When lunchtime rolls around in cities across America, bringing with it those midday hunger pangs, food trucks’ cheap prices and quick, easy availability have made them popular options. Boasting gourmet-style grub in a range of flavors, they’ve become a fixture in cities large and small.
As of 2017, cities across the U.S. were home to more than 4,000 food trucks. Now, as more foodies sink their forks and knives into the mobile cafes’ offerings, the culinary fare is getting a mobile-assisted upgrade.
Food truck operators are increasingly investing in mPOS systems to serve these hungry and hurried diners, opting for offerings that accept a wide range of payment methods at a moment’s notice. That’s because their consumers often value speed and convenience nearly as highly as a good meal, according to Dana Prive, owner and operator of the Forking Awesome food truck, which calls the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire, home.
mPOS keeps meals (and workers) moving
Prive noted in a recent interview with PYMNTS that Forking Awesome drives customers and revenue to its truck by partnering with local employers. His team sets up shop on office campuses, often in parking lots, allowing employees to find lunch options just a few feet away from their office desks.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to get a good lunch and for us to get in front of customers,” he said. “But, most only get about 30 minutes for lunch, so they don’t want to be leaving the premises.”
For Prive’s business, serving employees that work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. has meant adapting to their payment habits. Some want to pay with cash, while the bulk prefer cards or mobile. Only accepting one means turning away potential customers.
“So, that means we need to be able to accept whatever they want to pay with and have with them,” he explained.
Good food for good times
As food trucks rise in popularity, they’re also becoming a more common sight away from city streets. Music festivals, sporting events and other community gatherings frequently turn to them to cater food that’s fast and cheap.
Daniel Kahn, MD, co-owner of the GreenSpace Café in Detroit, Michigan, saw the rise of food trucks as a chance to reinvigorate business at his restaurant. Two years ago, he bought and renovated a food truck to help market his company’s health-minded, vegan fare.
So far, the café has mostly used its food truck at these festivals, Kahn recently told PYMNTS, though for off-the-clock diners at those events, being forced to eat on the run isn’t really a concern. Eventgoers often don’t want to carry cash, either, for either security or convenience reasons.
That’s something GreenSpace’s food truck business sees firsthand, as roughly 70 percent of its food truck sales are made using cards. In fact, even at more upscale events and festivals, where attendees are less worried about pickpockets, most reach for plastic to make payments.
“We actually see even higher card usage at those festivals and those types of environments,” Kahn said.
The company is now also looking to highlight its card-friendly nature to attract customers who might not have paper money in their wallets.
“Those customers are often in the habit of [paying with] their card, and probably don’t carry cash often,” he added.
When it came time to equip his renovated food truck with an mPOS solution, Kahn said the choice was obvious. He signed up for Breadcrumb’s POS offering, which his company also uses at its brick-and-mortar café location.
Keeping systems consistent allows GreenSpace to learn more about its customers, Kahn explained — and more about itself, too. The latter is made possible by reporting features that help the company analyze different areas of the business.
“Everything goes through there, which makes it a lot easier,” he noted. “We’re able to track sales, which makes things easier for our accountants, and [also] track our labor and supply costs.”
A more mobile future?
But just as each year’s tablet and smartphone models are rendered obsolete by upgrades released months later, new technology could usurp cards as the most convenient — and popular — payment method.
Mobile wallets are the latest entrant to the scene, but they’ve yet to make a sizable impact on the food truck world. Kahn said his mPOS system does not currently accept mobile payments, but he’s yet to hear complaints from customers looking to use the smartphone-based method in place of cash or cards.
Meanwhile, Prive does accept mobile wallets at the Forking Awesome food truck, but admitted they are rarely used or requested by consumers. That said, he’s willing to try and accept emerging payment methods, especially those that allow him to both process payments and get food into customers hands forking fast.
After all, when midday hunger strikes and customers line up, there’s no time for delays.