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Food Truck

bookkeeping mistakes

If you are a food truck owner determined to keep your truck service window open, you’ve got to have your eye on each and every issue that could potentially stall your mobile food business. That means not overspending or wasting supplies, keeping only necessary staff and rewarding them for their good work, and promoting your food truck brand.

The sad thing is that accounting mistakes can trip up all the good work you do in these areas, leading to lost revenue, lost customers, and even trouble with the IRS. Here are a few of the most common food truck bookkeeping mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

4 Common Food Truck Bookkeeping Mistakes:
Keep Consistent

One of the bookkeeping mistakes that even the smartest mobile food vendors make is not having clear procedures when it comes to their accounting. Some vendors play fast and loose with their personal accounting, which makes them think they can just wing it and get by with their mobile food business accounting.

But that’s just not the case. You’ve got to have rules in place to make sure every accounting detail is handled the same exact way. That will reduce the chance that something important is missed, and help you approach tax time calm and prepared.

Reconcile Accounts

Data entry errors can be devastating, and there’s really no way to avoid them. Accounting data entry is tedious, and it’s all too easy to miss a zero or switch some numbers around. Sure, you can accept a small amount of errors, but the fewer the better. And the best way to prevent them is to have all of the data entry reviewed, whoever does it.

Reconcile each and every spreadsheet to its appropriate account, and mistakes won’t go undiscovered for very long. Do this at least once a month and you’ll be sure than small bookkeeping mistakes won’t become larger.

Have A Budget

Although it’s hard to believe, some food trucks actually work without a budget. They think that the fact that they know how much money being spent is enough, and you don’t need to waste time with a detailed accounting budget. That’s one of the biggest bookkeeping mistakes you can make. Just because your mobile food business is working as is doesn’t mean it’s working as optimally as possible.

Start with the last two months of expenses to give you a baseline, and then create a budget for the following month. You’ll be able to adjust it as you go along, but even if it’s not quite right it will help you far more than simply keeping an eye on expenses.

Stay Organized

The final tip to avoid common bookkeeping mistakes it to stay organized. Many food truck owners are very disorganized with their record keeping. This will certainly come back to bite you when tax time rolls around. It may be that you’re not categorizing the company’s expenses, or not noting down enough detail to satisfy a potential closer look by the IRS. Just remember that the situation is never too far gone.

Create a chart of all accounts and go back to the beginning of the current year to categorize. You can’t change the past, but moving forward with strict organization will help you save money for the future of your food truck empire and avoid costly legal troubles.

FreshBooks vs QuickBooks

four walls marketing

Increasing sales is the top goal of most food truck owners I speak with. To do this, it requires that the vendor focus their effort. All too often, food truck owners look for a quick fix to increase customer traffic, turn to creative advertising campaigns, hoping they will provide the “cure-all” needed to bolster sales.

There is much more to marketing than just advertising, however. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all marketing takes place outside of your food truck.

Four Walls Marketing For Food Truck Owners

Four walls marketing is a practice used by restaurant owners, and although your customers do not sit down inside your truck, the same type of marketing strategy can be used by food truck owners. The idea behind this marketing involves the physical appearance of the business, the attitude and appearance of your employees, and the type of experience you create for your customers.

Unfortunately, many mobile food business owners spend time on social media advertising campaigns to bring customers up to their service window only to have them disappointed by their experience.

At best, social media advertising creates short-term customer traffic. Four walls marketing, on the other hand, creates long-term customer loyalty, assists in building customer frequency and creates a solid reputation for your mobile food business. Evaluate the condition of a four walls marketing plan for your truck by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does the appearance my truck provide an environment that I would feel comfortable in as a customer? Is my truck clean? Is the sidewalk or parking area clean? An clean environment around your truck can become the place of outstanding customer experiences.
  • Are my menu items made with the highest quality and consistency? Believe enough in your food products to inspire others to believe in them too. Because your reputation is at stake, you should tolerate nothing less than perfection.
  • Does my staff project a positive, enthusiastic, customer-minded attitude? This is the most critical element. The people who staff your business determine the ultimate success of your mobile food business. Instill in your staff that building relationships with customers is the business of doing business.

If you weren’t able to answer yes to all three questions, you need to make the necessary adjustments so you can. If you answered yes to all three questions, congrat.

Now, take an extra step and ask the real decision-makers; your customers. Customers tend to see things from a different perspective than you do. If your customers’ answers match your own, you’re on the right track.

Because everything relates to the customers’ experience, don’t just settle for customer satisfaction. The best strategy you can adopt to lead your food truck business to success is to strive to exceed your customers’ expectations.

Once you’re using an effective four walls marketing plan as your primary effort in marketing your food truck, you can supplement it with other strategies.

