Food trucks began in the U.S. in 1875 in Providence, Rhode Island, when an entrepreneurial young man started selling sandwiches out of his wagon. The modern U.S. food truck market revolution began in Los Angeles in 2008 and has only grown more popular since. People are accustomed to food trucks and love their casual, convenient nature.
But sometimes, with the mobile nature of food trucks, it can be challenging for customers to find or know about you. While a food truck may seem less of a financial commitment than a traditional brick-and-mortar location, they come with unique advantages and challenges.
If you’re not fixed in one place, you must go the extra mile regarding food truck promotion to be consistent. Promotion expenses will be worth it because your customers will know who and where you are and what you offer. That clarity is vital to the success of your business.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a guide on the best food truck advertising practices.
Let’s get started.
The Benefits of Opening a Food Truck
While the opportunity to own a Food Truck gives the opportunity to reach more customers and introduce new meal ideas, a food truck still proves a challenge for potential
If you're still not convinced to make it a reality, here are a few unique benefits to consider opening a new food truck.
Test Out a New Idea
Want to get started in the restaurant business but don’t want to commit to a restaurant, staff, and the whole shebang? A food truck is a small scale way to test out some offerings, and if it goes well, expand!
Explore your creativity and see which dishes sell, which locations are popular, and get to know your customer base in a mobile restaurant. As food-spending habits continue to shift, owning a food truck brings you at the cusp eating trends.
With a food truck, you’re not tied down to one location, whereas a brick and mortar restaurant is cemented literally in one place. If the parking lot next to your establishment gets repaved, your customer base will find a more convenient eating location.
If any disaster occurs, whether it is manmade or a weather event, you’ll have to clean up. But with a tiny restaurant on wheels, you can go where you please and avoid cleaning bathrooms.
Achieve Maximum Independence
A larger restaurant will require more cleanup and more staff. More complex facilities mean more square footage and more responsibility to manage. A food truck can be a one-person operation if needed for maximum independence. Manage your own hours; just operate on the weekends if you wish.
Expand Your Empire
You can get another food truck and create a fleet. Or, if you already have a brick and mortar restaurant, a food truck addition is a great way to bring your well-loved offerings to more people simultaneously.
How to Create a Food Truck Marketing Plan
Two of the main modes of marketing for food trucks are word of mouth and online reviews. But there are many more ways to get your name out there. Creating a marketing plan will give you a direction and framework, so you’re not just crossing your fingers and hoping for success.
Research, Prepare, Envision
- First, research what a typical marketing plan for your needs would be. For example, a marketing plan for a new food truck from a first-time business owner will look different from a second food truck run by a seasoned business owner with an established customer base. Or, you may find that word of mouth is sufficient for food trucks in small towns, whereas more online advertising is needed for large cities.
- Be clear on your current costs. If this is your first year in business, take your best estimate by asking other local small businesses and joining business mentorship groups. Don’t ask your direct competition, but get a feel for the costs from similar food trucks, perhaps in another state.
- Establish a goal for your marketing plans, such as a target number of new customers or a profit goal. Create an outline of the marketing tactics you can experiment with.
- Define your target customer. Evaluate the people you intend to serve. Do you think your food will be most popular with young men? Kids? Everyone? It’s easier to have a niche and branch out from there rather than trying to get everyone’s attention at once. Typically, food trucks tend to appeal to the young for their good prices and casual, experimental, and convenient nature.
Get Help in Making Decisions
- Don’t be afraid to outsource marketing decisions to someone more equipped if you don’t have the time or bandwidth. Perhaps one of your existing employees can take over the marketing when there is a lull in the action. But remember, you’ll get out of marketing what you put into it. The less effort you expend, the fewer results. Hire a business coach, part-time marketing specialist, or food truck consultant if needed.
- Establish a budget for food truck marketing. This can be difficult to decide, so ask for help not from your competitors necessarily, but from peers, online support groups, or a business consultant. Within that budget might be funding for social media management software.
Get Out There
- You will need to exist online as well as offline. Create a website and a schedule for consistent social media posts.
- Don’t shy away from a sale. People tend to buy more if they know they are getting a deal, resulting in more overall profit. Even though it may hurt to discount a quality offering, it will help you in the long run. A happy hour, for example, is temporary, but those customers will likely linger and buy more after the happy hour ends.
Keep Track of Both Successes and Failures
Finally, be sure to keep a record so that you have a method for measuring success. Point of sale software will help you keep track of your basic profit versus expenses.
For marketing tracking, if you are content to keep things casual and simple, there are old school, manual methods. This includes asking customers how they heard about you amidst chit-chat at the register to get a feel for which of your marketing efforts are working.
5 Foolproof Food Truck Advertising Ideas
When it comes to advertising, just pick a few avenues to start out with; don’t try to do everything at once. Here are five foolproof food truck advertising ideas to get you thinking:
- Brand Yourself Online
There are many different ways to brand yourself online. Most importantly, you will need a website to give you authority beyond just a Facebook page. Because food truck goers want to know when, where and what to expect, your online presence is crucial for potential customers to discover your business anytime and anywhere.
