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Business

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bad interview questions

Working in the mobile food industry is much like any other restaurant industry job which means there can be a lot of turnover. Whether you are new to the industry or just need to fill a recently vacated position, you need to know what cannot be asked when you are involved in the hiring process.

Bad Interview Questions

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, as well as federal and state laws, prohibit asking certain questions of a job applicant, either on the application form or during the interview.

So what are some bad interview questions that you should you stay away from? Basically, you can’t ask about anything not directly related to the job.

13 Bad Interview Questions Or Topics To Avoid
  • Age or date of birth (if interviewing a teenager, you can ask if he or she is 16 years old)
  • Sex, race, creed, color, religion or national origin
  • Disabilities of any kind
  • Date and type of military discharge
  • Marital status
  • Maiden name (for female applicants)
  • If a person is a citizen; however, you can ask if he or she has the legal right to work in the United States

Other questions you should avoid include:

  • How many children do you have? How old are they? Who will care for them while you are at work?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
  • Have you ever been arrested? (You may ask if the person has been convicted if it is accompanied by a statement saying that a conviction will not necessarily disqualify an applicant for employment.)
  • How many days were you sick last year?
  • Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?

We hope this list helps keep you from getting in trouble for asking bad interview questions to applicants who are interested in working for your food truck business.

RELATED: Post You Food Truck Jobs With Mobile Cuisine

Do you have any additional tips or suggestion? If so, please share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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awesome mobile food business

Over the years we’ve touched on topics crucial to running a successful mobile food business such as type of cuisine, parking locations, commissaries and selecting the right platform (truck, cart, trailer etc…) to serve your food from. In this article we’ll cover aspects that delve beyond those obvious concerns.

The key ingredients that matter most to creating an awesome mobile food business are your food, your staff and you. If done the right way, your food truck, food cart or trailer will thrive in the industry and stay on top.

3 factors that will create an awesome mobile food business:

Food Identity

Your food is your food truck business’ identity. You first must portray yourself in a very definable way to your customers so they can equate you as the go to spot for your cuisine.

Failure to define yourself is a huge mistake when trying to separate yourself from your competition.

For example, let’s say that there are a bunch of burger trucks in your area, which means there has to be something about your food that makes it stand out if you too will be serving burgers.

How To Make Your Food Awesome

  • Uniqueness. Get your customer’s attention with original dishes. If you plan to serve common dishes, add some flair and make them just 10 percent better, you’ll have an inspiring and stimulating menu your customers will get excited about.
  • Go local. Get some local farm fresh produce. Not only are you bringing in very fresh ingredients, you are supporting the local economy. Today’s customers do take notice of this fact.
Supreme Staffing

You need to hire people who have a passion for the mobile food industry, a sense of urgency when handling customers and a willingness to be part of your team.

The service experience is right up there with food when it comes to the top two elements to a great dining experience.

Your staff needs to work in sync because if they don’t, you could end up with reviews that minimally praise the food but ruthlessly criticize the service.

Customers want to eat great food but at the same time, they want to be treated like royalty.

How To Build An Awesome Staff

  • Processes. Create employee manuals containing your processes and procedures, and ensure they are updated regularly. This gives your staff a way to succeed as a unified team moving in the same direction. There is nothing worse than attempting to manage a bunch of individuals trying to do the same thing, each in their own way.
  • Outstanding training. Your food truck staff has to know their job. Ensure your staff gets thorough book training on procedures along with on-the-job training complete with food tasting and menu education. Basic training should also include job shadowing a veteran staff member. Don’t stop there. Expose the staff member to the other job roles within your food truck. This will allow for position flexibility in case someone can’t show up for work and leaves you hanging.
  • Solicit feedback. Always communicate with them and more importantly, don’t stop listening. Give real-time feedback and think of yourself as a coach to your team. You don’t have to portray yourself as almighty. Look beyond your ego and start putting your people first.

RELATED: Post Your Food Truck Jobs with Mobile Cuisine

Personality Plus

Food trucks don’t fail, people fail.

