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Food Truck Marketing: How to Find Success with Outdoor Dining

Food Truck Marketing Tips for Food Truck Owners and Restaurant Operators

As the weather outside gets warmer and people look for reasons to get outside, food trucks start to warm up their fryers and fill up their gas tanks. While many food trucks stay open through the winter, summer is clearly their time to shine.

Yet, the food truck business is not easy at all. The lifespan of the average food truck business is pretty short, meaning that if you want to make a profit, you need to do it right. Marketing plays a major part in whether a food truck can last for the long run or is gone before summer is done.

Whether this is your first year in the food truck business, you’re looking to expand your restaurant with a food truck, or you’ve survived for several years, here’s some food truck marketing tips to make sure you find success this summer.

Brand Awareness: Get Your Name Out There

If people don’t know your food truck exists, you won’t get any business. So, the first step is getting out in public and attract the attention of the locals. Before you create a following ravenous for your unique take on cuisine, you need to tell the world that you are there. Enter: food truck marketing and brand awareness.

A good plan to start is to go where other food trucks frequent. Many cities have “food trucks at the park” nights where local food trucks surround a park or public location and locals come and feast. Other popular locations for food trucks include local farmers markets, charity events like walkathons, and other major events. Anywhere large groups of people congregate, and you can get your food truck there, plan on being there.

On other days, like the weekdays, try to plan out locations for your food truck where you’ll get extra attention. Contact businesses and business parks to see if their employees would be interested in having your food truck visit during work hours. Make sure they have enough employees interested to make it worth your time.

Having a strong brand for a food truck means being able to connect your name to the type of food you make. If people can’t remember your name, they can’t find you on social media or recommend you to friends. After a few months of operating, measure how effective your branding is. Interview locals to see if they recognize your name, including those who frequent food trucks and those who don’t. If you’re noticing a poor reception, make changes to your food truck branding to better stick out.

Strong Social Media Presence

Boost your food truck presence by effectively using food truck social media best practices.

Social media plays a huge role in getting repeat guests to your food truck and in creating fans to promote your business. You want to stay top of mind and be constantly reminding people you exist. Especially since you don’t have a single location your business stays, you need to always let people know where you are and alert them when you are serving food near them.

First, pick which social media platforms you want to be on. The typical ones include Facebook and Instagram, but if your local customers use something else too, like Snapchat or Twitter, consider getting on those too.

Once you’ve picked what platforms you’ll be on, then you need to give your customers a reason to follow. You’ll get some followers naturally because they love your food truck’s food and want more, but many others need an incentive. This could include giving followers a small discount, provide coupons on social media, or something similar, but the important part is to give a reason to follow your business.

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Then, make sure you don’t spam their timelines with ads. That’s a clear route to losing followers and customer goodwill. Follow the 80-20 rule for social media, where only 20% of your posts are self-promotional and the rest is content your followers are interested in.

The hard part is that you also want to use social media as a means to tell people where your food truck is located anytime it’s out. If you make a post every time you park the truck, you’ll annoy anybody who looks at your social media and likely ruin your organic reach on the platform. One solution is to make a post at the beginning of the week detailing where you’ll be and (depending on the platform) pin it to the top of your page.

Work with Local Influencers

Every town and city has their own local social media celebrities and influencers, and working with them can do a lot to boost your brand and get a ton of attention. You gain instant access to their massive following and people will relate your branding to the influencer.

The key to doing this the right way though is to make sure your influencer branding matches or relates to your food truck. If you specialize in make meaty explosion meals, you wouldn’t want to work with a vegan influencer.

Then, work with the influencer to decide the best kind of content for their audience. For an Instagram celebrity, this might be simply a photo of the meal with some praise surrounding it, while a Facebook influencer might do a video review. Give them a lot of creative control on the project because they know what works and what doesn’t.

Making the Dining Experience Unique

Create a great food truck dining experience for guests

You need to find some way to stand out. It’s not enough to just make a crazy food in today’s food truck world; every food truck is cooking something unique and new. You need to catch the eye of the passing customer and draw them in to your food truck.

Going to spend all day in a single location? Set up a dining area that adds to the experience. Put out tables and chairs, hang up some summer lighting for the evening, put on some music, and make it enjoyable. Turn the area around your food truck into a mini-restaurant. Do you specialize in cooking extremely hot food? Make a spicy food challenge or contest with a prize for the winner. Gonna be part of a night time party? Offer karaoke as part of the dining experience.

The key is to do something that looks fun and will draw the eye of those around. Don’t go over the top with the flash though. Keep it centered to your brand.

Being in the food truck business can be a lot of fun, but it’s also very competitive. Not only are you fighting for diners with other food trucks, but every other restaurant around. In order to find success, you have to be passionate, constantly working hard, and creative. Push the boundaries, try new things, and keep up with your marketing.

About the author

Ben Allen

Ben Allen is a freelance marketing writer focused on helping small businesses grow and helping others succeed in life.