Authors Posts by Richard Myrick

Richard Myrick

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Richard is an architect by degree (Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan) who began his career in real estate development and architectural planning. In September of 2010 he created Mobile Cuisine Magazine to fill an information void he found when he began researching how to start a mobile hotdog cart in Chicago. Richard found that there was no central repository of mobile street food information anywhere on the internet, and with that, the idea for MCM was born.

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food truck debate

As our industry becomes more main stream throughout the country, more and more cities are beginning to look at starting a dialog to determine if food trucks have a place in their communities.

We have researched many of the common points brought up by those opposing mobile vendors. Although many of those against the rise of food trucks have ulterior motives that circle back to the brick and mortar restaurant industry.

If the industry is to continue its growth, we need to identify those issues, sit down and civilly discuss that food trucks are not the danger to restaurants and communities that many are trying to convince cities they are.

Food Truck Debate Issue 1: Food Trucks don’t pay rent

They may not have leases or rent payments as high as restaurants, but food trucks still have to pay for commissary space to clean and restock their “kitchens,” they pay for licenses, permits, food and staff.

In many communities, food trucks also are legally required to pay for rent on storage space and commissaries where they do most of the prep work.

In cities such as San Francisco, mobile vendors are charged upwards of $10,000 a year to maintain their licenses in certain districts. New York City has a limit of permits they issue to street vendors which include trucks and carts.

Outside of liquor licenses, cities do not limit the amount of restaurants which can operate within their city limits.

Food Truck Debate Issue 2: Food Trucks unfairly compete with restaurants

One of the most common complaints by dissenters is that Food Truck operator’s relatively low costs give them “an unfair advantage”. Before the recent uptick in mobile food vendors across the country, this occurrence in the restaurant industry was always referred to as a “competitive advantage.”

So long as the owner of a competitive advantage was passing the benefit of their “advantage” to their customers in terms of value both economically and the quality of their cuisine, this has always been looked at as a positive.

The fact that the mobile food industry has changed its perceived limitation as a “food of only convenience” is what has shifted consumer perception. The current emphasis on value in the market strongly favors the Food Truck model, and is what has attracted many consumers to the new generation of food trucks.

Food Truck Debate Issue 3: Food Trucks only go to trendy areas

Of course food trucks go to trendy areas, food trucks thrive in areas with high foot traffic, but at the same time, isn’t that what restaurant owners try to do when they open up?

They find areas where their business model has the best chance to succeed. Why should food trucks be held down to a foundation or lease if all they have to do is start up their truck and drive to another area where consumers spend their time?

It can also be said that trucks develop something close to cults. Food trucks have followers, the difference lies in their devotion and as shown to date, food truck followers will follow their food wherever it is, so new trendy areas can be created by food trucks that new restaurateurs can follow if they choose.

Food Truck Debate Issue 4: Food Trucks polute the environment

The longer the food truck industry is popular; technology will help it to become greener.

Many trucks around the country already run their vehicles off the vegetable oil they produce so as to cut down on oil costs for fuel and the emissions their trucks create. If they are so concerned about the environment, are they as critical of restaurants that generate upwards of 41% of their carbon foot print from merely heating and lighting their restaurants?

Dependent on the area of the country and what is their source of power generation, I’d certainly take a food truck that is driving around town on vegetable oil or biodiesel, over a restaurant that requires nuclear or coal based power generation.

Food Truck Debate Issue 5: Food Trucks generate excessive trash

This is an area where we may be in agreement currently, however the food truck industry is evolving. An example of this can be seen in San Francisco where the group Off the Grid has created lots for food truck festivals throughout the week.

When they started, they were holding 3 hour events where approximately 300 hundred consumers attended every hour, now they are holding 4 hour events with upwards of 700 consumers showing up every hour.

Their solution? Asking each vendor to provide a trash can outside of their vehicle as well as charging each truck a little more for their participation so the event planners can hire more assistance to help clean up the site.

Food Truck Debate Issue 6: Food Trucks create more traffic

food truck debateSince food trucks spend the majority of their operating time parked in a lot or a parking spot selling their fare, this point seems moot. Another way to look at this argument is that food trucks use social media to inform customers of their location from day to day.

Much of their sales come from people already in the area, as opposed to many brick and mortar establishments which get people taking taxis or driving themselves to the restaurant’s permanent location. Imagine the cuts in deaths due to traffic incidents if people stopped using taxis or personal vehicles to get to their food source?

