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Richard Myrick

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Richard is an architect by degree (Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan) who began his career in real estate development and architectural planning. In September of 2010 he created Mobile Cuisine Magazine to fill an information void he found when he began researching how to start a mobile hotdog cart in Chicago. Richard found that there was no central repository of mobile street food information anywhere on the internet, and with that, the idea for MCM was born.

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food truck tip of the day

I often hear that the pressure of owning a food truck business can be overwhelming, and while everyone is entitled to a life, a vacation and some down time, too much of a good thing can be bad. Despite the fact that you have a great concept, park in prime locations and a mouth-watering menu, when a food truck owner is not around to protect and watch over their investment, not only does the business suffer, but the employees do, too.

You might have a great team, but if you do not have a willingness to mentor, if you are rarely in the truck to observe, provide direction, motivate and teach that team, then how do you expect them to help grow your mobile food business?

No one likes or works well under a micro-manager, but a food truck cannot survive for long with an absentee owner, you must find a balance. There are plenty of outside forces that you have no control over, such as competition, bad publicity and increasing food prices. But what you can control is you.

Remember this simple business philosophy: If you take care of your business, the business will take care of you and if you take care of your employees, they will take care of you and your business.

If you are not focused on or devoted to your mobile food business, if you are not fully committed to the success of your food truck then your business will not be successful. If you are not able to handle the pressures and challenges that come with owning your own food truck, if you try to manage your truck and your employees from your home or office, and if you don’t spend time marketing and promoting your business, you will never be seen as an accomplished mobile food vendor.

As any successful vendor knows, owning a food truck is a huge commitment to long hours, working weekends and sometimes no time off for weeks at a time. If you’re looking for a nine-to-five job, owning a food truck is not for you.

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10 commandments of starting a food truck business

From my years of covering the mobile food industry and speaking with some of the most successful food truck vendors, I have created this list of 10 factors that most often contribute to the ultimate success or failure of any new food truck.

  1. Thou Shall Work In Foodservice Industry First. Cook, clean and manage some personnel. Hands-on experience working with staff and serving the public will tell you if you are a fit for the mobile food industry. If this isn’t a possibility, speak with folks who can explain the hours and tasks a food truck owner needs to be able to deal with to succeed.
  2. Thou Shall Define Your Concept. Don’t try to do too much. You can add and modify a little as you go to stay fresh, but don’t confuse the customer with too much at your grand opening.
  3. Thou Shall Research Local Food Truck Legislation. Not understanding how your local municipality regulates the mobile food industry can quickly lead to improper food truck builds, wasted time and money. This research will also inform you what it will take and how much it will cost to get fully permitted and licensed.
  4. Thou Shall Plan Ahead. Building a successful food truck business requires a lot of planning. This must include creating a fully executed business plan. This tool will help you (and possible investors) understand your concept and what you will need in order to operate and thrive.
  5. Thou Shall Lead & Supervise. Be involved in everything from the layout and construction of your food truck kitchen to the hiring of employees. Opening a food truck requires an owner who is present and leads their mobile food business.
  6. Thou Shall Preform Site Selection. You don’t have to be an expert in market analysis, but before you start, select a few local spots where your truck will operate. Once again, speak with food truck owners in your area, almost all of them will tell you their experiences with certain parking locations.
  7. Thou Shall Develop A Budget. Don’t forget the little things when budgeting for your first year of business. Build in contingency and operating capital for at least your first six months of operation.
  8. Thou Shall Select Your Suppliers. Visit and compare your bakery, produce, meat and grocery suppliers. Team up with businesses based on service and quality, not just price.
  9. Thou Shall Conduct Training. You only get one chance to open. Allow employees enough time to learn your systems and hold two or three dry -run tests before your grand opening.
  10. Thou Shall Never Fear Failure. In order for you to succeed you need to face risks. Believe in what you are doing.

What say you? While there are plenty of other issues new food truck owners will face, I felt that these 10 commandments are the top factors someone planning to start a food truck business needs to understand.

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Cheese Ball Fun Facts

The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, as we research for our daily content on food trucks, food carts and street food, we stumble upon some items of knowledge that we just did not know. We have decided when these fun facts pop up, that we would share them with our readers in our section titled “Did You Know?”

For today’s Did You Know fun food facts we will look at Cheese Balls.

It doesn’t matter if you use the term “Cheese Ball” to describe:

  • A cheese spread in the shape of a ball, usually served around Christmas in the United States
  • Bocconcini, an Italian cheese in the shape of a ball
  • Cheese puffs, a processed snack made from puffed corn and cheese, sometimes ball-shaped
  • A synonym for “cheesy”
  • A Midwestern United States slang for breaded and fried cheese curds

The Facts: The origins have never been hazier for this American favorite. But many point to ”Food of my Friends,” written by Virginia Safford and published in 1944 as a source for the first printed cheese ball recipe.

