Restaurants on wheels are staying competitive with the latest apps and technology.
Food truck growth is outpacing traditional food service options by 1.1 percent, according to Intuit. As more and more food trucks hit the road, you'll need to stay ahead of the competition. One way to stand out is through technology.
New software and hardware are allowing food trucks to become more efficient and convenient for customers. For instance, there are hundreds of POS systems out there, optimized or specifically designed for food truck use. To get the word out or draw in hungry customers come lunchtime, invest in marketing apps that can geo-track your location and let users know where your food truck is and where you will be throughout the day. Other technology can make your truck's presentation more impressive to your customers, like digital menus and food safety software.
Not only do traditional POS hardware and cash registers needlessly take up space, but they are prone to malfunction. If you're mobile and have a long line of customers, you won't have time to stop and fix your register. Instead, opt for a POS solution that's just as mobile as your restaurant. There are several POS systems that require little hardware and setup, with some optimized for food trucks and other mobile food businesses.
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- TouchBistro is a restaurant POS system that offers a food truck setup, which requires minimum hardware. The interface is accessible through an iPad or computer over a local network. The system connects to a cloud network, but it can function without a constant connection to the internet. A customer-facing feature allows you to show customers photos of menu items that they can select. Pricing starts at $69 per month for one iPad license. There are plans that give you more licenses, including an unlimited plan for $399.
- ShopKeep is a POS system that also acts as an inventory tracker. You can select menu items to track the number of ingredients used and tally it up in an inventory screen. ShopKeep can come with the hardware you need or accommodate equipment that you already have. A marketing feature also allows you to sign your customers up for an email list when they opt to receive their receipt by email so that you can send them news and coupons. The service starts at $2.50 per day.
- Square is known as one of the go-to POS solutions for a merchant or restaurant on the go. The card reader attachment and app are compatible with iPhone and iPads as well as most major Android phones and tablets. Square's app is highly customizable, allowing you to adjust taxes, discounts and other factors for payments. The Square card reader itself is convenient with its headphone jack plug-in. The magnetic strip version is free, and the card chip reader is $30. The initial app is free with no subscription fees. Instead, Square charges a 2.75 percent fee for every card payment. Square also offers POS kits with receipt printers and stands, and it has add-ons that can manage your payroll, e-commerce and marketing.
Marketing and location apps
There are dozens of applications and services for locating food trucks. It's advisable to get on as many as possible, at least all the major ones, especially if they offer more features to market your business.
- Food Moves is a tracking app that lets customers know where your food truck is located. In turn, it gives you feedback and analytics to help you find better routes and locations to set up your truck. It also connects to your social media accounts like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and updates them all for you simultaneously. You can set up your food truck's profile to post pictures, a full menu and your business hours. Food Moves is also great for finding farmers markets. To join the app as a food truck, it's $24 per month.
- Roaming Hunger is an app that can track your truck, and it displays that data to customers through its website and app, but it also connects you to people who want to hire you for events and catering. Organizers for festivals, block parties and other events can find your business on Roaming Hunger and contact you. It shows your availability and what you serve, and it's free to sign up.
- You can make your own mobile app with Appy Pie. Impress customers by introducing them to your own mobile app where they can see where your truck is, view a menu, order food, sign up for a loyalty program and get coupons. Appy Pie allows you to build an HTML5 app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Amazon devices without the need of coding skills. The free version shows ads on your app; paid versions without ads start at $15 per month.
Improve your truck's presentation by using digital display screens for menus that can be mounted to the side of your truck.
- NEC Display Solutions is a company that specializes in commercial display screens, including digital menus. They come in several different sizes, are made for long periods of use and can be relatively weather-resistant.
- ScreenCloud is a digital signage application that allows you to display your digital menu on just about any screen through cloud devices such as Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromebit and Android TV. You can pick from different templates or build your menu from scratch. There are plenty of add-ons, such as a Twitter or Instagram feed, YouTube display, and event calendar. ScreenCloud is $20 per month.
- ElectroMenu is a signage company that offers an all-in-one display system that doesn't need to be connected to a computer. ElectroMenu uses its own design and CMS to create your menus and can also be used over the cloud. This company offers different quotes depending on your needs.
- FreshCheq is a food safety application that helps you log food and device temperatures. Keep an eye on your refrigerator's temperatures so you know when it's time to fix or replace it. Food safety can be a concern with food trucks, so FreshCheq generates reports from your logs to show health inspectors to help ensure you get a passing grade. FreshCheq also offers its own certification that you earn by passing its test and can display on your truck.