“Reward is a happy customer — and an empty plate.” - Jacques Torres
“Reward is a happy customer — and an empty plate.” - Jacques Torres
Creating a fantastic menu, providing a professional customer service program and informing customers where they will be parking next seem to be the most common goals of most food truck vendors.
Unfortunately, many have yet to dive too deeply into their brand. Sure, they designed (or had designed) a great logo and wrap for their truck, but a truck’s brand is much more than the aesthetics. Too many brands continue to fail at explaining what their business has to offer to the people in their community. A lot of this seems to come down to not understanding their customers as individuals.
Some of the food truck brands we examined often seem most interested in talking about:
Now contrast that with what plays on the minds of customers:
So while food trucks focus on what they are doing, customers focus on how the food truck’s brand makes them feel and which of the many food truck options available to them feels most like them.
Mobile food vendors need to make a shift to a more human level of interaction with their customers. It’s not enough for them to listen and respond to what their research tells them. To be truly responsive, and not just process driven, food trucks need to find ways of talking to their consumers that are more natural sounding, more personality based, more give-and-take, more intuitive, more versatile.
Ultimately, the real role of social media going forward is that truck owners will need to evolve away from their instinctive nature to sell or talk about themselves. While some food truck owners are doing this, but my opinion is that we will see many more follow this path in the years ahead. Along with daily tweets sharing their next location, food trucks will need to engage with customers with different conversations, some scheduled, many not, taking place at different times across a varied range of topics.
We have recently received a number of emails from food truck owners that want to get their customers involved in what they offer on their food truck menu. It’s a great topic and one we’ll cover today.
Marketing strategies are consistently evolving and food trucks seem to be taking the lead in this evolution. As many of you already know engaging your customers in a two-way conversation is a smart way to create loyal supporters and brand ambassadors for your mobile food businesses.
Since it has become increasingly simple to solicit customer ideas through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and even by email…it should be part of your food truck’s brand strategy. Not only will this give your customers a voice but it can also generate a lot of local media buzz about your truck.
So, how do you get your customers involved in creating items for your menu? Here are 5 ideas. For each of these, ideas can be submitted at your food truck on a contest form (via suggestion box), social media, or on your website. Heck, for that matter, why not all three?
Whatever avenue you choose to involve your customers in designing menu items, make sure that you actually follow through on the idea. Ask questions, listen and act. By opening up a conversation with your customers about your menu, you could learn a lot about your food truck. With an increased level of engagement, your customers may come up with ideas about other facets of your business, what they like and don’t like.
And don’t forget, any of these ideas can be leveraged as news items too. Depending on your market and the details of the contest it could be looked at as a great story for a blogger or the local newspaper’s food or business sections.
So have you already created menu items based on your food truck customer ideas? We’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.
Regulars customers are the life-blood of a food truck business, and each and every loyal customer starts off with a first visit to your service window.
So what can you do to ensure those first time customers come back a second or third time. Your food and service can be great, but if that is where you stop thinking about keeping a customer coming back for more, you are missing some opportunities.
So how do you know it’s a first visit? Your service window attendant’s welcoming statement should gather information so they can tailor the service and make the visit special. This can be done quickly and easily with one question:
Have you been here before? Whatever the answer, this is the opportunity to give more information about your trucks menu, how long you’re been open, best way to find your truck etc.
Service for first-timers may need to be a little different to what’s offered to your regulars:
Using these suggestions in any food truck business can help bolster your returning customer numbers. In doing this, you will also gain word of mouth marketing that these new loyal customers will provide…all free of charge.
Some may say, “It’s just coffee!” Instead try, “It’s hot, freshly brewed coffee.”
You say “cheesecake.” Try this, “Our rich, creamy New York style cheesecake that’s topped with strawberry syrup.”
You say it’s your “soup of the day.” You could say, “It’s our original homemade vegetable soup.”
Which is the way you or your service window staff present your menu offering? By adding descriptive words into your sales presentation, your customers will have a better picture of what you’re selling. And, if you do it right, they’ll end up ordering whatever you want them to order.
We have shared numerous articles on food truck website development and more specifically how and why food truck owners should be posting in their site’s blog.
One thing you need to understand is that simply posting a few short articles throughout the month about the things happening inside your mobile food business isn’t going to automatically bring you the 5-10 new customers a month your food truck needs for continued growth.
There’s a bit more to this recipe than just the writing.
Have a food truck blog that isn’t gaining any traction? Feel like you’re wasting your time? Here’s what you might be doing wrong:
Look over your content. Do you use a lot of culinary jargon that may confuse your non-foodie knowledgeable customers? Your food truck customer is your target audience, not your culinary peers, so if this is you, simply try putting those ideas into words that someone who has never tuned into Food Network or taken a culinary class would understand.