  • In 1801, the town of Cheshire, Mass., sent a 1,000-pound cheese ball to the White House as a gift for new President Thomas Jefferson.
  • April 17th is National Cheese Ball Day.
  • Cheese is one of the oldest foods in history, dating back 4000 years to the ancient Egyptians.

Cheese Ball Facts We Missed

Please feel free to let us know if we may have missed some in the comment section below. We always love to add to these lists. If we can verify that the facts is just that, a fact, we will give the reader credit in the article.

Reference: Wikipedia: Fun Facts about Cheese Balls.

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food truck tip of the day

tip of the dayYou have customers and potential customers, who are upset with your food truck as I write this. I can almost guarantee that there are far more of them than you realize and because of that you are obliviously losing out on some of their business. The only way to capture those lost customers is to realize that you’re making this easy mistake and change your behavior.

This is one of the easiest ways for a food truck to make a mistake on social media, because we typically don’t think of silence as an insult. But in a few circumstances, it’s a huge let down. Here are a few examples:

  • Ignoring Complaints – This is the obvious one. When a customer complains, they expect a response. So do your other customers. The way you respond says a lot to your audience about how they can expect to be treated.
  • Ignoring Compliments – This one’s less obvious and possibly a bigger problem. A customer who pours their heart and soul into a positive comment is likely to feel cheated if you never respond. Obviously, you can’t please everybody, but it’s good to at least be aware that this happens.
  • Ignoring Questions – When you leave a customer hanging, it can look bad, especially when it happens out in the open where other consumers can see it.

It’s impossible to please everybody, but you will save your food truck a great deal of alienation if you invest as much as you can in customer interaction. Most of them don’t understand just how busy a food truck owners is but a large minority of them will take your lack of response personally.

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Food Truck Branding

Creating a fantastic menu, providing a professional customer service program and informing customers where they will be parking next seem to be the most common goals of most food truck vendors.

Unfortunately, many have yet to dive too deeply into their brand. Sure, they designed (or had designed) a great logo and wrap for their truck, but a truck’s brand is much more than the aesthetics. Too many brands continue to fail at explaining what their business has to offer to the people in their community. A lot of this seems to come down to not understanding their customers as individuals.

Some of the food truck brands we examined often seem most interested in talking about:

  • Who they are
  • What they sell
  • Their geographical coverage
  • Their ownership
  • Their customer demographics
  • Their financial performance
  • Their innovations
  • Their social media marketing initiatives

Now contrast that with what plays on the minds of customers:

  • Is the truck’s menu aesthetic and functional?
  • Does the food truck’s brand image and reputation fit with who they are?
  • Does it respond to customer complaints?
  • Does the food truck follow ethical business practices?
  • Is the food truck interesting? Is it in the news? Do people talk about it?
  • Who speaks for the brand?
  • Is the branding consistent? Are customer expectations met?
  • Is it easy to find?
  • Is the menu overly-complicated?
  • Is it priced right?

So while food trucks focus on what they are doing, customers focus on how the food truck’s brand makes them feel and which of the many food truck options available to them feels most like them.

Mobile food vendors need to make a shift to a more human level of interaction with their customers. It’s not enough for them to listen and respond to what their research tells them. To be truly responsive, and not just process driven, food trucks need to find ways of talking to their consumers that are more natural sounding, more personality based, more give-and-take, more intuitive, more versatile.

Ultimately, the real role of social media going forward is that truck owners will need to evolve away from their instinctive nature to sell or talk about themselves. While some food truck owners are doing this, but my opinion is that we will see many more follow this path in the years ahead. Along with daily tweets sharing their next location, food trucks will need to engage with customers with different conversations, some scheduled, many not, taking place at different times across a varied range of topics.

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food truck tip of the day

tip of the dayWe all have them: those days when nothing goes right. To avoid taking the stress home, try doing three things at the end of a bad day:

  • Clear your mind. Take a few deep breaths. Think about the things that matter to you outside of the food truck. Prepare yourself mentally to walk out the door of the commissary and leave the  day behind (even if it’s already night).
  • Do something easy. Send off a report or reply to a few straightforward e-mails. Get some things off your to-do list to restore a sense  of control.
  • Get up and leave. Once you’ve completed the last task at the commissary prepping for the next shift, don’t check your email. Just leave.

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recipe journal

Many of the food truck owners I have spoken with are always looking for alternative revenue streams for their mobile food business. Some look at opening a brick and mortar location, some want to take popular menu items, sauces or seasonings to market. Others dream of turning their food truck recipes into a cookbook.

