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.

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sales forecasting

With smart sales forecasting, food truck owners can plan ahead for the varying levels of business in the future. With properly done sales forecasting vendors can avoid surplus staff and unnecessary food purchases and preparation which will result in a nice boost to your bottom line.

Catering jobs provide food truck owners with 100% certainty for much of the time and business is booked and already paid for. This allows you to achieve lower food costs and consistent staffing levels because you can work with the exact numbers of meals you will be preparing and serving. This allows you to make spot on purchasing and staffing decisions.

So how can sales forecasting allow you to lower your margins for every day operations?

10 Ways To See Into The Future With Sales Forecasting

Maintain logbooks & diaries. Record customer numbers, weather, special events, the pattern of customer visit etc. You can use previous data from these logs to guide your mobile food business for the next few weeks or months.

Make sure your food truck staff understand the numbers. Do they know how many more customers to expect if food traffic will be 25% busier than last week or down 33% from last month?

Keep an eye out for local events. Adjust your daily operation times accordingly (sporting events, concerts and local festivals). This can be a great time to find a location to park specially to catch the crowds.

Find good sources for local weather. Use a reliable mobile app for your smartphone, or the most consistent (they’re almost never right) television weather channels that show weather patterns 7 days in advance. This information will help you determine if you will you need extra staff on the weekend.

Track the effect of changes in temperature, snow and rainfall. You may have to adjust your cooking and turnaround times based on the temperature.

Become more flexible with staff schedules. Explain about how the forecasted changes can affect business, this will prevent it looking like an unfair policy when their shifts are increased or decreased.

Create a staff standby system. If one of your food truck staff members is on-call, pay them an agreed sum to be available. Not only will you will build staff loyalty but your costs will be lower, even if you occasionally pay someone for just being home and watching TV. This will give your food truck staff confidence that they won’t be cut back but might also start planning for some bonus shifts.

Reduce ‘just-in-case’ over-staffing. Prepare your Plan B for an unexpected rush – it may be more profitable to maintain normal staffing levels but institute a smarter queueing system and ways to turn over customers more quickly.

Long term sales forecasting:

Watch population changes in the areas you operate your food truck. This goes for both residents and workers. Census data can help; unfortunately it isn’t officially updated every year. Paying attention to local news and statistics provided by your local Chamber of Commerce will be a more reliable guide.

This can also give you a guide to negative events that could hurt business such as a large business relocating from one part of the city to another (or out of town altogether) could mean the loss of hundreds of potential customers.

Watch industry trends (you can find those here at Mobile Cuisine). Keep your mobile food business ahead of the game such as faster service, healthy options, the newest obsession with ingredients and flavors, and legal regulations. All of these changes can result in the type, preferences and number of customers your food truck business sees.

If you are able to keep your focus on sales forecasting and sales building, rather than reactive steps such as cost cutting: your food truck business will soon see the difference.

Do you have some other sales forecasting tips you’d like to share? If so, please feel free to add them to the comment section below, Tweet us or add them to our Facebook page.

 

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food truck queues
Image Credit: Simmer Food Truck MKE

At some point in everyone life, they have to wait in line. Few people enjoy it, so why not make your food truck queues move quickly to help keep your customers happy. Making the line appear to move quickly also makes customers happy. Managing appearances means managing your customer’s perceptions.

According to MIT queuing theorist Richard Larson, “There’s no such thing as the perfect line, the trick is to convince people they’re being treated fairly.”

Here are 11 proven ways to get your food truck queues to move faster:

  • Be sure to have a line, not a crowd standing in front of your service window. An orderly progression towards the service window gives customers a sense of calm.
  • Keep your food truck queues narrow. Single file lines move more quickly.
  • Arrange the line so those waiting can see the person currently being served. Watching another customer being served makes your place in line appear closer. When the actual service is out of site, your turn can seem miles away.
  • After each customer is served, use a light, bell or chime to announce to everyone ‘Next!’ This keeps the next person alert (saving time between customers) and gives everyone a regular assurance that the line really is moving.
  • Provide information alongside the line to attract the attention of those who are waiting. When customers become involved, time flies faster.
  • Play music inside your truck that is loud enough to be heard outside. Make sure find out what levels your local codes permit music to be played.
  • Put a TV or video screen on the side of your food truck. Choose an appropriate channel for your customer base. This is a great way to toss them some advertising of an upcoming food truck event your team will be attending.
  • When the wait is truly long, send a member of your food truck staff to interact with customers in advance. They can answer questions, provide information and thank them for their patience. Choose staff with personality and make sure they all understand about why there is a delay.
  • Cooking demonstration videos are a great distraction for a hungry crowd.
  • Have menus on display beside the line, so people will be ready to order when they arrive at your service window.
  • Give customers a reason to use their mobile phone. Waiting in your line is the perfect time to check a quiz or competition you are holding on your website, or download your mobile app. Or check in to your page on Facebook, Foursquare or post a quick photo or video on Instagram.

