Tags Posts tagged with "Business"


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public relations basics

Most food truck’s across the country lack the cash to invest in an internal press staff, so as usual, this task is just one more job an already busy mobile food vendor needs to take care of themselves. So what is it that journalists want when you send them information about your food truck or an event you are going to be part of?

public relations basics

Check out our public relations basics list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts for pitching a story to the press about your food truck.

  1. DO some research and figure out the right reporter before you pitch a story. All reporters have beats and Associated Press also has national writers who specialize in certain areas, including business, entertainment, medicine, health, sports and lifestyles.
  2. DO make sure your story pitch is national in interest and sharply focused. AP is for national and international news. Stories about local food truck events and a new menu items developed by a local food truck aren’t AP stories — but they might be a better fit at a local publication.
  3. DO write succinct press releases, preferably with bullet points noting the time, place and date of the event and a FEW sentences explaining the “what” and “why” of the story. Every newsroom in America receives hundreds of press releases each day by fax and email. Long winded pitches fall through the cracks.
  4. DON’T shop your story around to multiple reporters at once. If one reporter turns down your pitch, it’s likely all reporters will turn it down. If a reporter can’t handle your pitch or it isn’t in their beat area but he or she thinks it has interest, the reporter will pass it along to the appropriate person. Please keep in mind, they talk to each other and pass along pitches all the time.
  5. DO tell reporters that if (despite no. 4) you’re sending a pitch to multiple people within the same newsroom. If a reporter begins a story based on a pitch, only to find out one or two other reporters in other departments or beats have done the same thing, this will make reporters more cautious the next time you pitch something.
  6. DON’T call to follow up on a pitch. If they are interested, they will call or email to let you know.
  7. DO take no for an answer. Nothing drives a reporter crazier than getting multiple pitches for the same story from the same person after they’ve said no once, twice or even three times or having a spokesperson argue on the phone over a “no” response. If you accept a no this time, maybe the next time they will work with you. If you drive them nuts when they are on deadline, that won’t happen.
  8. If you really have a great story, DON’T wait until the day before, or even two days before, to pitch it. The best stories may require a week or more of planning and reporting. Too often, pitches that could have been a good story, but we are first notified of them the day of the event or the day before. That’s just not enough time to turn around a story, alert all the editors, coordinate any video or photo coverage and edit the piece.
  9. DON’T assume you know everything about pitching the media. Media is ever changing and fast moving. With the proliferation of news sites on the Internet popping up daily, news comes in many forms and we can all learn a thing or two!
  10. DO be consistent and send news out regularly. One day your food truck story may be the one that gets chosen to follow.

If you and your food truck follow other rules that would fit into a list of public relations basics, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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Mentoring For Food Trucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Treats Truck – NYC

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

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

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

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

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

Become a SCORE Mentor and provide mentoring for food trucks

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

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

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

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food truck tip of the day

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

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

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

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

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food truck tip of the day

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 relevant to your customers or potential customers.

tip of the dayOf 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.


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Start Up Food Truck Business Tips

While I have yet to open my own food truck, I have been watching the industry for a long time now. I have kept an eye on many of the food trucks that have opened since 2010 and watched as many have succeeded beyond their owners wildest dreams.

At the same time, I have seen many food truck operators flounder. Running a food truck is not an easy road to follow, but if done properly it can be the most rewarding venture you will ever enter into. We hope the following list of start up food truck business tips helps you steer down the path to success.

8 Start Up Food Truck Business Tips:

Focus. Many first-time food truck operators feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” they are approached with. Opportunities are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Avoid getting side-tracked. Juggling multiple ventures will spread you thin and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. Do one thing perfectly (your food), not 10 things poorly. If you feel the need to jump onto another project, that might mean something about your original concept.
Know what you do. Do what you know. Don’t start a food truck simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Mobile food businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success. It’s not only important to create a profitable mobile venture, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out. If your heart isn’t in it, you will not be successful.
Say it in 30 seconds or don’t say it at all. From a chance encounter with an investor, a curious customer or even a local news crew, always be ready to pitch your food truck. State your truck’s mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t. No one knows everything, so don’t come off as a know-it-all. Surround yourself with advisers and mentors who will nurture you to become a better mobile food vendor. Find successful, knowledgeable individuals in the food truck or restaurant industry with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals that see value in working with you for the long-term.
Act like a startup. Forget about a fancy office and fat expense account. Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal. Watch every dollar and triple-check every expense. Maintain a low overhead and manage your cash flow effectively.
Learn under fire. No food truck business book (although Running a Food Truck for Dummies comes close :)) or business plan can predict the future or fully prepare you to become a successful food truck operator. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. There is no perfect road or one less traveled. Never jump right into a food truck business without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become well-rounded when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
Be healthy. Owning a food truck is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession. Working to the point of exhaustion will burn you out and make you less productive. Don’t make excuses. Eat right, exercise and find time for yourself.
Don’t fall victim to your own B.S.  Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Impress with action not conversation. Endorse your business enthusiastically, yet tastefully. Avoid exaggerating truths and touting far reaching goals as certainties. In short, put up or shut up.