As the owner, you are the people. Whatever happens under your watch is on you. This could be hiring a truck manager who under-performs or not training your staff to prepare your awesome recipes consistently awesome.

Ultimately, the responsibility rests on your shoulders.

How You Can Become Awesome

  • Self-reflect regularly. The toughest thing for anyone to do is critique themselves. It is not in our nature to tell ourselves we are wrong. As a leader, it’s okay to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be exposed. That doesn’t make you weak; it actually makes you more authentic and respectable.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask your staff for honest feedback. Let it be known that honesty is the only way for you to improve as an owner. Don’t forget your staff extends further than just managers and service window staff. You should be listening to your line cooks just as anyone else. Customer feedback is also very important to the growth and development of your food truck. Let it be known that you want to know what customers think to make their experience better.
  • Keep growing. Food truck owners can always improve. What’s more, your staff has great ideas, so ask them. Your mobile food business needs to keep growing to thrive and it’s vitally important you grow with it.

Do you have any tips on how you created an awesome mobile food business? If so, leave us a comment (below), Tweet us or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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food truck tip of the day

Small businesses across the country have been taking a beating over the last few years due to the economy and even the growing mobile food industry isn’t an exception.

No matter the reasons behind some trucks closing, there are still a huge number of individuals who are looking to enter the industry.

RELATED: Find Food Trucks For Sale At Mobile Cuisine

Taking over a failed truck can be an easy way to get onto the streets of your local area. Here are four tips to follow if you are taking over an existing truck without plans on re-branding it.

tip of the day

Communicate the change in ownership to old customers

When you buy a brand that has been around for some time, show the longtime customers that you appreciate their business by giving them customer appreciation discounts.

Get to know them and establish yourself as the new owner. When people are used to brands they are not used to change. Let them know that their favorite staples will remain on the menu.

Assure them that you are going to carry on the brand just as good as it was before, if not better.

Add some new items

When comes to change you have to be very careful with established food truck brands. Keep on the old staples, but make sure that the quality of the food is upgraded to current standards.

Familiarize yourself with new taste profiles, quality control and other things that will make a difference to new and old recipes. Let older customers know about the new changes so they won’t be shocked.

Bump up the truck’s profile

Don’t be afraid to step up your game and compete with other food truck businesses in the area. Do things that have never been done at that truck before. Increase advertising and marketing.

Play on new strategies in social networking. Use Twitter, Facebook, and geo-location services like Foursquare to find new customers.

Think with the new generation in mind. It can be a hard pill to swallow to change something that has been around awhile.

Consider hiring new staff

Analyze the current staff and determine if they have what it takes to move forward with your changes. You’ll probably have to get rid some staff that don’t fit your plans.

Put them to work to see what they can do. Keep the ones that are willing to listen to change and who are loyal to your vision for the direction of your business and not the previous owner’s vision.

RELATED: Post Your Food Truck Jobs At Mobile Cuisine

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Food Truck Winter Storage

Although it isn’t quite Winter yet, recently we have noticed a few Twitter messages from food trucks around the country were preparing to shut down until Spring.

Unless your mobile food business is located in the warmer climate areas in the United States, the first frost is usually a sign that it’s time to start thinking about putting your food truck away for the winter. Proper storage of your food truck can save you a lot of work down the road.

In this article Mobile Cuisine will share a few food truck winter storage tips you should follow before packing your vehicle away for the winter. Come next spring, your vehicle will look great and perform well.

Before you begin, be sure when taking parts apart, to be organized. Keep similar parts together in a safe place where they won’t get lost and layout parts in a way that will allow you to put them back in the same order.

Food Truck Winter StorageFood Truck Winter Storage Tips

Make Safety Your Top Priority

Every vehicle is different. When it comes to maintenance and repairs always follow the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Make sure you have all of your tools and supplies before you begin – the last thing you want to do is go shopping when you have the car on the jack.

