Tags Posts tagged with "Business"

Business

cash reserves

Building a financial cushion (cash reserves) for your mobile food business is never easy. Experts say that businesses should have anywhere from six to nine months’ worth of income safely tucked away in the bank.

What Cash Reserves Mean For You

If your roaming bistro is grossing $10,000 per month, the mere thought of saving over $90,000 dollars in a savings account will either have you collapsing from fits of laughter or from the paralyzing panic that has just set in.

What may be a nice well-advised idea in theory can easily be tossed right out the window when you’re just barely making payroll each month. So how is a food truck owner to even begin a prudent savings program for building cash reserves and long-term success in the mobile food industry?

Realizing that your food truck business needs a cash reserves – savings plan is the first step toward better management of it.

The reasons for growing a financial nest egg are strong. Building cash reserves allows you to plan for future growth in your food truck empire and have the capital necessary to launch those plans when the time is right. Having a source of back-up income can also carry a business through the slow times of the year, especially for food trucks that operate in regions of the country with severe weather.

When market fluctuations, such as the dramatic increase in gasoline and food prices, start to affect your bottom line, you may need to dip into your cash reserves to keep operations running smoothly until the difficulties pass. Try to remember that you didn’t build your business overnight and you cannot build a savings account instantly either.

Review your financials monthly to see where you can trim expenses and reroute any savings to a separate cash reserves account. This will also help to keep you on track with cash flow and other financial issues. While it can be quite alarming to see your cash flowing outward with seemingly no end in sight, it’s better to see it happening and put corrective measures into place, rather than discovering your food truck’s losses five or six months too late.

What is your food truck cash reserves plan? We’d love to hear how you built it or if you started with it and keep it growing. You can share your thoughts via email, Facebook or Twitter.

simple food truck concept

Although failure rates for food trucks aren’t nearly as high as their brick and mortar counter parts they’re still high. Why are they so high? For a list of the 10 biggest reasons, see Why Do Food Truck Businesses Fail.

A simple food truck concept may seem like a given, in many vendors its not. Today I’m going to discuss the key fundamental in food truck concept design, Keep It Simple!

Menus with too many items and multi-ingredient dishes are symptoms of the same problem, over complicating your concept. As a food truck owner, you may find yourself getting bored with traditional menu items. For you, eating at a food tuck should be an adventure. You may have to see or try something you’ve never seen before to be impressed.

This may be the underlying factor why some food truck owners routinely go overboard with their concepts. They push their own sensibilities on the general public, not realizing that their tastes are the exception to the rule.

If you have a larger selection, you’ll appeal to more people, right? Wrong!

Trying to please everyone leaves you unable to be defined. When you have menu items that represent too many styles of cuisine, your customers find it harder to describe and recommend you. You find it harder to manage your mobile food business effectively and market your brand. Cut out all the extras and build a simple food truck concept.

How-To Build A Simple Food Truck Concept
Keep your menu small

The first step to a simple food truck concept is a small menu. This serves many purposes, a small menu is easier to control costs, easier to prepare, and easier to provide consistency with. By having a small menu, your service will be faster, your food quality will be better, and you’ll make more money.

Keep your market simple

Don’t convince yourself that you want all people of all demographics to like your food truck. It’s not going to happen.

By going after everyone, you’ll end up with no one. Even if your style of cooking has mass appeal, your parking locations will determine who is most likely to come to your food truck.

Identify those person’s age, income level, sex, and marital status. They are your target market whether you like it or not. If your concept doesn’t appeal to the people in your area, then you don’t have a feasible concept and you aren’t likely to succeed. Keep your demographic simple and focused.

Keep your menu items simple

When you have too many ingredients, and/or too many touches that need to be made to the dish after it’s ordered, you slow down the production of your food. A ticket will only go out as fast as it’s slowest dish. Keep your food simple and easy to produce. Let the ingredients be the stars and don’t lose them in a mish-mash of flavors.

While this is the end of this list, it’s not the end of the application of the philosophy of a simple food truck concept. Any time you have the opportunity to simplify your concept, take it. You’ll end up with something that is simpler to manage, simpler to market, and simpler to turn a profit with.

Do you have any additional tips to create a simple food truck concept? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share them with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.

social media relevance

Many food truck owner forays into social media yield nothing more than wasted time and effort. Before you establish your food truck Twitter account or start a Facebook page, step back and think about what messages will be to create social media relevance to and for your customers.