These are far from all of the negative points driven by those who do not back the food truck industry, but we have found these to be the most common.

If you are aware of other topics which are used to attempt to dissuade municipalities from approving laws and regulations which allow food trucks into their community, feel free to share them with us in our comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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listening to customers

Are you like most mobile food vendors that are continually looking to build your food truck’s social media clout? Outside of creating buzz about the fantastic food your serve, one of the best ways to build a loyal following that keeps coming back as well as attract more customers is to make sure your followers know that you are listening to them.

Since Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ started tweeting back in 2008, the savvy food truck customer expects to be heard by the vendors they do business with. These customers want to know that the trucks they frequent, have their best interest in mind when making product and service decisions.

Listening To Customers – 3 Steps To Prove You Are:

Ask For Feedback

The first step in the process needs to be a request for feedback. Make it easy for people to leave comments, ask questions, provide feedback and even submit complaints. Do this by using Twitter and Facebook as well as an easy to find form on your food truck website or a customer support email address.

Now the key is, not to just provide these communication tools, but to tell your local market about them. Make sure your customers, current and past, know how they can provide feedback and assure them that you want to hear what they have to say.

Act on Feedback

It’s never enough to just welcome customer comments. You have to prove to your customers that you are listening to them by actually taking their comments seriously and taking action whenever possible.

This will give them proof and helps you brand food truck business that takes its customers’ needs and suggestions seriously.

Of course, you’ll never be able to install every suggestion into your menu or schedule, and you probably shouldn’t. While you want to make changes to build your loyalty, you should not make changes if they will be bad for your business.

The actions you take can be as simple as using a different social media network, adding some vegetarian options to your menu or even add a few more stops to your weekly food truck schedule to reach people that want to want to give you money for the products you serve.

Respond Publicly

When you make suggested changes, or even in the cases where you can’t, respond to comments publicly when it makes sense. If you regularly see feedback from your customers on your Facebook page make sure you post your responses there.

Responding publicly gives you the opportunity to show off you awesome customer service skills and shows customers that you are listening and ready to answer.

Even if you can’t provide specific assistance online, respond with a comment that directs them to your food truck website, asks them to email you or provides some other form of assistance.

Showing your customers that you are listening will have a long term impact on your brand building efforts. It will help you build a loyal fan base, attract more customers and create a reputation as a food truck business that always puts its customers first.

Do you think we missed something in regards to show that you are listening to customers? If so, please feel free to share your suggestions in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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food truck profits

One of the most common mistakes made by first time food truck owners is to confusing the ideas of ringing up sales with making a profit. Some of the new mobile food vendors we’ve spoken with appear to believe that the number of tickets they ring up in a service is the key to success.

Unfortunately these vendors fail to take into account that while ticket count is important, the more important factor is to earn enough to cover their costs including paying themselves. Without making this their focus, they might as well be back in a job where they are working for someone else.

Everyone who starts a food truck understands the importance of making a profit, but somehow some vendors follow through with making this happen.

The first step in maximizing your food truck profits is to take profitability into account on every sale you make. Another big one is to keep the mobile food business’ operating costs as low as possible.

Once you can nail those two points, follow these rules to generate maximum food truck profits from each and every sale:

4 Tactics To Maximize Your Food Truck Profits

Make The Price Right

Many first timers think they need to undercut the competition to draw customers to their service window. This is certainly the quickest way to failure. If what makes your truck unique is that you offer the lowest prices, what happens when another trucks drops their prices below yours?

To develop proper pricing, dig into all of your costs (food, labor and overhead). Now take a look at what other trucks or restaurants price similar products. Don’t be afraid of being the most expensive as long as you offer items on your menu that justify your rates.

Push High Margin Menu Items

Understanding the differences in margin for each of the items on your menu is critical for shaping your profit plan. Many of the most successful food truck vendors boost their bottom line by pushing items that have lower prices but maintain larger margins. While the total sale maybe smaller, with each one, they put more money in their pocket.

Cross Sell With Higher Margin Items

Last month I spoke with a food truck owner that keeps track of the typical add-on menu items (think apps, sides, beverages and desserts) that are purchased when someone buys his most popular entrée (it’s also hold the highest margin for that menu segment).

