How to Run a Food Truck 15: Track Your Food Truck Metrics

As a food truck owner, you probably pride yourself on being quite familiar with all the inner workings of your business. Very few business owners get the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of their companies, but FoodTruckrs get to work on everything from the logistics of supply and demand to marketing to interacting with customers.

This unique perspective grants you a better awareness of your successes and the challenges you’re facing, but it can also make it harder for you to fully examine all of the things you really need to pay attention to. There’s only so much of you to go around, and it can be tough for food truck owners to monitor little details (like the exact mileage you’re starting at for the day or how many people retweeted your post on Twitter) when there are more pressing matters right in front of you (a row of burgers on the grill that are looking a little too black or a noisy line of foot-tapping customers).

Now, that doesn’t make those small details any less important—and ignoring them in favor of the details that are bigger and louder and smokier doesn’t make you a lazy business owner. However, it does mean that you need to develop a system that allows you to track significant metrics with as little time and effort from you as possible. Food truck owners have notoriously hectic schedules, so it’s essential to streamline these processes during the early stages of your business before you get even busier.

As a part of our continued effort to help you become a better business owner, today’s all-new lesson has the scoop on which metrics you actually should be tracking—and how you can do so while sacrificing as little of your precious time as possible.

What to Track: Data Points That Give Insight Into Your Food Truck Business

It’s easy to track the exciting metrics like how much money you’re making and how many people are following your truck on social media. But there are dozens of less glamorous and less obvious figures you can also track that will offer you a deeper insight into your business—and into what you could be doing to become even more successful.

Before we get started, it’s important to note: this list is not an exhaustive collection of everything you can (or should) track.  However, we do like to think of it as a pretty comprehensive starting point. We’ve broken the metrics into categories below:

Sales

First up on the tracking list is sales—one of the most important categories you should be paying attention to. Tracking the following metrics will allow you to see which items and locations are performing best for you and which ones are holding you back from realizing your full potential.

  • Number of each menu item sold (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Total number of items sold (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Total income (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Number of customers who come to your truck (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Number of days you sold (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually) and where you sold (street service, parked at a business, catered an event, appeared at a festival, etc.)
  • Number of days you missed an opportunity to sell due to illness, inclement weather, parking problems, etc. (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Number of customers at each stop (weekly, monthly)
  • Total sales at each stop (weekly, monthly)

Costs

Tracking your costs is just as important as following your sales numbers—after all, your overall costs directly impact how much of your sales income actually becomes profit. Be sure to pay attention to all of your costs, including items in the following categories:

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Ingredients and Paper Products

  • Ingredient cost (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Cost of paper goods and other materials for customers to use (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Cost of cleaning products (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Quantity of ingredients used (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Quantity of ingredients wasted (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)

Operational Costs

  • Commissary rent (monthly, annually)
  • Business insurance (monthly, annually)
  • Marketing costs (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Website and social media costs (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Utilities (phone line, Internet service, gas, etc.) (monthly, annually)
  • Licenses and permits (annually)
  • Labor costs for all employees (weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Additional professional services (payroll system, POS provider, legal services, etc.) (monthly, annually)

Truck Costs

  • Truck insurance (monthly, annually)
  • Repairs and maintenance (monthly, annually)
  • Gas (weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Truck upgrades (annually)

Miscellaneous

  • Event fees (monthly, annually)
  • Parking fees (weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Additional kitchen equipment (annually)
  • Tax preparation (annually)
  • Tax fees (annually)
  • Sales tax fees (monthly, annually)
  • Health insurance benefits (for employees, if applicable) (monthly, annually)

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for many successful food truck businesses. Figure out how well your social media pages are working for you by paying attention to the following metrics from your Facebook and Twitter pages (or any other platforms you may use):

  • Number of followers or fans (monthly, annually)
  • Number of posts you’ve made (weekly, monthly)
  • Number of “likes” or “favorites” (weekly, monthly)
  • Number of “shares” or “retweets” (weekly, monthly)
  • Number of comments or @messages (weekly, monthly)
  • Number of incoming messages (monthly)
  • How many people your posts reach (weekly, monthly)

Operational Statistics

Finally, be sure to pay attention to the other metrics that affect your overall performance on a regular basis. Below, we’ve included categories for your truck, your employees, and more.

Truck Statistics

  • Mileage (daily, weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Repairs completed (monthly, annually)
  • Maintenance completed (monthly, annually)
  • Gas used (daily, weekly, monthly, annually)

Employee Statistics

  • Number of employees on your team (monthly, annually)
  • Attendance records for all employees (weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Each employee’s hours worked (weekly, monthly)

Your Performance Statisics

  • Days worked (monthly, annually)
  • Hours worked (weekly, monthly)
  • Personal income made (weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Taxes paid (annually)

Business Statistics

  • Hours/Days spent at commissary (monthly, annually)
  • Number of catering quotes given (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Number of events catered (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Number of event or festival applications submitted (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Number of events or festivals attended (monthly, quarterly, annually)

A final note: Again, we just want to reiterate that this is by no means an exhaustive list of the metrics you should be tracking for your food truck business. This section is intended to help you develop a clear understanding of the types of metrics you should be tracking and acts as a starting point for many of the events and figures you may want to monitor. Please use this list to determine which metrics matter most for your business and then use your own judgment to figure out which other specific points you may wish to track.