You don’t have to be a master at every social media platform in order to brand yourself online successfully. Ideally, choose a platform that doesn’t feel too daunting, but most importantly, pick a platform that your customers are most likely to use. For example, Facebook is used more often by Gen Xers and above, whereas TikTok is generally used by the under 30 set.
Be mindful of changes in social media: platforms rise and fall in popularity as new ones take off.
No matter which platform you use, always make the most of tagging. Tag yourself in other people’s posts online that reference you, and tag other businesses in your posts. This makes you visible to new audiences and cultivates relationships that will translate to real life.
Three-quarters of people make a purchase because they saw it first on social media. Of that, seeing a post 2-4 times is the extra push that over 60% of customers need before buying something. Every tag helps!
- Participate in Local Events
Local events like festivals, street fairs, school events, and church events all benefit from food trucks. Network locally to see what events are coming up.
Choose events that are likely to attract a similar customer base to yours. For example, participating in a fitness convention with fried food offerings wouldn’t make the best sense. But an international street fair would be perfect for food trucks featuring dishes native to various countries outside the U.S., from Cuban cuisine to French crêpes. The point is to park yourself where there is a need and an interest.
Once at the event, reach out to the vendors there. Perhaps offer them 10% off as an incentive to try your food truck out if you’re new to the scene. Taking a lap to get to know fellow vendors may also nudge the vendors to encourage their patrons to visit your truck.
- Have a Killer Truck Design
When you’re parked and driving down the road, your food truck itself functions as a food truck advertisement. The side of your truck should stand out from the crowd. It should display your food truck name and logo in the same font and style as shown online and on any menus or merchandise.
Make sure the side of your truck looks good at all angles: you don’t want your food truck name to look like a different word when you open the window, and only half the word is visible.
The name of your food truck should be catchy, highlight the type of food you offer, and not be confusing. If your name is easy to spell, it’s easy to search online. In your name and logo, use bright colors to attract attention. When someone points to a group of food trucks, how can you distinguish yours? Perhaps with a flag, an outdoor TV, or twinkle lights?
- Partner with a Larger Establishment
Partnering your food truck with a larger establishment with a need for more food options, such as a brewery, is a smart first business move because they complement each other. Patrons of places like wineries, distilleries, and breweries will buy more alcohol if they know they have something more than pub peanuts and salad to soak it up.
A theme park or museum also may benefit from an on-site food truck like yours, especially if they don’t have enough food for the crowds they draw in.
A large establishment will likely have a large parking lot for you to set up shop in. Or a nice field where you could park and set up some picnic tables. Having a food truck around will help a larger establishment because it keeps guests on-site longer instead of leaving to get food.
- Offer Unique Merchandise
Food trucks can potentially suffer with long-term recognition if they’re not set in one location. Having a unique brand and merchandise to go with it can emphasize your brand at every interaction.
Putting a fun motto on a T-shirt or baseball cap will motivate someone to buy it and get you free publicity. Imagine walking down the streets of Paris and seeing someone wearing your hometown food truck T-shirt!
Everyone has T-shirts, so try to offer unique merchandise options, too. What can you offer that stands out? Perhaps your food truck’s theme or offering will lend itself to a certain type of merch.
Let’s say you’re a food truck that serves coffee located in a famously cold climate. You could offer reusable to-go mugs branded with a “cool beans” motto. Add a little mascot, like an anthropomorphized coffee bean or a penguin drinking coffee, and you’ve got an on-theme idea to put on merch, menus, and more!
And although it’s not merchandise, physical objects like napkins branded with the name of your food truck, even in a simple stamp style, act as advertising. When your customers walk around with it, other potential customers will take notice. Customers seeing your logo and becoming familiar with it leads to sales.
How to Measure the Success of Your Food Truck Marketing Strategy
Measuring your marketing strategy results lets you know if you are succeeding in your method or if you need to course correct. If you had a profitable year or month, these tools help you prove it by tracking data.
Take advantage of free Google tools, like Google Analytics, to track your social media stats. Google Analytics breaks down the demographics of who is browsing your website, from where, and when. This data tells you who your customer base is, if they are local or visiting and if they are browsing from home or on a mobile device. Monitor if your web traffic increases during certain times of year or day. If it correlates with sales or advertisements, you’ll know your promotion is working.
If you send out email newsletters to customers, include a digital survey in your next one, asking customers to indicate how they heard about you in a multiple-choice format (social media, word of mouth, other, etc.). In your newsletter, invite them to leave reviews on TripAdvisor or Yelp. New customers decide where to eat based on online reviews. Track your success by the number of five-star reviews you accumulate.
Level Up Your Food Truck Marketing with AtmosphereTV
A TV attached to your food truck can display custom ads that feature discounts, specials, and upcoming events in addition to engaging visuals. If you always have a long line, watching something helps keep waiting customers entertained, happy, and calm so that by the time they talk with you at the register, they aren’t exasperated and hangry.
Any moving image attracts the human eye; a television will draw people in.