food truck menu questions

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fgold
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2011/12/03 04:09:48 (permalink)

food truck menu questions

Hello,
      Have trolled around here for quite a while and right now I am the most serious about opening a food truck.  Of course I have 1000 questions but I do know how to use google    So don't worry I am not asking people to spoon feed me all the answers
 
I am researching trucks, decided on a stand in truck instead of a food truck where you stand outside of it.   .
 
I have found a limited partner I can trust, as I will not be leaving my full time job.  I will stop working my extra hours (ot) that is not mandatory and instead spend even more hours dealing with all the details of a truck. 
 
I have been researching locations and have 3 that we are seriously looking at.
 
I have a church with a board of health certified kitchen that is willing to act as a commissary.
 
All of those things have been going on and now trying to really look at the menu.  This is where I am looking for some opinions........
 
When we first sat down to look at what we wanted and actually wrote it down it was WAY to big.   No way we are going to be able to serve that amount of menu items. 
 
Started cutting stuff out and at the moment this is what I have come up with.  NOT a finished product by any means.  Right now I am just looking for unbiased opinions. 
We will be serving breakfast but I am only looking at the lunch/dinner menu right now. 
oh yea  we will be having a baseball theme for the truck.
Sliders (thought about full sized burgers but right now thinking sliders)
hot dogs (both regular and either 1/4 or sausage/kiebasa
wings
meatball sub
chili
 
then as hot sides we are thinking   
fries
moz sticks
onion rings
potato skins
hot pretzels
 
That is it for hot food.  Of course there will be cold sides  chips peanuts crackerjacks (remember baseball theme) soda coffee juice.
 
So here are my thoughts
I am thinking with a baseball theme we cannot get around having dogs and some kind of burgers (sliders)
I really want wings.  So I am thinking those will be our 3 main staples.  That is what we can be known for.
 
The meatball subs, I am not sold on having this.  The reason I am thinking it is because I will buy them frozen (very little prep) stays in steam table so it will not take up much space either.  
 
  Is it worth having them or should I just say no and leave it off the menu and then IF people request it enough I can add it? 
 
Chili--  Same thing as meatball.  Does not take much space.  Would only have one pot of it.  Would not be a staple, so should I bother with it?  It would be good but not a priority? 
 
The sides, the only one I am unsure about is the potato skins.  Lots of things you can do to dress them up so thats good.  Should not take up too much space and I don't beleive they are labor intensive. 
Fries, onion rings, moz sticks  should be staples as sides I think
 
thoughts anyone?????   To many items?  To few?  To labor intensive? 
 
opinions please
 
thank you
frank
 
 
 
#1

20 Replies Related Threads

    pnwchef
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/03 11:48:12 (permalink)
    Welcome Frank..........
    I didn't hear one thing like:
    I make killer meatballs, so I want that on the menu........my Meatball Mozzarella melt  is crazy good....
    People beg me to make my wings.....
    My sliders are to die for...............
    My Italian sub is so good people think I'm Italian.....
    My Cheesesteak is the best in Philly............
    we make homemade pretzels..........
     
    IMHO, when you venture into a business, make the food something to be proud of.................Who is going to track you down for store bought meatballs put into a store bought Marinara sauce.........The REAL successful food trucks I see are serving a unique, quality product that people will seek out............you can either have a run of the mill operation, or a talk of the town operation........To me the menu doesn't really matter, it's all about the quality of what you serve.............pnwc
    post edited by PNWCHEF - 2011/12/03 12:21:37
    #2
    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/03 17:25:38 (permalink)
    Frank,
    Welcome, but Wow to read "I am not asking people to spoon feed me all the answers" is a welcome relief. Unlike most new people it's great to welcome a new foodie that understand it takes a ton of personal research to start in the food business.
     
    But I have to say I agree with "The Chef", forget the theme for the truck, concentrate on what you or your partner can hit out of the park on great tasting food time in and time out. Make it so good that when your friends taste it they say OMG.
     
