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Customer Service

do you need change

As a food truck enthusiast and someone who covers the industry daily, I spend a lot of time in food truck lines and I have seen good service, I have seen absolutely spectacular service and I have seen down right awful service.

Today’s Customer Service Tip of the Day comes from the service I saw at a local food truck a couple of months ago.

Do You Need Change?

The customer in front of me had a bill for $12.50. They promptly handed the service window attendant a $20 bill. What happened next took me back…the server asked, “Do you need change?” Huh? Were they really angling for a $7.50 tip?

What’s worse in my opinion was that the customer wouldn’t have gotten back something even close to what they might if they left a 20% tip. In this case it makes the customer feel stingy for not leaving a nearly 80% tip.

If you are a food truck owner you should be training wait staff that the correct phrase would be “$7.50 is your change” while extending the change back to them. This gives the customer the opening to say “That’s OK” if they intend for them to keep everything.

As an owner or manager, when a server picks up a cash payment, and asks the guest “Do you need change?”. They might as well say “Can I keep the change for my tip?”. You need to train your staff to look the guest in the eye and state “Your change will be [insert amount here]” and give them the chance to say “OK” or “Keep the change”.

In today’s food truck world, we’d be curious to know if any of your servers have made the mistake of asking, “Do you need change?” and what your reaction has been. You can share your thoughts with us via email or share on Twitter or Facebook.

food truck customer service

tip of the day

Today’s mobile food businesses need to recognize that customer loyalty goes a long way. Food truck vendors need to continually re-evaluate your approach in your food truck customer service.

While you may have long lines today, next week anything could cause that to change. You need to take this into account and modify, modernize and customize your food truck customer service to elevate and differentiate your mobile food business from all of the other food service businesses in your area.

How To Customize Your Food Truck Customer Service
  • Understand the competition: Take a look at what is and isn’t working for other food trucks and restaurants in your market. While we would never suggest “stealing” their approach, we would suggest taking what works, and putting your own spin on it to improve your food truck customer service.
  • Give your menu a different spin: Take some time and effort to provide meals based on various dietary needs or allergies. Expanding your customer base through simple changes to some of your favorite menu items can be as easy as swapping out some ingredients for others.
  • Use social media for more: Vendors looking to differentiate their food truck customer service should consider using social media to notify your loyal customers about up-coming specials to keep them coming back. To many trucks use their social media account just to give customers their next location (if they use social media at all).
  • All in the family: Make all of your customers feel like a member of your food truck family.

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

If you have additional food truck customer service tips, please feel free to share them with us via email, Twitter or Facebook.

unhappy food truck customer

Did you know that as a food truck owner, unhappy customers are one of the best learning tools for your mobile food business?

While every vendor wants to make all of their customers happy, realistically that will never happen. With that said, your unhappy customers have a lot to teach you, so be sure to pay attention to what they have to say in order to improve your food truck business.


Before you can learn from your unhappy customers, you need to make sure you’re connecting with all your customers. Social media has made it easy to ensure that your customers can reach you with their concerns.


Once you start connecting with your customers, pay particular attention to your unhappy customers, as they generally have the most to teach you. Here are three of the primary things you can learn from customers that are unhappy with your menu items or service, for whatever reason:

What’s important to your customers

It’s important to listen to the language your customers are using and to keep track of what customers are complaining about. Are they unhappy about wait times and costs?

Listening to the complaints of your customers will help you figure out what they find important. It could be excellent food, lots of choices, ability to customization orders, or fantastic customer service. Letting unhappy customers tell you what’s most important to them will tell you where you’ll get the best return on your investment by making improvements to your menu or services.

How to improve customer service

Often times, unhappy customers are unhappy with some aspect of your customer service. Again, listen to your customers to see what their complaints center around. If, for instance, you get many complaints that customers have to wait in line too long, then you may want to consider increasing the number of line cooks so you can churn out the orders constantly. Or you may choose to par cook some of your longer wait items so your current staff can get them out the window faster.

How to improve your menu items

Of course, some customers may also be unhappy with your menu items. They may simply not have gotten what they were expecting, and you certainly can’t satisfy everyone. But satisfying the greatest number of customers with your menu should certainly be the goal. Yet again, it’s important to follow the trends when it comes to customer complaints. Do many customers complain about the same item on your menu being too spicy? Consider reengineering your recipe even if it was your grandmother’s.

Any time a customer is unhappy with your menu, whether they’re connecting with you through your website or through your Facebook page, get as much specific detail on what they dislike about the specific item as possible. The more detail you can get, the more information you’ll have that will help you improve your menu moving forward.