Safety should be your number one priority. Don’t smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, or wear exposed jewelry while working on your food truck. Watch out for hot objects, sharp instruments, hazardous materials and other potential safety hazards in and around your workspace. Always wear a set of safety glasses, a dust mask and latex gloves.

Do not work with a Philips when the job calls for a flat screwdriver. Substituting tools can compromise your safety.

Finally, when the fun turns to frustration or if the job requires specialized knowledge beyond your abilities, seek the assistance of a professional mechanic. The last thing we want is someone getting hurt.

Perform All Repairs And Maintenance 

Perform any known repairs or maintenance on your vehicle. You don’t want to forget and find out the hard way on the first spring drive.

Change The Oil 

Change your engine oil and filter. You don’t want contaminants that have built up in the oil to sit in your engine all winter. Change the oil again when taking the truck out in spring to remove any condensation build up in the oil pan.

Fill The Tank 

Add a container of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank and completely fill the tank with high quality gasoline. Drive a quick 10 miles or so to work the stabilizer through the entire fuel system.

Prevent Rust 

Spray hinges, crevices, and anything shiny with a coating of WD-40 to prevent rusting. This can be wiped off in the spring with a degreaser. If you are using a rust inhibiting coating on the exterior, it should be applied now. Let the vehicle sit for a few days before washing and waxing.

Wash And Wax 

You’ll want to do a complete and thorough cleaning before storage. Wash the car, inside and out.
Wax all painted surfaces with a high quality wax.

Remove Kitchen Equipment

If your mobile bistro isn’t going to be stored in a heated area this step should be followed. If any of your kitchen equipment is not bolted down, remove it from your food truck and store it in a secure heated area.

Clean all of the remaining kitchen equipment to make sure there is no food to sit and spoil over the winter. Prop open your oven and refrigeration units to prevent mold from building up and ruining this equipment.

Wipe Down Rubber Parts 

Wipe all rubber parts and seals with a rubber dressing to stop them from drying out and cracking.

Battery Maintenance 

At the very least, disconnect the battery cables. If your storage area is not heated, it’s recommended that the battery is removed and stored indoors through the winter, but always watch for the possibility of corrosive battery acid.

IMPORTANT - Before disconnecting a battery, be sure you disarm any alarms and that you have any necessary lock codes for the stereo or other electronic equipment.

It’s important to maintain the battery to prolong its ability to hold a charge as time goes by. Battery maintenance can be done in a few different ways:

  • Trickle charge the battery every few weeks with a battery charger.
  • Use a battery charger that has a “maintain” setting so the battery is kept at the right state of charge, but not overcharged.
  • Use a 12V solar panel and battery maintainer to constantly monitor/charge the battery.

Fill Washer Fluid 

Fill your washer fluid container with winter washer fluid to prevent freezing and cracking of the fluid container.

Keep The Critters Out 

Cover or plug the exhaust tail pipe and air intake tubing to prevent rodents from taking up residence. Steel wool works well, just remember to remove it before starting the car! Some people also like to use mothballs under the hood or in the trunk to keep rodents away. It’s NOT recommended to use mothballs on the interior of your food truck.

On The Ground? Off The Ground? 

Next you’ll need to decide whether to raise the vehicle for food truck winter storage or leave it sitting on the ground. Flat spots on the tires used to be the main reason to store a vehicle raised off the ground, but with modern day tires, this has become less of an issue.  Generally, if the truck is only parked for the winter, storing it on the ground should be fine. Over-inflating your tires by 5-8 pounds can help prevent flat spotting over the winter.

If you are raising it off the ground, you’re next decision is whether or not to remove the wheels. Some people prefer to remove the wheels when storing a car, rather than have them in a high traffic garage area where your rims can be damaged.

IMPORTANT – DO NOT use the parking brake when storing a vehicle. Parking brakes can seize over months of being left on.

Cover It Up 

First, leave the windows down a few inches to let the interior breathe then cover the truck. Covers should be a breathable, snug fitting material. Tarps or plastic are not recommended.

Make Sure You Are ‘Covered’ 

Adjust your insurance accordingly. Call your insurance agent and let them know your food truck has been stored. They can recommend the appropriate amount of insurance.