There are so many ways to manage the customers while they are waiting in line. Choose one or more of these suggestions and try it out. See how your food truck queues run smoother and report back here with the results. We’d love to hear how they worked (or didn’t) for your food truck.

If you have used other techniques to manage your food truck queues, please feel free to share your advice in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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hot cross bun fun facts

The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, during our research for our daily content, 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 a new section titled “Did You Know?”.

For today’s Did You Know we will look at Hot Cross Bun Fun Facts.

hot cross bun fun factsThe Facts: A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top.

  • The hot cross bun is traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South Africa, India, and Canada.
  • In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Shrove Tuesday (the evening before Ash Wednesday) to midday Good Friday.
  • September 11th is National Hot Cross Buns Day.
  • The traditional method for making the cross on top of the bun is to use shortcrust pastry; however, more recently recipes have recommended a paste consisting of flour and water.
  • In the Czech Republic, mazanec is a similar cake or sweet bread eaten at Easter time. It often has a cross marked on top.

Superstitions about Hot Cross Buns:

– If you share a hot cross bun with someone else, you’re supposedly going to be friends for the year, especially if you say “Half for you and half for me. Between us two shall goodwill be” at the time.
– Some people believe in kissing the bun before eating it because it’s got a cross on it.
– They apparently protect against shipwrecks while at sea.
– And, if you hang one in your kitchen, they’ll protect against fire and make all your breads rise perfectly – so long as each year your replace the bun.

Hot Cross Bun Fun Facts We Missed

If so, please feel free to let us know 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 Hot Cross Buns.

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local business networking

Local business networking is one of the best ways a food truck owner can expand their knowledge, learn from the success of others, build your customer base and tell others about your mobile food business.

We have always highly recommended local business networking as a way to build a sustainable food truck business.

Top 5 benefits for food truck vendors of getting involved in local business networking:

Gaining Referrals/Increased Business

The most obvious benefit and the reason most small business owners decide to participate in local business networking activities and join networking groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.

The thing about the type of referrals that you receive through local business networking is that they are typically high quality and most of the time is even pre-qualified for you. When a networked lead finds your truck, they have usually received a great review and are more likely to make a larger purchase and if you meet their expectations, there’s a great chance you’ll have a repeat customer.

Finding Business Opportunities

When you meet with a motivated group of small business owners comes an abundance of opportunities will be made apparent.

Opportunities such as partnerships for new parking locations, retailers who may be interested in selling some of your spectacular menu items, speaking opportunities, discounted equipment purchases… the list is nearly endless.

Just make sure you don’t jump into every opportunity that comes your way. The opportunities that you get involved in should align with your food truck business goals/vision, otherwise you might find that you are spinning your wheels chasing after opportunity after opportunity and getting nowhere.

Creating Connections

The phrase “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know” is so true in the mobile food industry. If you want a really successful food truck business, then you need to have a great source of relevant connections in your network that you can call on when you need them.

Networking provides you with a great source of connections, and really opens the door to talk to highly influential people in the community that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or find.

Getting Advice

Having other small business owners to talk with gives a food truck vendor the opportunity to get advice from them on all sorts of things related to your mobile food business.

Local business networking is a great way to tap into advice and expertise that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get hold of. Just make sure you are getting solid advice from the right people.

Building Your Status

Being visible and getting noticed is a huge benefit of local business networking. Make sure you regularly attend business and social events that will help to get your face known in the communities you operate your food truck.

You can then help to build your and your brand’s reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it. You are also more likely to get more customer referrals as you will be the person that pops into their head.

To find local businesses here at Mobile Cuisine that are specific to the mobile food industry, check out our Food Truck Supplier Directory to see who is listed in your area. If members of your local business network aren’t listed, let them know they have access to add their business for free!!!

If you can think of other benefits to local business networking that should have been in the top 5, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us, or share them on our Facebook page.

