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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

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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SEO-Best-Practices for food trucks

If you own a food truck, you do have an advantage on other business owners in your local market. That’s because the mobile food industry has quickly become one of the most popular local businesses searched on the internet.

Just for fun, before writing this article, I “Googled” my five favorite food trucks. I found some major flaws with their websites which is unfortunate since having a great site is half of what you need to motivate online searchers to track down your food truck. And although I love the food from these particular trucks, I think it’s necessary to remind mobile food vendors of a few things.

  • Don’t push a musical experience on users when they open your page.
  • Provide information such as your menu, email address, phone, and hours where it’s easiest to find because that’s what people are most looking for.

Also see 10 Food Truck Website Mistakes to Avoid to get more tips and really make an impact on your site.

But before people can experience your website, they need to find it first. How to optimize your website for search engines is the other half of the game called “Inbound Marketing.” The object is to get your food truck to the top of the list in the search results. And when people click on your name, you’d better make sure you deliver. Here are six ways to give your food truck a boost when it comes to SEO indexing.

All you can Eat

Provide a virtual buffet of content to your website and you’ll keep giving the search engines like Google and Bing a reason to find and rank your site. Announcements that talk about your seasonal menu items, videos that show how you or your chef creates the perfect scratch made pasta, or a blog about the progress on your second truck, are all great ways to keep your mobile food business name coming up in the SERPs (search engine results page).

Don’t Hide the Secret Sauce

If you scan your actual menu as an image then every word on that page may be readable but it’s not searchable. If you happen to have 5 different flavors of sauce, your site will not be ranked in SERPs if you only list it in the menu, because all Google recognizes is a photo scan, not embedded text. You must create the text in a document or onto the web page directly. You can create a PDF from a document (not a photo) then your customers will be able to not only find it in a search, but print it out so everyone in the office can place their lunch orders.

Encourage Sharing

Make sure that your site provides buttons for sharing your content. Encourage users to share your blogs or menus by adding social media buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest. This gives anyone who likes your food truck or your content a chance to share it with their friends and family.

Spread the Word

Ask friends and employees to spread the word via social media and use links to your site. If you have any customers willing to blog about how wonderful your food and service is, then you’ve just added extra points. Again, the more people are talking about your food truck, the more it will be found by the search engines. So keep spreading the word.

Use Metadata

When you are building or adding to your website make sure to fill in all tags, file names, image names, and SEO descriptions. The more opportunities you have for providing content to your site (whether users can see it on the page or not), the more opportunities you have to be found. People searching for burgers in Louisville or jambalaya in San Francisco will find you higher up in the rankings if you have more than one mention of these items. And photos are another way of mentioning menu items other than in the menu itself. Leaving these fields blank when you post is a missed opportunity.

Follow the Recipe

The best way to make a keyword more powerful is to use it more within the content of your site. If you have a page on your site that focuses on something special, use every opportunity to use specific keywords over and over. So if you are highlighting your famous Detroit Style Pizza, then make sure the page title, image name, image alt tag, heading, and content should all use the same keyword of Detroit Style Pizza. Search engines will recognize that your food truck ranks high when it comes to Detroit Style Pizza.

Are you a food truck owner? What is your biggest pain point with your food truck website? Let us know in the comments section below.

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hot dog contest

The mobile food industry is chugging along and gourmet food trucks have been a big part of the recent uptick in its growth. With that said, prior to the launch of the Kogi BBQ truck in 2008, there have been plenty of street vendors making a living by selling on of the most beloved street foods in the US…HOT DOGS!!!

Encased meats have been part of Americana since their invention. There is a long history of hot dogs and a lot of disputed “facts” about their origin. Never disputed has been the love Americans have for them. No matter what region of the country or what style you prefer your doggies…hot dogs are one of the most eaten foods in America.

The hot dog has many connotations: an American classic with a squiggle of yellow mustard, a “dirty water dog” at an NYC street stand and the savior and bane of parents with picky eaters. Nowadays, it also rivals the hamburger as a canvas for chef-driven experiments in comfort food. And the results are delicious.

Because of this, we are starting a contest to find out which food truck or cart is serving our readers favorite hot dog.

