Authors Posts by Richard Myrick

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.

competitive advantage

As the years go on, and the growth of the food truck industry expands and morphs, mobile food vendors more than ever need to scrutinize their operations and customer service to maintain a competitive advantage.

To survive the increasingly competitive industry in what seems to be a continual uncertain economy we offer these suggestions to help food truck and food cart vendors stay relevant in their market, maximize their profits and keep (or build one) their competitive advantage.

5 Tips To Keep Your Food Truck’s Competitive Advantage

Train Staff Members

Food truck owners and managers need to get their staff to stop waiting on customers and start selling.

We’ve seen too many servers only take orders instead of taking the opportunity to sell. Customers rely on servers to make the right suggestions and provide them a great experience. Also, when your staff is trained to upsell, you make more money. A satisfied customer will become repeat customer as well as a brand advocate.

RELATED: Food Truck Upselling Tips That Won’t Turn Off Customers

Create Strategic Alliances

In today’s mobile food industry, food trucks should make it a priority to reach as many local businesses as possible.

Partner with complementary businesses such as micro-breweries, bars, retail shops, local events and festivals. This is a highly effective way to get your food truck brand in front of more of your community.

Analyze Your Market

Consumer preferences and food truck technology are always changing. Vendors must constantly review their own operation, menu, and pricing along with their competitors.

Compare the pricing of your food suppliers, credit card processors, commercial kitchens and payroll providers annually (or more).

Put Good Systems In Place

Consistent kitchen procedures, portion control and food presentation each directly impact a food truck’s bottom line.

If you don’t have systems in place to maintain low cost consistency, it time to implement some. If you already have good systems in place keep an eye on them to avoid any setbacks.

Control Costs

We often discuss the ways of losing money as a food truck vendor, but there are several things you can do to cut potential losses by changing how you do business.

  • Know and understand your prime operating costs, including food and labor. Never give up on improving the numbers.
  • Conduct monthly cost comparisons. Compare your top inventory items and then price shop them with at least 2 different suppliers in your area.
  • Ensure maximum use of all ingredients by using them throughout your menu

We hope these suggestions keep your food truck’s competitive advantage rolling along. If you think we may of missed a suggest way to stay competitive in the mobile food industry, share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

customer lifetime value

How much is a customer worth to your food truck? An important customer performance metric every food truck vendors should know is customer value.  Whether you know it or not, your mobile food business spends a lot of money acquiring and retaining new customers.

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is be defined as the dollar value of a customer relationship, based on the present value of the projected future cash flows from the customer relationship.  Customer lifetime value is an important concept because you will start to shift your focus from quarterly profits to the long-term health of your customer relationships.

Consider the following customer value facts we’ve gained from internal food truck surveys:

  • The average food truck customer spends $7.83 per visit.
  • Loyal food truck customers visit a truck 1.9 times per month.
  • Loyal food truck customers will visit a food truck for 2.7 years.
Calculating Customer Lifetime Value

Using our industry data, we can now calculate the industry average CLV:

(Average Sale) X (Number of Transactions Per Year) X (Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a Typical Customer)

$7.83 X 22.8 X 2.7 = $482 ($192.81 per year)

Now take your own data and figure out your truck’s CLV.

Now what? Now you have valuable information to use to determine future marketing plans. You have two options in deciding how much to spend to acquire new food truck customers.

Short term: Determine the amount you’re willing to spend per customer per campaign (as long as the cost is less than the profit you make on your first sale.

Long term: Determine the cost you’re willing to spend per customer while understanding you’ll take a loss on initial purchases.

Other ways to use this data for would be:

  • Share this information with employees so they can make better customer retention decisions.
  • Provide examples of the kinds of decisions they can make; refunds, exchanges, upgrades, and more.
  • Recognize when employees make good decisions and encourage them to keep it up.
  • Teach employees that make a bad decisions, help the employee feel good about trying to make the right decision and confident about what to the next time.

In short, you and your staff knowing and understanding the value of your customers makes a lot of business sense.

If we could ask anything from you it would be to manage each and every interaction you have with your food truck customers with their lifetime value in mind.

