Let’s Truck In Some Sanity, Shall We, Restauranteurs?

The strangest thing about the food truck debate in Chicago is why it’s taken so long to resolve, considering every other town is doing it.

The second strangest thing is why brick-and-mortar restaurants are this upset about the prospect of a food truck parking nearby. Why? If they looked a little deeper into who their audience was and developing their own brands, they probably wouldn’t have the burning desire to turn over a truck. Here’s why.

If I run a moderately priced restaurant that’s built a loyal following, I have a certain clientele who is willing to pay far more than the average meal wrapped in aluminum. This is not true competition for me. I know my guests are going to keep coming because my food is quality and consistent.

If I truly run a restaurant that competes with a food truck, I have to realize that it could’ve just as easily been another type of brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened next to me or across the street offering cuisine within the same category and pricing. It’s the nature of the ultra-competitive business I’ve chosen in hospitality. And it wasn’t going to get any easier, food trucks or not. Does this call for changing up the menu, enhancing the environment, creating a better loyalty program (I don’t necessarily mean a Groupon), hosting events for greater publicity, etc.? What can you do within your establishment that a food truck couldn’t hope to offer? Some of these restaurants are competing on a plane that they don’t have to be and frankly, missing their brand’s vision and target completely.

Let’s also play Devil’s Advocate here – it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that a food truck that brings traffic near your restaurant could spill into your restaurant, driving customers in through the door that otherwise might not have been aware of your presence.

Rather than seeing a food truck as the enemy, better to focus on making the entire dining experience of your restaurant as sensationally memorable as possible. Creative food offerings. Ordering on iPads at the table. Online ordering that remembers the person’s favorite meal from last time. Special appetizers that arrive at the table unexpectedly for long-time customers.

Your biggest competitor may be the one within your own mind that exudes more of the same and traditional. Take your eye off the truck and focus on your own brand. The positive implications of doing so are far more delicious.

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