Do you have any additional tips for Food Truck Winter Storage? If so, please feel free to leave a comment below, Tweet us or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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double your food truck profits

Growing a food truck’s sales is an essential goal of all mobile food businesses, however it is NOT the surest way to make a major impact on your short term profitability. Reducing the truck’s non-essential expenses is.

To double your food truck profits, a vendor with a net income of 5% of sales would need a minimum sales increase of 10% and likely as much as 15% or more.

Besides food, beverage and other variable costs, generating more sales would likely require additional marketing expenses as well as the use of some type of promotional discounting or coupons.

For virtually all food service industry businesses (including food truck and carts), the most effective way to boost profitability quickly and permanently is not by putting a hard push on sales but by limiting the amount of your unneeded expenses.

Double Your Food Truck Profits

Two of the most important functions of any mobile food business are:

  • Retain current customers
  • Attract new customers

Based on these assumptions, how much of your monthly costs and expenses are being directed toward supporting these two areas? Every mobile food vendor who can’t say, “all of it” or even worse, doesn’t know, is likely not maximizing their food truck’s profitability.

Over the past 4 years we’ve spoken with many food truck vendors and 99% of them were easily wasting 5% to 10% of sales on things that had absolutely no impact on their existing or potential customers.

If you are truly serious about doubling or significantly enhancing your profit, ask your accountant or bookkeeper (yes, ask yourself if you do the books yourself) for your year-to-date detailed general ledger. Then, account by account, line by line, invoice by invoice, check by check, examine each and every expenditure in your mobile food business.

On every item ask yourself, is this a “necessary” cost of retaining or attracting customers? It may help to look at your spending in terms of whether each purchase satisfies a “need” or a “want”. All food trucks “need” certain products and services to provide for their customers.

Conversely, “wants” often reflect the desires of management and staff. These costs are incurred primarily for the comfort and convenience of the management and staff, not the customer. Be objective and cut out what you don’t really “need” to be spending money on.

This simple, yet highly effective way to evaluate your costs and expenses is the easiest and surest way to double your profit in the future.

Do you have any additional advice to our readers on how to double your food truck profits? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below, Tweet us or share it on our Facebook page.

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food truck tip of the day

tip of the dayRunning a food truck has its challenges; dealing with the competition is one of the biggest ones.

Diners don’t have to step up to your mobile food business – they could always go to another food truck or head into a local restaurant.

You need to remain mindful of this and do all you can to remain competitive.

Here are some points to bear in mind:

  • Play up your strengths and make them matter to your customers.
  • Analyse your competition (mobile and brick and mortar), determine their deficiencies and exploit them.
  • Close the gaps on your own deficiencies.
  • Continually create new points of difference.
  • Know your market, how your points of difference matter to them, and how to reach them.

Do you have a suggestion for a topic for us to cover in our Tip of the Day section? If so, drop us an email, Tweet us or share it on our Facebook page.

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Menu Psychology
Image from Good Dog Houston

What do dollar signs, anchors and bacon have in common? They’re all menu psychology tactics used to make food truck menus more enticing to prospective customers, of course.

The bottom line is the bottom line: You want diners buying food. And you’re lucky; before your diners even decide what they’re going to order, you’re putting an advertisement in front of them, in the form of a menu or menu board.

Here are the top 6 tips of menu psychology that will lead your food truck customers to order what you want them to:
Don’t Use Dollar Signs

This is menu psychology 101: DO NOT use dollar signs ($$$) on your food truck menu.

We’ll repeat that if you missed it, do not use dollar signs on your food truck menus or menu board. It forces customers to focus on the price of the item rather than on the item itself. Is your menu a list of prices or of meals?

Columns Kill

One of the best ways to compare numbers is to have them all lined up. So give your diners a break and get them focusing on the food and not the price.

Columns force your diners to compare the prices of all your dishes, making them weed out the most expensive rather than focus on the most delicious.

