The leaves are changing, signaling an end to summer and the onset of winter. During the cold season, many food truck owners choose to hibernate and regroup. Some food trucks, though, find ways to keep their operations humming and their cash registers ringing even during snowy weather. Whether you hibernate or operate is up to you and your business, but there are a few things all food trucks should do to plan for the offseason.
On average, food trucks experience a 50% drop in sales during winter operations. With this in mind, you need to decide whether it’s financially feasible to continue operations and maintain payroll or if it would be better to close up shop and re-open when outdoor foot traffic will be higher. It’s also important to set aside extra cash during the summer season to help you through the winter dip.
As you gather your receipts, now is a good time to take stock of where your business is financially and to plan for your future. Map out a strategy for a successful summer season next year by analyzing what worked well this year and what didn’t.
Ask yourself if you are prepared for contingencies. Do you have an emergency fund if your truck or equipment needs to be repaired or replaced? Are you properly insured? If you died or became disabled, would your family be taken care of? Remember that FLIP can help you structure the best insurance plan to cover your general liability needs and to purchase an affordable life and disability policy.
APPLY NOW FOR NEXT YEAR'S EVENTS
While you are mapping out next year’s strategy, make sure to check the due dates for applications for farmers’ markets, expos, food festivals, and other opportunities for your food truck. Many events require applications up to a year before the event is held.
These venues may require you to add them as an additional insured on your liability policy.
With a FLIP annual policy, you can add as many additional insureds to your 12-month policy as you need at no additional cost. Having FLIP insurance for general liability coverage this year can save you a bundle of money! If your insurance policy requires you to pay for each additional insured, switch to FLIP now.
WINTERIZE YOUR TRUCK
Cold weather can wreak havoc upon your food truck and your equipment. Some food truck owners suggest placing heaters near water tanks and cooking equipment so they don’t freeze and burst.
Vehicle maintenance is important all year round, but if you plan on operating during the winter months, make sure you perform repairs, check your tires, and change your oil and filters.
If you plan on storing your truck, there are some additional things you should do to make sure your truck runs well next spring:
- Prevent Rust – Spray down hinges and metal parts with WD-40. Simply use a degreaser next spring to wipe it off.
- Seal Rubber – Use a rubber sealer after you have wiped everything down to prevent cracking. Replace any parts that have dried and cracked under the hot sun.
- Remove Food – This should go without saying, but remove any food, grease, cooking oils, or other items that might spoil or attract rodents.
- Wash and Clean Your Truck – This will keep your painted surfaces nice for the following year. Consider doing any sprucing or touch-ups now.
- Disconnect Your Battery – Make sure to continue maintenance on your battery every few weeks throughout the winter or keep your battery on a battery charger at the ‘maintain’ setting.
- Empty Your Water Tanks – Blow out your pipes and add insulation.
- Rodent-Proof – Don’t put mothballs or rat poison in your truck. Instead, block access to rodents by stuffing your exhaust pipe with steel wool and consider raising your truck off the ground. Just remember to remove the steel wool before starting your truck next spring!
DIVERSIFY AND TRANSITION
If you do want to continue operating your truck this winter, plan ahead by conducting marketing promotions, collaborating with other food truck owners, finding new opportunities, and creating a winter menu. Here are a few ideas to enhance your winter food truck operations:
- Look for winter fests, indoor festivals, Christmas shows, New Year’s celebrations, or other holiday events which draw crowds and foot traffic. Apply to be a vendor.
- Transition into a catering business. Check with local businesses for meeting or event opportunities and offer to cater lunches.
- Allow your customers to order and then deliver their food to their cars.
- Collaborate with other food truck owners to park in a fixed location to draw a crowd.
- Offer additional items with your menu. Hand warmers, branded snow hats, mittens, coffee mugs, or other gear can be attractive impulse buys for cold customers.
Do you have any other ideas to help your fellow food truck owners survive the coming winter months? Tell us about your winter strategy.
BY LYNDSEY LARSEN
Lyndsey Larsen is an experienced writer with a background in corporate communications nonprofits, SAAS corporations, and nutraceutical companies. She has previously worked as a journalist for regional and national publications. In her spare time, she enjoys chasing butterflies, rockhounding, and spending time with her two kids in Utah’s mountains or deserts. Find Lyndsey on LinkedIn.