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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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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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pennies

We believe that food truck employees should know that they work in a low margin industry. Typically they won’t figure this out unless they’re told. Want to validate this point? Just ask a few of your employees how much money they think you make see how many say, “LOTS.”

This is because employees see, what many believe to be, large amounts of cash coming into the truck every day but most of them have no concept of what it costs to operate a mobile food business and how much profit remains after all the expenses are paid.

When employees assume the boss is getting rich, it can affect their attitude, behavior and what they might feel entitled to.

We recently spoke with a vendor who holds creative meetings with each employee to educate them on the low margin nature of the food truck business. He explained that he conducts these meetings when a staff member first starts. He gives them 100 pennies and explains that the pennies represent a dollar in sales and they will be shown out of every dollar of sales what it costs each month to operate the food truck.

The employee is asked to pay 30 pennies for food and beverage vendors, 35 for payroll, 10 cents for fuel and truck maintenance, 10 for commissary rent and so on. After all the expenses are paid, the remaining pennies represent the amount of profit the truck earned. Whether there are 3, 5 or even 10 pennies left, it’s a whole lot less than most employees assume.

What this lesson provides for each of his employees is a basic understanding why the little things like exact portioning, reducing waste and the hundreds of other seemingly meticulous steps he requires help to control costs and give him a shot at making a profit. This little example will show some of them that owning a food truck is not the money making machine they may have thought.

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april-fools-day

As many of you may have noticed, it’s April 1st, and with that comes April Fools’ Day jokes. Some may enjoy them while others despise them…we happen to love them.

Today marks the day that people are on their guard, not believing many things they are told or carrying out pranks on their friends.

We’ve got a couple of false stories on our website – but did you manage to spot them?

Maybe you weren’t altogether taken in about the story that Chicago was planning to banish food trucks to the dregs of Lower Wacker, because restaurant owners are still concerned about a level playing field.

Or did you fall for the one about the San Francisco business group trying to outlaw “ugly” food trucks? How about the earth shattering story of Roy Choi selling out Kogi to partner up with Taco Bell?

We appreciate your patience with our juvenile humor…but we felt there would be plenty of you that enjoyed reading the stories as much as we had writing them. With that said, we did learn a valuable lesson today…DON’T MESS WITH CHICAGO FOOD TRUCKS.

Within minutes of posting our story, food truck owners across the city were up in arms trying to figure out how this had happened. We then received an email from the Institute of Justice no longer than 90 minutes from post time.

They wanted to know a) how we found out about the story and b) was the story true. We knew not to push it and let them know the truth and word quickly made it’s way through the city.

Thank you for playing along and we’re sorry for the concerns that these stories may have caused.

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Kogi Taco Bell Truck

IRVINE, CA - The last several years haven’t been good for Taco Bell. There was the E. Coli outbreak in 2006, the salmonella illnesses in 2012 and the accusation that the fast-food chain’s beef is barely beef. (Taco Bell strongly denies this.) So, understandably, the restaurant is gearing up for a total makeover.

Brian Niccol, the president of Irvine-based Taco Bell, announced late last night that he and Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ have agreed on terms of an agreement that would license the use of the Kogi name as well as the recipes from the founder of the gourmet food truck industry.

Starting April 17th, Taco Bell will begin a national rollout of a much-hyped new menu item: the Kogi Short Rib Taco. It’s aptly named, because instead of just your everyday taco, the Kogi Taco has a filling that none of their other products have; Korean style beef short rib.

The Original Kogi BBQ beef short rib taco is housed in warm corn tortillas and carry a perfect mix of Korean BBQ, dressed with a wonderfully fresh cabbage-based slaw. With Choi’s help, Taco Bell has perfected the combination and is ready to unleash it on the country.

The partnership is two years in the making, and many people in the industry are expecting it to be an enormous hit.  Along with the new taco, Taco Bell is attempting something it’s tried and failed in the past: food trucks.

“Roy has shown us how to do it right. He has shown the systems we need to have in place to bring Taco Bell food trucks to every region of the county.” Niccol stated.

The Taco Bell food trucks will be hitting the streets with the Kogi BBQ Taco on April 17th in the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland
  • San Francisco

Considering the sweeping changes the 5,600-unit chain is undertaking, it will also soon roll out a new slogan. Say goodbye to “Think outside the bun” and welcome in “Live Mas.” Mas is Spanish for “more,” and it evokes the rather popular “Yo quiero Taco Bell” that the fast-food chain successfully used along with their recognizable talking Chihuahua. It’s a move to make customers think of Taco Bell as a lifestyle choice rather than just a place to pick up a cheap taco. Taco Bell is hoping that the new slogan, as well as its series of bold moves, will translate into customers visiting and spending mas as well.