However, pricing all your entrees around the same can be a good tactic to prove to your patrons that you are a fairly priced eatery.

Use Adjectives

While using simpler copy is certainly a trend, the words you do use must be precise. Dr Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab, found that descriptive labels on menu items increases sales by as much as 27 percent.

Bracketing

Bracketing is for the same-dish-that-comes-in-two-different-sizes trick. The two sizes prompt the diner to feel a bit worried that the smaller portion might not be enough and reassure them that for less than double the price, they can get twice the amount of food. Deal, right?

Well, sort of. If a customer doesn’t eat the extra food and doesn’t take it home to finish, then, both the food and the consumer’s money are wasted. However, if you’re the food truck owner, you just made close to double the profit off of that sale, simply by having two sizes.

The Upper Right Hand Corner

Just as with newspapers, the upper right hand corner of a menu is prime real estate. This is the first place a diner’s eyes go. Putting something especially enticing or your signature food truck dish there is a good call.

The Enhancer: Bacon

If your pork dish is listed just as a pork dish, chances are customers would glance over it and keep moving to the next item. However, when that pork loin is bacon-wrapped, everything changes.

Bacon is still a buzzword for many food truck diners. They always seem to be enticed to see what the tasty, salted pig-part has been paired with this time.

Do you have other menu psychology tips that have been successful for you and your food truck’s menu board? If so, please feel free to share you thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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food truck sales

In a mobile food business, food truck sales are what will determine if you are able to make it through your first year of operation. Projecting your future food truck sales is a critical step in ensuring that your business is profitable.

Before you open, it is definitely worth it to have an idea of whether or not your sales will support your business needs. Pulling a number out of thin air does nothing for you, and although there is no actual formula for projecting sales for your start up  making a well-informed guess is critical to planning your first-year funds. We have put together some guidelines for estimating the amount of funds you can bring in from your mobile food truck or cart in its first year.

food truck sales

Do not base your estimations on how many people you can serve with your truck or cart at full capacity, since this may be unlikely for your first year of business.

Figure out how many customers you can serve and then plan for about 75% of that case. Pay attention to your area demographics. People may flock to a similar cuisine food truck in the area already, but may not be excited about going to yours, or vice versa. A lot depends on your concept and where or when you will be serving the public.

Determining Your Food Truck Sales

Estimate Customer Numbers

By now you will likely have a few specific areas you plan to use as regular locations, or at least a general idea. A great way to learn about how many of walk up customers you may expect is by comparing your potential business to existing mobile kitchens in the area. Visit trucks or carts of similar size and cuisine type.  Although these businesses may turn out to be your competitors, you can obtain valuable information by observing how many covers they serve during peak hours. You may even speak with the owner to learn about how many covers they see in a week.

Estimate Average Spending Per Customer

Once you have a customer count estimate, you will need to come up with a per person average based on your menu prices. Make sure you use middle-of-the-road cost values from your menu to figure this out. That means choosing moderately-priced menu items in lieu of the least pricey or costliest. After all, you cannot expect all of your guests to buy the most expensive item on your menu every time. In general, your sales are a function of how many people you serve and how much they spend.

Also, be sure to take in to consideration the difference in number of customers and per customer spending averages for different meal periods. For example, lunch periods tend to bring in lower average sales than dinner periods, unless you are able to find locations to park in central business district where there is a lot of foot traffic and hungry workers. Days of the week will also bring in different sales as well. For example, Thursday nights are usually more profitable for food trucks than Monday nights.

Generate a chart showing estimated number of customers per meal period each day, as well as the per person spending average.

Estimate Food Truck Sales for the Year

After mapping out sales projections for the week, some mobile food vendors will merely multiply their weekly sales totals by 52 weeks to get a year’s sales projection. Other owners will divide the year into seasons to reflect the business they will receive during different times of the year. This is a little more complicated because seasons vary depending on region, but it can be more accurate since some months are usually busier than others. Think about what an average week’s sales might look like, and then ask yourself what you might make in the work of a slow week and in the work of a busy week.

