Keeping costs down is important for any restaurant, but it’s especially important for food trucks. When food trucks can cut costs, owners can take home more profit, or reinvest in the business. Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality, either. With some careful planning and strategic thinking, food trucks can cut costs, take home more profit, and still provide a five-star experience.
9 Ways Food Trucks Can Cut Costs
1. Cheap, Easy Ice
An ice maker in your food truck takes up space and requires a lot of energy to run. Pick up your ice beforehand and store it in a sturdy cooler to save space and money. When you use ice vending machines instead of convenience store ice, you can cut your ice costs in half. You’ll also get free bags of ice with loyalty rewards, discounts, and you’ll have access to cashless vending.
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2. Seasonal Ingredients
Adjust your menu to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables and you can reduce food costs substantially. If these ingredients are locally sourced, you’ll also have an additional advertising point, and you’ll gain favor with particularly community-minded customers.
3. Regular Specials
If some food items are nearing their expiration date, it’s time to get them out of the food truck doors quickly. Come up with a simple, but delicious special recipe at a low price and you can reduce food waste and expenses. This is a great way food trucks can cut costs, and it’s also a great way to attract customers on a budget.
4. The Right Portions
Food waste is a big problem. Cornell University found that diners leave 17% of their food uneaten, on average. If you’re also paying for trash pickup, this is a way food trucks can cut costs twice over. Pay attention to what customers are throwing away, and see if you can adjust your portions accordingly.
5. Consistent Portions
Once you have your portion sizes down, you’ll want to make them consistent. While it’s tempting to estimate the right amount, you’ll have better luck using exact measurements. Use a measuring cup when divvying out items like rice, salad or fries. Make sure everyone in your food truck knows how much of each item to use, and make it as easy as possible to get the right amount.
6. Waste Not, Want Not
You may find yourself throwing away vegetable ends, chicken bones, unsold bread, unused fruit, and other items. Consider how you might reuse these leftovers instead of tossing them. Vegetable ends and chicken bones can be used to make soup stock. Unsold bread can be turned into croutons, bread pudding or bread crumbs for cooking. Fruit can be turned into juice for drinks or other recipes.
7. Reduce Plastic
Food waste isn’t the only thing that increases costs and builds up in landfills. Disposable plates, forks, spoons, knives, and more can quickly add to expenses. Since they’re only used once, they have a short lifetime and low utility, too. As you craft your menu, consider how you can reduce plastic waste with handheld items like sandwiches, wraps, brats, fries, tacos and similar items. Regardless of your food truck’s theme, there’s likely to be a handheld favorite waiting to be served or newly invented.
8. Reducing Energy Costs
Energy costs, particularly portable propane tanks or diesel-powered generators, are a significant part of a food truck’s operating costs. Reducing these energy costs as much as possible can make a huge impact over time. The ideal solution might be alternative energy sources, like solar panels, but this can be a big investment, even when taking advantage of tax incentives. In the meantime, use appliances that are highly energy-efficient, and make sure you’re not using appliances with higher power demands than necessary.
9. Leverage Partnerships
Rental costs, including renting parking spots, commissary space, kitchen space for prep work, and more, can add up quickly. Consider how you might work with other food trucks, restaurants, local suppliers, community kitchens, event managers, and others in your network to keep these costs down. Sharing costs, bartering favors and creating mutually beneficial agreements can help food trucks cut costs and strengthen relationships within the community.
There are many creative ways food trucks can cut costs. Talk to other food truck owners and restaurant owners to get their tips as well. With careful planning and creative thinking, you can create a fun, delicious dining experience on a budget.