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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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take you for granted

You know you are a good boss. You’re fair, you keep your emotions in check and you care about your food truck staff. Unfortunately over time some staff members will take you for granted. This could result in feeling entitled to extra favors, and assuming you make so much money it doesn’t matter. So how does this happen and how can you make a change?

For most food truck employees, if you don’t give them rules and reasons why policies and procedures are in place, they will make up their own. If you don’t provide them, they’ll ask someone else, or base decisions on what they did in their last job and many of these assumptions will be wrong.

7 Common Areas Where Food Truck Staff Take You for Granted

Here’s a quick list of some of the most common problems I have seen over my time working in the food service industry. Do any of them ring true in your food truck and need your attention?

  • Left-over food taken home. I have always found it funny how there’s always a little extra left over after a shift when truck owners allow this policy. If you notice your food costs being higher than planned a simple change in rules needs to be instituted. I’m all for offering staff meals, but not full take-out orders.
  • Continual roster swaps. No one loves organizing shift schedules, and it’s very easy to let staff members make fixes and changes themselves. Unfortunately you can bet that eventually you will end up in a miscommunication and will be short staffed with nobody to cover. If you don’t have one in place already, it’s time to create a Swap & Request Book. It will still need your supervision, but this system is much easier for everyone keep informed and your truck properly staffed.
  • Tardiness. I’m sorry but texting that you will be late 15 minutes before your shift just won’t cut it. If someone continually is late it’s time to give someone an official warning. Everyone knows who the offenders are, and if nothing is done will wonder why it’s tolerated.
  • Phone use. We understand that almost every one of your employees will have a phone with them while on shift, the key is to regulate when they use it. Any time a problem surfaces nip it in the bud before it becomes bigger. Even though for some staff it may be like taking away one of their limbs, if you have issues where staff members are using their phones at the wrong time…have them turn them off and place them somewhere out of their reach. Share the rules and make sure there is secure storage for phones not being used.
  • Poor grooming. Not to come off as stodgy old man but some of today’s common cultural grooming techniques just don’t fit inside a mobile food service business. For men, the daily shave now seems to be optional. If you’re growing a beard, let it grow (but don’t forget a beard guard if you are preparing food). But if you only bother to shave twice a week, it’s now time to make it daily. Your staff manual may need more explicit guidelines, with pictures and clear examples of what’s OK and not OK. Discreet facial studs and rings are also common, but the role of the owner and a food truck’s staff is not to alarm the customers – do you need to tighten up on multi-colored hair, big rings and studs or ear tunnels? It’s not discrimination to enforce a common set of guidelines.
  • The truck is a mess, and it’s not busy. The famous saying, “if there is time to lean there is time to clean” needs to be regularly enforced – do you have a cleaning checklist posted in the truck? If you don’t, it’s time for a change so develop your own.
  • Playing off owners (or managers). As kids, we all knew which parent to ask for certain things, and when. The same thing happens in the business world. You certainly don’t need a 10 page policy on every instance, but there certainly needs to be clearly written directions. If you and your partner and/or managers are getting played by your staff members, put a list together and write up the standard response. Maybe it will be just for the two of you, or you can add it to your food truck policy handbook.

I hope these tips can help food truck owners prevent themselves from being taken advantage of by their employees. If you have any additional areas that I missed, please feel free to add them to the comment section below.

Looking to fill a position in your food truck or restaurant? Place an ad with us to find experienced candidates.

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Mentoring For Food Trucks

Many food truck owners start off with the perfect menu but very little practical business experience. That’s why SCORE (Service Corps. of Retired Executives) provides mentoring for food trucks.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses grow (including those in the mobile food industry) and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

Founded in 1964, the organization boasts approximately 400 chapters across the United States. There are four types of mentoring that a current or prospective food truck owner can use, face-to-face, over the phone, by email and teams. They cover the gamut of small businesses and if one mentor may not specialize in one aspect of running a mobile food business, they can easily put you in touch with someone who can.

Their mentoring members cover a wide number of skill set areas, everything from senior management to technical skills to operational human resources.

