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National Restaurant Association - Going mobile: From brick-and-mortar to food truck

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Going mobile: From brick-and-mortar to food truck


Border Grill Food Truck

Some restaurateurs enhance their brick-and-mortar operations by adding food trucks, which requires thinking outside the four walls of their restaurants.

Here are six tips to help you gear up:

  • Select high-traffic locations. “The pull-up-to-the curb segment is the hardest to crack,” says Mary Sue Milliken, who operates food trucks in addition to her restaurants in California and Nevada. She recommends street festivals and other high-visibility events where there is a captive audience.
  • Complement rather than compete with yourself. Target locales and market segments that won’t chip away at your existing business. Trucks/trailers can succeed near a sister restaurant. For example, a food truck offering a grab-and-go menu at a lower price point than your brick-and-mortar appeals to a different segment.
  • Cash in on catering. Pull-up-to-the curb street service is becoming “a bit saturated,” in some markets, says Roaming Hunger founder Ross Resnick, whose company connects entrepreneurs with truck builders. Many vehicles focus on private events instead. Customers love that food trucks offer an easy way to entertain at home, and that trucks provide restaurant-quality food in remote locations, everywhere from vineyards to beaches. “You’ve got a professional kitchen wherever you need it,” Wilder says.
  • Consider your return-on-investment. Rob Wilder, who runs the ThinkFoodGroup’s Pepe food truck in Washington, D.C. with business partner and chef José Andrés, says the truck provides a great ROI. “We’re getting our larger brand out in front of people at events like the Clinton Global Initiative,” he says. “That’s incredible publicity.” 
  • Spread the word via social media. Use Twitter and Facebook to update consumers on the whereabouts of your roving restaurant.
  • Cross-promote. Brand your truck with your company logo to help drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar, Milliken advises. She says the Border Grill trucks have brought countless new customers to her restaurants. Also use your restaurant to build awareness for your mobile unit, with a mention on your phone’s hold recording, signage in the entrance and prominent space on your website. 


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