Each food truck needs a way to clearly display their menu. And each owner has preferences on the style of menu that best aligns with their brand. The goal of this article is to help get some clear ideas about how your food truck’s menu will look.
Some go for the simplest methods of displaying a menu like chalk boards can offer an understated, yet sophisticated display of food items and prices. Others go big with flashy designs and high-definition flat screen television displays.
No matter what your ideas are for a food truck menu, you’ll need to find an option that matches the brand and functions allowing potential customers to read the menu from a distance.
The display of a food truck’s menu is important for driving sales, especially at festivals and other events. Potential customers will quickly scan your menu to make a decision where they would like to eat. If the information listed on your menu like ingredients and pricing is not clearly visible, you’ll lose sales.
Of course sometimes one simply has to settle for a different idea due to lack of funds, yet another factor to take into consideration.
So towards this end, I thought it’d be fun to go over a collection of the main food truck menu styles that have seemed rather popular here and there, listing the Pros and Cons of each. For your consideration, here they are:
The a-typical display in office board rooms and small neighborhood cafes, this smooth blank surface houses the familiar space to be filled with notes, drawings, and other things via marker, coming with an eraser that clears every bit of it within the blink of an eye.
While this type of menu is simple to setup, you’ll want to test different formats of displaying prices and menu descriptions. Clover Food Lab featured in the image above goes into detail on approaches that were tested to best utilize their white-board menu. Some pro tips include making menu names and descriptions as short as possible, having a large font size for pricing, listing payment options and including your brands logo on the signage.
Pro: Very inexpensive, super easy and fast to clean/wipe off and redo each day, so very easy to make menu changes. Easy to find and set up on the side of the truck. You can find large white boards for sale online for under $200.
Con: If you or someone on your staff has excellent penmanship (or markermanship?) this can be a terrific option. If your writing resembles that of chicken scratch, you may want to select alternative menu options.
You’ll also need to be aware of the ongoing maintenance required with white boards. Parts of the board can smudge, smear, or wipe off easily from outside factors, so sections can need frequent re-written. Needless to say, you won’t want to utilize this on rainy days.
The other downside that white-boards will repaired or replaced semi-regularly to keep them looking clean and professional. As anyone that’s worked with white-boards in the past will know, the board will get smudges that need to be cleaned. The erasability of these boards will also lose steam every 3 – 4 months. If you plan to operate the food truck full-time, you should expect to replace these menu white boards at least two times per year.
Chalk Board Menu
One of the favorites for menus both on the truck and sign-posted outside, something about the simplistic and sorta-rustic, sorta-old-school feel of the chalk board thrives amongst truck owners. Part of the appeal is that you can portray a lot of personality through its particular medium.
Pro: This is a timeless option for displaying menu items in an attractive way. There’s an affordable price range and these can be purchased for well under $100. You have the ability to erase and change menu when needed. Very good at displaying one’s artistic skillsets if so inclined.
Con: A little more labor intensive when it comes to cleaning off as well as writing (if trying to make it look very clean, attractive, and professional; simple printed ‘item+price’ styles are easy), not to mention there are a lot of trucks using chalk board menus so it’s not a unique approach on its own.
You could spend a lot of time making this menu look good. A well written menu will only look good for a day or two before needing to be cleaned and reworked.
Laminated Custom Menu Display
If you have a large menu that doesn’t change often, getting a laminated menu is a quality option. These laminated menus can be designed yourself on the computer and printed with laminate at places like Kinko’s for under $75. These babies are usually laminated and placed under a case can be made with a unique set dimensions and fit an exact area.
Pro: Custom, attractive, very presentable, this is purely expressive of YOUR truck and food, and needs no further effort once installed. Laminated menus can be easily washed with a soapy wash cloth. The perfect solution for artistically challenged food vendors.
Con: The laminate menu itself is affordable. However, if you want to utilize a display case used to protect the menu it will become more expensive. Some food trucks have display cases built into the truck. In these instances it won’t cost any additional money to go this route. Specialty stuff always costs more money; and if you want it bolted on in a solid presentable way, then that will take some work or likely money to have someone else install the case.
This is a semi-permanent menu option. Though there is the option swap updated menus later, it’s not something you’ll want to be updating regularly. Menu changes can be handled in a pinch by covering items with a piece of paper or written-in on the side of the laminate, but these are not ideal from a long-term branding perspective.
Metal & Hard Board Menu Attachments
Whether it’s a piece of metal bent and displayed beside the window, hard plastic filled with slider slots, or the typical cork-based tack-boards, having something more solid brings a clear and orderly approach to the customer’s eye. Metal displays are usually bolted onto the side of a food truck near the serving window. You could also install tabs that are attached or slid in on a daily basis.