Also, if you would, please let us know in this vendor poll if you are currently or planning to start using this data to in your food truck business.

If you have any examples of how calculating the customer lifetime value (CLV) of your customers can help other food trucks tailor their marketing better, or any ideas on how to do it, we would love to hear from you in the comment section below, Tweet us or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

granola 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 we will look at Granola fun facts.

The Facts: Granola is a breakfast food and snack food, popular around the world, consisting of rolled oats, nuts, honey, and sometimes puffed rice, that is usually baked until crisp. During the baking process the mixture is stirred to maintain a loose, breakfast cereal-type consistency. Dried fruits, such as raisins and dates, are sometimes added.

  • Granula was invented in Dansville, New York, by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at the Jackson Sanitarium in 1863.
  • Similar to trail mix and muesli, Granola is often fashioned into snack-sized bars.
  • January 21st is National Granola Bar Day.
  • Granola bars are usually identical to the normal form of granola in composition, but instead of a loose, breakfast cereal consistency, granola bars are pressed and baked into a bar shape, resulting in a more convenient snack.
  • The first Granola Bar sold in the United States was patented and manufactured by Edward Thayer Sr. in Chico CA.
  • A similar cereal was developed by John Harvey Kellogg. It too was initially known as Granula, but the name was changed to Granola to avoid legal problems with Jackson.
  • Eating granola may help lower your cholesterol and prevent certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Granola Fun Facts We Missed

Please feel free to let us know if we may have missed some granola fun facts 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 Granola.

Find all of the National Food Holidays to spice up your food truck menu specials throughout the year.

bounce back promotions

Any food truck owner can tell you that you not only need to find new customers, but you need to increase sales to your current customers. Or, in other words, you need them to come back regularly, bring back their friends and family and to spread the word that you serve the Best <insert your food truck cuisine> in Town.

One of the best ways to accomplish this task is to use an old marketing strategy used by restaurants for decades, the bounce back promotion.

Food truck bounce back promotions are great at getting first time customers to come back to your truck a second time. Since the customer knows that they will receive a reward the next time they track you down. Once you’ve gotten customers to visit your food truck more than once or twice, you’ll want to take the next step in marketing…loyalty programs. We’ll discuss this in a future article.

Now let’s bounce back to bounce backs.

Bounce back promotions can be, time specific, product specific, free item with purchase or BOGO (buy one, get one).

Types Of Bounce Back Promotions

Time Specific

This bounce back “bounces” customers from busy hours to off peak hours. Offer a discount or reward during your slowest hours or shifts.

Product Specific

A product specific discount is more effective than a general discount. It encourages customers to purchase one of your food truck menu items they might not try otherwise, and the more menu items a customer tries and loves, the more reasons they have to become a regular.

Free Item

Offering new customers a free treat with their next purchase is often irresistible. One example of an enticing bounce back would be to offer a free side dish with the purchase of an entrée.

Buy One Get One (BOGO)

This promotion is especially effective on customers that have visited your food truck alone. It often entices them to bring a friend next time. It can also be a good way to get couples back to your service window.

Guidelines For Bounce Back Promotions

To ensure that your bounce back promotion is effective, you need to make sure it will bring the customer to your service window soon. The incentive should seem urgent. Here are a few guidelines for implementing a bounce back marketing:

Make them expire

Customers consistently forget about their coupons or special offers. Making the bounce back a “limited time only” deal gets them back in line before they forget.

Limit the requirements

It is probably not a good incentive to offer something of low value with the purchase of several high value items. “Free drink with the purchase of two entrees” isn’t as desirable as “Free dessert with purchase of an entrée.

Offer different deals

Unless you are offering a time specific bounce back, offer your lunch customers deals on lunch and your late night customers deals on late night meals. You could also spin your promotions to customers in even more specific ways, such as offering a free kids meal with the purchase of two adult orders.

Remember that bounce back promotions need to be one-time offers, so do not be afraid to use them. The more incentives you can give them to return, the better the opportunity for creating a loyal food truck customer.