Their mentors are heads of organizations and have worked for powerful companies. In addition to the weekly mentoring available, SCORE offers low cost classes such as, “The Buzz About Creating Your Own Business,” “How The Right Information Can Make You A Lot Of Money,” “Get More Customers With A Great Marketing Strategy,” and “Making Your Business Profitable, How To Find The Cash In The Cushions.”

These classes are designed to take a novice and teach them how to get all the key tools in place to ensure they’ll be successful. SCORE mentors present the information as well as provide the necessary steps to implement it. For food truck business owners looking for mentoring on a less structured business, SCORE also offers mentoring by appointment which varies from city to city.

The Treats Truck – NYC

For Kim Ima, it was love at first sight – not with a person, but with the idea of the Treats Trucks. Kim wanted to spend her days baking delicious cookies, brownies and other treats and then serve them on the streets of New York, her adopted home town. “It combined my love of baking, my love of treats and my love of the city,” Kim says. “The more I thought about the idea and how it could evolve, the more I wanted to do it.”

There was only one problem; Kim had no idea how to get her idea rolling.

Kim went to SCORE and researched potential volunteer mentors before she requested a meeting with Elliot Merberg. It was then that Kim’s vision was closer to becoming a reality and ultimately did become just that.

Kim worked with Merberg on a wide range of startup issues and other things she needed to consider as she put together the business plan for Treats Truck. “Sometimes when I met with Elliot and he didn’t know the answer to a question, he simply asked someone else to come over and help us,” Kim says. “There were always plenty of people with specific experience to draw on.”

Merberg also helped Kim manage the emotional ups and downs that come with starting a new business. “When I got over-enthusiastic, such as wanting to start with two trucks, he’d advise me to slow down and focus on starting with one,” Kim says. “When I got frustrated about something and was too hard on myself, he’d show me how things were actually going OK.”

Become a SCORE Mentor and provide mentoring for food trucks

Are you, or have you been, a food truck owner? Do you enjoy sharing your experience to others?  Are you willing to commit 10-12 hours per month assisting other culinary entrepreneurs start or expand their mobile food business dream?

If so, SCORE would love to talk with you. You could join a team of local mentors who counsel clients throughout the country, one of which is probably close to you.

To become a SCORE volunteer, go to www.score.org. Or follow them at Twitter@SCOREMentors We hope you’ll consider joining the ranks of 13,000 other volunteers nationwide and become a SCORE mentor and help the mobile food industry continue to grow.

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food truck catering testimonials

What someone else says about the quality of the catering your food truck provides is far more believable to a customer than what you can say about your own mobile food business. For most people, buying catering services from a food truck is a relatively option and can be filled with anxiety.

Unlike your Yelp listing, there are no “rating” services for food truck caterers for individuals to gain confidence in your catering quality or level of service before they buy.

Food truck catering is a major purchase for most people. A lot of money is spent without any real assurance the catering will be as it’s promised to be. This is why testimonials from previous clients are extremely crucial for the success of your food truck catering especially when buyers fear making a mistake they might regret.

Food truck catering testimonials are important because shoppers gain confidence to buy and then are able to assess blame to others if something goes wrong with the event. Think about why you ask others for recommendations before you buy or don’t buy an expensive or important product or service. It’s because you are in search of the good, bad or inside tips on the product or service.

3 ways to use food truck catering testimonials:

  • Place testimonials throughout your food truck website, not just in a special separate section. Spread them throughout your site and mix them in with your other content. If possible add a photo from the event the happy client is referring to and label it as such.
  • If you use a large photo album or portfolio to show clients your past events, don’t hesitate to place testimonials in this album in such a way that they will see them as they turn the pages in the photo album. Don’t put testimonials in a special section in the back of the album. Mix them in with the photos. Also, take time to talk about them in the same way as you do about the photos. Every testimonial has a story behind it.
  • If prospects come to your office, (if you have one), you should have your walls flooded with framed letters and notes from happy clients. Take time to talk about these testimonials or take one down from the wall for the prospect to read before you start your sales presentation. Also, don’t be afraid to place testimonials you received via email on the wall for all to see.