How to Track Metrics: Setting Up a System That Works for You

Whew—even though that list wasn’t a comprehensive one, there sure are a lot of data points that you could (and should) be tracking! The amount of data you can monitor may certainly be overwhelming at first, but there’s no need to worry. If you’re only tracking a couple of these items so far, you simply need to set up a system that will allow you to keep an eye on these metrics moving forward without investing too much of your own time.

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Fortunately, FoodTruckr has devised a simple, five-step recipe to help you get your truck’s metrics-tracking system in place! Follow the steps below to make record-keeping a breeze.

1. Identify What You Need to Track and When

Before you can do anything else, you’ll need to determine exactly what you’re tracking and how frequently you want to track it. We’ve done some of this work for you already, so you all need to do now is go through the data point suggestions in the above section and figure out which metrics will be most relevant for your business. We’ve also included suggestions in parentheses as to how frequently you should track each item. Of course, these time intervals are guidelines that should be suitable for most food trucks, but you may want to adjust them according to your own business needs.

2. Figure Out Where You’ll Get the Data

Once you’ve identified the key data points you need to collect, it’s time to figure out where you’ll acquire the numbers for each metric. Many of the items we’ve listed above can be collected by simply recording the figures when you come across them (such as your weekly grocery bills and trips to the gas station, your daily mileage, and fees paid for parking or event entry). Other items can be tracked through systems you’re already using, such as sales figures from your POS system, employee attendance records from your payroll system or time clock, and social media statistics through your Facebook and Twitter pages or through a tracking tool like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social.

While many of your metrics will probably need to be tracked manually, you can simplify the process by setting up a system for your record-keeping—read on to learn about your options.

3. Choose a System to Gather the Data

Okay—so you probably have a pretty substantial list of items that need to be tracked manually and a number of metrics that you can pull from tools that are already doing the tracking for you. It’s time to pull all of this data into one place so that it is easy to compile, monitor, and analyze.

We recommend trying out several different systems until you find one that is most intuitive to you. Tracking metrics can already be a pretty complex process without the added hassle of trying to learn how to navigate a confusing new system. Set up a spreadsheet with different tabs to track various metrics categories on your truck, or try out a web tool like StatsMix that helps you compile and analyze your truck’s metrics. The key here is to set up a system that allows you to track everything in one place and to input new data quickly and easily.

4. Record Your Metrics

Some programs will automatically track metrics for you, but others must still be recorded manually. Once you’ve identified which things you’ll need to track on your own, you should first categorize them by the frequency with which they need to be recorded. Next, set up a regular block of time in your schedule to track your metrics. You should ideally keep your daily metrics-tracking time to no more than 10-15 minutes per day, and your weekly metrics-tracking time to no more than an additional hour per week. Monthly, quarterly, and annual metrics-tracking may take a little more time (to the tune of several hours or even a full weekend project), but in many cases, they can be partially figured simply by adding up your daily and weekly metrics. Because they are performed less frequently, you can also plan the additional time well in advance.

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Setting up a regular time each day or week to sit down and record what happened on your truck is the best way to make sure you stick to a consistent schedule and to ensure that you’re keeping accurate records. Reviewing the numbers frequently will also help you maintain a clear impression of what’s really going on with your truck. Informed business owners make better decisions—and they’re also more motivated to continue reaching toward success.

5. Review and Analyze Your Progress

Once you’ve gotten into a consistent routine of tracking various metrics across your business, you should begin to plan some extra time to sit down and review the numbers every so often. The frequency with which you review your truck’s progress is entirely up to you and depends wholly on the state of your business. However, as a general rule, we recommend sitting down for small review sessions on a weekly or monthly basis in addition to taking out a larger block of time for quarterly or annual reviews. Monitoring regularly allows you to see that things like your sales and costs are progressing in positive directions all throughout the year—while taking more time at the end of the quarter and end of the year to perform a larger “state of your food truck” review can help you make big decisions about the future of your business. Quarterly and annual reviews are also a great time to connect with your business advisors and food truck financers to discuss how things are going and to get feedback on what should be coming next for your truck.

Prepare for New Challenges

Though tracking your food truck’s metrics might seem like a complex and time-consuming task when you’re first getting started, it will eventually become something that doesn’t need to take more than a couple hours of your time each week. Having the right system and schedule in place to track the relevant metrics for your food truck is an integral part of becoming a better business owner. Monitoring what’s happening with your truck and looking for opportunities to improve your overall numbers will help you avoid costly mistakes and make smarter, better decisions in the future.

Up Next: In next week’s brand new “How to Run a Food Truck” lesson, we’ll explain another important preparatory step you can take to better your food truck business! Stay tuned next Wednesday when we’ll discuss health inspections—what you need to know to get ready and how to make sure your team will stand up to the test.

Until then, we’d love to hear about what tools you’re using to track your food truck’s metrics! Share your favorite systems, software programs, or web tools in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

image by markus spiske

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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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