I wanted to talk to you about food truck menu pricing, and my thoughts on why I'm priced higher than most. There are many things that go into your pricing equation. The cost of goods is the base for this equation, but there is more to it. You need to look at your market and what it will bear. You need to look at your competition: is there anyone offering this product in your area? Is it a new item to the truck and area? Is it a labor-intensive item to make? Is it a very expensive item to produce, like lobster?
Food Truck Menu Pricing: Nobody Will Pay That!
When I started Love Hot Dog Co. in 2012, I was offering exotic game sausages like Elk with apple pear and port wine, Crocodile andouille, and Hickory smoked ostrich with pistachio. My pricing for sausages were $8-12.00 each. Everyone said “no one will buy a sausage for that!” Challenge accepted, and I started to sell out on a regular basis. I started to change-up the menu every week, by offering six exotics. I started to tease on social media about what is coming in next week.
Food Truck Menu: Try Something Different
I also started to make traditional New England Lobster Rolls on my Love Hot Dog Co. trailer in Skippack, Pa. No one offered lobster rolls in the area, let alone from a hot dog trailer in a farmers market parking lot! Everyone thought I was crazy and advised me against adding this to my menu. But, as people say, I march to the beat of my own drum. I went ahead and added the lobster roll to the menu at $12.00 and it was an instant hit. It began to have its own cult following through our social media.
I stopped frying in my trucks a few years ago. I hate the mess in the truck. I like to do different things that you don't see everywhere. I took my fryer and filled it with water and did low country boil bags with drunken street corn (poached in the breweries' beer). At these breweries, I charged $15.00 for the low country boil and $4.00 for the drunken street corn.
Two years ago I decided to offer cold brewed coffee on Nitro. No one was really doing cold brew, or serving it on nitro. We added a 32 oz. cold brewed coffee to the menu for $4.00 and a punch in the face shot (espresso shot) for $1.00. It was a local roaster's beans that was called Punch In The Face. We branded it for our use.
Ok, enough examples, let's “eat the meat and throw out the bones” as Ben says.
Food Truck Pricing: How to Compete
What do I mean by “don't be the cheapest truck”? If you have followed me on Hot Dog Vendor Radio or Street Food Vendor Pro you have heard me say time and time again “don't lower your price, raise it” to any number of questions. Earlier this year raised my base catering rates from $12-14.00 to $18-20.00 per head and in the following months we were booking more work than we did at the cheaper base pricing!
If another vendor sets up near you, don't lower your prices to compete, raise them! Offer a better product and service and charge more for it. Be the more expensive truck that offers the item the customers don't see in your area and charge for it! When you lower your price to “compete” you can be viewed as a lesser quality truck which has its own set of problems.
Better Quality, Greater Value, Higher Price
I compete by raising my prices and offering a better quality item. It has worked well for me in my street vending and catering. Don't be afraid to not be the cheapest truck out there. Offer a better product with a better perceived value! Make sure your truck is the cleanest, offers the most unique, freshest product. Make sure your uniform is clean, condiment bottles are clean etc. This is all part of your brand that leads to you having a a better perceived value than the cheaper truck. Don't be afraid to price what you think the market will bear or a little higher.
Don't be afraid to price what you think the market will bear or a little higher. I recently talked with Cory, a vendor from MS, who just recently added Lobster Rolls to his O'Doggy's location and cart. He is at $15.00 per lobster roll and killing it. He started by using his social media to tease prior to the launch of the lobster roll and then continues to use it to educate people as to when and where they can enjoy the newest rage to hit this small town.
In closing, don't be afraid to charge a little more than the average truck!
Many thanks to Jason for sharing his expert wisdom on food truck menu pricing. He's built an amazing business on street food and catering, and if you're looking for a person to learn from, check out the Love Food Truck Company. And if you want to meet other expert caterers and street food pros, check out Vendors United.