Food trucks are popping up in every major city across the US, spurring plenty of healthy competition. If you’re looking to stand out from the pack and capitalize on the new wave of nomadic eateries, you’ll want the best business tools available. With a few simple apps, tech upgrades, and truck-friendly gadgets, your food truck business will be on the road to success.
Food Truck Nation
Food trucks are the next wave in urban restaurants. The food truck industry is forecasted to reach $1 billion by 2020, growing by $140 million in just five years. Food trucks are mobile, giving them a distinct advantage over traditional restaurants. Their popularity is highest among young people, and many cities are capitalizing on the trend by hosting food truck events in parks and other public spaces.
Starting a food truck business is similar to starting a restaurant but with a few distinct challenges. A food truck business is highly weather dependent. This makes the “busy seasons” (when the weather is nice) critical to food truck survival. Additionally, food trucks thrive with a strong social media presence to build influence with younger patrons. Tech-savvy food truck vendors can have a big edge over their competitors.
The High-Tech Food Truck
If you’re looking to maximize your profit margins, outfitting your food truck with the latest and greatest business tools is a good start. These simple tools help manage everything from payment to food safety and offer your customers additional conveniences to keep them coming back.
- Credit Card Readers
Having a mobile credit card reader is essential for any food truck. Customers want to be able to pay using a card or cash, and you’ll miss out on younger customers if your truck is cash only. There are several card readers to choose from, but Square remains the biggest name in the industry with low fees and easy setup.
Mobile card readers work with a smartphone or iPad, and a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) app. For convenience, it helps to have a dedicated smart tablet for your food truck business in place of a traditional register. Mobile credit card readers also offer conveniences for customers, like digital receipts. Readers for EMV (chip) cards and contactless methods like Apple Pay can help make your food truck as user friendly as possible.
- Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots can entice crowds to gather around your food truck, especially if you’re set up in a park or public space without a Wi-Fi connection. These hotspots work through a tethering plan, which most carriers offer at a small additional cost.
For the best connection for your food truck business and your customer’s devices, consider purchasing a mobile hotspot router. These handy devices provide a boosted Wi-Fi signal using your phone’s 4G or 5G connection. The best portable hotspots have ports for antennas to boost the signal even further and extra battery life for long summer days.
- Small-Business Financing Apps
Food truck owners flock to personal finance apps to manage their expenses and profits. Handy apps like Mint work great for food trucks since these apps are integrated into the mobile devices you’ll have with you on the road.
Personal finance apps allow for expense tracking, goal setting, and automatic billing so that you can keep track of your cash flow in real time. You can even integrate your food truck’s finances with a brick-and-mortar restaurant if your business plan calls for it. Apps like Mint will automatically sort common purchases, helping you stick to a budget for long-term financial success.
- Social Media Apps
A social media presence is a necessity for any successful food truck business. Social media helps your customers find your truck, and reviews help spread the word about your food. Social media managers like Hootsuite and TweetDeck can help you manage your online presence, and mailing apps like Constant Contact can keep customers in the loop for upcoming events.
- Food Truck Management Packages
Food-truck-specific app managers like Mobi Munch offer complete packages for food truck businesses, including social media tools, online menu apps, and mobile food infrastructure. Several successful food truck businesses are built off Mobi Munch, which touts itself as an all-inclusive tech package that provides everything your business needs to launch (other than the proper licenses and permits).
- Location Trackers
Nearly every major city now has interactive food truck maps. These maps help customers find your truck, and they can help you find busy spots on slower days. You can build location updates into your social media handles as well, giving regular customers an update when you change locations.
- Custom Mobile Apps
Apps that simplify payment and ordering can turn a simple lunch order into a fun, interactive, and memorable experience. Many food truck operators are designing their own apps that allow customers to order while they wait in line to speed up the process. This convenience translates into more profit when your truck pulls in a crowd.
- Food Safety Managers
Food safety and quality is essential for redefining your customer’s definition of street food. FreshCheq’s food safety log software helps you keep track of temperature automatically, along with a host of other tasks. Trucks that use FreshCheq also receive a food safety certification decal, demonstrating your food’s quality to customers.
As the food truck market rapidly expands, more customers are gaining an appreciation for the new era of street food. With tools that boost your efficiency, customer engagement, and food quality, your business can pull ahead of the competition.
Alice Williams has written in-depth on a wide variety of topics which include business, technology and social media. She has a masters degree in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University. Follow her at @1alicehw.