Are you taking enough time proofreading the first drafts of your posts? Are you showing personality in your writing? Just because you’re writing a blog post doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice the kind of quality control you practice in your kitchen.
Spice up your posts with images, videos or YouTube clips, or audio clips. Think about the other food truck websites you and your audience visits, what kind of content do they create? What is engaging to them?
Your food truck blog should reflect you and your mobile food business. What do you hope stand for? Where did you come from and where are you going? The passion you have for the mobile food industry and your local community is the best way to show your readers who you are. They will sense your energy and be brought back by it.
As I well know, it can be very easy to get obsessed with blogging statistics: how many daily readers we get, the bounce rate, the likes, the comments. Sometimes, however, it’s best to focus on the actual people we are connecting with, whether it’s five or 5000. Your food truck blog must be about building your community, interacting online and creating relationships with your current and future customers. Focus on interacting with your readers, responding to their comments and constantly asking for their feedback and your community will begin growing before you know it and your stats will benefit at the same time.
In order for all of the previous tips to work, you have to integrate them with a good looking and functional design. Check out what other food truck blogs you read and enjoy are doing; find out what kinds of blogs your target audience is reading and what those look like; look at your blog and evaluate what changes you can make to make it more appealing to your customers. Most importantly, strive to have a design that is professional, easy to navigate, and easy on the eyes.
In recent news, Louisville became another of the growing lists of cities across the country that give out grades to mobile food vendors that must be displayed openly to the public.
Unfortunately, just like restaurants, not every mobile food establishment will earn an A grade. While you may know why you didn’t get an A, do your customers? What happens when a customer walks up and asks? How will you respond?
Very simple. You should communicate honestly, especially knowing that the guest can easily access the city’s report online while they are standing outside your truck.
Like a lot of customer concerns, they are unpleasant to handle, but ultimately better than not hearing them. A customer who asks you directly to explain your health inspection score is one you can win over, whereas one who sees something less than an A and walks away is lost revenue.
While you shouldn’t attempt to obscure the violations that gave you the B or C grade, there are some violations that the public generally understand as slip-ups: dented cans, missing or damaged flooring, food out of temperature, or no certified food handler in the truck, while others will have them running: rodents, roaches, poor hand washing, sick workers, and so on.
Within the realm of honesty, emphasize those violations that are least off-putting, explain what you are doing to correct the problems before you are re-inspected, and invite them to inspect your truck’s kitchen (assuming it is one in which you can take pride) for themselves to show that you are proud of the work you do and have nothing to hide. It won’t work for all customers, but if they are taking the time to ask about your score, they have an interest in dining from your food truck.
Outside of selling great food, successfully communicating with customers is the foundation for all food truck sales. Here are two tactics that will increase the likelihood that your food truck customers hear what you have to say:
Twitter is a great way for food truck vendors to stay connected with your diners — and, unlike other social media platforms, it facilitates direct contact between individuals.
Let’s take a look at tips you can use Twitter to drive more repeat customers and even some new ones, to your food truck.
Food truck customers appreciate the opportunity to speak directly with the person making their food. Seeing the chef’s passion for their work can get potential diners excited about eating at your truck. What’s more, getting you or your chef on Twitter can provide a direct line of communication that may help prevent negative reviews on sites like Yelp.
Use a tool like HootSuite to track when people mention your food truck on Twitter. If it’s appropriate, you can engage in the conversation. If a customer takes a photo of your food, for example, you might want to retweet or reply. On the other hand, if a diner had a negative experience, responsiveness again might help convince that diner to visit your truck again.
New specials can be a big driver in getting repeat diners to your food truck’s service window. Posting those specials on Twitter makes sharing them easy, and it also allows you to get feedback and ideas on what dishes appeal most to your diners.
Twitter isn’t a one-way street. It’s important to be responsive to both praise and criticism. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of the reality that anything you post there is viewable publicly by anyone, but you can use that to your advantage. Encouraging positive feedback will bring you more — and handling complaints graciously will help potential diners sympathize with your side of the story.
Have you ever loved a product or service so much that you couldn’t wait to tell everyone you know about it? All over the web, people’s passion for products has led them to share their love via YouTube videos, blog posts, and Facebook groups.
These “natural” spokespeople have created valuable buzz and initiated sales growth; all for free. Find your most devout food truck customers and ask them to rave on their blogs or create Facebook groups in support of your food products. If there are already natural spokespeople out there singing your truck’s praises, harness that passion for free.