After Instituting Four Walls Marketing

A creative advertising plan is a necessary element to promote your mobile food business, and there are “no-cost” strategies that can help increase sales. Two of the most effective are:

  • Suggestive selling: With some simple training and follow-up, your staff can increase sales without adding a single customer. Find an item that can be offered to complement what is already being purchased. If you are successful in suggestive selling only one of 10 customers, it can have a tremendous impact on your truck’s annual sales.
  • Upsizing/upselling: If you offer more than one size for your menu items, suggest the bigger size, then let the customer decide. Most people want the bigger size; they are just waiting for someone to persuade them. Again, you will increase sales without adding a single new customer.

By using an effective four walls marketing plan and supplementing it with advertising and other creative strategies, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your food truck goal for increased sales.

Have you applied a four walls marketing plan to your food truck marketing strategy? If so, we’d love to hear your results. You can share them with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.

cost cutting

If you believe your food truck’s portion sizes are too large or that your books tell you that you need to lower your food costs, reducing your protein serving portions can be a great cost cutting measure. The key is remembering that in cutting portion sizes is that you do strategically so as not to look like your “being stingy” with your food truck customers.

Cost Cutting: Protein Portioning May Be The Right Way

Cutting even just an ounce off a portion can save dollars and your customers will hardly notice. At 11 or 12 ounces is it really that big of a difference? Sure this may seem like “nickel and diming”, but ultimately it adds up.

Bumping up the size of your sides can be used to offset the visual of reduced protein portions. Also creative presentation in general can “bulk up” a dish and create a visual appeal.

Try carefully slicing your prepared meats and serving them over unique vegetables and grains with interesting garnishes, rather than just slapping a hunk of meat into your serving container. Many consumers are eating vegan and vegetarian so meatless dishes using protein-rich grains like quinoa, for example, can also help cut down on meat costs.

Additional Cost Cutting Measures

Changing container sizes can also help in cost cutting. If you’re used to using a 9″x9″ container, switch to an 8″x8″. A container actually makes the protein and garnish look bigger than it is, and for many customers, that’s more important in terms of creating a value proposition. You can get away with smaller portions if you can back up your brand with higher-quality ingredients, creative cooking and presentation, and a chef-driven approach. By using this strategy you are able to use the less is more philosophy.

You can also build up up your appetizer menu to offer more sharable “small plates” that have smaller portions at prices not far off from your entrees. As a result, they will provide you with higher profit margins. These dishes can also add up quick when you have groups of four or larger showing up to your food truck’s service window which in turn will lead to higher check averages.

Do you have any other cost cutting suggestions? We’d love to hear them. Please share them via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Before Starting A Food Truck

What type of food truck would you like to start?

How do you plan to run your food truck?”

How much will you need to invest to get your food truck rolling?

When will you break even?

Will your food truck be successful?

Before starting a food truck business, any future vendor reading this should want to know the answers to questions like these. Thankfully, determining these answers before starting a food truck is not the hard part.

Not everyone who dreams of starting a food truck gets around to doing it and of those who have, relatively few succeed. Well-run food trucks bring in profits and are run like a machine. Owning a food truck business requires you to commit to it. To be able to survive the difficulties before starting a food truck business, to emerge successful, and make your food truck work the way it should, you’ll need a lot of elements in place. To start with, however, you’ll need focus, clarity, and purpose.

4 Things You Need Before Starting A Food Truck Business
Start With The Little Things

Food truck ownership demands a lot. It’ll require you to take the leap of faith, work with uncertainty, accept challenges, solve problems, lead people, persuade others, manage multiple tasks or projects, etc. Since it’s easier and more manageable to take small measured steps, it makes sense to put these traits to test before actually rolling your food truck onto the streets of your local market.

Begin to do little things that relate to business ownership, no matter how ridiculous it might seem to you at first. When working on tasks everyday, learn to become more productive. Is there a way you can manage to get things done without multi-tasking?

The journey begins with little steps. Learn to crawl and then walk so that you can run.

The Business Plan Is Your Guide

Whether you want to create a business plan on the back of a napkin or write out a 100 page, professional business plan, just do it. You may decide to create a business plan and use it to guide your own efforts or you might want to actually show your business plan to help fetch funding for your food truck business from local banks. No matter what you choose to do with your business plan and no matter how you’d like to create it, your food truck business plan is your guide to your mobile food business’ future.

Write out the business plan more for yourself than for others. You could, of course, get plenty of reference and help from the internet. While you start writing your business plan, give some wiggle room for changes that are bound to creep in.

Watch Others

Most of us learn from others. Before starting a food truck, hit the internet and books and read biographies or autobiographies of successful restaurant and food truck owners. You’ll learn how each of them managed to focus on what they wanted.

