From Food Truck to Restaurant: Expanding Your Business

Friday, September 2, 2016 - 11:26
From Food Truck to Restaurant: Expanding Your Business

Food trucks are a great way to get started in the food industry. You can experiment with your concept, menu and branding. Once you’ve hit a formula that works, gained experience, and built a reputation you can consider expanding your business.

Expansion won’t be plain sailing: opening a fixed location isn’t quite the same as running a successful food truck. There are higher overhead costs associated with a physical location, and this substantially changes the nature of your business. In addition, you’re no longer a mobile business and there are additional local authority obligations to meet.

If you’ve experienced success with a food truck then you’ve perfected your menu, built a brand, and learned a lot about your customers. How do you take the next step and open a restaurant?

 

Fixed Premises: from Wheels to a Long Term Lease

Operating from a fixed location is a big difference from a truck. As a result, you'll have to think very carefully about where you want to have your restaurant - you’ll become part of a community and, ideally, it’ll be one that’s a good fit for you and your brand.

You’ll also need to think about rates, local competition and marketing opportunities. Then local authority regulations and food standards come into play. These additional considerations might even necessitate a change in company structure as you might want to limit your personal liability. You’ll need to talk to your accountant about your options.

One way to limit risk is to move your food truck around to test the different locations under consideration. This way, you can try different areas - and meet your new local customers - before you commit to a particular location.

Different Customer Expectations. Creating a Dining Experience

Rather than providing your customer with a quick bite to eat when they’re out and about, they’ll have different expectations when you open a restaurant. With a truck, you’ve not had to think too much about the design and delivery of a complete dining experience. What will your restaurant look like and feel like? The decor and feel of your restaurant matter a great deal.

You have to think holistically when you run a sit-down restaurant. Ultimately, how will you deliver a memorable dining experience for your customers? They probably aren’t just seeking minimalist take away food if they’re going to take the time to sit down and enjoy a meal at your restaurant.

 

Keep Truckin’? - Why You Shouldn’t Necessarily Ditch the Truck

It might be worth finding a place for your trusty truck in your expanded business. You’re obviously good at the format given that you’re considering expanding into a permanent location.

Another idea on how to utilise your food truck is to use the truck for special events or private catering. With your burgeoning reputation, you could charge a premium to get your excellent dining experience on the road.

Paradoxically, it might even be easier to run the mobile business once you have a fixed location. You can use the new location as a central hub for food preparation. Maybe this means you can offer a more complex menu out on the road, which would give you an edge over the mobile competition.

You’ve Made Your Truck a Success - Keep the Momentum Going!

You’ve obviously done a lot right. But you need to recognise that you’re playing a different game when you open a fixed-location restaurant: what worked in a mobile format might not work so well with a restaurant.

Think about and prepare how your restaurant will work in practice. Bring the most successful aspects of your mobile experience into your new restaurant venture, but also be aware that you’ll need to incorporate crucial restaurant knowledge. Take help with this wherever you can get it.

A successful small, mobile food business does not guarantee a successful larger, fixed food business. Consider how you’ll adapt your business to be successful in the new setting of a restaurant. Above all, never forget why you started it in the first place.

Nick Blackbourn