Consulting seasoned food truck employees or owners in your area will help you to decide what kind of traffic or sales volume to expect at different times of the year. These estimations will vary from truck to truck, depending on your menu and your locations. After even a few months of operating, you will have a much better idea of what to anticipate as far as sales go, and you can alter your estimations accordingly. You should also evaluate your operations and promotion efforts if sales are not matching the projections in your business plan.

Running a mobile food business is no small endeavor, and you are more likely to succeed when you have done the appropriate research and made some rational estimates. Figure out what you might expect as far as visitor attendance and sales per person by checking out the competition and determining what is rational for your idea, location and customer demographics. This will also help make sure you are financially prepared for the revenue your rolling bistro will bring in during the course of your hard first year.

Do you have any additional tips to help determine your food truck sales? 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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food truck tip of the day

tip of the day

Today’s mobile food businesses need to recognize that customer loyalty goes a long way. Continually re-evaluate your approach to customer service.

  • Take some time and effort to provide meals based on various dietary needs or allergies. Expanding your customer base through simple changes to some of your favorite menu items can be as easy as swapping out some ingredients for others.
  • Use social media to notify your loyal customers about up-coming specials to keep them coming back.
  • Make all of your customers feel like a member of your food truck family.

These simple changes or additions to your current customer service plan can help pave the road to continued growth of your food truck business.

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food truck signature dish
Kogi BBQ's signature short rib taco

The rise in knowledgeable food consumers has grown leaps and bounds since the increase of food related television programming. Because of this growth, it should be no surprise that the the mobile food industry has benefited from the new foodies in the world.

These foodies tend to be consumers who enjoy sharing information about their last, best meal through word of mouth and social media. A great way for a food truck to give these share happy customers a reason spread the word about their mobile business is to provide them with a signature dish to talk about.

Classic cuisine dishes have always connected diners with their roots or the history of the regions where they have lived or traveled. Your food truck’s signature dish can be a modified or elevated version of a popular dish from the cuisine your concept is built on.  By promoting these signature menu items, food truck vendors can take advantage of these customer emotions or memories and create committed fans and followers.

Creating Buzz About Your Food Truck Signature Dish

People show tremendous loyalty and enthusiasm for their favorite foods, and signature dishes give you the ability to find a way of sharing your culinary self-expression. In fact, many food trucks have started operations based partly on the culinary appeal of their signature dishes.

  • Signature dishes often incorporate local produce, seafood, game or condiments.
  • Most mobile food vendors specialize in cooking national, regional or local dishes that are popular with people from particular ethnic backgrounds.
  • Brand image and food consistency often have their roots in distinctive signature dishes.
  • Emphasizing history, preparation techniques or sustainable local ingredients provides rich marketing possibilities for food trucks.

Signature dishes could include appetizers, soups, salads, streaks, entrees or desserts. Regional favorites include barbecue dishes, Cajun and Creole specialties, crab cakes, chili and even Philly cheese steaks.

The cooking methods can range from simple and healthy to complicated dishes, it really depends on the technical skills of your staff to consistently recreate the dish. Not only can your signature items draw in local consumers, it can serve as tourist attraction if your market has a high flow of out of town foodie visitors.

The Benefits Of A Food Truck Signature Dish

An important point about a signature dish is that they can capture the imagination of foodies who can influence others to visit your food truck’s service window. Other promotional ideas to consider:

  • People who visit food trucks to enjoy their favorite foods often try other menu items and spend additional money on sides and beverages.
  • Window Servers can up sell signature dishes by explaining their history.
  • Food trucks can link their cuisines with local or regional foods, ethnic specialties and sustainable local sources.
  • Signature dishes can generate social and traditional media attention for your mobile food business, which will increase local market followers, and online visibility.

Food trucks often change their menus to keep pace with culinary trends, but your signature dishes have the power to serve as menu anchors for loyal customers and evolve to reflect new culinary trends and healthier eating habits.

Does you already have a food truck signature dish? If so, tell us about it in the comment section below, Tweet us or share it on our Facebook page.

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