If you run one of the 23,551 food trucks in the U.S. as of 2019, you know it’s a more affordable way to get your food in the hands of your fans than a traditional restaurant.
But the outdoor nature of your business also adds a challenge as temperatures drop in the winter. Customers aren’t as willing to line up in cold and snowy weather, even if they love your food. Without a warm dining room, you may see a slump in sales.
But instead of packing up for the winter or looking for a regular job, you can use winter food truck strategies to encourage increased off-season sales. From special promotions to expanded business offerings, slight changes in your business model can keep your cash flow going.
Try these winter food truck options for the winter months.
1. Partner With Local Businesses
Collaborating with other businesses is a mutually beneficial way to drum up more business. If you prefer the lunch crowd, find a large employer in the area who lets you set up in the parking lot. You get the captive audience of the company’s employees to keep you busy during the lunch rush.
You might also set up a table inside the business. Prepare food in your truck, and pack it up in a warmer. Head inside the business to sell to their employees.
Another option is to partner with local breweries and similar businesses that don’t serve their own food. Many breweries focus only on their beverages. That leaves patrons hungry while they’re drinking.
By setting up just outside the door of the brewery, you give those customers a quick food option. Consider hiring a runner who goes into the brewery to take orders then delivers them when the food is ready.
The brewery can promote your food truck to help draw more customers into the establishment. Both businesses benefit from increased sales.
2. Set Up at Outdoor Holiday Festivals
Not everyone stays indoors in the winter, but you’ll need to be strategic about where to park to find those customers. Outdoor holiday festivals, such as outdoor Christmas markets or holiday tree lighting ceremonies, attract people who expect to stand out in the cold. Signing up as a food vendor for those events puts you in a prime spot to make sales during the winter.
3. Offer Delivery
The traditional food truck model involves parking your truck and waiting for customers to swarm. Since winter weather makes people want to stay indoors where it’s warm, consider flipping that model. Instead of making customers come to you, go to them.
If you park in a busy commercial area, your truck can serve as your hub. Hire a delivery person to run the food to the nearby office buildings. Adding online ordering to your website for this delivery service makes it even easier for your customers to get their food.You can also use established food delivery services, such as GrubHub, DoorDash, and UberEats. Your customers can get their food delivered, and you don’t have to manage the delivery process yourself.
4. Create Winter Specials
Customers may need a little incentive to line up outdoors for your food. Offer special winter discounts to give customers that push. You’ll take a small hit to your profits, but you’re not making any money if no one shows up to your food truck.
You might offer a meal bundle for a cheaper combined price or a freebie with a meal order, such as a free coffee or hot chocolate with every entree. Encourage customers to bring friends by offering a buy-one-get-one-free promotion during the winter.
5. Embrace Winter
Instead of fighting the cold and flurries, use it as part of your seasonal food truck marketing plan. A winter menu or a few additions to your normal menu help draw crowds. Consider dishes such as soup or coffee drinks to help customers stay warm.
Get the customers who brave the cold to help you promote your food truck by offering branded winter gear. Scarfs, ear warmers, and gloves are examples of items you can print with your logo as a special winter promotion.
Have fun with winter activities by putting out a few sleds that customers can use on a nearby hill while they wait for their food. Offer a free coffee to anyone who makes a snow angel, or start a snowman-building contest among your customers. These activities make the wait more enjoyable and make your food truck memorable.
6. Ramp Up Your Online Presence
When business is slow, take the spare time to focus on promotional efforts. Growing your online presence can help drum up new business in the winter. It can also help expand awareness about your food truck in the coming months.
If you don’t already have a website and social media channels, set them up and start posting. Share information about your menu, your business, and your employees. Post about any winter specials you create to encourage people to visit.
Another promotional option is to approach local food bloggers, newspapers, and other media outlets about your food truck. Invite them to try your food or do an interview with you. Being promoted on those local channels can help new customers find you.
7. Expand to Catering
Shift gears in winter toward catering instead of individual sales. Your food truck can work as the headquarters for your mobile catering service.
Waiting for customers to stop by your truck is often unpredictable, especially in colder weather. A catering gig gives you a guaranteed amount of business. You know in advance if it’s profitable and worth your time.
Your truck offers a mobile kitchen option for cooking food on-site at the event venue. You can also use it to transport food, ingredients, and equipment to the location if you plan to cook the food in a commercial kitchen space.
Promote your catering services on your website and through your social media channels. You might cater weddings, birthday parties, fundraiser events, and other celebrations.
8. Head to Warmer Weather
One of the benefits of food trucks is the mobility aspect. When you’re the boss, you decide where to set up the truck.
If cold winter weather severely cuts into your business, consider heading to warmer climates for part of the year. Think of yourself as a business snowbird instead of a retired one.
This option works well if you already own a home or have relatives in a warmer climate. You can also find a short-term rental in your new location.
You’ll need to find temporary employees once you get to your new destination if you can’t run the truck yourself. You’ll also need to get permits and follow food truck regulations in the new area.
Use Winter Food Truck Strategies
What are your favorite food truck strategies for beating winter sales slumps? Getting creative with your food truck advertising, menu planning, promotions, and services can help keep your income up during colder periods.
If you’re in the market for a new food truck, check out our line of mobile kitchens.