Every couple of weeks I see a vendor or two express this thought. “we as Mobile Food Service Vendors need to unite. Somehow, someway we have got to make it clear to those who host and/or organize fairs, festivals and special events,....that Food Vendors make it successful. Without us, they're sucking buttermilk, and people won't come again. Therefore, them charging us to help them is counterproductive.”
This my friends is why the vast majority of food vendors are part-time and will never be anything more than just that – part time. I agree food vendors need to unite and speak with one voice on many different issues we face. However, event fee structures is not a priority topic. Thinking food vendors "make it successful" is just plain arrogant. Do you really think a place like Disney World is successful because they sell food? You don't want to know the cost McDonald's paid to sell only French Fries in the Animal Kingdom when they had the kiosk there. No one went to the Animal Kingdom just because they sold McDonald's fries. Guess what? That kiosk is gone but the Animal Kingdom is still there. If McDonald's had no impact on attendance at Animal Kingdom why would a small time food vendor think they would have an impact on any positive event attendance?
Food at events is and always will be a necessary evil for the attendees. Most folks (some actually plan this) would rather eat cheaply OUTSIDE the event so they can have more available money to enjoy more event attractions and spend less time in lines waiting for a food vendor to actually hustle.
Events have different draws for different people. I am certain the music artist performing Friday night thinks they are the one making the event successful. But then again, the semi popular band from the 70's on Saturday night thinks they are the real reason. They all perform for free, right? Those crafty promoters must bathe in cash! How about the handmade craft people shouldn't they be allowed to just show up for free and sell their wares too? I mean after all, who really needs one more ceramic thingy to collect dust? The ride operators certainly they hate paying event fees. I know game operators with their profit margins would love free entry so they could laugh all the way to the bank.
Event promoters do over schedule food vendors most often not because they want 20 trucks for 1000 people but because last year the lines were so long and slow moving they saw an opportunity to better serve their attendees by getting more trucks so the folks in those lines can get back to doing what they came to the event to do. Enjoy the concert, the games, the rides, buy a few crafts and have fun. They are going to eat today anyway. The concert, games, rides and memories make the day special. Not the vastly overpriced lemonade in a gaudy plastic "souvenir" cup.
Every time you have a vendor brag about a 50-guest deep line that lasted all day that is an opportunity for the event promoter to have 4 more food vendors next year with lines only 10 people deep. The people that stand in a 50-person line may love the food but really, they are very hungry and tired so their judgment is already impaired. Think about speed of service. If the vendor is super-fast and moves one guest every thirty seconds the last dude in line still is waiting 25 minutes for, in many cases subpar massively overpriced food. That is 25 minutes they aren't spending money on crafts, playing games, riding rides or dancing to the band.
If you want to talk about uniting so vendors can get better pricing on food, credit card processing, consistent laws on commissaries, cheaper food certification training, fighting local restrictions on daily vending, setting manufacturing standards for cart, trailer and truck design, setting realistic fire safety standards or getting rebates on supplies and equipment (like national restaurants accounts) I am all in.
"Hello! Husband and I are wanting to open a food truck. Was wondering if it’s profitable. Any opinions? Thanks"
Short answer is yes, they are profitable. Trouble is it takes a book or two (which I have written 😊) to explain how to be successful. There are several thousand used trailers and trucks for sale right now across the country. Too many folks jump in without research, plans and cash reserves to survive a full season. First thing you need to know is every state has different rules and regulations. Start with your area learn the laws you will have to follow. Next do market research on your planned service area. If after doing that you still want to pursue a food truck dream send me a message and I'll teach you the business so you'll be successful from day one.
The above question and answer appeared on a Facebook group over the past weekend. I was hoping from my offer to help I could guide someone on the path to success. No strings attached. I posted my response minutes after the original poster ‘liked’ a different response. AND nothing. Another person did send me a message an hour or so later and I responded by letting them know I would help just ask any question. AND nothing. It has been two days and still no questions or acknowledgement from either. The first rule of business is “be present” meaning if you are at work then be 100% at work. Likewise, be 100% at home when at home. Don’t think of work while you are surrounded by family and don't think of family knee deep at work. If you need help and someone offers take advantage of it. When opportunity knocks - open the door otherwise opportunity walks away looking for the next door that will be opened.
As always menu pricing is a hot topic. “Ok everyone, I have a question. I'm doing my homework on starting up my business and I'm trying to find out how much I should sell the dogs individually. It would cost me $1.38 for one dog. How much should I sell them for? I know it would be better for them to do a combo but what about each in case someone just wants a dog. TIA”
Figuring a menu price is challenging. First question is does that include everything you will put on the dog as well as the paper items like napkins and some type of wrapper or box? Next question is do you plan on including sales tax in your menu price? Finally, will you be one of the old timers and only price on the even dollar or will you price using coins? Assuming your cost price of $1.38 includes EVERYTHING both food and paper wise your base menu price will need to be at least $4.18 (33% food cost) and up to $5.52 (25% food cost). If you plan on including tax and pricing on the dollar, I hope you can see the problem selling at $4.00. Not knowing your exact tax rate I'll figure a 5% rate which puts the food cost at a very scary 36.22% if you chose the coin-phobic $4.00 price. Don't forget credit card processing fees. Those eat into profits as well. The real question is: will your guests see the value in your product and be willing to pay a $5.00 or more price for a single hot dog? Local economics plays a large role in determining your menu price as well as any competition you may have. Folks that recommend a certain price can only speak to their own economy and guests, what works in one place may spell disaster in another.
One curious person asked me what I meant by “coin-phobic”. I responded:
Many vendors subscribe to the premise that pricing using coins (quarters, nickels, dimes, etc.) slows down overall service and makes adding up charges easier. Hence, they price only on the even dollar. This forces them to either eat supply increases until they feel a full dollar jump in menu price is justified or whine and complain they are not making any money until they just go out of business. Pricing on the quarter is simple mathematically, keeps your menu price to product's perceived value in line and makes it less noticeable when you have to raise prices. Going from a $3.00 to a $4.00 hot dog is a jump guest notice and will complain about. A smaller jump from $3.00 to $3.25 is less noticeable and still reads mentally as "three dollars". I used the made-up word "coin-phobic" to illustrate the point many vendors are "afraid" of pricing using coins for many unfounded reasons. Mentally adding up 'on the quarter' pricing is no more difficult than adding up 'on the dollar' pricing for those folks still not using a POS system. (that one still amazes me) It is all about training yourself. Just like one day the baby doesn't know how to walk and then it does.
The even dollar pricing is recommended by a hot dog “guru”. The advice is followed blindly by the inexperienced. The bottom line is this: you started a business to make money, perhaps learning how to add and count change should be a priority BEFORE opening for business.
I have had a passion for helping people since an early age back in rural Kentucky. That passion grew into teaching and training managers and owners how to grow sales, increase profits, and retain guests. You’ll find a ton of information here about improving restaurant and food cart/trailer operations and profits. Got questions? Email me at Bill_Moore@live.com