Like all of our other contests, this contest will open today and will be run in two stages. For the next two weeks (we will accept emails submitted by 12 PM Central Time on Friday April 18, 2014)  we will give our readers to submit their choices via email at: contest@mobile-cuisine.com, and once the data is collected, we will open a poll (Monday April 21, 2014) to allow voting from the top 10 email submissions.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the final poll, the vendor needs to have opened before January 2014 and must regularly serve hot dogs from their truck, cart or trailer (sorry hot dog stands are not eligible). The ingredients of the hot dog or the condiments served on them can be any combination of flavors, or cuisine and the hot dog can be served in or out of a bun. The vendors can be located in any country so feel free to submit choices from outside of North America.

We look forward to receiving your submissions. Hot dog vendors are free to submit their own carts or trucks for consideration and voters may vote as often as you wish. The only request we have is that you submit one entry at a time and include the name of the vendor, as well as the city  or area the they operate in.

So let the voting begin. And remember, vote early and vote often.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

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four walls food truck marketing

Increasing sales is the top goal of most food truck owners I speak with. To do this, it requires that the vendor focus their effort. All too often, food truck owners look for a quick fix to increase customer traffic, turn to creative advertising campaigns, hoping they will provide the “cure-all” needed to bolster sales.

There is much more to marketing than just advertising, however. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all marketing takes place outside of your food truck.

Four walls marketing is a practice used by restaurant owners, and although your customers do not sit down inside your truck, the same type of marketing strategy can be used by food truck owners. The idea behind this marketing involves the physical appearance of the business, the attitude and appearance of your employees, and the type of experience you create for your customers.

Unfortunately, many mobile food business owners spend time on social media advertising campaigns to bring customers up to their service window only to have them disappointed by their experience.

At best, social media advertising creates short-term customer traffic. Four-walls marketing, on the other hand, creates long-term customer loyalty, assists in building customer frequency and creates a solid reputation for your mobile food business. Evaluate the condition of a four-walls marketing plan for your truck by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does the appearance my truck provide an environment that I would feel comfortable in as a customer? Is my truck clean? Is the sidewalk or parking area clean? An clean environment around your truck can become the place of outstanding customer experiences.
  • Are my menu items made with the highest quality and consistency? Believe enough in your food products to inspire others to believe in them too. Because your reputation is at stake, you should tolerate nothing less than perfection.
  • Does my staff project a positive, enthusiastic, customer-minded attitude? This is the most critical element. The people who staff your business determine the ultimate success of your mobile food business. Instill in your staff that building relationships with customers is the business of doing business.

If you were not able to answer yes to all three of these questions, you need to make the necessary adjustments to your food truck and staff so you can. If you answered yes to all three questions, congratulations.

Now, take an additional step and ask the real decision-makers; your customers. Customers tend to see things from a different perspective than you do. If your customers’ answers match your own, you’re on the right track.

Because everything relates to the customers’ experience, don’t just settle for customer satisfaction. The best strategy you can adopt to lead your food truck business to success is to strive to exceed your customers’ expectations.

Once you’re using an effective four-walls marketing plan as your primary effort in marketing your food truck, you can supplement it with other strategies.

A creative advertising plan is a necessary element to promote your mobile food business, and there are “no-cost” strategies that can help increase sales. Two of the most effective are:

  • Suggestive selling: With some simple training and follow-up, your staff can increase sales without adding a single new customer. Find an item or service that can be offered to customers to complement what they already are purchasing. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. If you are successful in suggestive selling only one of 10 customers, it can have a tremendous impact on your truck’s annual sales.
  • Upsizing/upselling: If you offer more than one size for your menu items, suggest the bigger size, then let the customer decide. Most people want the bigger size; they are just waiting for someone to persuade them. Again, you will increase sales without adding a single new customer.

By using an effective four-walls marketing plan and supplementing it with advertising and other creative strategies, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your food truck goal for increased sales.

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spring food truck driving tips

Spring is here officially, although the in some places you may question it. With spring’s arrival we felt that we’d share some driving advice to food truck owners who are getting ready to launch and provide a reminder to those of you who’ve spent a few seasons in your truck.

With winter fading into the background and better weather on the horizon, you’d think the roads would finally be safe again. This isn’t always the case. Today we’ll cover some of the road dangers to avoid as well as a few driving tips to help you and your truck make it safely to summer.

So what are these spring driving dangers?

Rainy days and flooding

Spring rain brings slippery road conditions and flooding. What makes rain and wet pavement so dangerous? For one, slippery roads reduce your truck’s handling and increase the distance it takes to stop your already tough to stop food truck. Big puddles can also cut down on tire traction and could lead to hydroplaning.