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food truck branding tips

It’s a sad fact in today’s mobile food industry that unless you are one of your cities major food truck icons or a truck that a customer has visited 5 or more times, most people just won’t remember your food truck business name.

The reason I put this article together comes from an observation I made from a recent trip to a local food truck. Three people were standing in line with me at a food truck, one was on the phone. He looked at his friend and asked “what’s the name of this truck?”…and the friend’s blank stare showed that he didn’t know. Worse, if they had tried to figure out what the name of the truck was while in line, they would have been even more confused.

The name of the truck was unreadable. It was broken up because the sign company placed the name over the service window panel so when it was open, nobody is able to read it. The food truck’s name wasn’t on the sign board and the staff didn’t have uniforms. This was a sure sign of lost future business.

Before you go spending any money on expensive promotions for your food truck business, make sure that you’ve covered everything, including the BIG things like the wrap of your truck to all of the small, personal promotional items inside your truck. You could double your business if every customer comes back at least once.

10 Food Truck Branding Tips

  • Place the name of your food truck on all sides of the vehicle (including the roof) – make sure that the name is legible if different doors or hatches are open.
  • The name on awning (if you have one) and on the service window – if it’s just on the awning people walking by may not see it.
  • The name on other company vehicles if you tow your kitchen around – be sure you include your website so it’s easy to find you later.
  • Business name and contact details on fliers.
  • Business cards at the service window for people to keep.
  • Catering or take away menus, even if it’s just a sample.
  • Auto-response to inquiry emails. It automatically bounces back saying something like:
    “Thanks for your inquiry – we will be in touch with you shortly. Don’t forget our weekly schedule and all of our menus are online at wvw.ourfoodtruck.com.”
  • Business name on staff uniforms.
  • Prominent website address – as big as every other mention of your food truck name. If your website url is not logical such as oftw.com instead of OurFoodTruckWebsite.com, fix this – register the easier name as well as the original and have them both directed to your main website. If you spell the web name with some capitals (like the example), it’s easier to remember and won’t affect search behavior.
  • Get your food truck up to number one when consumers run a Google search – unfortunately many food trucks still haven’t attempted this.

More information: Boost Your Food Truck’s Menu Search Ranking

BONUS: 3 personalized customer contact tips to help reinforce these food truck branding tips

  • Hand written “thank you” on the tickets.
  • Personal acknowledgement: “Thank you Ms. Soinso” – when handing back their credit card or when my delivering their order.
  • Real customers on your website. Think happy staff and happy customers, plus short bios of each of your staff members.

Do you have any cost saving food truck branding tips for name reinforcement? If so, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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fall food truck maintenance checklist

It’s time to get your food truck business read for fall. Last week we discussed small ingredient tweaks to get your menu tuned up. Today we are going to look directly at the most important part of your mobile food business…your truck. Without providing the proper preventative maintenance, your truck could have you sidelined while you watch the final days of beautiful weather pass you by.

You may not associate fall as a prime time to complete a seasonal preventative maintenance checklist. But, while most of the items on this checklist are geared toward winter driving, it’s much smarter and easier to do them during fall when the weather is usually milder, especially true if you operate your food truck business in the northern half of the country or in higher elevations.

Help your keep your vehicle on the road by adjusting to seasonal changes by completing this fall food truck maintenance checklist.

Fall Food Truck Maintenance Checklist:

  • Check your oil level, and add oil if necessary; it’s even better if you perform an oil and lube job. Be sure to use multi-grade viscosity oil for winter driving.
  • Test your battery. You can do this for free at many auto parts stores. If it needs to be replaced, many of the stores that provide testing will install the new battery for no extra fee.
  • Inspect your windshield wipers. Bitter cold, snow and ice are hard on rubber blades. Again, you can find blades designed for winter at most local auto parts stores.
  • Fill your windshield wiper reservoir with the proper type of windshield fluid for your climate.
  • Look at the level and condition of your engine coolant. If the level is low, add antifreeze. If the condition looks poor, do a flush-and-fill.
  • Evaluate your belts and hoses. If you see any evidence of fraying, cracking or leaking, get a new belt or hose immediately.
  • Consider getting a tune-up, especially if it’s been 30,000 miles or so since your food truck’s last one. At the least, perform a visual inspection of your spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. When dealing with sloppy or icy road conditions, you’ll need the best traction your tires can deliver. If your tires are worn, replace them before winter arrives.
  • Put together a winter food truck survival kit. Jumper cables, flares, ice scrapers, road salt, flashlights, flares, blankets and first aid materials are all good to include in your kit.

