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Tallahassee Food Trucks

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Though food trucks — mobile restaurants that abide by the same health codes as permanent establishments — are nothing new, over the past dozen or so years their popularity has taken off across the country. Cities like Portland, Austin and even Orlando rally around the miniature kitchens during lunch breaks, community gatherings and festivals.

Along with craft beer and throwback mustaches, food trucks lie at the vanguard of hip culture — and you’ll find all three in Tallahassee at the newly relocated Food Truck Thursday at Lake Ella.

Between the cottages and the water, beneath a high canopy of oaks, pines and magnolias, a cheery mass of patrons lounge on blankets and in folding chairs while listening to live, local music in the early evening. They munch on specialty sandwiches, tacos, pizzas, cupcakes and more. The sense of community is palpable: children dance to folk and bluegrass standards, pets sniff and beg for a bite of their owners’ food and strangers chat with each other while waiting in line at any of the half-dozen food trucks on hand.

“The correlation between food trucks and the community can best be summarized at the weekly Food Truck Thursday event,” said Beverly Rich, vice president of the Tallahassee Food Truck Association (TFTA) and owner of the Valhalla Grill food truck. “(The event) draws hundreds of people, all of whom are there to enjoy dinner, do some shopping and enjoy great, live, local music.”

Valhalla Grill features a Viking motif, with a bearded, helmeted warrior on the side of its cream-colored truck. Rich and her crew serve up menu items such as the Blue Ox Burger delivered on a Kaiser roll and topped with blue cheese and horseradish mayo and the Curried Phoenix, which is marinated chicken wrapped in naan bread and topped with a Thai chili cream sauce.

A few steps in either direction, the culinary vibe differs wildly. Next door at Foodz Traveler, the motto is, “Some of this…some of that.” Owner Jose Ferrer dishes up an eclectic array of sandwiches, including the Memphis Traveler, featuring a tender pork cutlet pounded out wider than your head.

“It doesn’t get any better than (Food Truck Thursday),” Ferrer said. “Everyone is sitting around on blankets eating from their favorite food truck, laughing, drinking their favorite beverage, listening to the band.”

In one of the smaller tucks, MoBi (short for Mobile Bistro), owner Viet Vu hands tacos and sliders, wings and wraps through a sliding glass window. Vu and his brother have created a fusion cuisine from their “vast knowledge of Asian street food,” he said. “We design our menu around whatever inspires us: a craving, a travel show, the market, an event. It helps keep things fun, interesting and challenging.”

Alejandro Scougall, owner of Fired Up Pizza — a food truck with a wood-fire oven — spoke to the difficulty of finding consistent business. “The challenge is finding a place where people will come out and find us,” he said. “As well, the area we work in is smaller than a restaurant, so we’re limited in how much food we can make or prep.”

Find the entire article at tallahassee.com <here>


tip of the dayWhen mobile food vendors don’t achieve their business goals, some have a tendency to declare that it’s time to change the culture. But sweeping, large-scale culture change efforts rarely cure what ails a food truck business. Food truckers get better results when they start with a few smaller successes. Start with one problem, for example a performance challenge. Get some your staff to run a couple of modest experiments that might solve the issue. Pay careful attention to what works and how. Incorporate the successful ideas into subsequent steps. Keep advancing an increasing number of performance improvements based on those early wins — and continue to learn from each subsequent experiment. Eventually you’ll have changed the culture in your food truck by taking it one problem at a time.

Most food truck owners are looking to grow their mobile food business. But once success hits, how can you scale your food truck without shedding the shared values and culture that helped make you successful in the first place?

Business Culture

Here are a few ways that you can keep your food truck’s small business values as your mobile food empire continues to grow:

Keep a small business owner’s perspective. When you initially start up your food truck, it is easy to empathize with the pains felt by your customers. Empathy is important in more than just customer support. You will also need your employees to all be able to step inside the small business owner’s shoes and then focus on how to make your customer’s lives easier.

Build a foundation of shared beliefs. Every food truck business has its own culture, whether you define one or not. It doesn’t mean that all of your employees must think exactly the same way as you do. But by creating a set of shared beliefs, everyone has a framework for how to set priorities, make decisions, treat customers, and treat each other.

To keep your food truck’s core beliefs fresh in everyone’s mind, consider writing them down somewhere highly visible. Whether you do this or not, your actions will always speak louder than any words in the corporate manual.

Create open channels of communication. When your company is small everyone wears multiple hats and experiences the business from multiple dimensions. As a food truck business grows, communication can become a maze and employees get pigeonholed into certain roles.

A unique approach to keep a small company dynamic is to make sure everyone (ownership included) rotates through various positions within the truck, whether it’s the service window or on the line. A customer might get the owner one day or a line-cook the next day. This unorthodox approach forces everyone within the business to stay close to the customers.

Develop your food truck company culture outside of normal business hours. If you expect your employees to love your customers, your company must show love to your employees. To do this, include activities outside of the truck and your commercial kitchen. For example, one day every year, take a scheduled work day off and take the entire company staff and their families and take a group trip (a sporting event or amusement park) or throw them a party.

Keeping a small business culture in your food truck business as it grows will help you keep company strong and your employees happy.

If there are any additional ideas you have used in your food truck business, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.


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