Food Truck Owners have a special way to give back to the community.

Most everyone would love to have the opportunity to give back to his or her community.  Many envision writing that large check to their favorite charity, school or church.  A sum of money can make a major impact in the non-profit’s operation budget. Volunteering time is also a great contribution to giving back to your organization.  Everyone has either the financial or time resource to give back to his or her community.  Many of us feel we need to do so in a large amount otherwise it may not be as impactful.  However, if we just contribute what we can within our own means, you’ll be surprised at how great of an impact that makes on your community.

Food Truck Owners have a special way to give back to the community.  Aside from time and financial resources, we have the luxury of working with food all of the time.  Food resources are a special way we can contribute back to our favorite charity, church or community shelters.  For many years, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to donate food supporting local blood drive organizations, charities and churches.  Making a donation is like writing a check.  You feel good about doing it and the organization is extremely appreciative of your efforts.  But it’s not the same effect as serving the food yourself to someone hungry and homeless.  If you’ve ever done so, you’ll know exactly why.  The rewarding response from the recipients is beyond words.  Many of them have many needs and are very appreciative of whatever supplies they receive.  Food is something that is needed on a daily basis for survival.  Experience feeding homeless families with children and prepare yourself to be drying off tears in the process.  Rewarding doesn’t come close to how you’ll feel with your efforts.

Food Truck Owners have a special way to give back to the community.  We work with food everyday at various events.  Many times we’ll have extra food at the end of the day.  Some food can be saved for use the next day while some are consumed or donated.  Many local churches and community shelters welcome any and all food that is provided as they have many resources to those who are in need to survive each day.  Expand on your donation by bringing the food truck to their next event and serve.  Participate in feeding the hungry at a local shelter from your food truck.  Not leftovers from yesterday’s event, but a conscious effort to prepare food as if they were paying guests.  The experience is well beyond the rewards of writing a check in any amount.  You’ll get some great exposure with your business, but that is not the real reason for serving the charity event from your truck.  You send a message that a local food truck entrepreneur cares enough about the community to take food, financial and time resources from your daily operation to give back to the community.  You’re sending a message that here is a quality meal that many would typically be paying for…not a free lunch from leftovers.  You’re telling them to come experience eating from a food truck and not another chain restaurant.  This is an experience than many in the community prefer to do.  You’re telling them I’m here to help whatever I can to help make your day one day better than yesterday.  The messages are many and positive.  This experience is significantly greater than just writing a check or dropping off food.  The total experience of helping others is something that everyone should enjoy when given the opportunity.

Food Truck Owners have a special way to give back to the community.  Just like everything we do in our daily business.  We network within our food truck family to help create more business and opportunities to help each other keep busy work schedules.  We also have that network to support our local charities and churches on they events.  We may not have the availability to service their events, but we know of 50+ other food truck owners we can reach out to share with them the opportunity to do so.  This is another way we can give back to our community.  I’ve found it very rewarding in the past to be able to make a positive difference by just donating food.  I’ve found it even more rewarding to donate a food truck event at a charity auction raising $1,000’s for the organization.  Volunteering your own time to help put food on the plate of someone hungry and homeless will give you an eye opener that not everyone in the world has our luxuries that we sometimes take for granted.  An even greater reward is sharing those experiences with others who may be unaware of their gifts and help them experience the same rewards.  These are truly rewarding experiences that cannot be monetized.  We all have special ways to give back to charities.  Every gift is special to someone.  Make your special gift donation today!

Ray Chow
CFTO (Chief Food Truck Officer)

The other side of the Food Truck window: A typical day

 "How Food Trucks Roll™"

How cool is it that a food truck pulls up to where you work, live, play or visit and you have some of the best LOCAL food to enjoy.  Besides the simple convenience of the truck being “right there” its definitely a nice break from the typical chain restaurants we see everyday.  What if you wanted to hire your own food truck to serve your event?  Actually it would be really awesome to hire several food trucks for your event…all of your guests would have a great variety of food trucks to choose from…besides, the food trucks just pull up and serve right? 

Here is where I share The Other Side of the Food Truck Window: A Typical Day.  Absolutely, food trucks just pull up and serve.  They’re restaurants on wheels.  They can venture where they want to; park their truck; sell food; then drive home and take the rest of the day off.  This is a very common view of how food trucks operate.  Just as anyone who has never made a commercial video or movie would think…all you do is hit the record button and you’re done.  There is so much behind-the-scenes work and preparation to make the video and movie.  Similarly, there is so much behind-the scenes work and preparation to make food trucks work.  So what does it take to make the food truck roll each day? 

Preparation:  Before the food truck can even pull out and head to an event, the truck must be loaded with supplies, product and utilities.  Having enough of the right supplies and product require time to purchase, prepare and load into the truck for each event.  You also need to make sure you have plenty of water in the tank, fuel for the truck and generator plus propane for your cooking equipment.  All of the preparations can amount to hours before an event; some operators take an entire day off each week from accepting events just to make preparations to launch their food truck business for the week.

