Food truck growth is outpacing traditional food service options by 1.1%, 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 that have been 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 point-of-sale (POS) hardware and cash registers needlessly take up space, but they are prone to malfunction. If you have a mobile business and a long line of customers, you won't have time to stop and fix your register. Instead, opt for a top 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 that requires minimal 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. Some plans give you more licenses, including an unlimited plan for $399. Learn more in our review of TouchBistro.
ShopKeep by Lightspeed
ShopKeep by Lightspeed 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 them 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 $49 per month. Learn more in our review of Lightspeed.
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 iPhones and iPads as well as most major Android devices. 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 plugin. The magnetic stripe version is free, and the card chip reader is $30. The initial app is free, with no subscription fees. Instead, Square charges a fee of 2.6% plus 10 cents 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. Learn more in our review of Square.
Toast is a restaurant-focused POS system that offers multiple options and add-ons, depending on your business's needs. Its Starter Kit package – which includes a terminal, cash drawer and payment device – is perfect for food trucks that need a flexible and mobile POS solution. The company also offers pay-as-you-go pricing (2.99% plus 15 cents per transaction). Other perks include digital ordering solution add-ons and the ability to update your online menu quickly. Learn more in our review of Toast.
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.
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.
Truck Spotting lets your customers know where to find you each day. The app uses GPS technology to let diners know precisely where your truck is stationed. Additionally, it provides users with advanced weekly schedules to let them know where to find you next time as well as a list of menu items to let them know what you are serving each day.
While running a successful food truck requires excellent food, it also requires you to hustle when it comes to marketing. If no one knows about your truck and the great food you offer, building up a consistent customer base will be challenging. That's why you need a quality website and both email and text message marketing tools.
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 for coding skills. While it is free to build an app, the free version shows ads on your app. For ad-free apps and continued use of Appy Pie services, you will need a paid plan, starting at $15 per month.
TextMagic is a powerful, easy-to-use text messaging marketing platform that is perfect for businesses on the go. Keep your customers updated on daily changes, from locations to menu offerings to limited-time promotions. TextMagic's software is accessible from your smartphone or computer and allows for two-way SMS chat with customers. Inbound messaging is free; outbound messaging begins at 4 cents per text.
Mailchimp remains among the most popular email marketing solutions available, primarily due to its user-friendly interface and availability of features. You can send out location updates, surveys and information with the click of a button. You can also use the platform's integrations to schedule pickup times for customers. Mailchimp offers a robust free version of its service, though multiple paid plans exist for businesses needing additional features.
GPS fleet tracking apps
Not only is it vital for customers to know where you are, but if you have more than one food truck, it's important to know where your drivers and vehicles are. To help with this task, many businesses rely on top GPS fleet tracking software.
With "to-the-second" GPS tracking, Samsara allows you to keep track of your drivers' and vehicles' locations in real time. The platform also provides preventive reminders and over-the-air vehicle diagnostics to prevent truck breakdowns. Pricing will vary by the number of vehicles and features you plan to use, and you'll need to fill out a brief survey on the website for more detailed information. However, free trials and demos are available. Learn more in our review of Samsara.
Powered by Google Maps, GPS Trackit offers interactive maps and geofencing to keep track of your food trucks' locations. The all-in-one cloud platform also has a host of other fleet features, from dash cams to data analysis. One handy feature is the asset and vehicle theft protection, which sends alerts whenever there is unauthorized movement or suspected theft, even during off hours. Because there are no contracts, you'll need to fill out GPS Trackit's contact form and speak to a fleet advisor for pricing information.
If you're looking to get started quickly with GPS fleet tracking, Azuga takes the cake with its easy-to-navigate software and plug-and-play hardware. The software gives you a complete view of all your vehicles in one centralized location, and it even has a simple-to-use mobile app for both business owners and drivers. Azuga's artificial intelligence cameras can also send you automatic driver safety alerts. You can obtain a custom pricing quote by filling out a brief survey based on your business; however, keep in mind that Azuga requires customers to sign a three-year contract. Learn more in our review of Azuga.
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
NEC Display Solutions is a company that specializes in commercial display screens, including digital menus. These screens come in several different sizes, are made for long periods of use and 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 content management system to create your menus, and it can also be used over the cloud. Prices vary depending on your needs.
To keep customers coming back, you must provide them with a great experience. One bad meal and you may lose someone forever. That is why you must always ensure you are serving fresh and properly stored food.
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.
Sean Peek contributed to the writing and research in this article.