Food truck customer locator services expand into job booking and vice versa
Photo courtesy of iStock.
Editor's Note: This is part three in a three-part series on food truck booking services.
Running a food truck is a full-time, all-hands-on-deck effort, and a big part of that is getting bookings and finding ways to make sure hungry food truck fans know where you are.
The good news is that there is a growing number of booking services, as noted in parts one and two of this series. There is also an increasing swell of food truck locator services, and even blended services offering both business needs.
The bad news is that it takes time and diligence — and some homework — to figure out which service is the best one for your food truck.
A booking service helps a client find your food truck to service an event, while a locator service posts food truck schedules so that customers can keep track of where your truck will be.
In researching food truck booking services, Food Truck Operator uncovered numerous instances of booking services that also provide locator services. Many of these companies view themselves as "go-to" resources for food trucks, and provide additional services as well.
Following are examples of four such companies.
Jonathan Amato launched SeattleFoodTruck.com eight years ago as a food truck locator service, posting schedules for local food trucks, along with their contact information. He has since expanded into food truck booking by adding a page on his website that allows event organizers to get quotes from food trucks to service an event.
SeattleFoodTruck.com also carries feature articles about the food trucks Amato works with, including their menus. He provides the articles for free.
Seeing himself as a food truck industry resource, Amato has also worked with local government agencies on food truck regulations and provides information to food truck owners regarding regulations. He participates in food truck meetups that oftentimes host health and fire department officials.
|Bruno Salvatico welcomes attendees|
to a Colorado Truckie food truck meetup.
A twenty-something pair of food truck aficionados in Denver — Lindsay Dvorak and Bruno Salvatico — recently launched a booking service called ColoradoTruckie.com. It's similar to Amato's service in that the owners strive to be a multi-faceted resource for food trucks.
In addition to offering a booking service, Dvorak and Salvatico host educational events for food trucks. They are in the process of developing their own locator app for food truck customers, but already work in partnership with an established Colorado-based locator app provider called Phoodio that automatically updates food trucks' schedules on Facebook and Twitter.
Like some of the other food truck booking service providers, Dvorak and Salvatico got into the business because they felt food trucks needed marketing support. They developed their website, then went out and marketed it to both food trucks and prospective clients. They advertise their service on Google Adwords.
ColoradoTruckie.com has an events "lead" calendar where clients post jobs for food trucks. Food trucks have access to this calendar for a $100 annual membership fee, which also gives them access to a job board for hiring employees, as well as other resources, including educational and networking meetups and workshops.
|Lindsay Dvorak and Bruno Salvatico promote|
Colorado Truckie at a symposium.
The first of two annual meetups was held in February and featured insurance, food salvaging, financial and retirement experts. The first of four annual workshops will be held in April, and will focus on social media.
For "managed events," where Dvorak and Salvatico make arrangements with the client, and the food trucks are assessed a 10 percent fee as long as there is a minimum $650 in sales, Dvorak said. If sales fall below $650, there is no fee. For events that last more than one day, fees are assessed as long as average daily sales hit $650. Otherwise, there is no fee.
Dvorak and Salvatico work regularly with 20 trucks, and serve another 60 trucks on a less regular basis, booking 20 to 40 events per month, overall.
In addition to developing their own customer locator app, they are also developing their own food truck POS software.
StreetFoodFinder.com, established in 2012 as a food truck locator app, has added a booking function that allows clients to automate their food truck bookings.
"We don't really manage any of the spots," said Nik Gandhy, a software entrepreneur who created and manages StreetFoodFinder.com. Instead, the platform manages the bookings automatically, based on input from the client.
The platform allows businesses, booking services and associations to schedule food trucks. It minimizes the amount of time a client has to spend to book a food truck, Gandhy said.
Gandhy initially developed the booking function in order to help the Central Ohio Food Truck Association manage member bookings.
A client looking for a food truck can go the website and put in a request for service. An association board member responds to gather information about the job, such as the number of customers expected to attend and the duration of the event. Once the information is entered, the food trucks in the network can sign up for available spots on the schedule on a first come, first serve basis.
The booking service is free to the client, Gandhy said. The food trucks pay a booking fee, which can vary based on the number of customers and duration of the event. The average fee for association member food trucks is $8 per event.
The city of Columbus also books its food truck spots using StreetFoodFinder, as does Ronald McDonald House in Columbus.
"Anybody who has spots that they want to manage, they can," Gandhy said. "We're trying to create new opportunities for them (the trucks) that they didn't have before. We free up their time in one place so they can concentrate in another."
The site also provides email alerts, dashboard widgets, social media postings and admin printouts.
StreetFoodFinder.com is active in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio; Raleigh, North Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; and in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, with plans to expand nationwide.
FoodTrucksIn.com provides food truck booking services in addition to food a truck locator and other services. According to the website, the service has more than 6,500 food trucks in more than 1,300 cities nationwide.
FoodTrucksIn.com offers guidance for people looking to book food trucks, covering topics such as how many food trucks to invite based on the number of attendees, different ways to compensate food trucks, event licensing and permitting requirements, food truck preparation time, truck layout guidance, public restrooms and waste facilities.
The most common method for booking special events is for the client location to contact the truck to serve a particular number of people within a certain budget or to offer a designated menu, or a combination of both, the website explains. Another method is for the food truck to pay a flat fee of 5–10 percent of sales, according to FoodTrucksIn. For events that charge admission fees, the trucks should not be required to pay a fee to attend.
FoodTrucksIn.com also lists trucks, carts, stands and trailers for sale.
As the food truck industry has grown, food truck booking services have evolved to help customers find food trucks. The booking services are finding that they are in a position to offer other food truck services as well, including customer locator apps.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.