Execution: This is the part where we just pull up and sell…Don’t forget it’s like driving to and from work.  Many working professionals will drive upwards of 1 hour or more each day venturing to and from their job.  Food truck operators do the same driving to and from an event.  Some days a food truck will go to 2-3 events per day.  Serving at an event may be as short as a couple hours for a lunch service or last all day for 8+ hours for special festivals and events.  At the end of the event the food truck gets to venture back to its commercial kitchen to begin the next segment of the day…Closing

Closing:  After working a nice long event or multiple events, that drive back to the commercial kitchen (aka Commissary) seems to take longer than normal…may have something to do with having worked a 12+ hour day already and dreading the additional hours of unloading and clean up. Closing involves cleaning up the truck, unloading all trash, restocking supplies, closing down your food products to the kitchen coolers and making a final inspection of what is needed for the morning.  Now it’s time to head home…and work?

Financials:  After each event, we have to count the successes of our food truck day.  I’m tired, but the longer this part takes the better I feel.  This includes sorting tickets and credit card receipts, counting the cash and making sure everything adds up.  Then comes getting the sales ready for the bank deposit and for proper bookkeeping.  Of course when you go to the bank in the morning, you have to remember to pick up some change for your starting bank.  This process repeats the next day…yes, but there is more!

Research and Book events:  Somewhere outside of the daily hustle of food truck operation, you have to have your events booked on your calendar.  The whole time we are under the impression food trucks just venture anywhere they please…some areas allow that but still requires research to finding the best spots, who to contact and get the right permissions to sell.  You venture to local schools, businesses, offices and apartments that would enjoy a food truck stop.  You entertain bringing the food truck to different festivals in your area just to find out they all have applications to complete for consideration.  All of this takes time in addition to the 15-16 hour workday you just completed.  So you’re finally done right?  There is always more! 

Maintenance and repairs:  Your food truck is your business and livelihood.  It will take care of you if you take care of it.  Maintenance may not be needed on a daily basis but needs to be on your radar and scheduled when needed.  Food trucks require oil service, tire rotation, tires replaced, transmission service just like any other vehicles.  Don’t forget to take care of the generator as well.  It is tough to work at an event without electricity.  The tough parts are the repairs…typically they occur when you least expect it.  Many common ones include water pumps burning out, transmission issues, engine issues, flat tires…these usually happen during the busiest times of the year when you’re on your way to a large event.  The cost of the repairs is usually the smaller portion of your cost…you also have a cost due to the loss of the event, labor costs incurred while waiting for assistance, plus the long term relationship that may be damaged due to your food truck not showing up for an important event.  Is there anymore to the food truck business?  Absolutely.

Marketing:  Social media is huge for all businesses today.  It is just as important for the food truck operator to keep their social media current and active; telling their customers and followers where they’ll be each day.  Don’t forget to update that website with this information as well. Again, additional work that supports a successful food truck business.

Personal life outside the food truck:  Whether you’re in the food truck by yourself as a single entrepreneur, teaming up with working partners or have your spouse riding along the side with you to events, somewhere outside of the food truck day, you need to have personal time.  Time is needed to rest, handle family obligations, but more importantly recharge and getting ready for the next day.  If you’re lucky, you get to squeeze in some hobbies, personal development or just hanging out with friends in what limited time you have remaining outside of sleep.  All of the above repeats itself while you juggle the many hats of entrepreneurship.

As a food truck owner/entrepreneur you have to be able to manage all of the supporting pieces of making your business work.  You have to have the support system in place to ensure everything is taken cared of so your food truck is able to run each day.  This system includes your friends, neighbors, business partners, family, spouse…more importantly, other food truck owners.  Who else would have a better understanding of what your day is like than another food truck owner?  Chances are they’re going thru the same fun (chaos) you’re experiencing each day.  They understand the other side of the food truck window: a typical day.

Ray Chow
CFTO (Chief Food Truck Officer)

Food Truck Catering is a roll worth checking out

Food Truck Catering is a roll worth checking out.  When we need a special occasion or event catered, we think about having an outside company organize and serve.  Typically we first think of a full-service company setting up elaborate spreads at our venue with service staff catering to every need.  This image is very popular in many movies...of course this level of service generally demands a high price.  This type of catering is still around by many full-service catering companies around the world.  However times have changed and so have catering demands. 

Just as the number and popularity of food trucks have expanded the dining choices, food trucks are also entering the catering world.  Did you ever think about having a food truck cater your wedding?  Those who are not food truck “fans” may not understand the uniqueness of having a food truck at their wedding…but most importantly, the cost of catering typically is less than the full-service catering.  Of course every wedding is special in their own ways…all based on the preferences of the bride and groom.  But just because a food truck caters a wedding doesn’t mean it has to be too casual.  With a growing supply of disposables that look like real china and cutlery, higher end service ware is a great option to serve simple food truck fare for upper scale events such as a wedding.  These disposables are a great consideration as they are lighter in weight; disposable, recyclable and look just like the real thing.  More importantly, the cost is comparable to renting fine china, but you eliminate the risk of loss when every fork and plate is counted upon return. 