While there are many more tips that I could have given, this list is a great starting point. If you have additional tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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Good Press for your Food Truck

Have you received good press for your food truck business? If not, keep reading to find out how you can without breaking the bank.

Over time, more and more small business owners have grown skeptical of paid advertising, this has been clearly shown in the food truck industry. Industry professionals understand that what consumers read in their local and national papers is more effective food truck marketing. A news story or magazine article generates far more credibility than any paid ad ever will. Furthermore, for the cost of a newspaper ad, you could host a food truck event or put on a publicity stunt to create more credibility.

Good mediums for exposure include the following:

  • Industry and trade publications *cough*mobile cuisine *cough*
  • Business journals
  • Local newspapers
  • Regional magazines
  • Food truck blogs
  • Local radio stations
  • Local television stations

Remember that press can be both good and bad. If your food product or service isn’t consistently high quality, the press you receive will only hurt you. Before you begin any type of public relations campaign, make sure that your menu and service are in order.

Making Your Mobile Bistro Newsworthy

The best time for your food truck to make the news is at the time of your truck’s opening. However, if you are creative, you can continue to create newsworthy stories long after the hype of your grand opening has faded.

Here are some ways to get in the news beyond your original launch:

Food Truck Events

By hosting or even attending a food truck event, there is a good chance you will get a mention in the “events” section of the local newspaper, at the very least. Good ideas for events include fundraisers, concerts, tastings, competitions, community or school events, parties and classes.

Donate to Charity

Give a portion of your sales to a local charity or host a fundraiser. It is important that the community see your food truck or cart as a positive presence. You should work with the nearby community and consider donating something to local schools, campaigns and charitable events.

Even if the donation does not get you any press, the community will notice, and some of them will thank you for it by following your truck, and spreading a good word about you to their friends and family.

Related: Food Trucks Fight Hunger

Put on a Publicity Stunt

Some of the most famous publicity stunts have created a lot of national press. For example, Taco Bell offered everyone in America a free taco if the falling Mir space station hit their floating target. While you probably cannot pull a stunt of this magnitude, you can use guerrilla marketing techniques to get some press and incite local interest.

Make Creative Changes

Anything you can do to make yourself unique is potentially newsworthy. For example, you could get a lot of press by switching to eco-friendly operations and marketing a green food truck, or by introducing a radical new dish, to your menu. Other changes to consider include adopting a unique style of presentation, redesigning your truck’s wrap with a crazy new theme.

Write Articles

Offer to write a story or give a recipe to a local paper or magazine. Focus on getting in the “food” section.

Create press releases or stories about your truck or cart. For example, a Spanish themed truck operation could promote itself through a story about the Spanish tradition of tapas. Perhaps your chef (you if that is applicable) has an interesting background, or maybe your menu offers a one-of-a-kind experience not seen from any of your competitors.

There is bound to be something unique about your mobile food business, and getting your story out there is one of the best ways to propagate a marketing buzz that will attract both old and new followers and customers.

Related: Submit your story to Mobile Cuisine

Impress a Food Critic

You should make a point to learn about the nation’s most famous food critics as well as any local or regional food critics. Give them a good reason to visit your food truck by offering a unique or especially perfect dish.

If they do come to you, give them special treatment, but do not overdo it. Make sure that you serve them a quality meal. A bad review from a food critic will definitely hurt your business.

Related: Impressing the Mobile Food Critic

Getting good press for your food truck is probably the most effective way to market your mobile food business. Do not make the mistake of spending all of your money on paid advertising, when a good PR campaign will bring a much bigger return on your investment.

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Not Enough Time For Marketing

In my experience the most common excuse for food truck owners not being active on social media is that there is not enough time for marketing. Running a mobile food business usually means working well over 80 hours every week, and that’s just taking care of getting your food bought, prepped, cooked and then sold along with the things like accounting and truck maintenance to make sure that your business will be on the street next week.

There are two primary options for building your social presence: do it yourself or hire someone else to do it. Having an employee on your food truck staff to handle social media marketing kind of falls under both categories, but there can be problems with this scenario. First, if you are starting out with a small operation, many truck owners are the only employees and cannot afford to hire a line cook let alone someone to handle the social media. Second, if you don’t already know how to properly promote your business on social media, how can you train someone else to do it?

Outsourcing your food truck’s social media marketing isn’t a bad option if you can afford it, but then you end up with a group that isn’t familiar with who you are or how you run your business. This could be disastrous for your brand. So now you’re back to where we started: either do it yourself or don’t do it at all. If I can give you any advice, it would be – not doing it at all should never be an option.

So, how do you make the time to implement a good social media strategy and still sleep at night?

Not enough time for marketing your food truck? Here are five suggestions that can lighten your load:

Prioritize Social Media Marketing

If something isn’t a priority, it won’t get done, this goes for social media. There are too many things that need your attention every day. Only the things which are considered important tend to get done. Social media marketing is important, and you need to look at it that way. Put it on a calendar if you have to. Outside of posting your next location, it doesn’t really matter what days or times you choose, as you will soon see.