If the cookbook idea is something you’ve tossed around let’s look at some numbers that might help you proceed.

Something few people are aware of is that cookbooks are one of the top two best-selling book genres, second only to mystery novels. That’s right; more cookbooks are sold than any other type of book with the exception of mysteries. In North America alone, consumers purchase 60 million cookbooks each year.

With so many cookbooks on the market, you may wonder if there is a need for yet another. The simple answer is yes.

The cookbook buying public is huge. Do you really think there would already be so many cookbooks out there if there wasn’t an eager market for them? Do you think publishers would release as many cookbook titles as they do every year if there wasn’t a constant demand for more?

New cookbooks are being released all the time, and new cookbook authors appear every day.

While the best reason to write a cookbook is probably the same reason you started your food truck (because you want to share your great food and terrific stories with the public) it may not be the only reason. Whatever your motivation for writing a cookbook, the bottom line is writing a cookbook can help you create a new revenue stream for your food truck.

An added benefit is that writing a cookbook is more than just a new way of generating immediate income. That same cookbook has the potential to turn into a long-term profit producer. Cookbooks often continue to sell for many, many years after they were first published. A single cookbook can continue to provide long-term profits even years after you’ve written it.

So the cookbook you write now could very well still be making money for you even if you shut your food truck business down. This is referred to as “passive income” because after your initial investment of time, effort and money, you can sit back and spend your time doing other things while the money still continues to roll in.

But while a lot of people dream of writing a cookbook, for most it never goes beyond that – a dream. Why? Because they really have no clue how to do it. And so they may try, but don’t get far. Or they may never even try, because they lack the motivation and confidence, knowing they lack the necessary knowledge and guidance.

In future articles I’ll cover some of the aspects of writing a cookbook such as working with a publisher and self-publishing.

As a final note, just remember if you choose to start writing your own food truck cookbook, don’t get discouraged. Julia Child was rejected by almost every publishing house because “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” wasn’t considered a book that would sell.

Are you ready to take your dream of being a published cookbook author into a full-fledged and very profitable revenue stream for your food truck empire? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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food truck tip of the day

tip of the dayStudies have shown that as much as 90% of learning and career development takes place on the job; which makes sense since continuous learning is a key to building a sustainable career in any field. While some of your staff members may have years of formal culinary education and other that have worked under some of the country’s best chefs…the fact is that you and your food truck managers are going to be their most important career developers while they work for you. Help your food truck team members flourish with these tips:

  • Instead of a yearly conversation about career goals during performance reviews, talk with them frequently. Regular discussions about their career objectives and interests will help them to refine goals and spot opportunities for development.
  • When planning a group project, ask team members to identify both how they can contribute and what they would like to learn. This avoids their volunteering to perform only tasks that they already know they can do.
  • Ask employees to report back  to you periodically on what they feel they have been learning and how they are using their new skills and knowledge to better your mobile food business.

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Twitter Engage Followers

Yesterday we dove into the topic of finding relevant Twitter followers for your mobile food business. Today we’ll expand on that thought and discuss how to keep your new followers.

While having fantastic food coming from your service window with great service will get customers to keep coming back, the same type of strategy needs to be used when using Twitter. Your followers aren’t going to keep tracking your tweets if the content is the equivalent of an unpleasant server presenting them with bland, non-innovative food.

So how do you keep your followers coming back for more?

Tweet Interesting Content

If you are new to Twitter, this task may seem easier said than done.  Even if you aren’t an investigative journalist there are a number of ways to share interesting content? Here are some ideas.

Use Google Alerts

Set up Google Alerts to get daily email updates about all of the things that are of interest to your audience—from “vegan recipes” to “food truck industry news”—and share them through Twitter.

Share Images

Photos and videos are a proven way to engage your audience. Use photos to share your menu items or events you take part in so your food truck business will get click-throughs and comments.

You may have just come up with a great new recipe, take a picture of it and ask “what do you think?” Photos engage, especially if you tie them into a giveaway.

Engage With The Crowd

Mobile food business’ on Twitter who don’t talk to other people are significantly less engaging and less likely to get followers. Just because someone hasn’t followed you back doesn’t mean that you can’t engage them. Check out their conversations and see if you can jump in with relevant comments, or retweet some of their links.

Join The Conversation

Chances are, what is of interest to your followers is what they’re already talking about! Rather than trying to start a new discussion, why not join an existing? See what your audience is talking about and engage them in that conversation. Ask questions, answer them, retweet and respond.

Also, being part of conversations will get you in front of more people, increasing your chances of being followed.

Get involved with #chats

Anyone can start a chat on Twitter by using a hashtag. By joining the conversation at appropriate chats, you can quickly build your relevant followers; assuming you have something valuable to add!

