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opening a food truck

Opening a food truck has become a dream for many people. The popularity of food trucks and mobile food has never been higher nor has it ever been as well publicized.

Whether it’s seeing a food truck parked near your office at lunch or seeing a television program or commercial that includes food trucks, the mobile food industry is booming. More and more people asking themselves if opening a food truck is the route they want their professional career to head.

If you are one of these interested parties, you must to do some soul-searching before you run out and purchase a food truck. Explore your thoughts surrounding the possibility of becoming a food truck owner. The more you question your personal motives and figure out what’s holding you back the easier the final answer will come.

Answers these questions to help you determine if a opening a food truck is really right for you:
  • When did I first come up the idea that I would like to own my own food truck?
  • What was happening in my life at that time that may give me clues about why this thought came about?
  • Am I willing to work on most holidays?
  • Am I willing to work long hours?
  • When I picture myself working in my food truck does it seem realistic, and am I happy even when I envision the chaos or problems that will happen?
  • Have I had dreams of myself owning a food truck?
  • When I visit food trucks do I find myself mentally running the place, or do I have ideas about how to make improvements?
  • Do I truly envision myself enjoying working with the public, and people that would be my employees, even when conflicts arise?
  • Would I be happy if I had to multitask as well as delegate jobs to others?
  • Would my spouse, significant other, or family be accepting of this career change?
  • Is there a part of me that wants to do this to please someone else? If I take away that person and or the feeling of importance would I still want to proceed?
  • Who may be holding me back in my own mind? Make a list of all the people in your life and how they would react? If the reaction is negative or unsupportive what are the reasons? Is it really theirr own fear, or is it a concern the person legitimately has for you? If valid explore that thought and whether or not you believe it.

Opening a food truck business can be scary. The best way to move past this fear is to gain knowledge about the industry. In exploring the idea you may learn that food truck ownership is not really for you, but rather it was the idea of independence that really appealed to you. If this turns out to be the case then by running through this exercise nothing was lost.

If you do find opening a food truck is what you feel you were meant to do, then the next step will be to explore the ways to make it a reality.

Existing Food Truck Owners:

Do you have a story about when you began opening a food truck? Let us know what you went through to make it happen in the comment section below, Tweet us or share your impressions on our Facebook page.

naming your food truck

What is in a food truck name? Some will say it can mean the difference between success and failure. As a culinary entrepreneur, naming your food truck is an important, critical step and sorting through potential names can be a long and tedious process.

When trying to come up with just the right name for your mobile food business, the options can be overwhelming.

The following tips are designed to help narrow the potential field and make your choice a little easier:

THE DO’s OF NAMING YOUR FOOD TRUCK

DO consider making the name descriptive, so that potential customers are immediately informed of the menu items on your truck. Research has shown that businesses with names that identify their products or services are more successful than non-descriptively named businesses.

DO keep the description general enough so that you can, if desired, expand your menu in the future.

DO make it memorable. Tell ten people the name you are considering. A week later, connect with them again and ask them to recall that name. How many people were able to accurately remember it? If it was less than seven, you may want to consider other more memorable alternatives that truly grab people’s attention.

DO make it phonetic. Crazy food truck names and quirky misspellings have become quite a trend, but it’s frustrating for consumers. No one wants to have to spell out the name of a business every time they talk about it. Make your mobile food business name phonetic so that people will be able to Google it from hearing it out loud

DO consider the oral impact of the name. How it will sound when spoken? Try writing down a list of words that could describe your food truck business, then mixing them up into different combinations and saying them out loud to see how they sound.

DO consider the visual impact of the name. How it will look on the truck itself, the internet (your website, social media sites), advertisements, business cards, etc. As with the sound of the words, try playing around with various looks by writing them down on paper or typing them into your computer.

DO choose a name that is easy to understand, pronounce, and remember.

DO make the name unique enough to distinguish your food truck from others on the street.

DO choose a name that will not be easily imitated by competitors.

DO consider how the business name could be shortened by the public. Just as a child’s initials can spell out an embarrassing word, so could the abbreviation for a business.

DO come up with a list of several potential names, and then try them out on close friends and family members to get their reactions.

DO live with your ideas for a while, to see how they sound and feel with the passage of time.

DO keep alternatives in mind, in the event that further research reveals that the name you would like to use is not available.

THE DON’Ts OF NAMING YOUR FOOD TRUCK

DON’T name your roaming bistro too soon. It’s exciting to name your food truck, but it’s more important to get it right. Take your time.

DON’T select a name that is too long or confusing.

DON’T choose a trendy name, since trends and fads pass quickly, and you don’t want your business to appear outdated.

DON’T include unacceptable terms in the name, like profanity or obscenities.

