When I launched the first Bro-Ritos food truck in 2016, my goals were realistic: I wanted to share my delicious burrito recipes with foodies across the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, establish a fun and energetic brand, and cover my bills.
By mid-2020, even with COVID in full force, I was fortunate to have reached my objectives and I saw that it was possible for me and my two partners to potentially earn a living with Bro-Ritos. But for that to happen, we had to add at least one new truck to our burgeoning mobile restaurant hustle.
I didn’t have a roadmap to follow to help minimize mistakes and maximize returns, so I relied on my intuition and food industry background. Thankfully, the moves I made turned out to be the right ones, and I now want to share them with my fellow food truck owners who are aiming to reach more customers as efficiently and profitably as possible:
1. Crunch your numbers.
Data doesn’t lie, so really dig into your stats if you’re thinking about adding a new truck. In Bro-Rito’s case, a single truck made it possible for us to handle three to four on-location gigs in a weekend, but we were turning down many other opportunities. These lost bookings left a lot, and I mean a LOT, of money on the table! As soon as we launched our second truck, we immediately doubled our revenue by locking in additional gigs. Also, expanding our capacity meant we were able to get much better prices on all our supplies and ingredients, which instantly escalated our profits.
Finally, when looking at the required investment for a second truck, we were able to keep it affordable by getting a used truck (we found it on Craigslist) and having the same cooking equipment installed that we had on our first truck—which we knew how to economically operate and maintain. The bottom line: experience gives you insights on how to control your costs and boost your net, so leverage that crucial knowledge when analyzing potential expansion.
2. Recruit and train top-tier teams.
By hiring and preparing team members who are invested in your (and their) success, you’ll be poised to make lucrative fleet growth a real possibility. Teach them all the pivots, variables, and “what if’s?” that could arise during a shift. Ensure that they understand the importance of top-notch customer service, excellent product output, and the smooth running of your food production “machine.” If you’re serious about scaling, you absolutely must be very serious about finding capable, proactive, and enthusiastic employees to properly run and represent your food truck business and brand.
3. Establish product consistency.
It’s essential to maintain the high quality of your product from truck to truck. Your crowd-pleasing recipes should be simple for your teams to follow, easy to replicate, and 100 percent uniform in each of your vehicles. Creating such stability will make life better for you (it will drive repeat business from catering and event clients), your team (they’ll have fun serving thrilled buyers), and your customers (they’ll enjoy the dependable and excellent meals that your trucks deliver and rave about them on social media).
An additional note on consistency to keep in mind: the idea of replicable processes and functional uniformity also applies to your cooking equipment and vehicles, which for the purposes of operation, maintenance, and repairs should be the same across your fleet.
4. Be patient, smart, and strategic with your expansion plans.
A fatal mistake that I’ve seen food truck owners make who were too eager to scale up was launching multiple trucks without truly knowing how to handle just one. From overseeing the food aspects (inventory, recipe creation, prep); operating and maintaining their equipment; building a talented team; having a firm handle on the P/L, ROI, and other financial essentials; and even understanding where/how to park their vehicles to serve customers, these first-timers were woefully unprepared for the game. When it comes to widening your food truck fleet, getting deep into the business and managing your cash flow are the game-changers that will move you forward.
I give props to any budding entrepreneurs who are passionate about food, have a clear vision (and tasty recipe), and are prepped to take a dive into the food truck industry. Once they hit the road and see that their offerings have traction in the marketplace, it’s important for them to slow their roll and carefully plan their next moves in order to reduce their risk and shore up their chances for expansion success.
Marcus Crawford is the award-winning owner of Bro-Ritos, a food truck business that serves the NYC/NJ metro area. Marcus' work has been featured in Food Truck Operator, Boozy Burbs, and Parade, which selected Bro-Ritos as one of the top black-owned eateries in the country.