If you’re looking to engage other local merchants, you could chime in at a chat set up by your local chamber of commerce. If you are looking to talk about the national food truck scene, please feel free to join #FoodTruckChat. Although we have been lax in operating this chat, we do plan to pick it back up shortly.

Promote Your Twitter Account Through Other Channels

Leverage the following you’ve built elsewhere by promoting your Twitter account. Talk up Twitter at your website, blog or through email.

Leverage your social media platforms

Likewise, include links (and calls to action) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.

You may be tempted to sync all of your updates and tweets together using a tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck. While there’s nothing wrong with this, use this technique cautiously.

Certain platforms may not be as “conversational” as Twitter, and if you’re already connected on Facebook and you’re syncing all of your tweets and Facebook posts, what’s the value to your fans of getting the same content on Twitter?

What do you think? What tips, tools or tactics have you been using to build your own relevant Twitter following? Share something in the comments box below and include your Twitter handle and you’ll be sure to pick up a few new followers.

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relevant twitter followers

Is Twitter working for your food truck business the way you thought it would? Are you looking to grow a larger and more relevant Twitter following for your truck?

Early on Roy Choi discovered how powerful Twitter was for finding and engaging an audience for his Kogi BBQ. Not only was it a low cost marketing tool, but the speed it delivered his message and its viral nature made it a favorite tool for advertising his next stop.

Yet when some food truck owners jump on Twitter for the first time, they wonder why they don’t get an overwhelming response to their initial tweet. Soon they learn that they must develop a following.

They see other trucks with followings of 500, 5,000 or 50,000 and they want some of that. So they head over to Google “how to get more followers on Twitter” or falling for tweets advertising different ways to buy followers.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it can be very easy to build a following on Twitter if you’re willing to try tactics such as following and un-following people, creating fake accounts that follow you and retweet everything you say or even buying followers.

Although you may be able to build up your food truck’s following quickly using these shady tactics, very few of those followers will provide your business any value.

So the basic premise of this article is to let new food truck owners know that it’s not how many followers your food truck has, but how many relevant followers you have. Having 1,000 followers who don’t respond to anything you share is equivalent to shouting from your service window and claiming that the entire city is your audience.

With that said; more engaged followers are better than fewer engaged followers. So, let’s focus on getting your food truck more engaged followers.

Building a relevant Twitter following comes down to four basic principles:

  • Find and follow prospective customers
  • Tweet content that interests your target audience
  • Engaging with your audience
  • Promote your Twitter account

Today I’ll discuss the some tips, tools and tactics to attract relevant followers on Twitter and follow up tomorrow with the other three.

Find and Follow Prospective Customers

The audience you want to be able to convert into food truck sales is out there, it’s just up to you to find them.

Build a Strong Profile

Because most people will check out your profile before following you, it is important to put your account settings in order and present your food truck business in the most engaging way possible.

Profile photo: Make sure you’re using a photo of your truck or your logo for your account. Let people know what type of business you are and what tells them more than showing off your truck.

Background Photo: Use this large area to help show potential customers what’s on your menu…show off a single item or collage of images of the food you serve.

Detailed Bio: You’ve got 160 characters, so get creative. Let people know what type of food you sell and where you sell it. If your tag line explains this and fits…use it here to keep a consistent marketing message across all media platforms.

Location: Because the food truck industry is so hyper local, make sure you include the city you operate in. If you are like most trucks and work in multiple cities or counties, put the general region and state you park your truck in. This can be the make it or break for some people to follow your mobile food business.

Third-party Tools

One of the first places to start your search for relevant people is at one of the many Twitter directories out there. Over the years a lot of these directories have come and gone but these are our favorites:

Use these tools to search your area for your ideal customers.

Leverage other Truck’s Twitter Lists

A great source for new people to connect with is other food truck’s Twitter lists. As long as the lists are made public, you are free to subscribe to them, quickly getting access to dozens or hundreds of vetted Twitter users.

Search Twitter

You can use Twitter’s search functionality to find relevant people and engage with them. For example, let’s say you are launching in Cleveland. Start by doing searches on #Cleveland #Foodtruck on Twitter.

Once you find people discussing food trucks in your area, you can join the conversation by @ (mentioning) them, answering their questions and otherwise engaging them.

Since your truck’s customers will normally be local, run a search to see if you can who’s hungry and close to your next stop. Then reach out directly to those starving members of your community on Twitter and offer them a discount or free drink if they show up to your service window and mention “Twitter” as they place their order.

For more ideas on finding and following the right people, keep an eye out on tomorrow’s follow up article.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to retweet it or add us at twitter.com/mobilecuisine.

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