Of course you want to send out your next location or your special of the day/week, but if your other communications aren’t useful or interesting

to them, you might as well be tweeting into a black hole.

Start by understanding the conversations that are already happening around your food truck. Then craft messages accordingly.

Before sending anything out, ask yourself:

  • What value does this message carry for our customers?
  • What action are we hoping to inspire?

If you don’t have a clear answer to each of these questions, it’s time to return to the drawing board.

Why Social Media Relevance Matters

Here are 3 reasons why relevant content on your social media channels matter.

  • Relevant content adds value to the conversation
  • Relevant content is authentic
  • Relevant content positions your food truck as a trusted industry advisor

Building and fostering a healthy social media community; establishing trust and becoming believable takes time before seeing any positive results. Because of this, your social media relevance will be based on the content you provide. The days of a food truck merely posting their next location are over.

How have you and your food truck provided social media relevance to your brand? We’d love to hear your stories. You can email them them, or share them via Twitter or Facebook.

farmers market

With the rapid growth of the mobile food industry, we are constantly asked for alternative locations food trucks can be located to garner additional business for the owners. Farmers markets can be awesome weekend work for food truck owners for many reasons.

 

They give local small businesses a venue to sell their fantastic food products at, which allow them to interact directly with an entirely different consumer base than they are accustomed to finding on the streets of their city during the week. This opportunity allows truck owners to become an even larger part of their local communities, not to mention, they can be fun to participate in.

For anyone who is looking to get into selling their food truck products at farmers markets and wants to know how, we’ve put together this article to show you everything you need to know.

Planning For The Farmers Market
Menu Items

When determining what your farmers market menu should look like, visit your local markets to see what other vendors are selling. You may be the only food truck at a market; however there may already be other vendors who sell items similar to what your truck sells. Be sure your menu is unique. Pay attention to what items you feel are missing from the markets.

Markets want to offer a variety of unique and wonderful products. Specialized and/or organic items will always do well at farmers markets, because customers can’t find them anywhere else or they know farmers market products are local and usually better quality. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s high quality and that you know your menu ingredients like the back of your hand. People not only go to markets for great local products, they expect to be educated as well.

Finding A Farmers Market

farmers marketDue to the growth of interest in farmers markets, nationwide, many markets have less space to accept new vendors. The vendors they do have usually have been participating in the market for seasons, if not years, and have gained long-lasting relationships with the market and their weekly customers.

Research all of the markets in your area and surrounding areas. Every market is different. Some will be more appropriate for your food truck than others. Think about the distance to each market, size of the market, rules and regulations the market has and the type of customer it attracts.

Once you have a market you are interested in joining, contact the market manager to inquire about applications and entry forms. It is best to apply at the beginning of the market year (during the winter season, depending on where you are located).

Expect the application process to take up to a few weeks, or even a few months.  This timing will depend on the amount applications they have to review, whether or not they have a board to review and vote on applicants and/or the size of the market. Some require an interview, application fee and/or one time, weekly, monthly or yearly fee to participate in the market.

Farmers markets are becoming more and more competitive. As said before, markets want to offer a variety of products, so be sure your product is one they need and/or will diversify the market. Consider applying to more than one. Never take a rejection seriously. In fact, if you don’t get accepted into a market, you should always apply the following year.

Farmers Market Tips

  • Never forget your necessary licenses, permits and proof of insurance. Inspectors show up at the most inconvenient times to check to see if you have these.
  • Have shopping bags available for your customers. You can choose whether you want to use simple plastic shopping bags or pretty paper bags. Another fantastic way to market your business is to have “green” reusable shopping bags created with your logo and food truck information on them. Selling these items at or near your cost for them will get your brand advertised as they are carried around the market, or other locations the customer chooses to use it.
  • If you are sampling, you must provide disposable single use utensils for distribution of samples to customers. If you have a product like peanuts, where people have to break the shell open, to get to the inside, we recommend having a small container for the shells (waste). Be sure to clearly mark your containers. You don’t want people to mistake the sample container for the waste container. It happens all the time.
  • It is also very important to keep an eye out for children. A lot of times children walk around the markets on their own or with friends and will ask for samples. We recommend never letting a child have a sample without the permission of a parent. You don’t know what type of food allergies they may have and it is respectful to the parent to ask first.
  • Always arrive on time, if not early, to farmers markets. Managers are not fond of having to deal with late vendors. Sometimes, markets are small and if you arrive late, you will not be able to enter the market area to park. Customers don’t appreciate coming to the market to get your products, finding that you are not there or are busy setting up, when everyone else is prepared and ready. Give yourself enough time to get to the market, set up and even get there early, so you are situated and ready for those early and anxious customers.
  • Be sure to approach every farmers market with energy and enthusiasm. Be prepared to offer tips, recipes and other educational information to your customers. Get creative and come up with conversation starters (i.e. tell them a great story that has to do with your product). At the same time manage your time with customers. Some of them take their time through markets and are interested in the experience, others want to get in, get what they came for and get out. Don’t let a line build up.
  • Memorize your regular customer’s names. They will most likely remember yours if they come to you each week. Educate yourself about the other vendor’s, where they are located and what they sell, in case someone asks.

