Get Out of the Box With a Food Truck

An alternative to brick-and-mortar retail that could help drive traffic
handing over food
Photograph: Shutterstock

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In the convenience retailing world, brick-and-mortar stores are the ideal way to build a business and brand. A permanent location provides products and services, and everyone knows where the store is all the time.

But real estate and construction are expensive propositions, especially when seeking permanent locations that offer high traffic and the right demographics.

So how else can a retailer further its potential without the high cost of another brick-and-mortar site? How can it grow sales and attract more people to its brand without increasing advertising airtime or leasing more billboard space? The answer: a food truck.

New Attitude

The old “roach coach” stereotype of food trucks has been replaced with credible menus and service that draw large crowds. For example, I have owned Chef Bob’s Lobstah Trap food truck in Colorado Springs, Colo., since 2017. It specializes in authentic New England recipes using lobster from Maine and Nova Scotia. Our sales have increased every year, and in 2019 we saw a 33% increase.

There are two main areas in which a food truck can help a brand. First, it will allow a retailer to take its brand where the action is: school events, sporting events, church events, business campuses, factories, warehouses, festivals, flea markets and other places that attract people. Having a presence at these events gets people to look at a retail brand in another way.

Second, for those who already patronize brick-and-mortar sites, the food truck will offer something familiar in a completely different situation and increase allegiance to the brand. A retailer’s regulars are its best advertising. Those who are too busy to stop in or don’t frequent c-stores can now see the operation and perhaps as a result become a regular at the brick-and-mortar store. They won’t lose time stopping in just to check it out; they can stop by the food truck while they’re at an event.

Sometimes all people need is that one visit to make them feel comfortable.

Consumer Curiosity

The other way a food truck can help extend a business is to set up the truck at the store while it’s undergoing renovations or during construction.

Let’s face it: When a store closes for renovation, even for only a few weeks, it gives people the opportunity to check out the competition, and that may result in lost sales down the road if they find something else they like. Having a food truck on the lot will keep people coming and reduce the risk of losing business to someone else. And sometimes people will stop just out of curiosity, giving the retailer an opportunity to start a relationship with a new customer.

Meanwhile, a food truck will allow team members to continue fostering their current relationships with customers and even give them something new to talk about. Everyone has a favorite customer or employee, so this is a way to keep that important relationship going.

Of course, the store brand can be emblazoned on the truck so people will know whom it belongs to. The food truck can be outfitted to serve almost any foodservice item offered in the store, depending on the size of the vehicle. Coffee, hot and cold sandwiches, doughnuts, snacks and soft drinks can be easily prepared, served and merchandised.

A retailer can also sell cigarettes and other items that drive people to the brick-and-mortar location.

Incorporating a food truck into a current, traditional marketing strategy and budget could greatly grow a retailer’s reach and extend its brand and business. In coming months, I’ll write about how to get started with a food truck and make the most of the effort. It’s time to step out of the box.

Bob Derian is president of Chefbobco LLC. Reach him at bderian@thebateam.com.

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