Are Food Trucks a Threat to Hotel Catering Business? Part II

Food Trucks may pose a threat to hotel catering business. Last week in the first part of this blog I suggested that:

  1. Food truck foodservice is not a fad, in fact it is here to stay, so get used to it
  2. Food trucks offer some very real – and in 2011 very relevant – advantages compared to hotel catering

In fact, I went so far as to say that were I doing a SWOT analysis for a hotel catering department in a major market, I would list “Food Truck Catering” as a threat.

Then I foolishly promised suggestions in Part II- how to turn this into a competitive advantage for your hotel.

OK so now what?

Go buy a $100,000 food truck? That would be OK, but not, I think practical. Anyway, don’t ask me to do the ROI on that one.

So, no, don’t buy a truck.

Instead, leverage what you do best, what the food trucks cannot do. Then turn it into a competitive advantage. I’ll explain.

It’s simple really, and everybody wins. Partner with a number of high quality food trucks. The way you already partner with outside caterers for certain special needs required by your customers from time to time (I’m thinking kosher events at hotels without a kosher kitchen and ethnic weddings, for example).

Next, create a new section for your catering menu, “Food Truck Events”. Think about it. How many years have you had “Mexican Station” on your menu? And when was the last time you saw a competitor without a comparable offering? Let’s get the potential customer excited. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, please see Part I.

What’s a “Food Truck Event”? It could be a tent with 5 food trucks in your parking lot. It could be your “normal” in-house reception, even wedding reception, but now two of your stations are catered by two popular (brides’ choice?) food trucks.

Catering Directors: this is a win-win-win-win (Hotel-Customer-Food Truck Operator-Employee). You add excitement to your offerings, your menu. You get new business that might not have otherwise booked with you. You’ve negotiated a margin with the food truck owner(s) plus (more important!) some exclusivity for your hotel. You don’t want every hotel offering “your” food truck offerings. The food truck owner has a source of new business. More work for your banquet team.

Why will this work? Because of the innate competitive advantages that hotels have over food trucks:

  • You can serve beverage alcohol, they can’t
  • You can provide a large variety of items, they cannot
  • You have a roof, they don’t
  • You have tables and chairs, a dance floor and lighting – they don’t
  • You are a one-stop-shop, they are not – who wants to book every last thing, including tables and chairs separately?
  • If the event is outdoors, you can offer a backup plan for inclement weather – they cannot

Finally, don’t forget one more thing that they have and you can leverage: a following in social media. Maybe this partner thing could really go somewhere?

So, reach out now. Find the best food trucks in your area, trucks that support your hotel’s quality level and image, and form alliances. And don’t forget to update and market that menu.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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