Traditional brick and mortar storefronts are no longer the only option for retail exposure. As online presence is at an all-time high, business owners' understanding of creating experiences is key. Customers want to feel heard, and to have an emotional connection with a product, sports team, brand, or restaurant. Many national retailers, brands, professional sports teams, or restaurants are adding a dimension to their marketing and advertising strategy for expanding your footprint - specialty vehicles.
Keys for Expanding Your Footprint
As many restaurants are entering the food truck realm, here are some tips for expanding your food truck footprint successfully and logistically. Let's explore the excitement of expansion, but also look at the do's and don'ts to ensure the success is matched with quality and your company's vision.
3 Tips for Expanding Your Food Truck Footprint
The tips listed below in this article have been compiled by the highest quality food truck and trailer builder in the country, APEX Specialty Vehicles. APEX has a customer base primarily of restaurants and top national brands, but has built specialty vehicles for many professional sports teams as well. The reason is standard across the board... the customer wants to expand into the food truck business versus expansions with brick and mortar. The customer base has a vision, understands the process of designing, engineering the project upfront, and appreciates the superior craftsmanship and finishes on each APEX build. Let's get into the tips for expanding your food truck footprint!
Tip #1: Location, location, location
It's important to conduct market research and evaluate the needs of adding a food or merchandise truck to an existing location. Will you be adding an additional food truck in the same city, state, or area; or will you be expanding across state lines, etc? Will the merchandise truck feature the exact same product as the retail store? If this is placed within the stadium premises, will the specialty truck have the same feel as the stadium store experience? Just as real estate hinges on location, location, location, specialty vehicles are contingent on success based on the location of your food truck or trailer, in proximity to crowds and events.
Tip #2: Objectives of the new mobile vehicle
Is the additional specialty vehicle intended to begin an entirely different business function that you were currently not doing, such as catering, seasonal merchandise, playoff items, or weddings/corporate events, etc? Or, will this custom vehicle be adding to the business strategy just in another location? Be sure you understand the full business plan for each of the specialty vehicles, as they should be treated as separate business entities, yet streamlined with goals and branding initiatives. Remember, each food/merchandising truck tends to resemble a brick and mortar restaurant, and some run as franchises, others offer different services at each location. Be mindful of your goals, and communicate those effectively to your customers.
Tip #3: Trust your food truck builder
Is this your first specialty vehicle? If so, below is a list of below 10 questions to ask your food truck builder to ensure you are ready to proceed with them. If this is not your first vehicle, are you using the same builder as the previous specialty builds? What changes would you make? What do you like/dislike? What features would you like to incorporate now? Does a competitor's truck have features you'd like to have? The important element of the success of your expansion is reliant on the food truck builder. APEX Specialty Vehicles has a selective process and only builds 48-52 specialty trucks or trailers a year. Our process is fine-tuned, and emphasizes the design and build process prior to the fabrication beginning. This is a different mentality than other builders, as APEX does not rely on 'back of the napkin' or on the whim builds. The process has been proven to be successful, and trickle down to our customers' 98% success rate. See the below 10 questions to ask your food truck builder to ensure you are ready to proceed with them.
- How long have you been specifically building food trucks? This question is important to understand how the builder began fabricating custom food trucks and will help gauge their credibility within the market.
- What are the differences in my options for food trucks vs. food trailers? Understanding and determining which platform is best for your needs is crucial and should be outlined by the builder. Many factors should be considered when reviewing the differences, including vehicle maintenance, tow vehicles, budget, crew, etc.
- How does your process work – from beginning to end? Some builders overpromise and under-deliver, and to top that – are late on delivery. It’s important that your builder can clearly identify the entire build process – from design, engineering, exterior build-out, interior build-out, paint/graphics, training, and delivery.
- Who will my contact be throughout the process? Who will answer design questions? Technical questions? Billing questions? This type of clarification is imperative to ensure your questions are answered in a timely manner.
- Will you design and engineer my food truck? Many builders still have the ‘back of the napkin’ mentality, which has worked for them in the past until it doesn’t. Understanding the engineering and design mechanisms that go into building a food truck is important. Not all builders have in-house design and engineering services, so that will be a differentiator between those that offer innovative solutions and those that just can’t get there.
- Do you offer a warranty? Most builders do offer a warranty, but to what extent? The industry standard is three years on craftsmanship. It’s important to understand how the warranty work is completed – the process, where the warranty work must be completed, expected downtime while work is being completed, etc.
- What is your typical build timeframe? Get a complete timeline of the build process in writing. Be sure you understand the timeline demands – what do you need to provide in order to continue pushing the process along? Will you be given weekly updates on the build process? Based on conversations with several customers that have built with other builders, the biggest frustration of the food truck build is missing the deadlines.
- After the build is complete, how will I receive the unit? Builders operate the delivery process differently, so it’s important to have a plan in place so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to get your food truck delivered to you.
- Do you have financing options? Without financing and security of funds, a food truck cannot be built. Some builders are beginning to offer in-house financing to ensure their customers can receive secured financing. Ask about those options.
- Can I get a list of references? Ask the builder for a list of references for past projects. Getting a past customer (or current customer) on the phone can clarify the experience from the buyer's point of view, and determine if this will be a good fit for you. Many builders will be happy to provide a list of references. I think it’s safe to say… if the builder is hesitant to provide a list of past projects, they are trying to hide, or cover up, bad experiences.
An informative article, Food Truck Business Expansion: The Do's and Don'ts, highlights some great tips, in addition to the Tips for Expanding Your Footprint provided in this article:
- Do your research
- Seek finance options for your expansion
- Stay realistic about expectations
- Develop training programs
- Don't over-expand
- Never let quality suffer
- Listen to market differences
- Build brand recognition on social media
- Bottom line
Are you ready to expand your business, but need a partner to answer your build questions? Give APEX a call! 800-259-4804 or submit a quote on APEX's custom tool: https://www.apexspecialtyvehicles.com/request-a-quote/