These items help him increase the profitability entrée sales because they have even higher margins. So he instructs all of his service staff to push the idea of adding those items when customers only purchase an entrée. Since training his staff this technique he has seen his profits skyrocket.

Put Your Menu On A Diet

Food trucks don’t offer a lot of storage space, so why are you tying up this valuable real-estate with ingredients that might only be used in low selling, low profit dishes? By getting rid of your slow moving menu items, you can save space, prep time and money and put it into menu items with the highest margins?

There are plenty of other tactics food truck owners can use, but the key is always to keep your eye on maximizing your profit. Remember, it’s not how tickets you ring up, but how much you earn on each sale. Otherwise, when you run out of your working capital (if you have any at all), you’re truck will be out of business until you can come up with more money.

If you have any additional profit margin tactics that help maximize yours, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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social media time management

It seems from some of the most recent questions we’ve received that some food truck vendors are still having difficulty in improving their social media presence without having to spend more time than they thought they would to get anything accomplished.

Are you one of these vendors? Not to worry, today’s article is all about social media time management and was designed to show you how to streamline the time you invest with social media while still being able to build a strong online brand that draws customers to your food truck service window.

4 Social Media Time Management Tips

Downsize

One mistake I see some vendors make is joining every social network on the web and spending time to stay relevant on each one. If you are presently on what may seem like every social media platform, take some time to find out which ones are actually drawing customers in and interacting with you.

If there is no customer interaction on some, cut down or eliminate the time you spend there and focus more of your time on those that are more active.

If your customers don’t engage with you on Pinterest or Instagram, there’s no need to be there.

Once you know where you’re your message is being heard, pick two or three and don’t worry about the rest.

Speak With Your Customers

Spend some time engaging with your social media followers. Does is seem as most of them are not in your local area? If not, you could be spending your time engaging with people who may never spend a moment waiting in line for one of your awesome menu items. If this is the case you need to fine tune your approach.

Look at your updates that generate the most interest, and use those as a starting point for conversations. When you find a customer hot button issue, run with it. Be sure you share information that is both relevant to your food truck and beneficial for your customers.

You need to focus your social media communications on your customers to build trust and encourage interaction. This will lead to a creating social media advocates for your food truck business.

Consistant User Names

There are some vendors I found while researching this article that use upwards of 3 to five different user names on various social networks. Some even have several handles for Twitter alone.

Not only is this difficult to manage (unless you are paying someone to handle all of these accounts for you), but it also confuses customers which will ultimately dilute your brand.

Settle on a single username so people can easily find and follow you. Use your food truck’s name or a shorter variation. If you’re Your Name Food Truck on Facebook, don’t create a different handle for Twitter, keep it consistent.

Become Predictable

In social media it pays to be predicable. Create a schedule for posting on the social media networks you’ve chosen to have a presence. Choose times when you know your customers are most likely to see your posts.

Once you have your schedule in place, stick to it, it’s much easier to identify what to share in advance rather than trying to do it in real time.

Use the space in between your scheduled posts for customer conversations. Retweet or comment on things you like and thank customers who promote your food truck.

We hope this helps those of you that are having a tough time navigating all of the social media avenues available to food truck vendors. Time is one thing that we understand vendors don’t have in surplus.

If you have addition tips on social media time management, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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online job posting

Many of the food trucks owners I have spoken with lately have told me they are planning to start bulking up their staff even though winter is right around the corner. The reasoning behind this is primarily due to the fact that during the colder months, food trucks in cold climates turn their business models away from daily city parking and more catering. This fact leads them to more work in the kitchen and usually more needs for front of house personnel than they use at daily stops.

If your food truck is getting ready to start hiring, chances are that your best candidates are searching for food truck jobs on the web. You are going to need to create an online job posting that leads to qualified candidates submitting their resumes so it’s time to remember the basics of writing any effective online job posting:

Give a clear description of the position and its requirements, and explain your food truck’s mission and its culture. If you don’t explain these, you may miss out on the candidates that fit best with your existing team.

RELATED: Food Truck Job Ad Format To Bring In Better Applicants

You’ll also have to keep in mind the way online job searches work, and write your posting so that your ideal candidates will easily find it. Here’s how:

Make Your Online Job Posting Searchable With SEO

As with everything you write for the web, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key for your food truck’s online job posting.  The key factors in SEO you need to know:

Use keywords. Find out what keywords your ideal candidates are using to find jobs like the one you’re hiring for, and use those keywords often as you write your posting. The free, online Google Adwords Keyword Tool will tell you which search terms are used most. Be sure to also include the city where your job is located and a descriptive job title.