We hope this article gives you an idea of how to begin the process of your food truck becoming a successful farmers market participant.

If you are a farmers market food truck veteran, we’d love to hear about your experiences. You can share them with us via email, Twitter or Facebook.

virtual assistant

There are currently more than 38,000 food trucks and street vendors across the U.S., according to the latest data from IBIS World. If you ever want a visit from Guy Fieri and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” your customers need to rave about you—and you need to be in your food truck, giving them exceptional food and service. See how a virtual assistant can do that annoying desk work for you, so you can stay out in front of your customers and do what you love to do.

food truck virtual assistant

The Role of a Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant (VA) is someone with a number of skills who can cover various roles in your business. There are VAs who specialize in a particular area, such as accounting or social media, but many function like a resource to whom you can go for almost any business need.

Bookkeeping

Poring over receipts at the end of the day is not something you look forward to. Hire a VA to pick up your receipts and maintain your books. Using cloud-based bookkeeping software, your assistant can update your information for you to review the next day. The VA can manage your payroll, expenses and taxes, too.

Email and Phone

While you’re working on the food truck, your virtual assistant can handle your business email and phone calls. He or she can contact you about only the most urgent items and summarize the rest for you to respond to later. As with many of the VA responsibilities, this one doesn’t require the person to be local. Many of the tasks you give virtual assistants can be given to people residing all over the country.

Research

Hire a virtual assistant to research the best places in the city to locate your food truck. The VA can uncover statistics such as business in the area, population, demographics—all the data you need to make this decision. A VA can collect the data and summarize it for you to review. Whether you have one or more trucks, knowing where to go to find your customers is key to your business and growth.

Marketing

Designing and producing marketing campaigns is another role that a virtual assistant can do for you. Let your VA create and print brochures about the fresh ingredients you use or the catering services you offer, and let him or her help promote your business.

Social Media

Your social media sites are a good way to promote your food truck and let people know where it will be. Your virtual assistance can manage the posts and create fun and interesting contests for your customers. A “Guess Where The Truck Will Be Tomorrow” contest encourages customer to post their guesses on your page. The first customer to guess correctly gets a free lunch. Your VA can handle all of the details of your social networking remotely.

Website Management

Your virtual assistant can also help maintain your website. They can update menus, post your blogs or articles and link your site with your social media traffic. Keeping your website fresh and interesting is another way to bring customers out to experience your particular cuisine.

Do you have experience in working with a virtual assistant for your food truck business? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

You can share your tips and ideas via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

social media crisis

tip of the dayOne of the topics we are asked to discuss by our readers is the fear that food truck owners have to overcome when tackling social media.

It’s important to recognize that when a food truck social media crisis happens, and it’s better to be on top of your response in social media than not to be there at all. Today we’ll provide a short list of tips for food truck owners responding to a social media crisis.

Three Steps For Dealing With A Social Media Crisis
  • The first step in solving a a social media crisis is to immediately put the customer at ease that you understand their problem. In fact, repeat it back to them so that they absolutely know that you understand what’s wrong. If clarification is in order, it will happen right there. Your food truck customers want to know that you are listening and you have one chance to fix this problem so make sure you understand it.
  • The next step in resolving a social media crisis is to make sure they know that you care. By responding and letting them know that you personally care for them, you can drop the intensity of the issue way down and personalize it. You don’t want to be seen as a faceless food truck brand, become that person that they can trust to try to fix their problem.
  • Finally, you need to fix the problem. Don’t supply a form, phone number or email address for them to contact. You must fix the problem. You, the food truck owner (or representative). If you brush this person off to someone else, they’ll immediately recognize you for what you are… a phony. If you understand and you care, you’ll follow through and make sure the issue is resolved.

