See why it’s a good idea to keep the number of menu options low on a food truck
Food trucks are mini restauranteurs on wheels that serve pretty much any type of food you can think of. From Caribbean jerk chicken and dirty burgers to hot bowls of Vietnamese Pho and crispy fried chicken.
However, food trucks differ from restaurants in several important ways which means they often can’t provide the variety that restaurants can and have fewer menu options.
So if you are looking to start a food truck and have landed on this article you may be wondering how many menu items should a food truck have?
It’s good practice for a food truck to have a limited menu of around 6-12 options which include main meals, side dishes, and a selection of drinks. One of the reasons for this is food trucks have limited space in comparison to restaurants or cafes for preparing and cooking food.
There are also several other important reasons why it’s a good idea to limit the amount of food truck menu items which I will go into more detail, along with how to create a good food truck menu.
Food truck menu items
There are several important reasons why you should limit the number of main meal options on your food truck menu to around 6-12.
Paradox of choice
When you give people too many choices it can impact their decision-making and put a barrier between your product and the customer.
This is known as the “Paradox of Choice” and can be further compounded when you are at a food festival where there are several other food trucks lined up selling a whole host of food and drink.
To make it easier for your customer to make a choice it’s therefore good practice to limit your food options.
Less is more
There is a lot of truth in the adage of doing more with less, and this is certainly true when it comes to the mobile catering industry.
Successful food trucks often focus on a popular niche and do a few food items well, rather than spreading themselves too thinly with multiple options.
This in turn can give the impression to the customer that you specialise in a certain area of expertise and increase the likelihood that customers buy more.
Having a large food menu means you need to buy multiple different amounts of ingredients to make the finished product. This means you are more likely to get food waste from left-over or unsold ingredients which in turn means your overall food costs will be higher.
Inventory & quality control
Having fewer food options on your menu not only helps to reduce food waste and lower operating costs but also helps with inventory and quality.
Having fewer ingredients means it’s easier to source products and keep track of what you have and need for the week ahead. And focusing on a few dishes also means you can keep a better eye on the quality of the food that’s being sold to customers.
Not only does having a small menu on your food truck help with things like reducing food waste and inventory control but it also helps with concept clarity.
This is where you convey your image and what you do to your customers in the most effective way possible. Think of a food truck that does both burgers and pizzas. Would you say they specialize in burgers or pizza? I would say this is a prime example of a vague concept.
More options mean more running around sourcing stock, prepping the ingredients, and cooking the food. This time could be spent more wisely such as running the day-to-day operation, securing pitches at events, and cooking and selling your delicious products to the public.
Limited space and equipment
Unlike restaurants and cafes, food trucks and trailers have limited space which means the amount of commercial catering equipment is also limited.
Unless you have a commercial kitchen away from your food truck where you can cook additional food, this makes cooking food in very large quantities challenging. A limited menu option will make your life easier and help to maximize the limited space available.
How to create a food truck menu
Now you know the most effective number of food items on your menu, it’s time to create your food truck menu.
Here are a few tips to create the best menu you can and hopefully boost sales and your bottom line:
Keep the choice low
As discussed in the article one of the most important steps in creating a food truck menu is to keep the menu options low.
Choose a niche
The most important thing you can do when creating a food truck menu is to choose a niche. Pick a national cuisine that is in demand and not too obscure and make a range of dishes within that. Think Caribbean, Indian, Vietnamese, or a vegan theme.
A good tip is to see what other restaurants, cafes, and food trucks are popular and emulate what is working for them.
Choose quick-cooking foods
Food that is quick to cook will save you a lot of preparation and cooking time. Products like burgers and hotdogs can be cooked in minutes.
Have cross-over ingredients
A menu that has a lot of the same ingredients across multiple options means you will more likely save on not only the time sourcing the food but also food costs and food waste.
The more your wholesale costs are for ingredients the less your net profit will be at the end of the day. Dishes that contain mostly meat will be higher than food that has no meat in it such as vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Have An Uncluttered Menu Board
You want people to be able to read your menu clearly and concisely which means plenty of white or clear space between text with high-definition pictures.
It’s also about the type of font you use as some types of text are harder to read than others. You want customers to be able to read it from a distance.
Add A Drinks Menu
Adding drink options is a good way to increase sales as people will often buy a drink with their main meal. This is also known in many industries as “upselling”, which is a technique used to increase customers’ overall spending on smaller supplementary items.
Easily Updatable Menu
Over time your food truck offering will no doubt change which means you will be updating your menu. It’s therefore a good idea to choose a menu design and material that can easily be amended.
Menu boards that can either be written on or have sticky elements that can be added or removed are good options. Digital menus are obviously the most ideal for updates since they can be changed in a matter of seconds.