We hope you find this fall food truck maintenance checklist handy. If you think there are other items we should include, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us, or share them on our Facebook page.

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fall food truck menu

As we wrap up the first week of September, like it or not, for most of the United States the leaves aren’t far from their annual transformation from green to oranges, yellows and reds to their inevitable fall to the ground.

If they haven’t already, temperatures will soon be dropping and the people in your area will change their daily attire from shorts and tank tops into jeans, long sleeves and sweaters or jackets. The seasons change whether you want them to or not, and often the food consumers crave changes with them.

Today we’ve provided you with three easy fall food truck menu changes you can make in your mobile food business offerings this year.

3 Easy Fall Food Truck Menu Ideas:

Rich and hearty meats

Whether you use beef, pork, lamb or chicken, fall is the time for a food truck to add hearty, hot, stewy meals. Consider the possibilities…roasted chicken; the many options of fall vegetables, beef stew, shepherd’s pie, etc… Your options are almost limitless.

Dig into your recipe books and find what fit’s your truck’s concept the best. Every region of the world or style of cuisine has its own hearty, comforting slow-cooked favorites. If you don’t currently have any on the menu, consider adding some fall specials. Customers will love to stop by to grab a dish that will help break the new chill in the air.

Hot drinks

If you haven’t heard, beverage sales are great way for food trucks to boost their bottom line. Everyone wants something to drink. In the summer, consumers love smoothies, milkshakes, ice teas and cold sodas. In the fall most people turn to something else to quench their thirst.

Think about coffees, teas, and hot chocolates, throw in some seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin spice to tie into the fall season. Don’t just write off beverages as a throw in for your menu, consider what might pair perfectly with some of your customers favorite fall dishes.

Hot soups and sandwiches

We understand that there are many trucks that focus on these items year round, however if you don’t, consider adding some of them to your fall menu. A hot bowl of French onion soup or a regional spin on chili is the perfect addition for your customers.

For those looking to add a nice pairing for your soups, consider something like a grilled panini, patty melt, or Reuben. You may not have to even change their menus for this tip; just be sure to feature and sell the menu items that are especially comforting as it gets cooler in your market.

While some of you may be thinking that it’s a bit early to start thinking about fall flavors, just remember, a food truck owner can never be too prepared. Fall is right around the corner and it’s time to get creative with your food truck menu!

If you have any other suggestions, we’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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freshen up your food truck facebook page

Creating a Facebook page for your food truck business is simple enough but attracting new fans to your page and keeping them tuned in to your content can be a challenge in itself. Today we’ll share five simple ideas on how to freshen up your food truck Facebook page so that your fans will look forward to your updates and will hopefully turn to you when they need a craving taken care of.

5 Ways To Freshen Up Your Food Truck Facebook Page

Behind-The-Scenes Photos

People love to see behind-the-scenes action of food trucks. These types of posts will make your fans feel like they have the inside scoop on your truck.

  • Post pictures of your staff before their shift smiling and ready to go before the next rush.
  • Snap some photos of dishes you are testing that have yet to make it onto your menu. Peak curiosity by asking your fans to stay tuned to try out the item
  • Post photos taken at any community or charity food truck events your truck has participated in

Ask Trivia Questions

For some reason, we have found that people love to answer Trivia questions and more importantly, they like being the FIRST person to answer correctly. Designate a day each week (Trivia Tuesday for example) to ask a trivia question that is in line with whats happening in the areas you operate.

  • Before Halloween post a question regarding the holiday
  • Ask your fans of the exact date the truck opened or how you created its name

Offer Facebook Exclusivity

Facebook fans love to feel special and there is no better way to do that than by offering an exclusive deal to them only? Post a coupon or announcement to your Facebook page and be sure to clarify that the promotion is for your Facebook fans ONLY.

  • Offer a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree to all Facebook fans for one day
  • Create a coupon for 20% off your first catering service local companies

Talk About Something Other Than Your Food Truck

There is nothing more annoying than a food truck’s Facebook page that spends all day, every day marketing to their fans by only talking about their mobile food business. Try to include content or information that isn’t just about you and your food truck.

  • Post about current local events
  • Share content that is relevant to other food trucks in your area
  • Share content from Mobile Cuisine (please ignore the selfless plug)
  • Share content that will make people smile, laugh or think!

