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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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local media newspaper

If you are a new food truck owner, one of the best ways to start building the discussion about your mobile food business is by contacting members of the local media.

This approach will allow you to practice your marketing skills and at the same time begin creating media relationships in your local community. This will help your food truck business grow.

But how do you start your food truck’s publicity efforts?

Study

The first step is to read all of your local publications and figure out who writes about your food, restaurant and the mobile food industry. Check out the archived stories online and also look for appropriate contact information.

If you don’t see a particular writer or reporter who covers food trucks specifically, contact the managing editor or assignment editor. These editors are usually in charge of assigning stories to various reporters.

Practice Practice Practice

So what are you going to say once you get a reporter’s attention? Simple, you could just pick up the phone and introduce yourself and your business.

Explain to the editor your story and the value you can provide as a resource to that publication. You can also pitch a story pertinent to the publication’s audience. With both of these methods, it’s essential to:

Provide Value

Offer valuable information that relates to the local community. After all, that’s what the local publication is all about and what the editor wants to hear.

Follow Up

After you introduce yourself to the appropriate media contact, follow up with an e-mail or snail-mail letter. You want to remind them what you have to offer their audience.

Focus On Their Needs

After your initial contact, you want to keep in touch with your new media contact. On a monthly basis, send a note about a recent article in the publication, provide information about an upcoming food truck event or ask how you can help.

Most local media venues are tight on staff and cash so they will appreciate your efforts.

Get Results

By starting with these simple steps, you may end up with an immediate interview or a writing assignment. If not, at least you will build a strong, working relationship with the local press so they know who you are and what your food truck has to offer.

Then, when their deadlines pop up and they need an expert resource for an upcoming story, you’ll be at the top of their list.

And if you are a new food truck owner, this process can teach you how to speak to the media at a low risk-level. After all, if you mess up your pitch with a small, local publication, you can learn from your mistakes and avoid them when you move on to bigger media outlets.

With this in mind, try contacting your local newspaper within the next week. It won’t cost you anything but time. Plus, you’ll increase your marketing skills, and who knows? You may end up with a media clip that builds buzz about your food truck, a new working relationship with the local press and credibility you simply can’t buy.

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10 hiring mistakes to avoid

Hiring staff members for your mobile food business is hard work. When you are a food truck owner and you don’t have an HR department to help there is a lot of opportunity to make a lot of hiring mistakes.

Here are 10 that you should avoid:

Hiring friends

This is actually two mistakes rolled into one. Usually when you hire a friend you don’t really consider whether the friend is the best person for the job. The first mistake is to hire without getting as many candidates to apply as possible (more candidates means a higher chance that at least one of them is great). The second mistake is that since your friend may not be the most qualified, you may have to fire them someday. Not only will you lose an employee but in many cases also a friend.

Reviewing each resume

If you’ve done the first thing right and properly advertised to fill a position, you’ve attracted a pool of great candidates, which could end up as 25 to 50 resumes. You certainly can’t screen all 50 of them quickly; there just isn’t enough time in the day. If you don’t have any other employees to help you, explain in your ad how long you expect the process to take.

Skipping the phone screen

Once you’ve finally screened all of the resumes, you will likely still have 5 – 10 good candidates; too many to efficiently meet face-to-face for a busy food truck owner. Your next step should be a phone screen. A 15 – 20 minute phone conversation will help you see if this is a person you’d like to meet. What have they really done? Do they care about the things you care about? Are they on time? The phone screen is a great way to eliminate some folks that you don’t want to even spend 5 minutes with face-to-face.

No written questions

If you go into the face-to-face interview without questions that you plan in advance and write down for yourself, the interview has as much predictive value as a coin flip. Instead, write some questions down. Ask about the candidate’s actual experience (what did you do in that role?) and some behavioral interview questions. Ask each candidate those same questions to get an apples-to-apples comparison.

No testing

There are some things that are easy to assess in an interview and others that are hard. If you are hiring line cooks, you should ask them to cook something for you. Ask service window staff to sell to you. You want to see someone demonstrate their skills. Good candidates will leap at the chance to show their stuff.

Doing it alone

You need some other eyes and ears on the candidate too. Some truck owners do tandem interviews, where you have one person asking questions and another listening. Others let the candidates’ future peers have a crack at them.

