Provide Catering Services from Your Food Truck - dummies

Provide Catering Services from Your Food Truck

By Richard Myrick

Catering is a great way to expand the reach of your food truck business. According to the estimates from the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), catering is a $7.1-billion-a-year industry, and many food truck owners are joining in. Those food truck owners who are focused on catering events, from office parties to weddings, are covering as much as 25 to 50 percent of their business model from catering alone.

Catering can be done either on-site (some commercial kitchens provide a separate dining facility for their renters) or off-site, with your truck pulled outside of the event area.

One advantage of expanding your food truck business into catering is that your start-up costs are very low. Because you already have everything set up for your mobile kitchen, the biggest issue you’ll have is finding clients who are interested in using your catering services for their event.

To make sure your customers know that you offer catering services, create a special catering flier with a menu, and have your staff mention your catering services to patrons during their visit to your truck.

If you’re thinking about delving into the world of food truck catering to supplement the time your truck isn’t busy on the streets, you should be aware of some common mistakes beginner caterers have run into over the years. Check out the following guidelines for successfully easing your way into the catering arena:

  • Catering is usually an efficient revenue stream if priced correctly. Study your competitors, including local grocery stores and delis, to find out what items they cater and how much they charge. Make sure you price accordingly, especially if you offer items that are difficult to find anywhere else in the area.

  • Never give anything away for free. If you give something away for free, clients will always expect freebies. Just as you train your food truck staff to behave in a certain manner, you must train your clients to pay for your services and value your talent. You can give a discount for a charitable event, but make sure you cover all your costs and some of your time.

  • Always put in writing what services you’re going to provide for a client and what the client is going to do for you. Don’t rely on a verbal agreement.

  • To protect your reputation, you have to know your limits. Saying no to a prospective catering job that you aren’t equipped to do or turning down an event on a day when you’re already booked is better than doing the job poorly.

  • Find staff members who are willing and able to work both in the truck and at catered functions. This way you don’t have to double up on the number of employees you have (those for the truck and a completely different staff for catering).

  • Keep your menu simple. Most of your jobs will come from people who have eaten from your truck, so use your current menu as the basis of the meals you cater. If a customer wants you to expand your menu, make sure you discuss the additional items he may want. Having a rotating menu comes in handy so you don’t have to create items you may not be familiar with.

  • Be careful never to run out of food at a catering event. Some dishes will go more quickly if you’re not distributing the portions yourself, so make sure you have enough. These items may include mashed potatoes, soup, salad, and pasta.