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Developing The Perfect Menu For Your Food Trailer
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Developing the Perfect Menu for Your Food Trailer

Any food service within the food industry has its menu at the heart of its operations. The menu supplies meaning to the overarching concept of the food truck and it determines the truck’s competitive advantage, target market, and its customers’ expectations.

Given its importance, it is your food trailer’s most influential marketing tool – and, furthermore, it’s also connected to every other aspect of your food service operation. It influences your catering truck’s purchasing and budgeting, the equipment and supplies that you choose for your food truck business, the staffing and training you employ for your business, and the marketing approach and strategy that your truck enlists. With this in mind, it’s easy to see that the development of your menu is integral to the success of your business.

Now, when you think of a “menu,” you probably first think of the items that you want to sell to your customers; however, your menu entails much more. You first must decide on the type of menu and menu cycle that you will be offering. There are three types of menus: a la carte menu (this is the most common menu in which starters, main courses and desserts are all separately priced and ordered), table d’hote menu (this is known as a fixed price menu in which a specific combination of courses has already been determined for a fixed price), and a mixed menu (this menu combines the first and second types of menus aforementioned).

As a mobile food vendor, you will also have to decide the cycle of your menu. You may plan for your menu to be static or cyclical. A static menu offers the same items everyday; however, it also allows for temporary additions to the menu for daily, weekly or seasonal specials. This menu type is great for predicting general trends in orders. A cyclical menu is one that changes periodically - on a daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis. This type of menu allows your food trailer to take advantage of the freshest local seasonal meats and produce.

So, once you determine the type of menu you want to have, you’re ready to determine the menu items you want to offer to your customers. First ask yourself, do you want traditional dishes that are easily recognizable or do you want your catering truck to offer exquisite, unique (or one-of-a-kind) dishes? As you develop your menu, you will need to consider quite a few factors. As a food trailer business, your customers expect speed and reliability. Many times – especially in the case of first timers – your customers are visiting your mobile food stand out of convenience. Ensure that your menu items can be prepared quickly and efficiently.

What else? When determining your menu items, always consider your chef’s expertise, the budgeting you have for each menu item (always determine your food costs!), the demographics of the market you plan on serving, and what the competition is doing. Before you finalize your menu, it’s best to test your food trailer’s menu items on your target market so that you can assess reactions and make adjustments accordingly.

The next step to developing your menu is pricing each item out. In order to do so, you’ll have to calculate the food costs – or the direct costs - of each item. The easiest way to do this is to breakdown each item by the ingredients it takes to create it, and then add up the costs of each ingredient (per amount used). For your food truck, you’ll also need to consider the average income of your target market, indirect costs (such as labor and rent), and your competitions’ pricing.

Lastly, you need to write and design your menu. Since your menu is your top marketing tool, it should be well designed, simple and creative. The items on your menu should be named appropriately, each with short, enticing descriptions. In the end, your menu should guide the customers’ attentions while ordering.


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