Hiring too fast

When you have an open position on your team it can be debilitating. You can’t keep doing your job, their job and the job of hiring. I can almost see food truck owners thinking, “I hope this is THE ONE.” When you go into an interview with that thought process you can easily overlook warning signs. You may not probe in areas where you see potential weakness because you don’t want to find weakness. You want this person to be THE ONE.

Not understanding pay

It can be tough to figure out what the market rate for a job is; but you have to know that going into a hiring process. Do some research, look at other food truck job postings or ask other local food truck owners what they pay their staff so you know what to expect.

Not selling your business

It’s easy to be critical of the candidates and you should. But if you’ve got a good candidate you need to also sell them on your mobile food business. They need to know that you want them and that this position has exciting possibilities for them.

Not closing the deal

When you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to make a solid offer. Don’t try to low-ball them; make an offer that they will feel good about accepting. Be prepared with all the information they will need to make a decision, such as benefits and vacation time. Show enthusiasm that you really want them on the team and you can see them making a big difference in your food truck business’s performance.

Hiring staff members for your mobile food business can be hard, but if you avoid these mistakes you’ll have a better chance of success.

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Google Page Rank Guaranteed

The email may start off with a simple “Hi!” or perhaps, “Dear Sir or Madam.” It will then go on to promise that, “We can get your site on the 1st page of Google; for next to nothing!” Or maybe they’ll just explain just how bad your food truck’s website is in relationship to its search engine optimization.

Spotting The Junk

Fielding emails promising professional SEO services has become part of life of most website owners. In most cases it’s pretty easy to spot these sales techniques, but we’ve recently noticed that some are getting pretty sophisticated. In fact, I received one such email recently, so I thought it was a good opportunity to bring up these kinds of SEO “promises” to make sure you understand this recent change in internet marketing.

This article is for those of you that might be a little confused by these sales pitches or unsure if they might actually help your mobile food business. If you are like many of the vendors I speak with and don’t know much about SEO; what these marketers are pitching might sound pretty good, unfortunately you are exactly who they are trying to target.

Some of these messages are really obvious that you’re receiving a bulk email that actually has nothing to do with you. In other instances, the emails are actually quite clever and make it seem like someone actually did their research  and did looked at what you’re site is doing online.

For someone to understand what tactics you need to correct to make inroads in SEO rankings, they would have to do a pretty in-depth amount of research about your food truck business. Not only would they need to know about your business but they would also need to research your competitors as well as the mobile food industry as a whole. And in all honesty, how can they begin to make any claims without ever talking with you?

The Promises

How can anyone possibly “promise” anything when it comes to SEO? If someone guarantees you a spot in search rankings, they are lying. Any SEO professional worth their salt is going to promise you one thing…that they can’t promise anything.

What you have to understand is that it is nearly impossible to guarantee anything in search engine rankings. An SEO consultant can certainly do their very best and can certainly give you an indication once they’ve done their research how much work they anticipate it will take for you to move up and then let you know about different opportunities.

But if they “promise” you anything, my suggestion is to run in the opposite direction. They either don’t have a clue what they are talking about or they employ tactics that “game” search engines using unethical, “black hat”, techniques. If that is the case, then it’s this point where you should probably sprint away.

Let’s Be Realistic

Take Mobile Cuisine for example. Yes, we do use SEO tactics when developing the site and the content we produce, but it’s not one of our main business goals to get on page 1 for certain keywords. Sure, it would be awesome to show up on page 1 for “food truck” or “food trucks.” But trust us, it is virtually impossible.

We could devote every waking moment for the next month to this endeavor and probably not make much progress. Not only are we competing with other online food truck trade journals, but every single one of the thousands of food trucks in the country, the food truck associations as well as every company that supplies the food truck industry who has optimized their website for one of those keyword strings.

So we know when we get an email that promises number 1 page 1, it’s certainly a bald faced lie.

What They Actually Do?

Some emails will offer you all types of SEO services. Some may even offer to link your site to more than 1,000 for just 5 bucks.

When it comes to SEO, your strategy and the process you implement is very important. If you haven’t done proper keyword research for your food truck website, all the link building in the world will get you nowhere. If you haven’t optimized your own site, there is no point in doing things offsite. You need to build your site as the foundation and then build up from there.