Do you show off your food truck catering testimonials to sell your catering services? How do you do it if different from these suggestions? We’d love it if you shared your tips with our readers in the comment section below.

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Cinnamon Snail

Can anyone unseat our two time reigning Vegetarian Food Truck champ Cinnamon Snail?

Today we are announcing a new contest which will allow our readers from around the country to name America’s favorite vegetarian or vegan food truck or cart for 2014. In last year’s contest we had a fantastic turnout and our final winner was The Cinnamon Snail out of New York City.

Do you have a favorite truck in your area, or have you read about a cart that is at the top of your list to try out the next time you are in their area? Nominate them today!

We will be gathering submissions until Friday, July 25th at 12 AM CST. Once we have all of the submissions, we will determine your top 10. 

At that time, we will provide a poll which will once again, allow you to vote for your favorite. The results of this poll will determine the winner. The winning truck will have a profile interview posted on Mobile Cuisine.

Please be sure to add Vegetarian/Vegan Mobile Food Vendor in the subject line. And list your nomination in the body of your message.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

You may submit as many entries for the same or different food trucks as you like for this portion of the contest. The form may clog due to the number of users at one time, if you run into any issues, please submit your votes to contest@mobile-cuisine.c0m.

To be eligible to be part of this contest, the truck must have been open since May of 2014 and the majority of the truck’s entree items must cater to vegetarian or vegan diners. We upset some readers in the past who felt that only trucks with exclusive vegetarian/vegan menus should be included. We disagree, and will stand by rule for this for this years nominees.

Please, help us spread the work and tell your friends and family about this contest.

Our Previous Winners:

2011

Purple Carrot

Twitter: @eatpurplecarrot

The Purple Carrot is a Farm to Truck mobile dining destination specializing in locally grown fare. Join us for unique, seasonal and delicious eats!

East Lansing Michigan · http://www.thepurplecarrottruck.com

2012 & 2013

The Cinnamon Snail

Twitter: @VeganLunchTruck

The Cinnamon Snail is the country’s most raunchy mobile Vegan Organic restaurant! Blasting supreme bliss & zany antics all over NYC, & dirty Jersey

Hoboken NJ, Red Bank NJ, NYC · http://www.CinnamonSnail.com

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Food Truck Mission Statement

If you already have a food truck mission statement, and each of your food truck staff members knows what it is, and can repeat it from memory…FANTASTIC!!! Please disregard this article as you’ve already done your work. Now if you happen to be the remaining 95% of the food truck industry, you might want to read on.

A mission statement is a business tool that should be considered as important as your food truck business plan. It captures, in a few succinct sentences, the essence of your mobile food business’s goals and the philosophies underlying them. Equally important, the mission statement signals what your food truck business is about to your customers, employees, suppliers and the communities you operate in.

Answer the following questions to help you to create a verbal picture of your food truck mission statement:

  • Why are you in business? What do you want for yourself, your employees and your customers? Think about the spark that ignited your decision to start a mobile food business. What will keep it burning?
  • Who are your customers? What can you do for them that will enrich their lives and contribute to their success?
  • What image of your food truck business do you want to convey? Customers, employees and the public will all have perceptions of your company. How will you create the desired picture?
  • What is the nature of your menu and services? What factors determine pricing and quality? Consider how these relate to the reasons for your business’s existence.
  • What level of service do you provide? Most vendors believe they offer “the best service available,” but do your customers agree? Don’t be vague; define what makes your service so extraordinary.
  • What roles do you and your employees play? Smart leaders develop a leadership style that organizes, challenges and recognizes employees.
  • How do you differ from your competitors? Many food truck vendors forget they are pursuing the same dollars as their competitors. What do you do better, cheaper or faster than other trucks or restaurants?

Your mission statement should reflect your food truck’s special niche in the community.