    After you have a hand full (and no more) of those recipes then worry about the small stuff. And by the way once you have that 5 or 6 items mastered if you want to go look at and talk to someone about a location, arrange a time to meet with them and take your best ass kicking food item with you including plastic forks, knife, napkins and condiments as needed, and serve them lunch. If you really have an OMG meal they'll bend over backwards to work with you.
    Good Luck and welcome again
    Jack
     
    PS I serve an OMG hotdog and charge $4.00 each. But if you look at the hot dog page here most people are happy to get $2.50 per dog. But they also buy a cart or build one and find a location and then just grab what ever kind of dog is available. They're doing it backwards. The food has to come first.
    post edited by Dr of BBQ - 2011/12/03 17:27:46
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    mikejames533
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/03 19:07:38 (permalink)
    Dr of BBQ

    But I have to say I agree with "The Chef", forget the theme for the truck, concentrate on what you or your partner can hit out of the park on great tasting food time in and time out. Make it so good that when your friends taste it they say OMG.

    After you have a hand full (and no more) of those recipes then worry about the small stuff. And by the way once you have that 5 or 6 items mastered if you want to go look at and talk to someone about a location, arrange a time to meet with them and take your best ass kicking food item with you including plastic forks, knife, napkins and condiments as needed, and serve them lunch. If you really have an OMG meal they'll bend over backwards to work with you.
    Good Luck and welcome again
    Jack

    PS I serve an OMG hotdog and charge $4.00 each. But if you look at the hot dog page here most people are happy to get $2.50 per dog. But they also buy a cart or build one and find a location and then just grab what ever kind of dog is available. They're doing it backwards. The food has to come first.

     
    +1
    1)  Do a few food items great.
    2) Get a good location.
    3) Good customer service
    4) keep your setup clean and follow HD rules.
    5) Maintain 1, 2, 3, and 4,  the rest will fall into place.
    #4
    Foodbme
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/03 23:29:23 (permalink)
    All the above posters give great, solid advice. I assume you will be operating in Bethlehem.
    Your Sides list:
    fries
    moz sticks
    onion rings
    potato skins
    hot pretzels
    It sounds like you're going to use frozen prepared product. DON'T DO IT!
    Pick 1 or 2 and make them fresh!
    Sliders? Use QUALITY FRESH, not Frozen beef.
    Wings? Use plump product and a Killer Sauce (There are different quality levels of wings).
    Hot Dogs? Research the best tasting dog in your area.
    Meatballs? I'd substitute A good quality Kielbasa Sandwich. NO Frozen Meatballs.
    Chili? NO Canned Chili.
    It doesn't sound like you have much food prep experience. I'd spend some time developing your cooking expertise BEFORE I would spend a dime on a truck and see if you're cut out for the food business. Not everyone is cut out for the food business. 
    Keeping your full time job and doing this on the side probably won't work very well. Running a GOOD food operation requires a lot of time and prep work to do it right. Figure 3-4 hours of prep and and get ready time for every hour that you're going to be open. You CAN'T get a little bit pregnant in the food business! To do it right, you're either in it or you're not. Trying to get by with prepared frozen product ain't gonna cut it. 
    post edited by Foodbme - 2011/12/03 23:31:59
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    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 03:28:39 (permalink)
    Thank you everyone for posting.  All are solid points with the recurring theme      it is about the FOOD!!!!
    and yes I agree it should be about that and to a point it will be.   We will not serve crap, we WILL serve quality.  BUT I am doing this from a different angle so to speak.  I am not trying to offend anyone here but our truck will be about quality food with GREAT customer service at a reasonable price and be convienent. 
     
    The number one place we are trying to secure is directly next to a local public HS.  The school has approx 2500 students we are looking at renting part of a lot right next to them and setting there all day. 
    A large % of students walk to school and of course hang out.   Our initial plan (of course subject to change) is to be set up starting at 4am, being ready for serving breakfast by 6.  After school starts we will remain open since we are still on a busy street with good traffic but we will also be starting the process of setting up for lunch. 
    Once again the school kids will be our main focus.  The students do not have to eat in school.  There are two small mom and pop sit down places near by.  Ours will actually be closer and as I said we will be hitting hard of convience, customer service and we will be competitive on the prices. 
     
    of course we will be making a play for the teachers also.  Where this is we are not near a "business district"  so we are not going to be attracting many office people but it is still a busy street and hope to build a customer base outside of the HS but that will be the main focus for the morning/day time. 
     
    Our next plan which is still a work in process.  There is no reason for us not to run this in the evenings also.
    There are many factory places that do not have a cafeteria open on the dinner shift.  We are going to work on setting up contracts to be able to operate a route for that shift. 
     