Food Truck Catering is a roll worth checking out for corporate lunch meetings, birthday parties, church and apartment events…any event where a group of many sizes need food catered.  Generally, budgets for these events may be more limited so a smaller catering drop-off service or food truck catering is advantageous.  Many of the clients really seek the quality food in a larger quantity to be dropped off at their facility.  There is generally no service staff setting up, serving and cleaning up afterwards.  The clients look at drop-off catering as a cost effective method to feeding their group.  Many food truck owners don’t realize they are already set up for drop off catering.  The supplies they need are all available through their food service provider, at local warehouse clubs and even local grocery stores.  Disposable pans to carry the larger quantities of food, beverages and dessert are all available to assist with the service and transportation of the food.  The food side of the equation is practiced everyday.  Just think a food truck prepares a large quantity of food to be sold at an upcoming event.  The only challenge is not knowing how many items you’ll serve because variables such as weather, event attendance and location are all factors that could vary the event success.  A food truck owner may load 100 servings of each menu item for a great event.  Driving, parking and praying that he/she will sell most of the inventory.  Now imagine a catered event.  Same amount of food is prepared, only difference is all the food needs to be cooked and package in bulk, versus on individual plates.  The catering side provides a guarantee that a certain number of meals need to be delivered.  This helps eliminate the uncertainty of how many meals the food truck will serve.  To sweeten the deal, you’ll drop off the catering in one stop and done for the event…versus hanging around for 2+ hours hoping to sell the same quantity.  The best part about drop off catering…you can drop it off from your any vehicle and not necessarily from your food truck.  This allows double duty!  Food truck goes out to an event while another member of your staff drops off a catering order.

Food Truck Catering is a roll worth checking out for the big game this weekend.  National chain restaurants spend millions of dollars every year on advertising.  This advertising includes party platters for big events such as the Super Bowl this weekend.  Parties for the big game demands platters.  You’ll go to the grocery store for a vegetable tray; get sandwiches from a national chain restaurant; wings from the big sports restaurants…Did you ever think about getting a platter from your favorite food truck?  Imagine a large pan of meatballs from the local meatball truck; a large tray of your favorite sandwiches or tacos; wings or dumplings from the rolling kitchens you frequent at events.  The challenge is many of us do not think of a food truck for platters.  However, this is a great opportunity to bring something unique to the party.  This is also a great opportunity for food trucks to expand their sales during slower times of the year.  The catering opportunities that food truck owners can provide will supplement their business throughout the year, but more critical during slower times of the year when weather is not favorable for food truck events.

As consumers, when we have a need for food, we frequent the places we think of first.  Large national chains with multiple locations spend millions of dollars every year to make sure we think of their businesses first when we have a need.  Many local restaurants and food trucks do not have that marketing strength.  Many consumers who dine out frequently get tired of eating in chain restaurants and seek to patronize local businesses when they can.  Besides dining at local restaurants and frequenting food trucks at events, catering is another area where support can be extended to the businesses.  Every business should know, putting out something simple as “We Cater” could initiate the interest of a consumer who may pull the trigger on having your restaurant or food truck cater their next event or wedding.  Generally they’ll start with a small event to test your service then lead to larger opportunities.  When we treat every catering event as an opportunity for something greater down the road, you will find out those opportunities will eventually become a reality. 

Happy Catering…Make Today Great.

Ray Chow
CFTO (Chief Food Truck Officer)

Tips for Mobile Food Festivals

Back in April SactoMoFo was a bit chaotic, being the giant success it was. It was our first mobile food festival and so many people didn't know what to expect. I've been to many mobile food events now and here are my best tips for you.

Go as a team! The biggest tip of all. Not a huge team, but one of about 4-5 people. You should all get into different lines and order enough to share with your group. The reason you only want about four people is that some trucks will limit the amount of food you can order at one time. If you had a team of 10 but were only allowed to order enough food for four, that would be hard to share.

Go early. It's all about lines and so I'd much rather be at the front of the line then at the back of a 2 hour line.

Bring utensils and containers. It makes it easier to share, but I also happen to like to order enough so that I can eat things later or the next day. I can only eat so much and if there are 22 vendors, there is no way I could eat it all while there.

Bring chairs. This is not always allowed, but for events that are on concrete with no place to sit, this is a big one.
Bring small bills. Help the trucks out so that there's not a problem with them having to run to a bank for change to break $20s, etc. It also makes the lines go faster.

The last thing isn't really a tip because it happens naturally at these events - Make friends with those around you. In fact, this is one of the things I love best about food trucks. People socialize while in line and waiting for their food. There's a camaraderie that is so awesome. When was the last time you chatted up all the tables around you at a restaurant? Nope, it's food trucks that create this social atmosphere and that we want more of here in Sacramento.

Have a great time!