That’s not saying that you, personally, have to correct the issue. It means that you are the leader and the person accountable to the customer. It’s your responsibility to carry the person through to a resolution. If you just dump and run, it’s going to cause more issues. You don’t appreciate it when it happens to you so why would you do it to your own customer?

By resolving these problems, you are completing one of the best customer relations campaigns you may have as a food truck owner. If you leave your food truck customer happy and content, chances are that they’ll share that success with their network.

Have you personally had to resolve a social media crisis in your truck? We’d love to hear your story and how you fixed it. You can share them with us via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Food Portioning

Food portioning, while often overlooked, needs to be looked at as one of the most important activities in your food truck business. Not only does food portioning make an immediate impact on your customers’ experience but it also affects the food quality and food cost of your menu items.

When someone receives a smaller portion than the person who ordered the exact same thing right before them, customers usually notice and their mood sours.

Start At The Beginning

During the preparation process, inaccurate food portioning of ingredients in recipes can alter the food’s flavor and texture. Have you ever had a regular customer ask, “what have you done to the sauce?”

Food Portioning And Cost

Maybe the bigger issue that concerns food truck owners is how food portioning hits their bottom line. Just think about it like this, consistently over portioning a $6.00 per pound product just half an ounce adds almost 19 cents to the serving cost. Say you serve 100 a day, that’s $133 lost per week or almost $7,000 in a year.

That’s with just ONE product! Imagine the cost savings for your entire menu if food portioning became an integral part of your systems?

Use Technology For Food Portioning

Technological advances in scales and slicing equipment keeps making it easier for employees to portion products faster and with much greater accuracy. The newest digital scales are portable, easy to read, have automatic counting functions and can be equipped with push button or hands free capabilities.

Anything you can do to help your staff do a better job of portioning is usually money well spent. Does your staff have the appropriate sized cups, scoops, ladles and other measuring devises at their disposal and are they consistently using the correct ones?

Also, never expect what you don’t inspect. One food truck owner I know has a habit of pulling one item off the line each shift and weighing the key ingredients. If something’s not right, he addresses the issue immediately with his staff. He says that this one practice, more than any other, helps him control portion sizes and keep his food cost in line.

How’s your food portioning? Any improvement in this area should result in happier guests, lower food cost and a healthier bottom line.

Do you have any food portioning tips to share with our readers? We’d love to hear them. You can send via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Taking Over An Existing Food Truck

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 food 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.

Four Tips For Taking Over An Existing Food Truck Business

tip of the day

Communicate the change in ownership to old customers

When you are taking over an existing food truck business 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

The final tip for taking over an existing food truck business is to 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

Have you been involved taking over an existing food truck business? If so, we’d love to hear how you handled it. You can share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

food truck employees

Most food truck kitchens require more than a single set of hands to keep up with customer orders. Because of this it’s almost a necessity for most starting a food truck business to hire food truck employees before you hit the streets.

These steps will help you start the hiring process and ensure you are compliant with key federal and state regulations.

Food Truck Employees: How To Employ Your First
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Before hiring your first first employees, you need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The EIN is often referred to as an Employer Tax ID or as Form SS-4. The EIN is necessary for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS. In addition, the EIN is necessary when reporting information about your employees to state agencies. You can apply for an EIN online or contact the IRS directly.

Set up Records for Withholding Taxes

According to the IRS, you must keep records of employment taxes for at least four years. Keeping good records can also help you monitor the progress of your food truck business, prepare financial statements, identify sources of receipts, keep track of deductible expenses, prepare your tax returns, and support items reported on tax returns.

Below are three types of withholding taxes you need for your business:

Federal Income Tax Withholding
Every employee must provide an employer with a signed withholding exemption certificate (Form W-4) on or before the date of employment. The employer must then submit Form W-4 to the IRS.

Federal Wage and Tax Statement
Every year, food truck employers must report to the federal government wages paid and taxes withheld for each employee. This report is filed using Form W-2, wage and tax statement. You will need to complete a W-2 form for each employee who you pay a salary, wage or other compensation.

Employers must send Copy A of W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration by the last day of February to report wages and taxes of your employees for the previous calendar year. In addition, you should send copies of W-2 forms to your employees by Jan. 31 of the year following the reporting period.