Here is an example to help you fuel your creativity:

“Food Truck, LLC is an energetic, imaginative mobile food truck company aimed at offering high-quality, moderately priced, occasionally unusual foods using only local and natural ingredients. We view ourselves as partners with our customers, our employees, our community and our environment. We aim to become a regionally recognized brand, capitalizing on the rapid growth and popularity of the mobile food industry in the {insert your location here} area. Our goal is moderate growth, annual profitability and maintaining our sense of humor.”

Here is The Burnt Truck‘s (Orange County Food Truck) mission statement:

“To bring distinctively upscale taste to the streets of Orange County without all the fuss and nonsense of a high-end restaurant.”

Keys to Creating Your Food Truck Mission Statement

  • You must involve your key staff members in writing it. Set aside enough time to allow everyone to chime in. Brainstorm, and then begin to sort through what works and what everyone is passionate about.
  • It must be no more than a concise paragraph that reflects what your food truck is all about.

Once you’ve decided on a mission statement, it’s best to let it ferment in everyone’s minds, and then revisit it in a week or two. If you still feel it’s what your food truck is all about, then it’s time to share with your entire staff. Every staff member on your team should know your mission statement by heart.

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food truck unique selling proposition

A food truck Unique Selling Proposition (UPS) is what differentiates you from all the other food trucks and restaurants in your market – especially the trucks that look, smell and taste like yours. It’s the compilation of things that clearly separates you from the pack.

Defining what your USP is takes some creativity, hard work and soul searching. A USP can be almost anything that distinguishes you from your competition.

Determining your food truck unique selling proposition :

• Unique benefits to your customers
• Great prices
• Special menu options
• Incredible service
• A strong guarantee
• The best of the best
• Exclusivity or rarity
• Excellence
• Following a specific standard
• Specializing

Understanding who your customer is and what makes them purchase:

• Is it low prices?
• Great service?
• 100 percent money-back guarantee?
• Speed of service?
• Something special your product delivers that nobody else does?
• Your qualifications or celebrity?
• Promises you make that no other competitor does?

Ask yourself what makes you unique:

• How are you better?
• What makes you the best?
• Why do your customers dine with you?
• What are your special talents, qualities or strengths?
• What makes your product and or service superior?

With a little work, you can start to clearly communicate what makes you different from your competition. Once you’ve crafted your Unique Selling Proposition start using it! Put it on your menu. Include it in your advertisements. Post it on your website.

USE YOUR FOOD TRUCK UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION EVERYWHERE!

Your USP is much more powerful than your food truck brand. Your brand will help you get recognized, but your USP will help get them up to your service window and keep them coming back for more.

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food truck problem

Low sales is the biggest food truck problem we are asked to help fix for our clients. Unfortunately, in almost every case, sales aren’t the problem…something else is.

Have the lines at your food truck service window gotten shorter or less frequent over the last year, or for that matter in the last month? Has your truck really never had the amount of sales you expected? These are very common issues we hear about from new food truck owners.

The first step in trying to turn these trucks around is to get them to understand that low sales are a symptom, not a problem. Some will say that we’re just using semantics, but the difference we explain, between labeling a low or sliding sales as a problem versus a symptom is a critical distinction.

When sales are viewed as the problem, vendors often automatically assume the solution is to spend more time and/or spend money on the marketing of their food truck. While marketing will always be an important part of generating sales for mobile food vendors, a change in marketing is almost never the cure for poor sales totals.

Sure, if your sales are at levels that are too low or have been dropping, a different marketing approach might help. In more cases than not, the problem usually has more to do with what you’re doing or not doing in your food truck every day and how you’re customers perceive your mobile food business.

Everything in our lives is causal, this includes our businesses. If your sales are low you need to understand what’s causing it before you take any action. The best place to begin is to objectively look at what’s going on in your food truck business and at your local market.

Ask Yourself These Questions To Help Determine Your Food Truck Problem:

  • How’s is the quality of the food you serve? Is it consistent? Is this your opinion or the opinion of your customers?
  • Is your service window staff friendly and responsive?
  • Are you meeting your customer’s expectations? How do you know?
  • How does your food truck’s value proposition and the experience a customer receive at your truck compare to what they get at competing food trucks and restaurants in your area?
  • What are your customers saying about your mobile food business? Check out the comments on sites such as Yelp and other sites where diners can leave reviews of your food truck.