Ask Questions

Remember, if you ask, your loyal fans will answer. This may sound simple but you might be surprised how many food truck Facebook pages merely send out their daily locations. This is great way to ask your customers questions about the quality of the food you serve, the service your truck provides on the street as well as how they would like to see your social media efforts change.

  • Post photos of your menu items (every now and then) with a question that will get your most loyal fans talking, “We love our new [insert dish name]! Have you had a chance to try it? What did you think?”
  • Ask “How are we doing here? Tell us what you, our most awesome fans, would like to see more or less of from us on Facebook”
  • Poll questions are great for engaging fans and customers online. “Let’s settle this debate for good… Ketchup or Gravy on your fries?”

There is no absolute right or wrong way to operate a food truck’s social media marketing. New platforms seem to pop up daily and fads change as well. Try not to stay inside the box too much and  be sure to stay ahead of your competition by trying new things. If they fail, you can just move on to the next idea.

Do you have any other ways that you freshen up your food truck Facebook page? If so, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

 

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food truck menu descriptions

Well planned and creative food truck menu descriptions make a huge impact on vendors who are interested in: increased revenue, providing customers with a great experience, and repeat business.

These three points are the keys to running a successful food truck business.

A study by the University of Illinois achieved a 27% increase in sales by manipulating menu wording to more comprehensively describe items, ingredients, and how food was prepared. This is a huge increase for the restaurant industry considering how difficult it can be to build profits.

Typically, a food service businesses have three ways to boost revenue:

  • Raise prices
  • Increase head count
  • Increase average ticket price

Number three is where improving you food truck menu descriptions can help.

Improving Food Truck Menu Descriptions

Food descriptions play a huge role since consumers have become more sophisticated in the selection of the food they purchase. The customer gets a better idea of what a dish is by describing it better.

While more descriptive phrasing can help, you should also be wary of being too cute with wording if it fails to provide meaningful information. Gimmicks can be dangerous.

The study showed that descriptor terms can do more than determine whether an item is ordered. Adding just two descriptors to an item such as “seafood pasta,” renamed “succulent Italian seafood pasta,” and most consumers will rate their dining experience more positivity.

An added bonus to increasing the descriptors is that it can provide a vendor to maintain higher menu prices. People may be willing to pay more depending on the item’s label. For instance, a customer may be willing to pay $8 for ‘roasted chicken sandwich’ but for $10 for ‘tender glazed roasted chicken sandwich’.

Once your customers are standing in front of your menu board or holding a menu in their hands, you have the opportunity to tap into their needs and desires. This is known as psychographics in marketing. Some diners simply want a taste experience that’s different from other options in the area, while others may actually have health concerns that a well-written menu can address.

When people track down a food truck they typically have a number of expectations:

  • Quality food
  • Great service
  • Fair prices

Many food truck vendors do very well covering these points, but many also overlook the importance and value of a menu that highlights their food ingredients, methods of preparation and how various menu items are served.

Of course these descriptions must be reinforced by your service window staff, but this approach can take a bit more time than you would want during a busy lunch rush.

Why not let your customers answer their own questions? A well written menu provides them with the key information they want, and it boosts staff efficiency and productivity.

Just as important, a great menu with well thought out descriptions can literally make the customer’s mouths water in anticipation. If your food truck menu descriptions reach that goal, it becomes part of your brand and can help boost your mobile food business revenues at the same time.

What food truck owner doesn’t want that?

What say you? If you have some examples of your food truck’s menu, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to add them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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grits 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 Grits fun facts.

grits fun factsThe Facts: Grits are a ground-corn food of Native American origin, that is common in the Southern United States and eaten mainly at breakfast. Modern grits are commonly made of alkali-treated corn known as hominy.

  • Grits have their origins in Native American corn preparation. Traditionally, the hominy for grits was ground by a stone mill. The results are passed through screens, with the finer sifted materials being grit meal, and the coarser being grits. Many communities in the United States used a gristmill until the mid-twentieth century, with families bringing their own corn to be ground, and the miller retaining a portion of the corn as a fee.
  • September 2nd is National “Eat Grits” Day.
  • Three-quarters of grits sold in the U.S. are sold in the South, throughout an area stretching from Texas to Virginia, sometimes referred to as the “grits belt”.
  • The state of Georgia declared grits its official prepared food in 2002.
  • “Charleston-style grits” are boiled in milk instead of water, giving them a creamy consistency.
  • Grits are usually either yellow or white, depending on the color of corn. 

Grits fun facts we missed?

If so, please feel free to let us know 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 Grits.

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