DON’T use initials. JWT could be grain and feed store, or it could be a famous advertising agency. It has no meaning. Business names that use initials are less memorable.

DON’T get sued over sloppy seconds. In the naming stage, you do not want to select a name for your food truck that you may have to change later or, even worse, get sued for, because someone else has a registered trademark on the word or phrase. This can be easily be avoided by visiting the federal patent and trademark office’s site, USPTO.gov, and doing a search on any potential names.

Still having a tough time coming up with a name, check our our free Food truck Name Generator to see if it can give you some suggestions. <here>

Do you have any additional tips for naming your food truck? We’d love to hear them. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

food truck sales

So you think that now that you bought a bright and shiny food truck all you have to do is park it in your local downtown and wait for the money to come rolling in. What could be easier…right?

food truck sales

The thing many don’t understand is that a mobile food business, like every other business on the planet, is a sales business. This article will show you how to make the food truck sales process run itself so you can concentrate on the fun part of operating a food truck…interacting with your customers and making great food.

The Food Truck Sales Process

It doesn’t matter what you sell; every business must follow the same six steps in order to sell anything at all.

Every dollar that your food truck generates is a result of these steps, sometimes referred to as the sales funnel. If you aren’t making as much money as you think you should, odds are that you’ve got a hole in your funnel because one or more steps in your sales process is broken or missing.

Here are 6 steps to better food truck sales:

Find customers

In our business we do this by attracting attention to ourselves. The first step is getting yourself noticed. Remember – if they don’t notice you, you don’t exist.

Qualify the customer

Qualifying means that you are sure that they are capable of completing the transaction. A qualified lead is one that has enough money to buy your food, and one that is hungry for what you serve. You will get qualified customers by being in the right place at the right time.

Make your presentation

Don’t just sell your food truck food, sell an experience. Have a theme, a gimmic, a hook. Your customer should be captivated by the experience, totally immersed in your world while they are at your truck.

Address the customer’s objections

Overcome a price objection by overwhelming them with quality, stocking unique condiments, offering them daily specials, and provide a totally unique dining experience.

One of the biggest objections food truck owners get is the cleanliness issue. Overcome it by keeping an immaculate truck. Wipe it down between every order. Even if it’s not dirty, the customer needs to see you cleaning. Display your business license and health department certificates to show that you are legal and that you comply with the food codes.

Another common objection is slow lines. Do what you can to move them through quickly without compromising the experience. This may mean spending more time prepping items in your commercial kitchen so it doesn’t take as much time in the truck to assemble an order…do what you can to keep your line moving.

Close the sale

That means putting the money in your cash box. In the mobile food business, once you have the first four steps working for you, closing the sale comes easily and naturally. This is a huge advantage over other types of business where the close is actually the hardest part of all.

Get repeat and referral business

It takes ten times more effort to get a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer so you have to get ‘em to come back again and again. You might accomplish this with repeat customer incentive programs such as punch cards. The more they buy, the more invested they become.

Referrals are another way of leveraging your existing hard-won customers. Referral business is just a fancy way of saying, “word of mouth”. The experience that you give your customer will determine how much they talk about it to their friends.

Do you have any additional advise to help individuals make the most out of the food truck sales process? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us, or share them on our Facebook page.

cash control

Despite the continued increase of food trucks accepting credit cards (72% as per our poll last year), many food trucks still take in hundreds of dollars of cash each day.

Cash Control In Your Food Truck

To accept cash on your truck you also need to keep additional cash on board, specifically for for making change. Without a good cash control system in place, food truck vendors often find themselves wondering if all of this cash is finding its way to their bank account and eventually to their mobile food business’ bottom-line.

While, there are many best practices for cash control, one often overlooked practice is to keep a separate cash on hand account with a set amount and never mix it with cash receipts.

The cash on hand account typically consists of bills and change needed for the cash drawer, a backup change fund and optionally a separate petty cash fund. These funds must be kept separate from daily sales receipts and must be large enough for conducting business in between shifts or having to send an employee to make a bank run for additional change.

Whoever maintains the cash control in your food truck operation should be issued a fixed amount for their cash drawers prior to their shift. As additional change is needed the owner or manager simply exchanges larger bills from the cash drawer for change from the change fund, leaving the total amount of cash in the drawer and the change funds unchanged.

At the end of their shift the cashier separates the beginning cash drawer from the rest of the cash and the manager returns it to the safe for use on another shift. The cash receipts are then matched against the register report and added to the daily bank deposit.

Do you have any additional cash control tips you’d like to share with our readers? If so, please feel free to add them to the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

food truck food cost

Outside the initial investment for your vehicle, food truck food cost is typically the highest reoccurring expense involved in the running of your mobile business.

