How to Run a Food Truck 04: Use Apps to Simplify Your Business

Today’s lesson is the last part of our unit on your first few weeks on the streets—and if you’ve been following along with our “How to Run a Food Truck” series, you’re already one month into your food truck journey! Way to go!

As you’ve undoubtedly learned from your early days on the road, running a food truck is hard work and requires you to maintain a pretty hectic schedule. Between traveling to different locations, navigating your city’s local food truck laws, and doing all you can to keep your customers happy, there’s not much time left in the average day.

Fortunately, FoodTruckr is here to help some of your most time-consuming tasks run a little smoother and to find new ways to increase your efficiency. We’ve talked about some of our favorite products for business owners before, but in today’s post, we’ve got a whole suite of apps designed to simplify your life as a food truck owner. They’re organized into categories below. Let’s check out what’s on the menu!

Business and Financial Management

As a food truck owner, managing your truck’s spending, income, and profits should be one of your highest priorities. The apps in this section help you stay on top of what’s coming in and what’s going out so that you can budget appropriately and ensure that you’re making smart business decisions.

Monitor Cashflow and Budget

Mint

Mint has been one of the FoodTruckr team’s favorite apps for a long time. Though this app is designed for managing your personal finances, the interface offers enough tools for most food trucks that are just starting out. Using Mint, you can track all of your expenses, create savings goals, and plan for the future. The tool even categorizes your purchases and allows you to create a budget based on what you’ve spent in the past—making it easy to estimate what you’ll spend at the grocery store next month and how much you need to set aside for gas. Be sure to also use this tool to track your personal expenses so that you can make sure you’re staying afloat while pursuing the early stages of your food truck dream.

InDinero

Looking for a robust financial management app? InDinero could be the solution you need. This popular app helps you do everything from bookkeeping to payroll to filing your taxes for you. You can send invoices to catering clients, track receipts from grocery store visits, and monitor your spending. InDinero is currently open by invitation only, and you can request an invite here.

Manage Payroll

ZenPayroll

Though some other apps allow you to handle payroll along with several other features, some FoodTruckrs will benefit from using a dedicated payroll management system. ZenPayroll is one of those programs. This service allows you to automatically report new hires to the government, send paystubs to employees via email, and manage your employees’ payments. Your employees can even use the app to automatically donate a portion of their checks to a charitable cause. ZenPayroll currently allows new users to try out the system for free for two months, and you will pay based on the number of employees you have after that.

Track Expenses

Expensify

Whether you need to track your own expenses or you’re looking for an easy way to monitor your employees’ spending and reimburse them, Expensify simplifies the entire process. You have the option of either connecting your credit or debit card to Expensify so that it can automatically track your expenses or taking pictures of your receipts so that the app can track the relevant data. It’s also easy to log your miles and track hours for you and your team.

Process Payments

Square

Square is one of our favorite mobile payment processors. This simple program includes a payment app to install on your phone or tablet and a small portable card reader that plugs into your device. You simply ring up a customer’s order through the app and then swipe his or her card through the reader, and you’re accepting credit and debit cards on the go! The funds go right into your bank account and are usually available in 1-2 business days, and you pay a small percentage-based transaction fee on each swipe.

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Shopify POS

Shopify POS is another fantastic payment processing system for food trucks. The easy-to-use interface lets you process transactions and accept payments (including cash, credit or debit card, and mobile payments), print and email receipts, run a customer loyalty program, and monitor your truck’s financials and business needs. We love this system for food trucks because there are also a number of peripheral hardware options available, as well as the ability to integrate with other apps like Facebook, Mailchimp, and Quickbooks.

Amazon Local Register

Amazon Local Register is still a fairly new service, but it comes from one of the world’s most recognizable names. The program works similarly to Square—you’ll receive a small device that plugs into your phone or tablet, and download their app to process customer payments. Amazon Local Register has attracted vendors through their pricing—through October 31, 2014, new customers can receive a discounted transaction fee of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016 (at which time the price will raise to 2.5% per swipe, which still undercuts Square’s current pricing of 2.75% per swipe by just a bit).

Maintain Inventory

Inventory Tracker

Inventory Tracker is available on both iOS and Android and makes it easy for you to monitor exactly what’s going in and out of your truck. Detailed spreadsheets, balance sheets, and inventory reports allow you to see at a glance when it’s time to order more to-go boxes and when your stock of customized cups is running low.

Social Media

Maintaining an active social media presence is one of the best things you can do for your food truck. Social media allows you to reach out to new customers, stay in touch with your biggest fans, and provide great service to everyone who follows your truck. These apps help you easily maintain your social media accounts while you’re on the go.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite makes it easy for you to schedule messages across various social channels and to stay up-to-date on all of your incoming messages and mentions. You can search for conversations that mention your truck, easily add locations to your posts, and check out analytics to see how well your posts are performing. This tool is easy to use and allows FoodTruckrs to keep their social media time investment to a minimum each day.

Buffer

Buffer is our social media app of choice here at FoodTruckr—we love how easy it is to schedule posts and how the app suggests times to post for you. This tool allows you to link your Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts in one place and also provides great analytic data. You can schedule up to 10 posts on each social media profile at a time for free, or you can purchase the upgraded plan to get unlimited posts.

Echofon

Echofon has separate apps for Facebook and Twitter users (and the Facebook app is only available on iOS), but if you’re only using one social network, it could be a good choice for you. This tool has a couple features we really love such as keeping your unread messages in sync between multiple devices and allowing you to set a sleep period so that you can turn off the noise of social media when your truck has headed home for the night.