UPDATE: Please read our April Fool’s Day Recap

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lower wacker chicago food trucks

CHICAGO, IL - Food truck operators are crying foul over proposed regulations that would significantly restrict where and when their mobile businesses could operate in the city of Chicago.

The new rules, which go before the full City Council on April 15, were reviewed Monday by the council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, which heard numerous comments from restaurant owners who fear that the current legislation is putting them out of business. The committee agreed to forward the proposed ordinance to the council without a specific recommendation.

Efforts to establish more clear-cut parking rules for the food truck industry grew in part out of growing tensions between brick-and-mortar restaurants and mobile-food operations, which for years have been minimally regulated by the city of Chicago.

While the trucks are subject to very specific health standards governed by state and local regulations, the current parking restrictions are still causing some restaurant owners indigestion.

As the city’s gourmet food trucks gave grown in numbers and popularity, operators have inevitably clashed with downtown restaurants.

Of greatest concern to the gourmet food trucks are restrictions that would effectively ban their operations in the Loop.

To eliminate the unfair competition food truck owners hold over long time taxpaying restaurants the city council will vote to eliminate all street parking within the downtown except for Lower Wacker.

Senior city planner D.H. Burnham pointed out that no part of what Chicago is proposing should be construed as a ban because exceptions are allowed for private catering and special events.

Among the key regulations that have been proposed:

  • Food trucks would be outlawed in the downtown business district except for Lower Wacker Drive.
  • No food trucks would be allowed within the four blocks adjacent to the Lake Michigan beaches.
  • A prohibition on food trucks within “parking-impacted neighborhoods” surrounding University of Chicago.
  • For food trucks operating on Lower Wacker, hours of operation would be limited to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday.
  • Commercial properties who want to host a food truck would be required to obtain a permit costing between $991 to $1535 for each location, a cost that would likely be picked up by the food truck owner.

Councilman Tom Tunney, who chairs the council committee, echoed the concerns of restaurateurs who feel that food trucks are able to come into the downtown without having to pay the high rents that restaurants must pay.

“A lot of (the restaurants) were here first, and I don’t think it’s right to pull right up to another business,” he said.

Efforts to more strictly regulate food trucks have been closely watched by the Institute of Justice, a libertarian watchdog group, which has sued multiple cities over what it sees as anti-competitive regulations.

“What we’ve seen is this knee-jerk reaction by cities to have food trucks on one side and restaurants on the other, and they want this compromise,” Burt Gall of the IJ said in an interview. “These (restrictions) are really just a veiled attempt to restrict competition instead of what they should be doing, which is protecting public safety.”

City Councilman John Arena expressed concern about different treatment for certain areas of the city, which he fears could open up the city to litigation.

UPDATE: Please read our April Fools’ Day Recap

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Ugly Food Truck

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - A group of outraged San Francisco businesses are putting their time to use by demanding the removal of ”ugly and garish” food trucks from their otherwise pristine streets.

Members of the San Francisco Locally Merchants Organization are even criticizing these roaming street vendors as “almost exclusively terrible citizens” and have presented their case before the local Community Zoning Board to help with their crusade.

The co-founder of the organization harshly explained, “They are unsightly, and not particularly good citizens. They litter. They violate the rules frequently. The fact that these are vendors doesn’t give them the license to be slobs.”

To pass the group’s gold standard, food trucks would not be able to have “ugly or garish” vehicle wraps. The organization has pointed to FedEx and UPS as truck branding that could be used as prototypes for what all food trucks should aspire to look like.

Folks behind the popular food truck event Off the Grid, perhaps the people’s voice behind the hungry crowds who actually frequent the cities food trucks, are telling the group to lay off. “…this would make it much less pleasant for us who value these trucks for their delicious, affordable food as an alternative to the generic and overpriced chain restaurants in the area” and credit current vendors as legitimate businesses that employ hundreds of workers across the city.

Attorney Jessie Navarro who advocates for vendors cited the city’s hefty permit fees as very reason why people are unable to spruce up their trucks, “They can’t afford to invest in their mobile businesses and make them look better because they have to pay outrageous fees just to operate” and spurned the group’s proposed cleansing.

UPDATE: Please read our April Fools’ Day Recap

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