Use headings and boldface. Search engines pay a little more attention to the words that appear in “Heading” styles, and those that appear in boldface. Use your top keywords in headings, and bold a few (four to five) keywords you’d like to focus on.

Write for humans. Don’t over fill your online job posting with keywords. Just keep them in mind as you write a clear, readable  ad.

Post Where Food Truck Candidates Are

Besides posting with the typical job sites like Indeed.com or LinkedIn.com, be sure to post in the online places where your ideal candidates will be looking:

  • Food truck web site: Job seekers who want to work for you will check your web site to see when jobs open up. If you don’t know where to include your online job posting, either create a jobs page, or write a blog post which includes the position you are looking to fill.
  • Social media channels: Candidates hope to work for you someday will most likely be watching your social media accounts.
  • Job boards specific to the food truck industry: Since you are already here, we know you read Mobile Cuisine, but were you aware that we have created a job board specific to food truck job postings? If not, take a few minutes to head over to Food Truck Jobs and check it out. We have thousands of qualified candidates who read Mobile Cuisine, why not tap into this resource we’ve created for you?

Do you have any suggestions for writing a food truck job posting? If so, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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accounting basics

The key to any successful mobile food business is simple: profits. As a food truck owner, you need to make money to survive, and in order to make money, you need to know accounting basics and systems to control cash flow, reduce losses and maximize your profits. Keeping track of your finances will put you in a good place to monitor your cash flow and make the most of your business in the long run.

Accounting Basics: Cash Flow

Managing cash flow means tracking all the cash that is coming in and leaving your food truck business. With sales and expenses always playing a balancing act, estimating future cash flow can be a guessing game until you get the feel for your roaming restaurant’s business patterns, or when the money comes in versus when it goes out. Essentially, you want to strive for more income than expenses. When you are able to bring in more money than you spend, you are maximizing your net income, and overall your profits will grow.

Accounting Basics: Record Keeping

Recording your cash flow, including income and expenses, is critical to your food truck’s accounting procedures. Your income includes all cash and credit card sales received. Outgoing expenses should be recorded with the help of receipts and invoices. Your Point of Sale (POS) system typically keeps track of all credit card and cash sales, and all receipts should be filed and recorded in a Profit and Loss document (P&L). It is also essential to keep a close eye on your inventory counts.

Accounting Basics: Taking Inventory

Your mobile food business’ inventory includes the supplies, products and ingredients you have on hand to prepare and serve food and beverages. Inventory is an important factor in managing business accounting, because it represents an investment in food and supplies that are needed for you to make a profit. You should always consider your inventory as cash in a different form, and count it consistently and thoroughly.

Accounting Basics: Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)

Your profit and loss statement, or P&L, is much like an income statement for the food truck. This document serves as a report to summarize income, expenses and inventory, illustrating your business’ total profits and losses over a specific period of time. It is best to prepare a P&L each week if at all possible. This will make it easier to track numbers and comparing reports from month to month and even year to year. A P&L statement includes information relevant to your cash flow, including sales and labor expenses.

Accounting Basics: Software

Most food truck operations do not have in-house staff of accountants available to do their accounting leg-work, so many use computer programs to help record their financial information. The best software includes a Point of Sale (POS) system, financial software, and the software to integrate the two. Fully-integrated systems like these can take the burden off you and help you fully analyze your financials by running comprehensive reports.

Do you have any suggestions for our accounting basics list? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or add them to our Facebook page.

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Online Business Directories

With the continual increase in Internet accessibility, business marketing and advertising online has proven to be more effective than other media avenues. Online business directories have become the go to source for supplier research, so much so that statistics show that nearly 8 in 10 people will head to the Internet to research suppliers and vendors.

The Importance Of Getting Listed On Online Business Directories

A great part of showcasing your business online is that when someone uses an online business directory as a means of searching for certain products or services, they already have an idea of making a purchase and only are looking for a local provider of that product or service.

On top of that, the reviews that people are able to read about the businesses they found in the directories will adds a certain amount of social clout which will further influence their purchasing decisions.