While reading through all of these stories of other food truckers who’ve been there and done that, there’s a lot that begins to happen to how to shape your own journey.

Network With Achievers

Take a reality check on the kind of people you associate yourself with and you’ll know where you’ll reach in life. Talking to the right kind of people will help you to gain insights into the mobile food industry. Discussing business, brainstorming ideas, and regularly chatting with your colleagues, partners, friends, and even family helps you to stay focused. Find a mentor, attend conferences, and reach out to communities that eat, sleep, dream, and think about their food truck business.

Food truck ownership can be a lonely journey with many obstacles. How well you get past difficulties, grow out of your own self, and make your food truck business successful rests squarely on your shoulders.

Before starting a food truck, how did you work to gain clarity, focus, and purpose for your mobile food business? Share your journey with our readers via email, Facebook or Twitter.

food truck economics

We believe that food truck employees should know that they work in a low margin industry. Typically they won’t figure this out unless they’re told. Want to validate this point? Just ask a few of your employees how much money they think you make see how many say, “LOTS.”

This is because employees see, what many believe to be, large amounts of cash coming into the truck every day but most of them have no concept of what it costs to operate a mobile food business and how much profit remains after all the expenses are paid.

When employees assume the boss is getting rich, it can affect their attitude, behavior and what they might feel entitled to.

Food Truck Economics 101

We recently spoke with a vendor who holds creative meetings with each employee to educate them on the low margin nature of the food truck business. He explained that he conducts these meetings when a staff member first starts. He gives them 100 pennies and explains that the pennies represent a dollar in sales and they will be shown out of every dollar of sales what it costs each month to operate the food truck.

In this food truck economics class the employee is asked to pay:

  • 30 pennies for food and beverage vendors
  • 35 for payroll
  • 10 cents for fuel and truck maintenance
  • 10 for commissary rent and so on

After all the expenses are paid, the remaining pennies represent the amount of profit the truck earned. Whether there are 3, 5 or even 10 pennies left, it’s a whole lot less than most employees assume.

What this food truck economics lesson provides for each of his employees is a basic understanding why the little things like exact portioning, reducing waste and the hundreds of other seemingly meticulous steps he requires help to control costs and give him a shot at making a profit. This little example will show some of them that owning a food truck is not the money making machine they may have thought.

Do you use a food truck economics class in your truck or do you use other teaching methods? We’d love to hear them. You can share them via email, Facebook or Twitter.

simple food truck concept

Although failure rates for food trucks aren’t nearly as high as their brick and mortar counter parts they’re still high. Why are they so high? For a list of the 10 biggest reasons, see Why Do Food Truck Businesses Fail.

A simple food truck concept may seem like a given, in many vendors its not. Today I’m going to discuss the key fundamental in food truck concept design, Keep It Simple!

Menus with too many items and multi-ingredient dishes are symptoms of the same problem, over complicating your concept. As a food truck owner, you may find yourself getting bored with traditional menu items. For you, eating at a food tuck should be an adventure. You may have to see or try something you’ve never seen before to be impressed.

This may be the underlying factor why some food truck owners routinely go overboard with their concepts. They push their own sensibilities on the general public, not realizing that their tastes are the exception to the rule.

If you have a larger selection, you’ll appeal to more people, right? Wrong!

Trying to please everyone leaves you unable to be defined. When you have menu items that represent too many styles of cuisine, your customers find it harder to describe and recommend you. You find it harder to manage your mobile food business effectively and market your brand. Cut out all the extras and build a simple food truck concept.

How-To Build A Simple Food Truck Concept
Keep your menu small

The first step to a simple food truck concept is a small menu. This serves many purposes, a small menu is easier to control costs, easier to prepare, and easier to provide consistency with. By having a small menu, your service will be faster, your food quality will be better, and you’ll make more money.

Keep your market simple

Don’t convince yourself that you want all people of all demographics to like your food truck. It’s not going to happen.

By going after everyone, you’ll end up with no one. Even if your style of cooking has mass appeal, your parking locations will determine who is most likely to come to your food truck.

Identify those person’s age, income level, sex, and marital status. They are your target market whether you like it or not. If your concept doesn’t appeal to the people in your area, then you don’t have a feasible concept and you aren’t likely to succeed. Keep your demographic simple and focused.

Keep your menu items simple

When you have too many ingredients, and/or too many touches that need to be made to the dish after it’s ordered, you slow down the production of your food. A ticket will only go out as fast as it’s slowest dish. Keep your food simple and easy to produce. Let the ingredients be the stars and don’t lose them in a mish-mash of flavors.

While this is the end of this list, it’s not the end of the application of the philosophy of a simple food truck concept. Any time you have the opportunity to simplify your concept, take it. You’ll end up with something that is simpler to manage, simpler to market, and simpler to turn a profit with.

