Food Trucks Find Success in Cache Valley

How Food Trucks Can Sometimes Be More Successful Than the Standard Restaurant Model

Food trucks
Photo by RODNAE Productions

For many restaurants that aren’t among the big, national chains, staying afloat during Covid has been a difficult prospect. Although the exact numbers on the effects of Covid are still in debate, a common consensus appears to be that 40% of small businesses shut down as a result of it and that restaurants are among those businesses that suffered the most losses. Yet for many restaurants, success was found in alternative methods. For example, in Cache Valley, Utah, Pauni Island Grill found that running food trucks was more profitable than keeping its store location open.

Why Food Trucks Can Be More Successful Than Traditional Restaurants

1. Flexibility

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a food truck is the flexibility. The food truck can go wherever it needs to. Every city has its own major events, from fairs and festivals to holiday celebrations. Having a food truck means your business can easily have a presence at any of these locations. This is not just good for sales, but for marketing, as well. Being present at these events is a good way to associate your food with the fun people have at these events. People will remember eating your food more because it was tied to a special occasion they enjoyed. This is the kind of flexibility that you can’t get from a building.

For those businesses that can afford multiple trucks, this flexibility also opens up delivery options. Instead of relying entirely on delivery persons to rush their cars to customer homes, hoping they find them before the food goes cold, you could potentially drive the food there yourself. Since your truck contains your kitchen, ensuring the food reaches the customer while it’s still warm.

2. You Can Still Have A Semi-Permanent Location

Having a building comes with the advantage of permanency. Your customers will always know where your restaurant is located. A food truck can still manage that to some extent, however. By making deals with other businesses, like gas stations, you can have a place where your food truck is always parked. This business partnership is symbiotic; your restaurant can bring customers to their location, or their customers come to them and see your business. As your businesses are not competing with each other, you end up sharing customers. This allows you the sort of permanence of an actual building, but still leaves you flexible to move your business if the deal turns out to not be profitable for you. If you have more than one food truck to your business, you can get the best of both worlds this way.

3. Branch Out Into Catering

Pauni Island’s success is how their food truck allowed their business to branch into related areas. In their case, they started with a food truck, then moved into catering. Having a food truck allows you to bring your entire kitchen with you wherever you go, so catering events becomes simple. Everything is ready to go as soon as you pull up, you just have to start cooking. This simplifies setting up for the event, saving time and money and letting everyone get to enjoying the event much faster.

4. Covid Problems Don’t Effect You

The specter of Covid still hangs over us, with talks of mandates and shut downs still on the table as the possibility of new mutations rise. However, the risks of infection are mitigated by social distancing. The problem with a building is that being indoors, the air circulates. What one person brings in stays in the building, so it becomes a risk to every visitor. An indoor restaurant also creates a space that’s much harder to spread out in, making it difficult to keep up social distancing.

The food truck solves both problems. Because you’re outdoors, the risk of spreading sickness is significantly reduced. There is far more room for people to spread out and the open air keeps diseases from building up in a single place. While many restaurants had to close their dining rooms during the outbreak, food trucks could continue with only minor changes to their basic practices – namely increasing regular cleaning and disinfection routines between customers.

Pauni Island food truck parked outside a gas station5. Less Overhead

This one is circumstantial, but a food truck might actually have less overhead than a building. When you have a building, you’ll have to pay the location’s rent, run maintenance and cleaning, and provide seating for customers. The cost of all these make for a much larger starting cost than a food truck. With the food truck, the lack of a permanent location means you aren’t paying rent on the building and don’t have to provide seating. Cleaning and maintenance are still a thing, but there’s much less of it overall. You will need to arrange partnerships with any place you set up your truck, or possibly get a license from the city to park your truck around town, but these may all be less expensive overall depending on city regulations. The flexibility also allows you to move around and find the best place to set up.

Is A Food Truck Right For Your Business Model?

After all this is considered, the question remains: is a food truck the right model for your restaurant? The answer depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If the emphasis of your restaurant is just the food you provide, a food truck can be more successful than having a traditional restaurant location. This assumes you are good at managing flexibility, however. You need a good sense of where to be and at what time, so success is determined by how well you know the city where you set up.

Additionally, not all restaurants sell themselves on food alone. For some restaurants, the experience is just as important. Having a building allows for much more control over the ambiance and atmosphere of the meal experience. A food truck will lose this aspect, so if it’s a core part of your business appeal, then a food truck is not for you.

At the end of the day, the model your restaurant uses must depend on how you mean to run it. While the traditional restaurant model is not likely to go anywhere, Covid has taught us that survival as a small business is highly dependent on flexibility. While the pandemic will eventually pass, that lesson shouldn’t be quickly forgotten. Examining alternatives to our business models would be a very smart idea moving forward.