On the reality show, The Great Food Truck Race, seven teams compete for a grand prize of $50,000. Each team has a very different background and a very different approach to food. By watching these contestents, we get to learn what works and what doesn’t. This week we’re learning about what it takes to develop successful food truck menus.
For the first episode in Season 8, the teams focused on developing a menu from the ground up—and each group learned a little bit about the value of crafting a great selection along the way.
The First Challenge: Getting Creative with Menu Items
For their first challenge, each group was charged with making a new food truck menu item—their own twist on a beignet, which is a fried-dough that can be sweet or savory. They also had to immediately sell the item to customers in the French Market in New Orleans – where the locals are quite familiar with beignets.
The winner of the challenge got to add to their “seed money,” which is the money they can use to purchase supplies and inventory for their truck.
Every food truck used in this show had its own amazing internal setup, complete with prep space, refrigerator, and cooktops and stoves. Each of these mobile kitchens was the same, but what varied was how the team wrapped each truck to complement their theme.
The teams involved in this show were very creative. They each had a very different take on the same basic food. Some chose to focus on the “stuffing” of the beignet, while others made sure that their presentation and side items were on point. Some teams sold out of their beignets while others struggled to make sales.
Takeaway: Be Creative. Your menu ideas may sound ordinary, but you make them extraordinary by choosing an unexpected twist on traditional ingredients. Attract people to your food truck by being creative with your signage.
Getting Ingredients and Crafting Food Truck Menu Items
Once the first challenge was over, the teams used the money they earned from beignet sales to start getting supply ingredients. Most of the teams began with basic recipes that they have tested and had used over and over again.
To force teams to mix things up, the next challenge was to create a “Hurricane-based” food, which required the teams to use orange, passion fruit, and lime in a dish. Hurricanes are an alcoholic drink that is a local favorite in New Orleans. The teams played off these classic New Orleans tastes in an attempt to impress both regular customers and a well-known New Orleans Chef, Susan Spicer.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients. Mix things up and give customers new and exciting flavors to try. Your food truck business will be all the better for it.
Learning to Create Great Menu Items
The teams learned some interesting lessons from this episode. They were forced to be creative on the fly and create food offerings that embodied New Orleans customs and culture.
This episode teaches real-life food truck owners that customers like tradition, but tradition with a twist may be a great concept. Here, the teams put their own take on traditional New Orleans food—beignets and Hurricanes. These fun food offerings were a great hit with local customers.
Focusing on local favorites is especially important if your food truck is on the go. You can adjust to new areas easier if you can create something that locals will recognize. However, putting your own twist on a local favorite sets you apart from other vendors or mobile kitchens. Start with some traditional flavors and let your creativity run wild.
Keep in mind that your menu is flexible. You can try new things on a regular basis to see what works for your target clientele.