It’s going to happen. If you own a food truck, you are inevitably going to have an angry customer. And when it happens, you’ll do what you can to remedy the situation, but you should also try to learn from the customer’s complaint and use it to improve your mobile food business.

angry food truck customer

You’ll probably get another disgruntled customer before long, but if you learn from your mistakes, it won’t be for the same reason. If you don’t learn from the past you risk the chance that your food truck business will begin to develop a reputation for whatever it is you’re doing wrong.

When you get an irate customer calling, emailing, or walking up to your service window; you need to deal with it. Customer typically get angry for one of two reasons: either you didn’t meet your end of the bargain, or they think you didn’t. Whatever the reason, you need to first try to work it out. Maybe it is your fault, or your staff’s; take care of it. You can probably make the situation a little better by giving the customer a discount or future discount, or maybe a free side. Something to show that you are willing to work to keep their business will be a great peace offering.

What if it’s not your fault?

Sometimes you have done all you can and all you were required to, sometimes even more, but the customer still isn’t satisfied. Unfortunately, some people are like that. With one of these customers, it makes sense to cut your losses and move on. Some people will never be satisfied, and just let them go with an apology. Hold your head high and keep any negative remarks to yourself.

What can you learn?

Most people don’t like confrontation. We try to appease others and make sure they are happy. Still, sometimes a confrontation happens. Remember the old adage: The customer is always right. Even if you aren’t in complete agreement, try to make your customer happy. In the future, you may be able to spot the “difficult” customer before situations escalate.

If you don’t have the flexibility to discern between customers, make sure you have policies in writing somewhere, whether it’s on your website or in your service window. That will help if a customer walks up demanding you refund money for a half-eaten meal. You can always override your own policies, but at least they will be there to point to if you need them.

Your reputation matters

Word travels fast, you want to make sure you don’t do anything to mar your food truck’s reputation while dealing with difficult customers.

Beyond actually resolving the situation with your angry customer, make sure you take a look at your operations and try to resolve any internal issues that may have caused the problem your customer had. If you let the same issue occur too many times, your food truck business will have a very hard time recovering its reputation.

Dealing with difficult customers is something every food truck owner will have to do. But they should really be few and far between, so try to focus on your happy, loyal customers who are why you’re running a food truck business in the first place.

tip of the dayWhen deciding whether to track down a food truck, prospective food truck customers trust one source of information above all others: their peers.

To sell more, you need to get your current customers marketing and selling (i.e… advocating) for your mobile food business. First, find the core customers who are passionate about your food truck. This should be easy…they are the customers you know by name and the ones who frequent your truck more than their own kitchen table.

If you are new to the food truck industry and haven’t built up a loyal customer base, you can begin asking (at your service window or over social media channels): “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” Then, for those who respond with “highly likely,” make it easy for them to do so.

Ask them them to post a recommendation to their Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers, or ask them to write a great review on a site such as Yelp (or Mobile Cuisine in the near future).

If you want to transmit a one-way message to your customers, a billboard is a wonderful option; radio ads work well too.

However, if your goal is to build your food truck business around loyal customers, a better option is to use a marketing channel like Twitter, where engagement is one-to-many and one-on-one. You and the customer, the customer and you.


Here are some tips for making that digital relationship more personal.

State your name. Whomever is the owner of the truck should at least be listed in the bio by name. It helps tweets that start with “I” make a little more sense and be more meaningful.

Use your business as a canvas. If you have a smartphone, you’re officially obligated to post photos. Is there something new on your menu? Are you preparing food in your commercial kitchen? What’s on the menu today? How full is the line of your truck? These are all opportunities for photographic bragging rights.

Actively listen. Use social media monitoring tools to chime in when someone talks about you. Don’t let a mention go unnoticed or unappreciated. Respond when people talk to you.

Be a voice, not an echo. Cross posting to both Twitter & Facebook, or (gasp!) having Facebook feed into Twitter is the biggest pet peeve of Twitter users. Use each platform separately and to their greatest individual strengths.

Jump in on hashtags. There are lots of TweetChats and hashtags to join. There’s #foodtruckchat for discussing your truck and issues around it.

Be their guide. Your customers are following you because they think you’re cool, they like your food truck, and they want to hear about specials. Be a resource to them about the topics related to your mobile food business.

Provide customer service. Listen to what your customers are saying on Twitter, and respond to them no matter what the feedback. It’s just like how in real life a great service window attendant can get someone to buy half the menu, while a poor one sends customers off to their next destination quickly. Resolve complaints, and be gracious of compliments.

One of the biggest hurdles that anyone who’s just joined Twitter will come across is the question of how to interact. However, for food truck owners, the question is more esoteric, as you’ll need to build a digital persona that acts as both a brand and a likable human.

