Parking Options for Your Mobile Food Business - dummies

Parking Options for Your Mobile Food Business

By Richard Myrick

The fact that your food truck business is mobile gives you a fantastic advantage over brick-and-mortar restaurants. If you find that the spots you initially work from don’t provide enough traffic for you to succeed, you can merely move to another location and try again.

Parking on streets with the right amount of traffic isn’t your only option. A huge number of different locations are available for you to work from, any of which may provide you with great foot traffic to your truck.

Although you can and should attempt to operate your food truck from many places, you shouldn’t waste your time on some spots. Avoid areas that aren’t well lit or are known as high-crime areas. You shouldn’t risk the security of your staff and customers if you know an area has a risk of criminal or seedy activity.

Ultimately, you need to know the target customers you want to attract to your truck and avoid areas and situations that aren’t attractive to that market.

Food truck meet-ups/events

Food truck events are popping up across the country, many of which have been started by food truck owners themselves. These meet-ups or events typically involve multiple trucks offering various savory and dessert options to their visitors. Some cities, like Miami, Florida, and Orange County, California, have been able to schedule weekly events that attract thousands of foodies from those areas.

To find events in your area, speak with other truck owners, check your local newspaper, or find local or national food truck websites that publish lists of these events throughout the year. If existing food truck event series are running, find out who the organizer is and what the requirements are to enter.

Some groups require you to pay a minimal entrance fee, but the amount of traffic that visits these events can far outweigh the cost of admittance.

Business parks and office complexes

If you’re located in an area with industrial or business parks, contact some of the businesses in the park. The building manager or human resources group is your best bet for finding someone who can grant you permission to serve the businesses’ employees. Most of these buildings house hundreds of workers who are tired of eating out of vending machines or out of their less-than-creative cafes.

In some cases, these businesses will even help advertise your truck to your prospective customers. Breakfast and lunch hours are the primary times to operate in this type of location.

College campuses and local parks

With the current state of the economy, many state-run colleges have cut services on campus. In many cases, their food service is part of these cuts. Reach out to the college administration (start with the facilities management group) to find out whether you can help feed their students.

A college campus can be a fantastic place for a truck that’s just starting up to build loyal customers, because students fit right into the demographic of individuals looking for tasty, high-quality but inexpensive food.

College kids love food trucks, but they also love to charge their food purchases on credit or debit cards. Be sure to be well equipped to handle these transactions.

Local parks are another great spot to park your truck; just make sure that if the park visitors are mainly children, their parents commonly join them. Check with the city park district to find out whether mobile vending is authorized or whether vendors are required to pay a fee to sell their products from the parks.

Farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets are a great option for food trucks because they typically cater to local farmers and food producers. Research all the farmers’ markets in your area but realize that not all markets are alike. Some will be more appropriate for your food truck than others.

Think about the distance to each market, the size of the market, the rules and regulations the market has, and the type of customer it attracts. You can get this info from the market manager or the market’s website.

After you identify a market you’re interested in joining, contact the market manager to inquire about applications and entry forms. The best time to apply is at the beginning of the market year (during the winter season, because many markets shut down in areas where the temperature drops near or below freezing).

Expect the application process to take up to a few weeks, or even a few months. This timing depends on the number of applications they have to review, whether or not they have a board that reviews and votes on applicants, and/or the size of the market. Some require an interview, an application fee, and/or a one-time, weekly, monthly, or yearly fee to participate in the market.