09.13.17

3 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Food Trucks

Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO of The NIIC

Food trucks have been one of the fastest-growing food businesses for some time. No longer just a trend in L.A. or New York, food trucks have enjoyed a loyal following nationwide and in Ft. Wayne for several reasons. When I went to Visit Ft. Wayne’s website, I counted no less than 25 trucks in our own hometown. I am not going to get into a political and esoteric debate on whether food trucks are good for a community or not. Let’s just agree that they are. It’s no accident that food tourism and a food truck culture are permeating our society given some surveys have shown 88% of millennials want to explore new types of food.

So, I am going to share 3 lessons you can take from these mobile food startups and apply to your business. You may be wondering what can food trucks teach you. Well, this growing, bohemian industry is now at $2.7 billion annually (For comparison purposes, it was 25% of this size in 2012) so the food truck industry can teach us a lot:

1)   Think hyper-local: The most successful operators know where to go and when, to attract business. By analyzing trends, they are able to build and implement a marketing plan. Other business owners can follow suit. Even if your business isn’t geographically defined, you can hone in on your target demographic. What are their likes and dislikes? Where do they like to hang out? Who or what influences their thinking? Gleaning such business intelligence allows you to execute your marketing messages with laser-like precision. How can your company and its products/services create a new experience for your clients/customers?

2)   Go where the action is on demand, real-time: Whether it’s a 5k race, music festival or another public event, food truck operators can be at the right place at the right time. The mobile nature of a food truck allows for operators to pivot in response to market or environmental forces as necessary. While your business may not be mobile, you can still enjoy similar success. How can you pare it down and hit up the hot spots? For example, if you own a clothing store, maybe you could bring a few top-selling items to a farmer’s market or expo show?

3)   Find your niche. All the great food trucks have a unique selling value-proposition. It might be eye-catching art or a signature menu item. It could be the way orders are taken or executed. Infusing some ‘personality’ and ‘life’ into your brand experience can be key in standing out in a competitive landscape. Your business can learn a lesson or two in this regard. Think beyond your branding when it comes to dazzling the customer. If you have a storefront, what sights, sounds and smells will they encounter? How can you leave a lasting impression in the consumer’s mind?

Which of these strategies could you adopt and apply to your business? I bet you’ll never look at a food truck the same way, will you? Share your most memorable food truck experience.

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