In order to keep food cost percentage at a manageable rate, we have come up with a list of tips you can follow.

food truck food cost

8 Tips For Controlling Food Truck Food Cost

Keep an eye on your profits and losses: When you know what profits you are bringing in as well as the fixed expenses affecting your food truck, you can better evaluate your options and see where you can cut costs.

Conduct inventory consistently: Regular and thorough inventory counts will help you stay in control of your usage and the costs associated. This is especially important for high-cost items.

Price menu items properly: When you price your menu items reasonably, your customers will continue to pay you and you will make a profit on your products. (Keep an eye out on a future article on this topic)

Portion food correctly: Be sure to serve food in portions that doesn’t become wasted.  If you keep an eye on your trash receptacle, see if your customers are throwing away food they are too full to eat. If there tends to be a lot of food being discarded, you may be over-portioning your meals.

Rethink the garnish: Garnishes often consist of fancy fruits or layers of fresh lettuce which add visual appeal but are rarely eaten. Use less expensive food items or remove garnishes entirely to save on food costs.

Keep a record of all food waste: Use a waste chart to write down any foods that are made incorrectly, thrown away or spilled. Failing to record this “usage” will skew inventory reports and throw off your food cost percentage.

Be consistent with food purchases: Consistency with food purchases comes with time but can help you to anticipate expenses from week to week and keep your food costs steady.

Build a rapport with your suppliers: Once you are in business a while, your suppliers will get to know your regular food orders and you will become familiar with the cost of your purchased goods. Be sure you stay in communication with your suppliers in case of any problems with food quality or any issues with food prices.

We hope you found this article helpful, and if you have any additional suggestions for food truck food cost savings, please feel free to add them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

food truck payroll

Running a food truck is a business model that usually requires more than one person. As a food truck owner, it will become quickly evident that you cannot run your mobile business on your own. Because of this, you will need to hire employees to assist you in your day to day food truck operation.

Unless you have come up with a way of hiring staff members without having to pay them, there are a few things that you are going to have to be aware of to legally hire these individuals. Many of these steps are required even if you are going to be a one person show, while others will become a requirement as soon as you plan to expand your staff from 1.

9 Steps To Setting Up Your Food Truck Payroll System

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Before hiring employees, you need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the IRS. The EIN is often referred to as an Employer Tax ID or as Form SS-4. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number that IRS assigns in the following format: XX-XXXXXXX. 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.

Check Whether You Need State/Local IDs. Some state/local governments require businesses to obtain ID numbers in order to process taxes.

Independent Contractor or Employee – Know the Difference

Be clear on the distinction between an independent contractor and an employee. In legal terms, the line between the two is not always clear and it affects how you withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment taxes. As required by law, You will need to withhold payroll taxes from your employees checks, FICA (Social Security), SWH (State Withholding), FWH (Federal Withholding), SDI (State Disability Tax), Medicare, and FUTA (Unemployment Insurance Tax).

Take Care of Employee Paperwork

New employees must fill out Federal Income Tax Withholding Form W-4. Your employee must complete the form and return it to you so that you can withhold the correct federal income tax from their pay.

Set a Pay Period

You may already have a manual process for this, but setting up a pay-period (whether monthly or bi-monthly) is sometimes determined by state law with most favoring bi-monthly payments. The IRS also requires that you withhold income tax for that time period even if your employee does not work the full period.

Carefully Document Your Employee Compensation Terms

As you set up payroll for your food truck employees, you’ll also want to consider how you handle paid time off (not a legal requirement), how you track employee hours, if and how you pay overtime, and other business variables.

Don’t forget that other employee compensation and business deductibles such as health plan premiums and retirement contributions will also need to be deducted from employee paychecks and paid to the appropriate organizations.

Choosing a Payroll System

Payroll administration requires an acute attention to detail and accuracy, so it’s worth doing some research to understand your options. Start by asking fellow business owners which method they use and if they have any tips for setting up and administering payroll.

Typically, your options for managing payroll include in-house or outsourced options. However, regardless of the option you choose, you — as the employer — are responsible for reporting and paying of all payroll taxes.

Running Payroll

Once you have all your forms and information collated, you can start running payroll. Depending on which payroll system you choose, you’ll either enter it yourself or give the information to your accountant.

Record Keeping

Federal and some state laws require that employers keep certain records for specified periods of time. For example, W-4 forms (on which employees indicate their tax withholding status) must be kept on file for all active employees and for three years after an employee is terminated.  You also need to keep W-2s, copies of filed tax forms, and dates and amounts of all tax deposits.