Do you have any additional tips to create a simple food truck concept? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share them with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.

increase food truck sales

An easy way to increase food truck sales numbers is through the presentation to your customers and the words you use.

You know when you step up to a food truck or walk into a restaurant and reading the description of a menu item makes you drool? The dish you just have to order because of how great it sounds? That is exactly what you want to happen when someone walks up to your truck.

Make effective use of adjectives and enticing descriptions to explain each menu item, especially higher-priced items. Your description need to makes people’s mouths water at the thought of eating your food.

Include mouth-watering descriptions to describe everything from soups, appetizers and desserts, as ordering these items helps boost each customer’s check.

Increase Food Truck Sales Through Menu Descriptions

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.

Words As Metaphors For Taste

Your menu can help increase food truck sales, more than anything else.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be as specific as possible as you write the descriptions of food items. You have to convey tastes, smells, emotions and overall feeling while enjoying the food.
  • Get the reader excited to learn more about the food item. You want to entice the reader to want the item immediately.
  • It should seem that no other item on that menu can have an effect similar to the one particular item that you are reading about.

These are the keys to making your menu increase food truck sales even more so than any advertising.

Do you implement special words or phrases when describing your menu items to help you increase food truck sales? We’d love to hear some of your favorites. You can share them via email, Twitter or Facebook.

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.

social media relevance

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 to create social media relevance to and for your customers.

Of 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.

Why Social Media Relevance Matters

Here are 3 reasons why relevant content on your social media channels matter.

  • Relevant content adds value to the conversation
  • Relevant content is authentic
  • Relevant content positions your food truck as a trusted industry advisor

Building and fostering a healthy social media community; establishing trust and becoming believable takes time before seeing any positive results. Because of this, your social media relevance will be based on the content you provide. The days of a food truck merely posting their next location are over.

How have you and your food truck provided social media relevance to your brand? We’d love to hear your stories. You can email them them, or share them via Twitter or Facebook.

restaurant closings

Restaurant closings happen on a daily basis. This is the hard part of starting a dining establishment, but where is the proof that food trucks are causing financial distress to brick and mortar establishments causing restaurant closings? We’ve yet to find any.

Day after day, and article after article, the consistent theme written by the mainstream media is the same. When brick and mortar restaurant owners are discussing their various points against food trucks and other mobile food vendors it appears to be that these mobile eateries are the cause of numerous restaurant closings. Or at least that’s what they say.

Restaurant Closings Due To Food Trucks?

Unfortunately, it appears the mainstream media has taken these comments by restaurant owners as fact, and consistently publish them as if they were the truth without any type of follow up question to verify these claims.

We all know the country has been in a recession since 2008 and restaurant goers have less disposable income to spend on going out to eat, but to tie fewer sales at a fine dining establishment to food trucks who serve gourmet tacos or grilled cheese sandwiches seems a bit far-fetched to us. Has there been a study released that shows that those who choose to eat out have chosen food carts over restaurants? Have any of the closing eateries tracked their sales since food trucks have begun operating in their areas?

Our main question is this, who and where are all of these restaurants that have been forced to close their doors due to the traffic of food trucks in their city? In researching this question, we have scoured the internet looking for some proof that this is happening. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, from New York to Miami we were unable to find a single case where a restaurant closed based on the fact that they were run out of town by food trucks, food carts or even street vendors. Yes there have been numerous restaurant closings since the start of this recession, but at the same time we found that for every closing there appeared to be at least one restaurant opening in those areas in the last year.

Cities across the country are currently looking at food trucks and other mobile vendors to help spark their floundering economies and restaurant owners seem to come out en mass when the discussions start. What we would like to see happen, is instead of the politicians taking the restaurant owners word that food trucks will force them to close, is for them to ask these owners to provide backup to their claims. Instead of allowing these restaurant lobbies to stifle competition with government backing, ask them to show statistics of cities where trucks and carts have been operating to prove their point.

Before the local newspaper writes an article describing the fear and frustration of the restaurant association, instead of assuming what they are giving you as fact can actually be backed up by proof, not opinion. Not that they should need to be reminded, but news agencies should verify the information they print to make sure it is factual.

Honest debate should always be part of the due diligence done by municipalities before writing laws which open up new avenues for mobile vendors to operate. The big problem is that one of the first talking points used by restaurant owners in the debate is false or yet to be proven.

If you are a restaurant owner that was forced to close because of mobile vendors, please let us know via email, Twitter or Facebook.

We would love to hear from you. We promise to share your story, but only after we are provided with evidence that the sole or primary reason for your business closing was from all of the sales you lost from these restaurants on the go.

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