Unfortunately more and more people know what it is like to walk up to a food truck and have a bad experience. You had to wait thirty minutes before placing your order, you had to wait twenty minutes to get your order then you had to ask twice for the bottled water that came with your meal and on top of it all you were treated rudely. Aside from these obvious mistakes and oversights, what can a successful food truck server do to rise above mediocrity and provide a great restaurant experience for the guests?

food truck from sales window

Here are 5 traits to look for in your food truck staff members who can become excellent servers:

Know the menu.  When a customer asks a question, they want a concise and instantaneous answer. To do this, the server needs to do their homework. Have them taste all of the dishes and beverages on the menu and if allergy or other dietary restrictions prevent them from doing this, ask a coworker for information for taking notes. They should always be able to provide menu information when it is requested. Customers expect your staff to know more about the menu than they do, and appreciate a bit of guiding to make the choice for their preferences.

Be perceptive. If your staff is going to be good servers, they must have a knack for reading people. Some groups will appreciate a few jokes and a little chit-chat; others will want them to make be as invisible as possible. Look for body language and listen for verbal cues and cater to each customer’s preferred ordering style.

Be adaptable. In addition to being able to adapt to the different personalities of your food truck customers, your staff will need to adapt to situations as they arise. Although a server cannot control everything that happens in the food truck, a smart server knows that quick thinking makes up for most unforeseen problems. Did the kitchen staff forget to leave out the onions from a guest’s burger? Offer a free drink while they wait for the replacement to arrive.

Keep cool. Sometimes the staff of the food truck kitchen makes mistakes. When this happens, a successful server should be able to keep a calm and collected demeanor throughout the ordeal. The key is to not allow the issue to affect the service. You can’t win them all, but when things go wrong it is essential to not let them grow worse.

Be courteous. Seems obvious, right? But what about if a customer is already upset when they walk up to the service window? The quickest and truest remedy to this is using a few friendly words. For example, on an extremely busy night customers are likely to arrive at the truck overly-hungry, out of patience and looking for fast gratification. Approach the window with a smile and acknowledge their disparagement with a simple, “I’m sorry about the wait” and move on to collecting their orders.

Above all, your food truck customers want to feel that your staff actually cares about their experience at your truck. Keep hospitality in the forefront of your employee’s actions so they help to create an exceptional experience for each and every one of your food truck guests.

tip of the daySome might not think of customers as a threat to your food truck business. But thanks to social media, consumers can now incite insurgencies that overturn even the most strategic initiatives. Here are three steps for reacting to a customer rebellion centered around your food truck:

  • Listen and respond. A food truck owner get into trouble by failing to notice any early warning signs. Be sure you and your staff are monitoring social media traffic, and a have a genuine commitment to act on what you see and hear.
  • Engage and dissipate. Potential insurgents are far more likely to trust a fellow customer than you. To neutralize a problem before it spreads, encourage your food truck fans to speak on your behalf.
  • Involve and transform. Prevent riots from happening in the first place by involving customers in making key strategic decisions. This could be as simple as staying involved in social media interaction with your customer base or as difficult as innovating your customer strategy, relationships, and processes to be more collaborative.

Your food truck’s Facebook Page is every bit as important as a face-to-face encounter with a customer. But some food truck owners fail to provide the same type of customer service online.

facebook customer service

We went undercover and posted service related questions on 25 food truck Facebook walls (we will keep the names of these trucks to ourselves to protect the innocent).

To our surprise, a few of the truck pages removed the question from their wall without ever commenting, and another six questions remained unanswered for at least three days. Only nine businesses took the time to answer questions posted within 48 hours.

Eliminating or ignoring customers’ service-related questions posted on your food truck business Facebook Page is unprofessional at best and significantly damaging to your food truck brand at worst. Such practices ensure only that the issue will remain unresolved and the customer will grow only angry. What food truck owner would allow an employee to walk or turn away from a customer who had just asked them a question? We hope none, but that’s exactly what some food trucks are doing online.

Food truck owners that choose to interact actively with their customers on Facebook will continually gain customer loyalty. Those who ignore service and support related issues posted on the world’s most popular social utility should seriously reevaluate their social media strategies.

Here are a few tips on how to effectively manage your mobile food business’s Facebook page:

  • Respond quickly. Reply to queries and complaints in a timely manner to make sure other customers don’t see you left someone hanging.
  • Be proactive. Respond to customer questions as status updates – they are more visible than comments to wall posts. Doing so can potentially prevent even more questions or complaints over the same issue.
  • Share your wins. Customers post positive comments, not just negative ones. Share that information internally with your food truck team members. Everyone seems to love good news, especially if all they usually hear are complaints.

How do you make sure customer questions and complaints on Facebook are addressed adequately? Let us know in the comment section below. 


NCR Silver

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