Location Services

Food trucks are always on the go, so it’s important to have the right tools on your side to help you ensure that you always get where you need to be and that your customers always know where to find you. These apps make it easy.

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GPS

Waze

If your truck doesn’t have a traditional GPS system and you’re looking for something a little more reliable than the navigation on your phone, you should definitely check out Waze. This app generates the best route for you to take based on community-sourced traffic updates and road alerts. In addition to offering the quickest routes for your truck to get to its destination based on current road conditions, the app also has reporting options for construction, accidents, police, road hazards, and gas prices. The app is definitely more reliable in areas with a larger user base, but it can still be quite helpful even in cities with fewer drivers.

Food Truck Location Updates

Note: We wrote all about location updates in last week’s lesson, so be sure to check out that post for more information on how to use these apps and for a longer list of providers to check out. The two apps listed below are a couple of our favorites.

Truckily

Truckily is a food truck location app that allows you to update your current location in just one click and share it through Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Your location is also automatically posted to the Truckily map so that customers can look for trucks in their area and find out where you and others are serving for the day. We also love that this app allows you to schedule your locations ahead of time (for those days when you know food will be flying out the window as soon as you’ve shut off the ignition) and that it sends push notifications to fans who want to be alerted when you’re nearby.

Nom Nom Finder

Nom Nom Finder is geared a little more toward your customers, but you can reach more fans by participating and filling out a profile for your truck through the app. You can use it to update your location, share social media updates, and post your current status (open, in transit, or closed). This app is currently only available in select locations, though they are working on expanding to new areas.

Productivity

Do you ever feel like you have an endless to-do list and like you can’t keep track of everything that you and your employees are responsible for? These productivity apps could help by simplifying your schedule, easing communications, and recording everything you need to do. Check ‘em out.

Task Management

Clear

Clear is primarily an app that helps you keep tracks of your to-dos and your reminders—but what really takes this app to the next level is how easy it is to use. The app is based on gestures so that you can rearrange and update items with a few simple swipes, pinches, or movements. Create multiple lists or schedule items for yourself to complete and then sync them across all your devices so that you never lose track of an important task again.

Any.do

Any.do is another convenient task management app that allows you to keep track of your to-dos and monitor your schedule. This app also has a simple, easy-to-use interface where you can mark items as “done,” move tasks that weren’t completed to another day, and change tasks that need to be completed earlier. It also includes an integrated calendar and makes it easy for you to see what’s coming up on your current day’s schedule and what you need to accomplish in the near future.

Team Productivity

Couple

Couple might be designed as an app that allows romantic partners to stay in touch and share notes and memories—but if you can ignore some of the cutesy features like the “Thumbkisses” (or don’t, we don’t judge!), it can actually be quite useful as a tool to stay connected to your business partner. Couple allows you to maintain a shared calendar, create joint to-do lists, and quickly share messages and videos. When you need a reliable tether to the other half of your food truck, Couple is a great way to stay in touch and manage your business relationship.

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ServiceM8

ServiceM8 is a great tool to keep your entire team on task. This simple app allows you to keep a running list of everything that needs to be done and assign jobs to particular team members (such as food prep, cleaning the truck, or planning a catering event). You can also send notifications and reminders and stay in touch with your team, which allows you to always be up-to-date on what’s happening with your truck even when it’s your day off. The app also includes voice alerts so that your team can receive notifications even while they’re driving or have their hands full with the grill.

Record Notes

Evernote

If you have a habit of making notes to yourself in multiple places (sometimes in your email, sometimes in your phone’s note application, and sometimes on random scraps of paper), then you might benefit from Evernote. This convenient app allows you to write notes, record photos, and gather ideas in a single place that will sync across all your devices for easy access. You can also search your notes later using keywords to quickly find a particular item you saved. Evernote offers a free account you can start out with, a Premium account that offers more storage space, and a Business account you can share with your team.

Pocket

Have you been saving lots of links from your city’s local resources and from all the great advice you’ve read on FoodTruckr? If so, Pocket could be right for you. This simple app allows you to clip and save articles from the web, email, social media, and more so that you can read it later when you have more time. For the food truck owner who always sees interesting things popping up when he or she logs on to post an update on Facebook, Pocket is a useful tool that helps you keep your attention focused on what matters most.

Delivering Your Best

We know that food truck owners like you have a lot of tasks and responsibilities to keep track of each day, and the chances are good that the number of things you have to do will only increase as your truck grows more successful. That’s why it’s so important to get yourself organized from the very beginning by implementing tools and programs that will help you run your business more efficiently. Using one or more of the apps profiled here today can help you to streamline particular areas of your business, leaving you with more time left to do what you really love—preparing delicious food and serving satisfied customers.

Next week, we’ll be taking a short break from the “How to Run a Food Truck” series to bring you a very special post… it’s FoodTruckr’s one-year anniversary! We’ve got some awesome content prepared to celebrate this momentous occasion, and we can’t wait to look back at everything that’s happened over this past amazing year. Stay tuned for this event—after all, we’ll be celebrating you, too!

Until then, we’d love to hear about any apps that you’ve found useful to your food truck business. Do you have another helpful productivity app, or a super simple tool you use to manage your truck’s finances? Share it with us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

image by Jason Howie

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About the Author

FoodTruckr

FoodTruckr is the #1 online destination for current and aspiring food truck owners looking to succeed in the mobile food industry. Self described “food truck devotees,” the FoodTruckr team enjoys reading about successful entrepreneurs, salivating over photos of burritos on Twitter, and long walks through food truck parks. Chat with FoodTruckr on Facebook or check out the FoodTruckr School podcast for more awesome tips to level up your business.

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