.
1. Leverage social media to better engage your consumers
For a business with such fine margins like a mobile eatery, simply putting an advertisement in the newspaper or on the radio is too expensive and has no guaranteed ROI. As a result, it is vital to have a thorough social media strategy in order to extend your brand and engage your current and potential consumers. Successful food trucks in the past have used social media to communicate information about its location and menu changes, among other things. But nowadays it becomes more imperative to actively engage your consumers: you can tweet a “secret menu” to inspire consumers to return to try the new fare; you can also put a picture on Instagram of your truck at a “secret location” and explain that the first 30 customers to arrive there will get a free side dish of their choosing. There are dozens of iterations of this kind of social media strategy, but the key is to constantly keep your consumers engaged with interesting material that is relevant to your business and consistent with your brand strategy.
2. Dayparts are expanding, so delivery can happen at anytime to anywhere
If you happen to operate a food delivery service (which are becoming increasingly common), then you should expect to operate at all hours. And, with location services on smart devices and computers becoming much more accurate, you should also be able to deliver not just to normal households or offices, but to random (but specific) locations as well. This is challenging. And delivery services have responded to this new challenge by turning to bicycle delivery as their solution: bikes can reach small, out-of-the-way locations much more easily than cars or food trucks can, and they can be operated at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, getting odd requests for Chinese food delivered to a secluded side street at 3am will become more normal and your business needs to be flexible enough to meet this new demand.
3. Differentiate yourself through your menu
If you run a food delivery service, this should not be a challenge since your offerings should already be diversified. However, if you operate a food truck, you will find that it is difficult to stand out amongst the dozens of other food trucks around. Painting your truck another colour might improve visibility from a distance, but it will not significantly aid consumers in recalling what your business’ name and offerings are. So, ultimately, it boils down to the quality and variety of your product – your food offerings. If you offer your consumers high quality food, they will return and will likely tell their friends and peers (both off- and on-line) about their positive experiences. They won’t remember eating a burger and fries, but they will remember eating a great-tasting burger and fries; a subtle but important difference. As well, if you design a menu of interesting or culturally diverse food items, consumers will have the same kind of positive response.
4. There should be an app for that
Whether you operate a food truck or a food delivery service, designing an app to be an extension of your business is of vital importance. For food trucks, this app should enable consumers to order and pay in advance so they can pick up their food quickly and hassle-free. For food delivery services, the app should be robust enough to give consumers a diverse assortment of choices, and include IT that communicates with all listed restaurants. It should also have online payment options to expedite each delivery. No matter the format of your food-on-wheels business, you must consider building an app that extends your business onto computers and smart devices.
Ultimately, when designing a business in this industry it is important to recognize the elements that make it successful. In this case, leveraging social media, being flexible when and where you deliver, offering a menu of high quality food, and designing an appropriate app are all tactics that proprietors in the food-on-wheels industry should employ. Those who ignore these vital elements risk sinking their business’ future into the deep fryer.
Which of these strategies will you implement in your mobile food business? How will they impact the customer experience? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe to receive the latest Shikatani Lacroix insights in your inbox.