    I personally am an overnight worker.  TRUST ME there is a need for something on the overnight shift.  I would have an overnight shift operating either will a route or possibly at one of our major hospitals IF we could work out a deal with them because they do not have a overnight cafe operating. 
     
     
    On the weekends.....   We are in talks with a beer distriburator to rent a portion of their lot that is not used.  This is a drive thru operation so there is a line of cars at many times during the weekend.   This is also on one of the busiest roads in the area and we would be right on the street and get a lot of exposure. 
     
    Let me stress again.  We will have quality good food that we are proud to serve.   It is hard to really express this over the internet but please don't misunderstand about our intentions.  I spent 16 years waiting on tables (occasionally in the kitchen) I appreciate good food and we will serve good food. 
     
    thanks again 
     
    and once again   PLEASE comment on this.
     
    oh and btw I do agree about the meatballs   I agree a good kielbasa will take care of that. 
    I am sure I will add more comments as I think of them but again Thank you   I really do appreciate the comments
     
    PS of yea   no chance in hell we do a canned chili   if we don't have a good enough home made recipe then we will not do it

      
     
    post edited by fgold - 2011/12/04 03:29:53
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    mikejames533
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 07:53:14 (permalink)
    I have owned 2 businesses close to schools. One right across the street, and another just down the street from a different school. The one thing I can tell you about serving school kids is that your service will have to be lighting fast. They will not have the time to stand in line and then wait for the food to be cooked! 
    They have limited time and a limited budget, most a few
    dollars a day. Your menu may have to be different for a school setting vs. other settings.
    #7
    pnwchef
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 10:50:30 (permalink)
    FGold, like Mike said, fast is the key to dealing with both Schools and factory workers, Buck (Buck &Vi) has a Food truck in Florida located at a work place, he will give you some incite on how they are never happy, prices are always to high, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. You have worked as a waiter, think of how it would be having 30 or 40 people coming into the Restaurant, all wanting the food now, and having to be out in 10 or 15 minutes. I would think about doing a 50/50 with 50% being pre made Subs/hoagies, and whatever else could be pre made and still be  a quality product. The other 50% could be fresh hot fries coming out of the fryer along with burgers and other grilled items that could be made in volume on a grill.
      The members on this site will always stress quality, use this  as a think tank, use what works for you, discard the rest. We all want you to succeed.....................take care...................pnwc
    #8
    mikejames533
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 13:04:16 (permalink)
    One of our best sellers to the school kids was a french bread type pizza. We would take a hoagie roll with our killer homemade pizza sauce, good quality cheese and toppings and bake them. We made 3 or 4 different varieties each day and held them in a pizza warming cabinet.
    Our 3 best sellers were cheese, pepperoni, and cheese burger. The cheese burger had bun, sauce, fine ground up hamburger, a few dill pickle slices, mozz and cheddar cheese. I know crazy to put pickles on pizza! Just try it once, you may change your mind...We sold a ton of them every day.
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    Foodbme
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 13:10:00 (permalink)
    A school lunch crowd would be the LAST group I'd go after. That's why schools have cafeteria lines---so they can move a lot of pimple faced kids thru the lunch process quickly. You would need 3-4 pre-made, pre-wrapped items to hand them, collect the money, hand it to them and get out of here!
    Same with workplaces. Most workplaces only have a 1/2 hour lunch break. That means less than 15 minutes to eat, by the time they get to your truck, eat, go to the John and go back to work. You can't thruput enough customers in 15 minutes to make any significant money. You need to re-think your target markets.
    #10
    mikejames533
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/04 21:32:23 (permalink)
    Foodbme you have some good points. School kids and factory's is tuff business. It can be done, but you have to have your Sh** together to make it work.
    Our school cafeteria's here are really really bad! I don't think a dog should eat the food they serve those kids. I'm sure there are school out there much better.
     
    Anyway before school, 3 lunch hours(A,B,C lunch) and after school sales totaled a little over $60,000 a year for us. We did this with 3 people working each shift.
    For factories you could try to take pre orders and deliver at a specified time. Name and total on each customers bag.
     
