An 808 Island Grill food truck has large lettering and a Hawaiian theme on its truck wrap.

Why Vehicle Wraps Matter: Advice From a Food Truck Guru

By: Paul Somerhausen, CEO, SactoMoFo

In 2008, a national food truck trend started in Los Angeles. By 2011, the trucks had arrived in Sacramento, California. When they did, I found myself in the right place at the right time to start a business based on the food truck industry.

As a food truck broker, I now work with 70 food truck operators in Northern California, connecting them with locations where hungry people gather. I also teach classes on how to be successful as a food truck operator, based on what I’ve learned over the years. One of the most important lessons: Forty percent of success hinges on your marketing approach. For food trucks, the bulk of that marketing approach is a vehicle wrap, simply because it’s the first thing people see.

In fact, I believe so strongly in the importance of a vehicle wrap that my company simply will not work with food trucks that aren’t fully wrapped. In my experience, the return on investment is too significant to ignore.

  • Why Graphic Wraps?

    There are two types of food trucks: Those that visit construction sites for about 15 minutes at a time, and the gourmet variety that park in one place for at least two hours for lunch or dinner service. We specialize in the latter. Typically, that type of food truck is surrounded by several other direct competitors lined up together on the street.

    In that environment, a food truck has about five seconds to catch someone’s eye. That’s about how long it takes someone to walk the length of the truck. A good truck wrap is the easiest way for a food vendor to stand out from the competition.

    I didn’t fully realize the benefit of wraps until I started working directly with a mix of trucks, both with and without wraps. I quickly saw a very clear differentiation in income between trucks that had wraps and trucks that didn’t have wraps.

    I also saw a second differentiation between trucks that had wraps designed by people who understood the food truck industry and trucks that were wrapped by folks who didn’t. The latter was more focused on graphic art, for example, than on marketing art.

    When I look at the average impact over the years, here’s what I’ve found:

    • A truck with a plain wrap should sell 10% more food than a truck without a wrap.
    • A truck with a good wrap should sell 10% more food than a truck with a plain wrap.
    • A truck with a good wrap should sell 20% more food than a truck without a wrap.

    The cost of a food truck wrap varies depending on size and complexity. Here in California, a wrap can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on the size of the truck and the complexity of the wrap. The average cost to start a food truck business ranges from $75,000 to $100,000. When you do the math, a wrap is about 3% to 5% of the budget and could potentially boost sales by 20%. To me, that’s a no-brainer.

  • Wrap Your Food Truck Right

    A beautiful design is great, but clarity, redundancy and quality are even more important for driving sales. Smart marketing sells more food than a pretty picture.

The wrap should make it very obvious what type of food the truck sells. For example, if a food truck sells hamburgers, the graphics should make it plainly obvious within five seconds that it is a hamburger truck. If customers can’t tell what a truck sells, they’re not going to take the time to stop by and ask.

  • 808 Island Grill food truck with large lettering and Hawaiian theme.
  • Daisy’s Desserts food truck with cursive lettering and pink background with flowers.
  • Lessons for All Industries

    In my opinion, first impressions are the key to business success, regardless of the industry. To get customers in the door, you must make them aware of your existence and then, after that, view you as credible and professional.

    Vehicle graphics are a great way to stand out from the competition and show that you’re a reputable organization. In fact, I believe graphics should be one of the top 10 tactics for starting a new business. Use all available surfaces, whether on your vehicle or your storefront, to boost your brand recognition. Be sure to pay attention to quality. If your business’s appearance comes across as cheap and shady, customers will be wary and wonder where else you’re cutting corners.

    In this day and age, professional imagery is more accessible than ever. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to look professional from a graphic design and branding perspective. Wraps are an easy and effective way to send the message that your business is the best on the block.

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