Report Payroll Taxes

There are several payroll tax reports that you are required to submit to the appropriate authorities on either a quarterly or annual basis. If you are in any way confused about your obligations, take a look at the IRS’s Employer’s Tax Guide, which provides some very clear guidance on all federal tax filing requirements. Visit your state tax agency for specific tax filing requirements for employers.

There are many payroll companies you can hire to do your taxes and file your reports. You can have your accountant do this for you or you can buy payroll software and do it yourself.

Please note that its always best to consult with your lawyer and/or account to help you get set up and to make sure you are in compliance with all laws and regulations.

If you have any additional tips to setting up a food truck payroll system, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Food Truck Grand Opening

As the mobile food industry grows a large number of culinary entrepreneurs are looking to enter the market. This is why you need to have an effective strategy in place to help put together a plan for your food truck grand opening.

By the time you launch your grand opening, you should have worked out all of the kinks and be ready to impress your customers. Planning for your food truck’s opening should take place over the course of several weeks.

Here is a quick list for planning a food truck grand opening:
Simple Menu

Develop a relatively simple menu to start off your food truck. As time goes by, you can add more selections, but keeping the menu simple in the beginning can help keep your supply costs down.

A simple menu also gives your chefs a chance to develop their cooking procedures in your truck’s kitchen. When you start to grow the menu, your chefs will be better able to expand on the processes they have created, and keep your mobile food business running smoothly

Review Paperwork

Review all of the paperwork associated with running your truck, such as employee forms, supplier agreements and work schedules to make sure everything is in order.

You should have at least two hard copies of this information. One in your office file and one set on board your truck. You don’t want to get tied up having to run home or to the office to get a document you need.

Set The Date

Set the grand opening date and begin to design some marketing material and how you plan advertise. Plan to start advertising at least two weeks before the opening day.

Unless you have an actual advertising budget, consider developing a social media strategy (for Twitter and Facebook) or put together a press release that you can get into the hands of local news organizations and food bloggers.

Consider making your opening day at a food truck event where you can tap into the popularity of the other trucks scheduled for the event.

Soft Opening

Open your food truck one or two weeks before the scheduled opening day in what the food service industry refers to as a soft opening. Start with a limited staff and very limited advertising.

The point of a soft opening is to work out any problems you may have in your mobile food business before the grand opening. You will be able to determine employee scheduling concerns, problems with suppliers, issues with the truck and kitchen equipment before your grand opening.

Correct any problems that surface during the soft opening, and begin to increase staff levels to accommodate your grand opening day.

Invite The Press

Invite local food and restaurant critics to your food truck once you begin grand opening advertising. If you time it right, you may be able to get a review that can accompany your official launch.

If you are planning a food truck grand opening, please feel free to send a press release to us at admin [at] mobile-cuisine [dot] com and we will share your story.

If you have any advice you’d give to new trucks getting ready for their own food truck grand opening, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

menu item naming

tip of the day

So this is the year you’re finally going to do it: lose a few pounds, increase the size of your mobile food empire, pay off your food truck loan balance, be a better boss. Whatever your goal is, right now you’re probably feeling motivated and determined to stay on course.

But the sad truth is, the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within a few weeks. To keep yours all year long (or as long as you want), follow these tips for crafting and carrying out these changes.

Focus on one resolution only. People are so gung-ho for change this time of the year that they often vow to follow through with multiple resolutions at once. Bad idea.

Committing to more than one thing is overwhelming; you only have so much willpower and energy to go around. So pick the one habit or behavior you truly want to tweak and make that your project for 2015.

Be specific. Resolutions like “I’m going to be healthier” or “I’m going to save a bunch of money” are certainly admirable, but these ambiguous objectives are nearly impossible to stick to.

On the other hand, “I’m going lose 10 pounds by Memorial Day” or “I’m going to put $100 dollars a month in my savings account” give you direction and a reasonable time frame to achieve your resolution. The more details and parameters you have, the easier it will be to reach your goal.

Make it a team effort. Telling your friends and family about your resolution offers two advantages: First, they’ll help protect you from potential setbacks…in other words, they won’t leave junk food around the house for you to eat in a weak moment. Also, because you won’t want disappoint the people rooting for you, you’ll try harder to adhere to your resolution.

Commit it to paper. Writing your goal down and keeping it in view–say, on a post-it note on your computer monitor or food truck dashboard–makes it feel official and tangible, and therefore you’ll be less likely to break it. Keep the wording short and focused; the clearer it is, the more motivating it will be.

Let yourself mess up once in a while. Changing behavior is truly hard work, so don’t allow a one-day sugar binge or couple of sneaked cigarettes leave you feeling demoralized and hopeless. If you get derailed, re-frame it as a learning experience and get right back on track.

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.

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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