5 lessons from operators’ first food trucks

Turn up the tunes—and other lessons from operators’ first food trucks.

minneapolis food bus

When Dawn Aubrey, associate director of housing for dining at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, decided to roll out another food truck this fall, she knew exactly which lessons she would take with her from her first mobile operation. “We have learned so much from the first truck,” Aubrey says through chuckles.

Austin Independent School District in Texas also is growing its fleet with a district-wide Vietnamese food truck, launched after the stationary Nacho Average Food Truck increased breakfast and lunch participation at its Anderson High School. Learn from these FSDs’ mobile adventures to keep trucking without a hitch.

1. Get customers on board

Taking a collaborative approach to branding the truck was really important to Nacho Average Food Truck’s success, says Anneliese Tanner, director of Austin ISD nutrition and food services. The student body determined the truck’s name and theme, and an art student designed the truck’s wrapping. “Getting [students] involved in the process created a lot of ownership and buzz,” Tanner says.

2. Think beyond the truck

If you want the flexibility to go anywhere, trash receptacles are a necessity, says Aubrey. Her trucks also come equipped with brightly colored tables, fold-out chairs and a canopy to provide customers some shade in the hot summer months—but she advises that operators not forget to close the canopy before moving to the next stop.

3. Hype it up

Before Tanner rolled out her truck, she live-tweeted coverage of the staff’s training day, posting photos of the principal eating street tacos and having fun with the operation. “We got, I don’t know how many retweets and likes for our tweets,” she says.

4. Less is more room

Ice is superfluous, says Aubrey. Limited space means planning ahead, so prechill drinks to avoid bulky ice bags. Her less-is-more philosophy also extends to menu planning. “You want to do five things really well,” she says. “You want some crossover ingredients and to make sure your equipment works across all the items on the menu.” For example, Aubrey’s trucks use naan, which takes up less space than buns, for sandwiches.

5. Pump up the jams

A food truck needs tunes to draw in customers and pump up staff, Aubrey says. Her crew just uses satellite radio stations to set the vibe.
 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code