Hail

Beware of hail storms, particularly if you live in a hail-belt state (Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri). Even small hailstones can shatter your food truck’s windshield, and raining balls of ice are never good for the roads or your truck’s exterior.

We understand a truck won’t intentionally head out in a hail storm, (how many customers do you expect to wait in line while being pelted with hail?), but if it starts hailing during a shift, have a plan in place to be able to get your truck under cover as soon as possible..

Winter Potholes

In many states, winter wreaks havoc on the roads. Snow plows, salt, sand, and the aftermath of ice can all leave roads a bit battered. Once snow melts away, expect to drive over new potholes.

Bikes and Motorcycles

Spring brings cyclists out of hibernation. Driving alongside cyclists can make traffic maneuvers, from turning right to parallel parking, more dangerous.

Spring Food Truck Driving Safety Tips
  • Check your lights. Since spring rain hinders driving visibility, make sure all your lights work, including headlights, taillights, backup lights, turn signals, parking lights, and brake lights.
  • Replace your wiper blades. Worn-out wiper blades may not be up to the task of clearing water away from your windshield. Check your wiper blades and replace them if necessary.
  • Check your tire pressure. Harsh winter weather can deflate your food truck’s tires. Make sure you have enough air in them once spring rolls around. (As a bonus, proper tire pressure can also help you increase your truck’s mpg *cha ching*!!!)
  • Slow down and drive carefully. The first few rainy days of spring can produce exceptionally slippery roads due to oil and other leaked fluids mixing with rainwater, so slow down and increase your stopping distance when it’s raining.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for bad road conditions. Remember that harsh winter weather breeds potholes and other driving obstacles.

Seasonal showers and poor road conditions can create unpleasant complications for all drivers on the road. Food truck owners need to be a little more cautious due to the size and weight of your vehicles, not to mention that if your truck is damaged and cannot drive…you’re losing sales opportunities. Use the above tips to your advantage and you’ll be that much more prepared for any spring driving dangers that come your food truck’s way.

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risk-feasibility

Your food truck business concept may sound great for your family and friends, but to turn the idea into reality you need to prove to yourself and others that it will succeed.

The best way to assess whether your mobile food business will be profitable is by conducting a short and concise feasibility study. The result of the feasibility study will determine whether you should proceed with a full business plan.

Main Components Of A Feasibility Study:

Unique Selling Point (USP)

Having a unique selling point (USP) is crucial to your business’s success.  Ideally you should try and distinguish your food truck from the competition by providing a menu that customers can only get from you.  Even if you are in a market with several similar mobile food vendors or restaurants you can still distinguish yourself from the competition through your product and the service you provide your customers. Find more info on USP here

Competitive Advantage

Proving that your food truck is better than your competitors is crucial; you need to determine why your menu or service will beat the competition.

The main ways to beat the competition:

Price - where will your prices fall?

Convenience - are your planned parking locations close to your target market?

Quality – are your ingredients high grade, sourced locally or organic? Is your service faster or more efficient?

Market Analysis

You need to prove in this section that a market exists, or will exist for your food truck’s menu items. Some market research is essential here. If you cannot afford a market research company it is possible to research your market for yourself.

Google - search engines contain lots of useful information, but be prepared to spend a long time looking for what you need.

Libraries - most local libraries contain trade journals and local information you may find useful.

Social Networks - Use a service to conduct surveys via email as well as social networks (Facebook, Quara, Twitter) to find out what people think of your idea. A couple well written tweets in peak hours may generate valuable feedback.

Technical & Operational Requirements

In this section you need to cover the basic requirements your truck will need to operate (licenses, commercial kitchen space, and parking). It’s always best to plan the first year in detail, and then look at the next two years on a summary level.

Financial Information

Making profit is ultimately the most important area to use to determine if your concept is feasible. Be very conservative with your estimates in this section.

You will need to determine:

  • Start up costs
  • Revenue expectations for first year
  • Ongoing expenses for first year
  • Cash Flow for first year

If you are finding it difficult to plan revenue and expenses you should speak with an accountant familiar with the food service industry to help you.

When you start planning your food truck concept and before you invest too much time and money it is very important for you to conduct a feasibility study.  Not only with this will speed up the process of knowing to start over or to proceed with your plan, it will also provide you with most of the information needed to complete your business plan.

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