Provide Good Content

This article isn’t a full class on the content of your posts or tweets, but you should understand the 80/20 rule of content creation: four interesting posts that don’t promote your food truck directly for every one that does. The content you share needs to include interesting items on the web, of which most should be related to food or your local area. Google is a great resource, but making good notes about what you find is vital.

Please note: Mobile Cuisine has always aimed to be a resource of information regarding the food truck industry, so feel free to share our content with your followers. *end of self-promotion*

Schedule Ahead

You need a solid piece of software to help with your social media, or you will spend entirely too much time on them. A social media dashboard such Hootsuite or Buffer will allow you to take all those ideas you’ve collected and schedule them throughout the day or week. You can set something to post Monday morning at 10 am, then Wednesday at 5 pm, then Friday at noon all in one sitting.

By setting up your social media sharing in advance means you can spend more time during your day dealing with creating great food and making your customers want to come back for more.

Post on Multiple Platforms

There are more than a few social media platforms available for food truck owners, and I’ve always suggested taking advantage of at least four of them: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn (others include Pinterest ,Instagram and Foursquare). While you may want to tailor each message separately for each platform…make sure your content gets there.

Use a Group Effort

You may never reach a point where you have a team dedicated to your food truck’s social media, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your existing team to help out. Before handing out passwords you need to fully understand the range of tasks you want the team to help with.

Develop a strict set of guidelines which need to be adhered to if you set your staff members as social media representatives (the tone they use in posts, if they can reply directly to customers, the content of their posts, etc…). This will prevent problems which could potentially be devastating to your food truck’s good name.

Never give in to the “not enough time” excuse. Make it happen, because your food truck business’ future literally depends on it. Just don’t try to shoulder everything yourself. Use social media tools to lighten your load, and stop using the excuse of not enough time for marketing your food truck business.

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food truck growth strategies

Food truck growth strategies are rarely on the minds of the local food cart vendors that dot the landscape of most major cities in the United States. Most food truck owners have only one business strategy – to exist and survive. Their focus is on the past and present. If a vision of the future is clear, often the path to that future isn’t.

Survival is not a strategy

Many of the food truck owners I have met and spoken with are on tight budgets and carry a lot of debt. Despite putting a lot of time into their concept and menus, things on the business side rarely roll out the way they anticipated.

  • There are never enough hours in the day.
  • Family needs are out of whack.
  • Competition gets tougher every day.
  • Most new hires aren’t always dependable.

At the beginning of a food truck’s existence nothing seems under control. Some of this is real, and some is a perception that comes from the fear of the unknown.

Food truck growth strategies

The quickest way to get rid of this anxiety is to recognize there is a difference between the desire to make money and the need to grow your mobile food business.

The best food truck growth strategies are modeled after what other small businesses in other industries have done to survive and thrive.

Education: Food truck owners typically know their way around the kitchen and how to provide great service. However, that does not mean they can budget or forecast. If money has been the problem, understanding more about money, cash flow, and allocation identifies current problems and supports future solutions. A budget is a strategic plan if done correctly.

USP: A unique selling proposition (USP) identifies the specific customer group to target. It identifies the values-added that differentiate on food truck from another.

Distance: A vendor cannot grow without planning. If there is no plan to grow, your mobile bistro will stay the same and in most cases, without growth, it will suffocate. Among the difficult strategies for mobile food owners to accept is that at some point, they will have to distance themselves from the business. Vendors need to design a business structure that allows them to focus on business building while operations fall to someone else.

Cash: Cash is essential to the execution of food truck growth strategies. As soon as the vendor can, the budget must include a commitment to building cash reserves. The budget needs to identify long-range growth targets, such as a fully functional point of sale system, updated kitchen equipment, or a second truck.  These goals may be five years down the road, but there needs to be a savings set aside to fund your empire’s the plan.

Most food truck owners treat their food trucks as if they were their children. Unfortunately, they miss the basis of the metaphor. Your food truck may be your “baby,” but babies cannot make it on their own. A child’s wants and needs are different at five years than they were at three. And, if your child is going to make it to adulthood, parents need to be adaptable. Food truck growth strategies vary from vendor to vendor, but positive outcomes assume positive decisions from the very beginning.

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food truck tip of the day

Asking a lot of questions is one behavior that successful food truck owners share. Instead of just rushing to take action, posing questions helps you solidify the entire innovation process by improving your ability to spot new growth opportunities and pinpoint problems.

Consider using questions like these to increase your odds of success in the mobile food industry:

  • What problem is the customer struggling to solve? In most situations its how, when and where to feed their hunger. Understand where your customers are when they are there and how you can solve their hunger pangs in ways other trucks miss the mark..
  • Who has already solved this problem? It’s likely that some other food truck vendor has already found a solution in a different region of the country. Gaining inspiration from their successful approach can speed up your process.
  • What can you do that few other food trucks can do?  Zero in on what makes you unique to maximize the chances of creating desirable menu offerings.
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