    It's hard fast paced work. You have to be setup for it or you won't be able to push enough sales thru fast enough. Just remember if the line moves slow the kids will go! And not come back.
    #11
    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/05 03:39:24 (permalink)
    ...
     
    post edited by fgold - 2011/12/05 03:55:18
    #12
    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/05 03:44:37 (permalink)
    mikejames533

    I have owned 2 businesses close to schools. One right across the street, and another just down the street from a different school. The one thing I can tell you about serving school kids is that your service will have to be lighting fast. They will not have the time to stand in line and then wait for the food to be cooked! 
    They have limited time and a limited budget, most a few
    dollars a day. Your menu may have to be different for a school setting vs. other settings.

    completely agree,  speed will have to be a part of the whole excellent customer service.  The workers themselves (one being my partner) are going to have to enjoy and relate to that crowd.  That is one thing we have going in our favor.  I have coached youth baseball for 14 years now and my partner (everyone just calls him coach ice) has been with me for 6 years. 
    For the past 5 years we have coached 15-16 year old boys. 
    2 years ago we switched to a summer league and we have several of the HS players on our team each year.  So we know HS boys, hell between spring practices, summer ball and then a fall league we get to know them very well. 
    Honestly that is where my passion is,  In this league, each team is a independent frachise so to speak.  We didn't have one in our area so I petitioned the league
    to get a team.  When they asked what youth association I was going to be affiliated with I said none.  I purchased all the required insurances and equipment ect and I now own that area. 
    So I went ahead and made my team into a non profit corp.  A non profit can be operated just like another other business except that all net profits have to go towards non profit. 
     
    I want this food truck to help fund my team.  To operate the team itself is only about 4k a year BUT I want other things lol.  We would love to earn money to be put away towards future faciilities and even other teams, possibly expanding into softball also. 
     
    Part of the area that our team services is lower income.  I take much of the money out of pocket to fund this team and keep the price down for the families.  Once again that is what the food truck is going to help do. 
     
    ok I have babbled enough.   Bottom line is we believe we understand HS level kids, we have been known as players coaches fair fun but firm and most of all successfull so far. 
     
    Our food truck will be decorated with team colors.  It will be known to everyone that this truck is associated with our team, which has new players every year which is good. 


    #13
    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/05 03:46:37 (permalink)
    PNWCHEF

    FGold, like Mike said, fast is the key to dealing with both Schools and factory workers, Buck (Buck &Vi) has a Food truck in Florida located at a work place, he will give you some incite on how they are never happy, prices are always to high, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. You have worked as a waiter, think of how it would be having 30 or 40 people coming into the Restaurant, all wanting the food now, and having to be out in 10 or 15 minutes. I would think about doing a 50/50 with 50% being pre made Subs/hoagies, and whatever else could be pre made and still be  a quality product. The other 50% could be fresh hot fries coming out of the fryer along with burgers and other grilled items that could be made in volume on a grill.
    The members on this site will always stress quality, use this  as a think tank, use what works for you, discard the rest. We all want you to succeed.....................take care...................pnwc


    very good ideas and having maybe a 50/50 split is something we will have to seriously consider.  No matter what though you are right.  We will need to have to be QUICK
    #14
    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/05 03:49:54 (permalink)
    mikejames533

    One of our best sellers to the school kids was a french bread type pizza. We would take a hoagie roll with our killer homemade pizza sauce, good quality cheese and toppings and bake them. We made 3 or 4 different varieties each day and held them in a pizza warming cabinet.
    Our 3 best sellers were cheese, pepperoni, and cheese burger. The cheese burger had bun, sauce, fine ground up hamburger, a few dill pickle slices, mozz and cheddar cheese. I know crazy to put pickles on pizza! Just try it once, you may change your mind...We sold a ton of them every day.


    Thats an awesome idea, briefly thought of personal pizzas but didn't think of something like that.  Need to look into this.  Definately will be talking to Ice in the morning about this one. 
     
    And just off the top of my head I can see that being a reatively lower cost item, so can keep the price down and still have a decent mark up on it
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    fgold
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/05 03:54:24 (permalink)
    Foodbme

    A school lunch crowd would be the LAST group I'd go after. That's why schools have cafeteria lines---so they can move a lot of pimple faced kids thru the lunch process quickly. You would need 3-4 pre-made, pre-wrapped items to hand them, collect the money, hand it to them and get out of here!
    Same with workplaces. Most workplaces only have a 1/2 hour lunch break. That means less than 15 minutes to eat, by the time they get to your truck, eat, go to the John and go back to work. You can't thruput enough customers in 15 minutes to make any significant money. You need to re-think your target markets.


