How to create a memorable food cart menu

Food trucks are a popular business for many entrepreneurs, aspiring chefs, and restaurant owners. They’re a great way to test out smaller menus and specialized cuisine without the startup costs of opening a restaurant. Many food truck owners go on to establish permanent locations in areas where their goods sell very well.

If you want to set up a restaurant one day or try your hand at operating a food truck, you need a solid menu. Creating a menu isn’t always easy. You might feel overwhelmed with limiting the menu. Business savvy types may focus too much on profit margins, neglecting the value of a menu with one costly (but revenue-building) specialty item.

Read on to learn what you need to know for carving out a solid food truck menu. You’ll discover the most popular food truck items, how many items you should include, and what makes a good menu.

What are the most popular food truck items?

It should come as no surprise why some of these items hold such popularity as menu items. The following aren’t just popular food truck cuisines, either. Many of these are adaptable for special diets. Some are perfect for prep, easy cleanup, and sale.

Burgers

Think high-quality or specialty meats: bison, kangaroo, and gator. Consider ease and adjustability for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or, think of regional twists like Mexican, Cajun, and so on. Plus, you can adapt to keto, vegan, and vegetarian options, too. For quick and easy cooking, you can always rely on a burger.

Indian

Known for its rich spices and rice or flatbread base, Indian street food is perfect on a food truck menu. It’s popular for taste, dietary options, and ease of consumption. Plus, cooking rice and prepping most sauce or curry bases are very straightforward.

Pizza

Understandably a favorite, pizza isn’t hard to prep ahead of time. And if you layout your food truck just right, you can customize pizza in many ways. Although making vegan options is harder, you can still cater to specific dietary needs and a wide variety of specialties with unique topping combos.

Fries

Loading up fried potatoes is easy. And if you want a standout factor, you can sell a simple burger or other entrees with one-of-a-kind specialty loaded fries on the side. You can quickly adapt fries to vegan needs, and you can even make a heart-healthy loaded fry entree. If you’re wondering what these would look like, imagine how curious your customers might be.

Grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is doable for even the most novice cook, which is a solid, reliable staple food in kitchens everywhere. Finding a good location and sourcing quality ingredients can put this at the top of any food truck’s potential menu.

Falafel

For different dietary concerns, healthier options, convenience, and more, falafel is another multicultural street food. Customers love this dish, which is full of flavor and easy to eat on the go (often served in kebabs). Plus, you can cater to a wider variety of customers with this on your menu.

Mac ‘n’ cheese

Mac ‘n’ cheese is another staple, like grilled cheese or pizza. Not traditionally the healthiest, but often the tastiest option, you’ll find this is easily adaptable, too. You can make it healthy with veggie-based pasta and you can jazz it up with seafood. You can even “veganize” it with vegan cheese. Your options are limitless.

Food truck owner setting the menu

How many items should be on a food truck menu?

Even knowing what the most popular food truck menu items are may not simplify your decision-making. Maybe you feel more overwhelmed than ever about how you should craft your menu. Here are a few tips for how you pare down your menu ideas.

Offer only essentials

The more specific your menu, the more essential every item on it is. Keeping your menu limited to only the most basic dishes, especially if you’re adapting a restaurant’s menu, can help reduce your choices.

Selling fewer items allows you to rotate out less popular items or sell new things as a weekly special. Reliable food helps people understand your brand and spread the word about your cuisine.

Rule of thumb

Most food trucks sell 5 to 12 items. These can vary based on how you wish to plan your menu, which could be based on how you source your food or choose to market. Sticking to a set menu streamlines purchasing, prep, marketing, and cleanup. And it keeps tight budgets in check.

Quality over quantity

Focus on the quality of the food you sell. If you make a grilled cheese, you want solid toasting bread. If you put bacon on loaded fries, make sure it’s thick and flavorful. Quality ingredients stand out far more than selling tons of food. If you invest in quality, your customers will invest in your food.

What’s a good food truck menu?

A good food truck menu follows a few rules. These help your truck stand out, cut costs, build customer interest, and grow your business.

Explore menu psychology

Avoid dollar signs on truck menus or your menu board. Customers should focus on your menu items and their descriptions, not the price. Customers often spend more this way.

Use bracketing to offer the same dish in two sizes. This makes customers feel like they’re getting a good deal for more food at a slightly higher price.

Highlight special dishes

Put the most important menu items in the upper right-hand corner. It’s the first place the eye goes. Plant your signature dish here for recognition and memorability.

Keep it clear and readable

Don’t use columns of menu items. These force customers to compare prices, encouraging them to choose less expensive items. Suppose you can price items the same. 

Make your board easy to update, so customers recognize new foods, specials, and their options. If you want to try new dishes and experiment often, this can help.

Readability is important, too. Make sure you proofread your menu. Avoid fancy fonts and calligraphy anywhere outside of a logo or branding.

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