Taking the time to ask these questions and provide honest answers, (even if you have to do a little research to find them) will help you consider and identify factors that you may be totally missing when you assume you have a sales problem.

The decisions you make when running a food truck always need to be intellectual, not emotional. If your sales have soured or have never reached your sales forecast, don’t immediately look at additional or different marketing strategies to try and fix the problem. This could actually make the problem worse.

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food truck tip of the day

When something is new, it’s human nature to treat it like a chore. Chores are often time-consuming and not fun. While I know on weekend mornings, it really only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to vacuum the house, however, the idea of doing it becomes daunting.

If this is how you look at social media for your food truck business, of course it is going to feel overly time consuming and like a chores. You may even figure you just don’t have time for it. However, if you think of it like speaking with your customers at your truck, you will be ready and happy to add it to daily your routine.

Do you already take the time to make sure customers understand your everything involved in preparing your menu items? Do you consider that something you don’t have time for?

Maybe on busy days you do not feel like you have the time; regardless, you still understand the value. Same principle, different audience. Both are your customers.

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Food Truck Kitchen Repair Costs

Today we’ll give one tip to help save the life of their food truck as keep their food truck kitchen repair costs to a minimum.

According to data we’ve collected from talking and working with mobile food vendors, many food trucks spend anywhere from 1 to 2 percent of sales annually to repair and maintain their trucks and equipment.

Considering that the annual sales volumes for most food trucks range from less than $250,000 to more than $1 million a year, we’re talking about thousands of dollars in annual repair costs.

Naturally, the varying sizes, styles, age and locations of these food trucks account for much of these differences. (Larger trucks can fit more equipment and thus need heftier generators, cooling systems, etc. Also, as a truck ages, the need to repair or maintain it increases.) Even so, after factoring in all the variables, the fact is that some food trucks manage to control these expenditures much better than others do.

As veterans of the mobile food industry, we’ve found the reason for these kinds of cost differences among food trucks is most often the same reason there are differences in the quality of their food and service: the management and systems they have in place.

Be A Proactive Food Truck Owner

Effective food truck management requires a vendor to be proactive rather than a reactive. Proactive vendors anticipate events. They don’t wait for issues to pop up; they’ve implemented systems to avoid them. When it comes to maintenance and repair issues, these food truck owners never wait for something to break, but rely on their systems to keep their kitchen equipment and truck in good working order. These systems include the establishment of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to ensure consistency, reliability, and lower repair and maintenance costs. Let’s take a look at one way you can preserve the condition of your truck and equipment.

Most food truck kitchen equipment failures are the result of incorrect or infrequent cleaning. For example, some vendors who have spent all day slinging food get back to their commissary and realize they still need to clean their truck. In an attempt to get the job done faster they will often use hoses or even pressure washers to clean up the kitchen.

If you can take one piece of advice to lower your food truck kitchen repair costs we would ask that it be this:

Keep the hoses out of your food truck kitchen!

I’ve seen truck owners use a garden hose to spray down everything from ovens to floors. If you weren’t aware, water is one of the most corrosive substances in your truck. While you may have invested in equipment that has stainless steel exteriors, burners, wiring compartments, and the undersides of equipment don’t have the same protection. The over spray from a hose tends to penetrate areas that were never intended for exposure to water.

If more food trucks cleaned their equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you or your local equipment technician probably wouldn’t have as much work. Rather than spraying water, use scrub brushes and de-greasers on external surfaces, a manufacturer-approved oven cleaner for ovens, and wire brushes on burners.

The moral to this story is: The best way to minimize your food truck kitchen repair costs, and prolong the life of your kitchen equipment and truck is to develop some simple equipment cleaning instructions (or in other words: “a system”) to make sure you and your staff properly clean your mobile food business on a regular basis.

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