Have you run a food truck bounce back promotion for your mobile food business? We’d love to hear your results. Feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

Business Lessons From MLK

Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was a civil rights leader, a religious leader and an African-American leader. How can his teachings, speeches, writing and actions help vendors become better food truck owners?

5 Inspirational Food Truck Business Lessons From MLK:

You MUST Have A Dream

Dr. King is best known for his “I have a dream” speech. A successful food truck owner must always dreams big, and shares their vision with staff members and customers. You have to have to have a dream; and a big one, to take the huge chance that is entering the mobile food industry.

Persuade Without Power

With the use of non-violent civil disobedience, Dr. King was able to persuade millions of Americans to join the civil rights movement and support his dream. As a food truck owner, you have to get a lot of people on your side: local politicians, customers, and employees.

You can try to be aggressive in your food truck operations, but this has been shown to be very ineffective. The best way to persuade is to be kind, passionate, supportive and grateful.

Get Your Team Involved

Dr. King was able to build a real movement because he was able to get so many people involved, because everyone felt like they were part of something bigger than them. As an food truck owner, you can involve everyone, and learn from everyone as well: every employee and customer has something valuable to teach you, if you’ll only let them.

Create Sense Of Urgency

As Dr. King said in his “I have a dream” speech:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

Now is the time, for you as well. Now is the time for you to lead your food truck team, and now is the time for you to build  a food truck business with meaning, and now is the time for you to instill a sense of urgency in every person you deal with.

Be Inspirational

Dr. King was so inspiring, and we can only dream of being half as inspiring as he was. But as a food truck owner your job is to inspire. Your job is to inspire your staff, and your customer base, about your mission and your food and services.

Take the time for these 5 food truck business lessons from MLK inspire you to be a better mobile food vendor and person every day. We at Mobile Cuisine are thankful to Dr. Martin Luther King for so much, including the thousands of leaders he inspired unknowingly, and those he’ll inspire for decades to come.

Running A Profitable Food Truck

As the mobile food industry grows, I have learned a lot through speaking with vendors across the country. One of the more common trends I have seen comes from trucks that have been around for a few years.

Food truck vendors a starting to take different roles in managing the day to day operations of the truck. Many of them seem to be hiring food truck managers. This gives them the ability to work behind the scenes to work on new recipes or expand their fleet, or in some cases even open brick and mortar counter parts.

Today’s article covers a topic for new and existing food truck owners. We delve into the realm of running a profitable food truck. For new vendors, the article should be a guide for yourself. For established vendors, it should be used as a guide for the type of people should put in charge of running a profitable food truck business.

The Keys To Running A Profitable Food Truck

Take Ownership

Taking ownership in your food truck should always be your first priority. Whether you are the owner or managing it you need to understand that the food truck and how it operates is a direct reflection of you.

You need to make sure:

  • Every customer is provided with top notch food and service
  • Staff members preform at the highest level

Not only are these points the cornerstones of taking ownership, it will put you on the path to becoming a great leader.

Lead By Example

Leading by example takes commitment. This is often difficult for owners and managers because it requires them to model the behavior and actions they wish their staff to mirror.

Make The Truck A Fun Environment

Creating an atmosphere around the truck where fun translates into happy customers and employees will ultimately will have an impact on the bottom line.

Stay Focused

Running a food truck can seem like you are a fireman meaning you feel like all you’re doing is “putting out fires.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

This is where your food truck business plan comes in. It’s imperative to achieving your goals because it will provide you with the needed focus.

Learn Everyday

To run a profitable food truck, you need a great deal of specialized knowledge. Set personal goals that relate to learning.

Attend conferences and seminars, speak with industry peers and read books to advance your knowledge of the fast growing mobile food industry.

Ask For Feedback

If the key to an employee’s training success is getting feedback from you, why shouldn’t the same apply to you or your food truck manager?

When was the last time you asked a staff member how you were doing? When was the last time you asked a customer how your food truck could meet and exceed their expectations?

Exceed Employee Expectations

Your employees expect that they will be treated with respect and given the tools to make money. So how do you exceed expectations? Train them consistently. Someone who doesn’t know your systems won’t understand what you expect of them.

Another way to exceed your employees’ expectations is to look for employees doing thing right, not what they are doing wrong. Recognize and reward them for their achievements.