State Taxes
Depending on the state where your employees are located, you may be required to withhold state income taxes.

Employee Eligibility Verification

Federal law requires employers to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Within three days of hire, employers must complete Form I-9, employment eligibility verification, which requires employers to examine documents to confirm the employee’s citizenship or eligibility to work in the U.S. Employers can only request documentation specified on the I-9 form.

Employers do not need to submit the I-9 form with the federal government but are required to keep them on file for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of the employee’s termination, whichever is later.

Employers can use information taken from the Form I-9 to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by registering with E-Verify.

Register with Your State’s New Hire Reporting Program

All employers are required to report newly hired and re-hired employees to a state directory within 20 days of their hire or rehire date. Visit the New Hires Reporting Requirements page to learn more and find links to your state’s New Hire Reporting System.

Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance

All businesses with employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage through a commercial carrier, on a self-insured basis or through their state’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance program.

Post Required Notices

Employers are required to display certain posters in the workplace that inform employees of their rights and employer responsibilities under labor laws.

File Your Taxes

Generally, employers who pay wages subject to income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes must file IRS Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

If you do not have an accounting background or do not feel confident in filing your food truck business taxes, be sure to reach out to an accountant for some assistance when hiring your first food truck employees.

If you have any steps we may have missed for hiring food truck employees, please feel free to add them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

More Reasons Food Trucks Fail
Which way is your food truck headed?

With the continued growth of the mobile food industry, there are still some trucks that have not been able to succeed. For some, the reasons lay in the over regulation they face in their local areas, but for most, the reasons can be found simply by looking in the mirror.

We have previously written the primary reasons that food trucks have failed, in this article we wanted to extend the number of reasons and show how to avoid them. Owning a food truck requires the owners to wear many hats, and without the knowledge of some of the common shortfalls they can face, they can easily fall into these problem areas without even realizing it.

5 More Reasons Food Trucks Fail
No marketing plan 

A marketing plan outlines the steps you intend to take to sell your food truck menu items.  As one component of the overall business plan, it identifies your niche, your product and the strategies you’ll employ to reach your target market, as well as how much you intend to spend on this marketing (with the use of Twitter and Facebook, this can just involve the investment of time).

Marketing is fundamental to your company’s success.  Without it, you won’t have any customers or clients.  For this reason, it’s critical to spend the extra effort to develop one, even if it only is to include social media platforms.

No customer service program

You and your food truck are in business only because you have people lining up at your service window.  In order to get a customer following and to maintain it, it’s important to have a customer service program.  A program can include anything from the methods you use to gain new customers, to how you service them once they have become customers.

It includes follow up visits to new parking locations, providing information to them about current or new products and services (such as catering), and, most importantly, kind, courteous, and prompt service when they have a problem or issue.  It is time consuming to get new customers.  It’s better and easier to retain the one’s you have by employing an outstanding customer service program.

No strategic partners

Successful food truck business owners typically don’t go it alone.  They associate, partner, and network with other successful food trucks.  Partnering with others is a way to quickly expand the reach of your own mobile business.

There’s a wonderful synergy that comes with doing things with other truck in your area.  There are more ideas, more knowledge, and more resources to create products and services.

No ways of monitoring progress

You cannot manage what you cannot monitor or measure.  Every food truck business needs to identify its key success factors.  It might be the number of products sold, the number of service hours provided, or even the perception of your mobile business in the local community.

The only way you can improve your business and attain the success you desire, is by measuring the results of your actions.  You’ll be able to identify what is working and also where the shortfalls exist.  You can use any number of methods including internal operating checklists, customer surveys, and even peer reviews.

This valuable feedback will be extremely useful in realigning your business efforts in the direction that maximizes the success of your mobile food empire.

No commitment to learning

The final point in this list of more reasons food trucks fail is when truck owners refuse to grow. There is no place for complacency when it comes to being a mobile food entrepreneur.  Successful food truck owners search constantly for new and better ways to get customers as well as to serve the ones they already have.

They are aware of the latest food service industry trends and ideas so they can create products and services which best serve the changing needs of their target market.  They learn about and implement processes that increase the effectiveness of their day-to-day operations.

By committing yourself to learning and to implementing what you learn, you’re committing yourself to success in all parts of your business.

HACCP Food Safety Training Online

Do you have suggestions for our list of more reasons food trucks fail? We’d love to be able to share them with our other readers. You can share them with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.

NCR Silver2 300x250

Social Connections