Pro: Custom, often very nice and presentable looking, can be made to hold interchangeable menu item slots/cards for adjustable daily options, especially durable and long-lasting. Computer/spray printed words carry less worry and effort into the effect of writing it by hand every day. There are all sorts of custom sized metal menu boards that can be purchased on Etsy for between $50 – $300.
Con: This option will be more costly if you require help to getting them installed to pay for the labor. If you’re look to keep things as low-cost as possible look for a menu you can easily install yourself. If getting a menu that includes custom paint then be aware that sudden menu changes won’t be easy.
Food Truck Menu Cards
Thanks to websites like Canva.com anyone can make a restaurant or food truck menu card without any design knowledge or technical skills. This is one of the most affordable solutions to creating a professional looking menu.
Most of the menu card templates you’ll find available online where intended for use in restaurants. To ensure the guests can read each food truck menu item from a distance, you can print one food item per piece of paper from a home computer. Each card should list the food name, price, description and food photo if you would like. These can be attached to the afore-mentioned hard boards, stuck onto the side of the truck, or taped to a window. They can also be laminated and handed out to prospective customers while they wait in line to order.
Pro: Easy to put up as well as change display depending on menu for the day, the pictures can be a good way to give customers an understanding of what they’re getting if you’re decent at photography. The presentation of these cards can be flexible too. The cost is affordable to everyone.
Con: Menu cards may need to be replaced frequently if not laminated. Depending on the menu card you select it runs the risk of looking generic or simply not matching the food trucks brand.
Butcher Paper Roll
Here’s a menu option that costs less than $5.00… Converting a butcher paper roll into a menu. Whether it’s attached to the truck like a big brown toilet paper on a giant handlebar, or simply pulled off in sheets at home when needing to make a change, brown butcher paper (or similar material) can act as a quick and easy source of providing a BIG and LONG menu for a dynamic yet rustic display.
Con: You’ll always need rolls of butcher paper in stock. Black marker handwriting does require some artistic skill similar to white boards or chalk boards. You need to take particular care that customers can read the menu from a distance. Need to ensure proper protection in case of rain, so a small awning is recommended. High winds can also be problematic with this option potentially tearing and blowing the menu.
High-Definition Television Screen
Oh yes, why stick with simple boards and printed pieces of paper with stuff written/printed on it when you can just get a flatscreen television stuck into the side of your truck!? High-definition tv’s have become popular with the new wave of truck owners, connecting it to the computer and pasting a slide of their menu to cover the whole screen as their choice of menu display. Some vendors even broadcast include videos or music to help their food trucks stand out even more.
Pro: Very distinctive and eye-catching, easy to see when dark out, and with a graphics screen purely in control by your computer, you can make the menu look however you want. Can also be used to show movies, sports games, slideshows, and other fun things depending on your crowd and event’s interests. You can easily change or update the menu meet seasonal menu needs.
Con: Usually needs to be installed in the truck during the initial design, ending up a very costly choice for menu. Expect to pay $1,000 – $2,000 for this upgrade.
One also needs to ensure absolute protection of the televisions from theft or vandalism. Depending on where the television is installed (most trucks have it in the notable open space to the side of the window, but I’ve seen ones that are peaking from within the serving window, requiring you to step up to see), one may want a secondary standing or side menu for people to study from a distance or off to the side of the unit.
Food Truck Wrap Menu Displays
One of the easiest ways to create an attractive menu is to have it included in the design of the food truck wrap. No need to mess around with chalk or scrubbing down white boards. People can just come up, look at the truck and know what’s there.
Pro: Fully Customizable, easy to see, attractive, interesting, no need to worry about special maintenance or cleaning. If you’re getting the truck wrapped in unique graphics anyway then there’s no extra cost in it. You can have confidence in knowing the menu is going to be extremely professional and match the color scheme and brand of the business.
Con: There is no changing this menu at all. As a result, you better be confident that this is the food you’ll be serving from the truck from now on. Little seasonal additions can be added with a off-truck chalk board menu, but if you want a notable menu change then you’ll need a new wrap, and that’ll cost you. This option should only be utilized if you know you’ve got a winning menu.
At the end of the day, there really is no right or wrong option to selecting a food truck menu. As long as the menu reflects the brand of your business, is relatively easy to maintain, and clearly communicates the food you’re serving, you’ll be good to go.
What creative ideas have you seen for food truck menus? Let us know in the comments below.