Keep Everyone Informed

By communicating with your food truck employees on a regular basis, you share with them your vision. This ensures everyone knows the business goals and how they can help you achieve them.

Feel Good About Yourself

Ever noticed that the types of people you’re drawn to and figures you admire have something in common? They are confident in who they are and their abilities. Feeling good about you is a key to leading your food truck business to profitability.

By implementing these keys to running a profitable food truck, you are on track to achieving the success you desire.

Do you have any additional tips? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

menu item naming

What’s in a food truck menu item name? Everything!

What your new food truck menu item is called will have a huge effect on how well it will sell. In fact, it can be the difference between success and failure. And countless psychologists have tested and studied the effect of how people act around and think about food.

Here are some food truck menu item naming tips:
  • Use easy to say and easy to read words that describe the menu item clearly.
  • Avoid clumsy language that may be hard to say or pronounce. You don’t want to embarrass any of your customers when they step up to order. If you have to use hard to pronounce names, give each menu item a number so some not confident in their pronunciation can just give you its number.
  • Borrow, but don’t steal. Its fine to borrow a part of another name and build off of it but don’t blatantly steal it. It’s not flattery; it’s theft. In some cases, the name might be trademarked.
  • Use groups. Allow a friends, family and staff to offer suggestions and then select the name.
  • Get a thesaurus. Take your first idea and use words similar but place the feel a menu item should have if it comes from your food truck concept.
  • Surf the Web, both to get ideas and to search the name you’ve just come up with.
  • “KISS,” Keep it Simple Stupid.
  • Let your customers help. Let them take the lead via social media (or your website). The beauty in this approach is that once your customers are engaged enough to take ownership of your product, you know you’ve hit one out of the park.

Do you have some food truck menu naming tips not mentioned here? We’d love to hear them. Feel free to share your thought in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

Food Truck Wrap

How big should the letters on your food truck be? That depends on where you plan to park your food truck. Will you be parking it in customer parking lots while you cater inside, will you be in an urban setting with narrow streets, or do you plan to park in suburban locations where your truck will be visible from far away distances?

Here’s a handy reference for how different-size letters are read at various distances. These guidelines are only approximations; use them to give yourself an idea of how big the lettering on your food truck wrap must be.

Is Your Food Truck Wrap Readable?
Letter HeightDistance for
Maximum Effect
Readable
Distance
4″40 feet150 feet
6″60 feet200 feet
8″80 feet350 feet
10″100 feet450 feet
12″120 feet525 feet
18″180 feet750 feet
24″240 feet1,000 feet
36″360 feet1,500 feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you found a particular size font that worked best for your food truck? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

situations that could close your food truck
Image Credit: www.nycfoodtrucks.org

There isn’t a single mobile food vendor wants to shut down their food truck operations, even temporarily. Every shift or day that passes means lost revenue and sends a bad message to your existing and future customers. However, without a proper understanding of the situations that could close your food truck, it can become a reality for many vendors.

Something little, like a flat tire or a windshield crack, may seem insignificant at the time, but it can quickly escalate into a major issue. Just as most vendors have a kitchen fire escape plan in place, you should plan for other situations that could force you to close your food truck’s service window until the situation is resolved.

Here are 5 situations that could close your food truck this year:

Flat Tires

A flat tire can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to keep customers from tracking down your food truck. Keep a constant eye on the condition of your food truck’s tires and make sure they maintain the manufacturer suggested air pressure (psi).

Also monitor the condition of the tread and side walls of the tires. Clipping curbs by taking corners too sharply can put undue wear on a tire and can lead to flats if your drivers don’t learn how to properly navigate your truck.

Plumbing System Clogs

Pipe blockage or a backed-up drain can create a big problem, limiting fresh water to wash hands and equipment in your food truck. To prevent clogs or buildup in water (fresh and grey) lines by implementing a plumbing maintenance program that flushes the system with good bacterial products to keep lines clear.

Kitchen Fires

Data from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) indicates that of the food service establishments that have fires, 57 percent of which were started by cooking equipment. Regularly cleaning and maintaining your food truck’s hood kitchen exhaust systems will limit the impact of a fire and help prevent a catastrophic fire.