    I appreciate your opinion and we will/have been thinking about this.  Right now, this is going to be our target but we will not be so stubborn to not consider other things and keep an open mind

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    JodyP
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/06 09:02:49 (permalink)
    Based on what you have said so far I think that your basic menu of burgers, hotdogs and fries are going to be big sellers with your targeted market. The school and sporting event crowds will be the easiest to please. Just raise the bar and serve a decent product. Considering most of the sporting crowd has been eating burgers and dogs wrapped in foil for years, then getting served a fresh product will astonish them.  There are techniques for pre-cooking for faster service and setting up your work flow for production. At the baseball games most of your rush will be between the games. The school will probably be a little harder because of the limited amount of time the students have for lunch.
     
    Keep it as simple as possible. You can always have daily specials to shake it up a little. Concentrate on doing a few items really great then add to it. I think that with your market you can get buy some frozen products such as the fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, etc. Bottom line it’s no different then the food most of the food establishments sell.
     
    I wouldn’t be trying to compete with the gourmet food trucks. Remember that your cliental will be happier with a decent burger and hotdog than a tofu taco. With the fryers onboard adding wings, corn dogs, chicken strips, etc. will add to and build your menu and keep your customers happy.
    #17
    Buck & Vi's
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/10 19:56:16 (permalink)
    PNWCHEF

    FGold, like Mike said, fast is the key to dealing with both Schools and factory workers, Buck (Buck &Vi) has a Food truck in Florida located at a work place, he will give you some incite on how they are never happy, prices are always to high, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. You have worked as a waiter, think of how it would be having 30 or 40 people coming into the Restaurant, all wanting the food now, and having to be out in 10 or 15 minutes. I would think about doing a 50/50 with 50% being pre made Subs/hoagies, and whatever else could be pre made and still be  a quality product. The other 50% could be fresh hot fries coming out of the fryer along with burgers and other grilled items that could be made in volume on a grill.
    The members on this site will always stress quality, use this  as a think tank, use what works for you, discard the rest. We all want you to succeed.....................take care...................pnwc


    yes SOME workers are never satisfied.prices are always to high portions to small.. luckily most of our people are very respectful of our profit margins and help us out. but we have had the usual shortfalls once i put a whole box of 1/2 &1/2 creamers on the coffee table at the end of the day the creamers were more than 1/2 gone this particular day we only sold about 15 cups of coffee there are about 170 creamers in box?? a guy told me a know there putting those creamers in there lockers right?...well I took the creamers out and replaced with powdered stuff(yuck!)everybody complained i told them of the incident after that they policed the problem themselves, we are back to creamers again.but anyways  we learned to "streamline" with allot of help from some nice folks here... yes we do still get "in the weeds" key here is to offer dishes that you can make inexpensive and have a good perception of value, offer them at a good price and you'll do great!by the way they have a  cafe' at the main plant which has state of the art everything , bakery,walkins, every oven known to man,flat tops, char broilers, convection,freezers, coolers, heaters, dish washing station, table settings for 200+white linen table cloths, w/flowers .......................people still get on the shuttle and come to eat OUR food. so we must be doin sumpin right..... thanks to billy, craig, 
    #18
    chefbuba
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/10 23:49:14 (permalink)
    I'll be expecting my dividend check on the first.
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    pnwchef
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/11 08:49:24 (permalink)
    chefbuba

    I'll be expecting my dividend check on the first.


    Craig, we should never have messed with nature, we created "Frankinbuck" he started out rough around the edges, after some fine tuning we were able to put him into the general population. After a year, he is doing well and most people think he's normal, we both know the real story.............pnwc
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    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:food truck menu questions 2011/12/11 13:12:33 (permalink)
    PNWCHEF Craig, we should never have messed with nature, we created "Frankinbuck" he started out rough around the edges, after some fine tuning we were able to put him into the general population. After a year, he is doing well and most people think he's normal, we both know the real story.............pnwc

     
    LMAO thank you for a great laugh on a Sunday. Laughing with you Buck not at you. LOL
    #21
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