The novelty of food trucks is that they pop up all around town to deliver hungry customers in-person food. They show up in heavily populated areas and special events. Unlike storefront restaurants, they're able to physically go where the population density is at its greatest. They can be open at all hours of the day and night, ready and waiting for hungry partiers to stumble out of bars and provide them convenient tacos and excellent customer service.
The pandemic has certainly muddled this situation. People aren't supposed to be congregating, lunchtime happens at people's in-home offices, and bars have closed their dine-in areas taking away essentially all of a food truck's potential customers. Due to this situation, it's time for small restaurant owners with food trucks to get creative.
The market has almost completely shifted to online orders. Restaurants of all sizes have put their menus on mobile apps, like Grubhub, Uber Eats, Chownow, Doordash, or Postmates. In addition, they may have also created mobile ordering on their own website with a curbside pickup option. Takeout keeps everyone safe while generating a much-needed commission.
That begs the question, can food trucks implement online ordering? What's a food truck, but a restaurant on wheels? During this challenging time, many in the restaurant industry have been living by the go-getting concept of "if there's a will, there's a way." Here's how your food truck can implement an online order system and provide delivery during Covid-19.
Acquire appropriate training and permits.
If your food truck has been on pause during the pandemic, your state most likely requires specific Covid-19 training before you're allowed to open your doors and start your engine. Read up on the new laws and rules surrounding pandemic protocol and take any required online classes. Double-check that your permit is still valid. Throughout the pandemic, some areas have had reduced dining hours. Make sure that doesn't apply to your business and if it does, find a way to adhere to the policy. There's no use getting shut down for an easily avoidable situation.
Set up your delivery service accounts.
In order to reach as many people as possible, you'll want to set up online accounts on all food delivery services. Grubhub, Uber Eats, Doordash, and Postmates are very popular as well as others, like Chownow. Covering all of your bases will mean your reach is farther. As a vendor, each website will cost a fee for use as well as take commission from all incoming orders. It's well worth the money when online sales start to roll in.
Many customers are aware that delivery platforms take part of your money when they use a mobile app. That's why it's important to have a delivery option on your own website that utilizes your own drivers. Your customer base wants to support you in the best way they can and being able to easily order on a smartphone from any given platform will boost customer support and customer satisfaction. See if any of these food delivery services offer a free version trial, so you can get a feel for if the platform works for you.
Pick your operating hours and location.
The versatility of food trucks could be considered a downfall when it comes to delivery. It's hard to execute effective marketing campaigns much less establish a delivery zone if you don't have a place that you're repeatedly using as your home base. As a restaurant owner, you need to decide when and where your food truck will be operating during the pandemic, so it's easy for the third-party platforms you're using for delivery to find you when they come to pick up a takeaway.
The bottom line is that once you have permission, you need to camp out in a specific location. Clearly advertise where you're going to be open and when on social media and your restaurant website. Sending out an email marketing campaign should attract repeat customers. Word of mouth that you're back will hopefully catch the attention of new customers. Once you've advertised your whereabouts, make sure you're keeping your hours, so that you have a steady revenue stream and positive customer reviews.
Consider your supply chain and create a menu.
In articles by the New York Times, reporters shine a light on the extent of food shortages across America and the world. It's not just grocery stores that are having a difficult time with inventory management and keeping shelves stocked, it's restaurants as well. Before showcasing your usual menu, looking up what ingredients are experiencing a shortage will give you and your restaurant partner valuable insight.
From there, menu management is key. Make a list of 86'd items that will affect your ability to make signature dishes. If you are able to get your hands on rarer groceries, inventory management will be important, so you can take menu items off in real-time once you've run out. Some customers are going to be understanding due to the pandemic, while others will continue to be selfish and leave bad reviews if you're not on top of what you can feasibly offer given the industry restraints at this moment. Make sure you have the technology to change your menu quickly, including pages you may have forgotten about, like your Facebook page, so your customers have a great ordering experience.
Integrate your POS system.
Now that you're set up for success, the last step is POS integration. Given current events, you're essentially an online ordering business that's fulfilling delivery orders instead of directly interfacing with the public, which means you're going to need to streamline the process in order to make a profit.
When online food orders are sent from customer's mobile devices to an online ordering platform, like Doordash or Postmates, they go to their respective tablets. This means that your customer data is spread across several tablets devoted to different ordering systems. This can make gathering the information for your POS a nightmare. Not to mention, it's easy to drop the ball on phone orders or Facebook orders when you're too busy tending to multiple devices. You can integrate your POS by using services, like Cuboh, for a flat monthly fee. The monthly fee is worth having all of your POS analytics in one place. It makes the demand for food orders from online ordering software much more manageable, theoretically increasing your probability of success.
The food truck movement came out of a need to reduce cost by cutting out the issue of astronomical rent prices. If anyone in the industry is adaptable, it's food truck owners. Don't be afraid to get creative. In addition to picking up delivery orders, consider selling gift cards for your business. Many people have been encouraged to buy gift cards to help them stay in business, even if they're not comfortable ordering out at this time. This should keep you afloat until crowds are able to gather again.