Bug Infestation

Nothing can get people talking negatively about your food truck more quickly than the presence of bugs. The mention of a roach in an online review can prevent people from taking the time to track your vehicle to your next stop and quickly alert local public health officials.

This could result in a potential closure.

Have a pest control specialist semi-annually inspect your food truck and make sure the same is being done at your commissary. This will prevent an infestation.

Unsanitary Conditions

Local health departments regularly inspect food trucks to ensure food is properly handled and stored. Inspectors also check to ensure the proper processes are in place to prevent cross contamination in the food mobile food vendors serve.

By providing approved chemical dispensing systems on your truck, you can help ensure cleaning chemicals are available and properly diluted. This will help encourage use, improve overall sanitation levels and limit the opportunity for an inspector to close your food truck.

While we understand that there are many more ways a food truck can be forced to shut down its operations, don’t let one of these simple to prevent situations that could close your food truck by implementing maintenance and monitoring systems.

Has your food truck needed to shut down because of some of these situations? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your story in the comment section below, Tweet us or share it on our Facebook page.

chef employment contract

Are you someone who has started a food truck, but hired someone who handled all of the cooking related responsibilities? If you’ve lost your food truck’s head chef you know there are problems that will arise requiring making some choices you’ve never considered.

Although difficult, recipes can be copyrighted. Unfortunately copyrighting doesn’t prevent someone from using the same formula or recreating your food truck menu item. Typically, it only protects your unique methods of creating the food. So basically, you may not be able to keep someone from reusing your recipes at another food truck or restaurant down the street just by copyrighting your recipes.

In many cases, the chef may look at these recipes as their own. If they were created while working for you, does that make them your property?

A chef you’ve fired or quit may not feel the need to leave you with the recipes created while they worked for you. They could also go to work for one of your competitors and make the same food you serve just out of spite.

Not only are you left without a chef but also without recipes. On top of that you’ve got to go out and hire your next chef.

For these reasons, the next time you hire a chef you need to create a chef employment contract that protects your recipes and the quality and consistency of the food your food truck serves.

So what should be included in a good chef employment contract?

Here are what I consider the key ingredients for any chef employment contract. You may also want to include them in employment contracts for all your cooking staff or anyone that has access to your food truck trade secrets.

Key Ingredients For Chef Employment Contracts

Job description

The job description helps you define what is expected of an employee. It should be read and signed so you have proof that they are aware of their duties. Make sure it includes “creating and recording recipes owned exclusively by the food truck” as one of their duties.

Intellectual property

You must clarify that any work done by the chef, recipes or procedures you’re your property remain your property upon termination of employment. They are being paid by you and thus their creations remains your property.

Conflict of interest

For key positions, you will want to state that while under your employment, they cannot hold another job or engage in any business or activity that conflicts with the interests of your food truck.

Confidentiality agreement

This prevents the employee from divulging any of your trade secrets to anyone else. These secrets include recipes, financial information, operations manuals, policies, vendor agreements, training practices, technology, food and service methods, and any and all records kept by the food truck business or any of its employees.

Employer notification

This states that you reserve the right to contact the employee’s new employer to divulge to them the terms of the employee’s employment contract with you.

Non-compete agreement

The greatest risk of a good employee leaving is that they will go to a direct competitor and try to compete with you. A non-compete agreement helps you prevent them from doing just that. A non-compete should state that an employee cannot work for or own interest in a similar business in your area.

Just remember a non-compete cannot keep someone from making a living. You just need to prevent them from taking your recipes and competing against you with them.

Employee solicitation statement. This prevents an existing employee from soliciting other employees to work for them.

Please Note: Before you finalize your contract make sure to use a qualified lawyer. I am not a lawyer and you shouldn’t consider this article legal advice.

Protect your food truck business and use chef employment contracts and job descriptions. Make sure you have records and written recipes for all your menu items. Make copies of them so you can’t be held hostage by any one employee.

Have you run into a situation where you wished you had a chef employment contract? We’d love to hear your story. Share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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