This is why local market business listing is crucial to finding more targeted customers. Aside from building reviews that adds credibility, businesses being included in business listing directories is a sure fire way for even more visibility in your local market and around the country.

It’s not only people who are doing online business directory research, but businesses have more reasons to build partnerships with other businesses who are looking into business listings.

This means that being listed in the online business directories will give start-ups and small business an edge against their competitors who are not listed. The more the name of a business is seen online, the more your sales should increases.

To make your businesses online visibility successful, you need to make sure you provide unique content in each of your business description as well as your listings need to be continually maintained and updated.

If you include online business listing maintenance in your business marketing plan you will be assured that your listings on online business directories don’t get out of date and provide possible customers with information that is no longer useful for them…or for you.

We have created a food truck supplier directory for food truck service providers to show off their wares and services to food truck vendors.

Our online business directories provide access to:
  • Food truck Dealers, Rentals, Builders, Commercial kitchen and Commissaries
  • Mechanics that provide Food Truck Repairs
  • Vehicle Transport companies and Vehicle Wraps & Graphics
  • Business related services such as Accounting, Food Truck Associations, Insurance and Legal Services
  • If you are looking for Education we allow listings of Culinary Schools and Small Business Educators such as SCORE
  • Looking for a Local Farm or Farmers Market, we provide for those services to be advertised

If we don’t have a category that doesn’t fit your business, let us know and we’ll be sure to add it as long as the services or products they provide are directly related to the mobile food industry.

Are you a food truck service or product supplier, make sure to head over to foodtrucksupplier.mobile-cuisine.com today and submit your business. We offer a whole range of options for ads including a FREE listing.

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relevant twitter following

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 finding a relevant Twitter following and 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.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to retweet it or add us at twitter.com/mobilecuisine. Also, if you have additional tips to finding a relevant Twitter following for food trucks, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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restaurant equipment

When outfitting their food truck kitchens most mobile food vendors have a multitude of options. Before you head out to start shopping, you’ll need to create a full list of the restaurant equipment your truck will require.

Once you have made a list of everything you think you will need to open your food truck. Run through your business plan, your food truck concept and any preliminary menus you’ve created in your head. This will help you with as complete as possible list of restaurant equipment your food truck will need.

No matter what option you choose for acquiring this equipment: lease, or buy  it new or used, here are:

3 tips for outfitting your food truck with restaurant equipment:
  1. Research your options. Besides finding local food trucks or restaurants that have recently closed, check out online restaurant retailers for deals. Look up auction houses that sell used kitchen equipment to find upcoming auctions
  2. You don’t need all the bells and whistles. Select simple pieces of restaurant equipment. If you pick up one of the high end options, they just present more opportunities for something to break. A simple gas oven may not sound as fancy as a dual convection oven with internal thermal sensors, but consider waiting until you have established your brand and have a good cash reserve to upgrade in the future.
  3. Learn how to haggle. Unlike original equipment manufacturers, dealers who sell used restaurant equipment are willing to negotiate prices just to get an item off their sales floor. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for freebies. If you end up purchasing multiple pieces of restaurant equipment from the same place,  if you ask, there’s a chance they will toss in something like a prep table if you are buying several larger pieces of equipment.

If you are looking to purchase restaurant equipment, please check out our Food Truck Supplier Directory to find someone near you.

Restaurant equipment dealers can list their business FREE in this same directory so feel free to pass this link around to friends and family who might be a great fit to help the continuing growth of the mobile food industry.

Do you have any additional tips for purchasing new or used restaurant equipment to pass along to our readers? If so, please add them to the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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food truck tip of the day

Every food truck owner I’ve spoken with always comments on the amount of time they spend managing their food truck. Since there are only 24 hours a day, you can always get better at managing the time you have. The best way to do this is to figure out what’s eating too much of it – and what could use more attention.

Break down your work responsibilities into categories, and track how much time you spend in each every day:

  • Primary duties: Day-to-day tasks that define your job.
  • Managing: Have you hired employees for your food truck? Do you work collaboratively with them or do you have a manager? Log how much time this takes out of your schedule.
  • Admin tasks: The little things that seem to take too much of your time – emails, time sheets, event planning, etc.
  • Putting out fires: Interruptions. Urgent matters. Any last-minute issues that end up sabotaging even the best time-management plans.
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