The Well-Crafted Menu – Advice For Mobile Food Trucks Starting Out

The Well-Crafted Menu - Advice for Mobile Food Trucks Starting Out

Great food? Highlight it on your menu.

You’re dreaming of opening your own food truck, and you have an idea. You probably know what you’d like to serve, or at least you have a concept.

Did you know that crafting your food truck menu is the most important thing you can do?

Your menu defines who you are. It sets the stage for diners and lets them know what to expect from your business. (tweet this)

In this article, we look at the well-crafted menu and provide advice for mobile food trucks starting out.

First, let’s look at the basics of determining your menu.

Choosing the Food Truck Menu

It can be hard deciding what to serve at your food truck. You may have too many ideas or not quite enough.

Perhaps you’re wondering what kind of food to serve. For starters, your food must be appealing – after all, it has to attract diners.

If you have specialty dishes, that’s terrific. If not, do some research into your target audience and what they might like to find at your food truck.

Try to fill a niche and not enter an already crowded market. For example, if they’re five trucks in town serving artisan pizza, it’s probably not a good idea for you to do the same.

First, decide on your central menu items. If you want to serve items from Central Asia, then you’d build your menu concept around food from the region. If you want to serve food with a French flair, you’d build your menu on that model.

Do be realistic about how many different menu items you can serve at any one time. Unlike a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, you are working with a smaller kitchen and a smaller staff.

Take your limited space and time into consideration. If you’re only serving from 11 am – 2 pm, then making 15 different items isn’t realistic.

Quality is what you’re after. You want to be known for something. Whether it’s gourmet street cuisine or brats, be sure to stay true to your brand image. This will help you determine your menu.

A good rule of thumb is that most food trucks can handle five to 12 different menu items at any given time. The fewer the better to keep your quality top notch.

Second, you want to make sure your menu is easy to prepare. You aren’t technically fast food, but remember, your diners don’t have anywhere to sit quietly, drink a glass of wine and wait 20 minutes for their meal.

You must be able to prepare your items quickly. Your goal is to keep the line moving as fast as possible so you don’t lose customers.

Consider streamlining your menu by using some of the same ingredients in your dishes. For example, if you’re offering bowls, keep it to basmati and quinoa. Or, if you’re serving wraps, keep your meat and cheese options to just a few.

The goal is to eliminate waste and enable a quick turnaround time.

mobile food trucks

Your food truck brand extends from your truck to your menu and your food.

Designing the Food Truck Menu

When designing your actual physical menu, we’ve got some tips for making it easy to read, stand out and convince diners to order.

Believe it or not, there are some psychological tricks you can use to get your food truck patrons to buy from your truck and not the two on either side of you.

  1. Don’t use dollar signs. Don’t use them on your food truck menus or your menu board. You want diners to focus on your menu item and its description, not the price. If you remove the dollar signs, your diners will spend more.
  2. It’s not a good idea to list a price as 10.99. Instead, aim for 10.95. Use prices that end in .95 instead of .99. This not only makes the amount seem much less than $11, but it is classier than the dollar-menu price with .99 at the end.
  3. Don’t use columns of menu items (unless dishes are priced similarly). Columns force your diners to compare prices, and they’re more likely to choose the less expensive items. A great idea? Price all of your items the same.
  4. Be descriptive. Longer, adjective-rich descriptions sell more food.
  5. Consider bracketing – this is offering the same dish in two sizes. This can encourage your customer to order the larger size, because inwardly they’ll wonder if the smaller one is enough food. Plus, since you’re offering the larger portion at less than double the price, they’ll feel like they’re getting a deal.
  6. Put the most important menu items in the upper right hand corner. This is the golden spot, and it’s the first place the eye goes. Plant your signature dish here.

Avoiding Mistakes

When it comes to your printed menu (if you have one) or your menu display board, be sure the print is large enough for everyone to read. If it’s too small, you’ll frustrate potential customers, and they’ll visit the truck next door.

Some food truck owners make the mistake of using amateur photography on their menu. You want to use professional photography whenever possible. With the high-quality, heavy-duty cameras on many smartphones today, it’s never been easier to snap a good shot.

Your menu should align with your brand. If it doesn’t, you are making a costly mistake. Your logo, your menu, your font choices and color scheme all work together to define your food truck.

Without a recognizable brand, your food truck business will suffer.

Another mistake food truck owners make on their menu is burying their best-selling or signature dishes. Give these items prime real estate on your menu so they get top billing.

This also makes buying food and managing your food costs more efficient.

Finally, another mistake we often see is the boring menu. Who wants to order pork fried rice when they could have grilled char sui pork with roasted broccoli, carrots, red peppers and garlicky herbs bathed in a Cajun surprise sauce?

Entice your customers and make them really want your menu items.

Final Thoughts

With food trucks on the rise, you can use your well-crafted menu to stand out from the competition. (tweet this)

Do keep your menu manageable – shorter is better. And, be sure to update it based on produce availability and the seasons.

Take care with your visuals and make sure your menu board and printed menu are appealing and eye-catching.

Finally, proofread your menu. You absolutely don’t want any typos reflecting poorly on your menu.

Do you have an online menu? Food trucks need a responsive, mobile-friendly website with an interactive online menu. It’s the ideal way to highlight your food as well as share your weekly locations.

At Restaurant Engine, we build responsive, mobile-friendly restaurant websites. Contact us today for your free website consultation. We are here to help you update your website and stand out in the crowd so you can stay ahead of your competition.

Images: Brandon Morgan and Ted Van Pelt via VisualHunt / CC BY

5 responses to “The Well-Crafted Menu – Advice For Mobile Food Trucks Starting Out”

  1. It’s good to know that long descriptions of the food may actually help it sell more. My brother and his wife want to buy an old food truck and have it remodeled so they can start taking it to local art fairs this fall. I’ll pass along this advice so they can use it when designing and creating the menu boards for the truck!

  2. Paulette says:

    Interesting and timely article.

  3. Helpful info. I been wanting to get a food truck.

  4. Joe says:

    Thinking of starting a food truck should the menu be split up between cold items and hot items? and should I do appetizers, Entrees, Desserts?
    what about drinks?
    Please let me know.

  5. Jean says:

    Great information. Getting ready to launch in about 3 months. A little concerned about commissary nightmares! I’m trying to decide on a profitable and attractive menu.

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