Some of the tactics being touted are actually outdated and could lead to negative placement of your site on search engines. Think it sucks when your site shows up on the 3rd or 4th page? How does being de-indexed from Google entirely sound? Google is constantly on the lookout for people gaming their algorithm, and a lot of what these SEO services are offering is exactly what could lead to Google banishment.

Search engine marketing tactics constantly change. Just because something being offered is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your mobile food business.

With that said, we always try to keep our readers informed on different scams that take place. We hope this article opens your eyes and keeps you from responding to some of the hucksters on the internet.

We want to know: How do you handle SEO for your food truck website? Have you ever used any of these inexpensive SEO services? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.

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wear-many-hats

If you’re like most food truck owners, your business card has your title listed as CEO or owner, but you know that on any given day it could just as easily read executive chef, line cook, customer service, marketing manager, technology director, accountant…etc.

Food truck vendors don’t have the luxury of passing duties off to a group of department heads.  The success of your mobile food business depends on your ability to wear all of the multiple hats needed to keep the wheels of your business spinning. At times, the crazy pace needed to operate properly can turn even the most capable person into an overwhelmed culinary entrepreneur wearing far too many hats.

It’s this point that most will begin looking at hiring staff members to help with certain jobs on the truck. Before looking to bring on help, you should sit down and objectively assess your own strengths and weakness. What areas of your business do you love? Where do you need more discipline and development?

By identifying your areas of weakness, you can see where you could best get assistance from an employee. When hiring it’s always best to try to maximize your own strengths and fill in gaps for your weaknesses, rather than just hire for what you’d consider “lower wage” work.

With that said, at some time in the future your business is going to grow beyond your own abilities. This means you need to staff up the truck. While it may seem like a dream that you will be able to delegate some jobs, growth can bring its own set of problems:

  • When you’ve been used to running your business on your own, it can be difficult to relinquish control of day-to-day details. But it’s critical to let go. Successful vendors don’t micromanage what each staff member is doing.
  • Make sure you’re giving your food truck employees the freedom to make decisions (even make mistakes and correct the mistakes themselves). In the long run, you’ll have a wiser, more confident, more effective and more capable crew. And you’ll be able to focus on the strategic aspects of your business.
  • Make sure your staff clearly understands the results you expect. The mark of any good food truck employee is their embracing of the goals you set for your business.
  • Staff must be personally accountable for their actions. The best staff works under general supervision and manages themselves.

Make time to work on your business (not just in your truck).

When you own a food truck, it’s all too easy to get lost in the daily grind inside your truck and put off strategic, long-term planning. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to dedicate time in your calendar each week to consider your business and market trends, think about potential opportunities and do some long-term positioning.

The majority of food truck owners will always wear and point out that they wear too many hats. Make sure these multiple hats are helping more than they are hurting your mobile food business.

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hot dog contest

Grilled, gourmet, dirty and even chili dogs being served from a food truck were the bulk of the nearly 1,500 votes cast in part 1 of our 2014 best hot dog vendor contest started 2 weeks ago. And today we are proud to announce our Top 15 and the opening up of part two.

We received votes from all over North America, but for this poll we could only select the mobile food vendors with the 15 most votes submitted. We will be running this poll for the next two weeks and will close it out on Friday, May 2nd at 12 PM (midnight) Central Time. The winning truck or cart will be profiled here at Mobile Cuisine and will hold the title of Top Mobile Hot Dog Vendor for 2014.

This years contestants are:

American Wiener – Tampa, FL
Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs – Denver, CO
Dang Good Dogs – Durham, NC
Detroit Coney Island – Kansas City, MO
Dogzilla Hot Dogs – Orange County, CA
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs – Buffalo, NY
Good Dog Hot Dogs – Houston, TX
The Greasy Wiener – Los Angeles, CA
Haute Sausage – Chicago, IL
Japadog – Vancouver, BC
Let’s Be Frank – San Francisco, CA
Nana’s Heavenly Hot Dogs – San Diego, CA
Sassy Hot Dogs – Dallas, TX
Short Leash Hot Dogs – Phoenix, AZ
Willie Dog – Hamilton, Ontario

2014 Hot Dog Vendor of the Year

View Results

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Please note, if you have issues voting with the polling software, you can submit your vote to contest@mobile-cuisine.com or in the form below. The software we use only allows one vote per individual and from time to time, the software can block users from voting based on their ip address.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

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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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