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Food Truck

word of mouth

Word of mouth marketing will always be the best form of promotion any mobile food industry operator can expect to achieve. For this reason, the staff at Mobile Cuisine Magazine has decided that we needed to look at the two most commonly used forms of word of mouth marketing; on and offline word of mouth.

Today, in part 1 of this series will look at the oldest and most reliable form of word of mouth marketing that almost everyone is accustomed to, we will be referring to this as “offline” word of mouth.

To start things off let’s ask you some questions to get you started thinking about creating word of mouth recommendations for your mobile business.

Why should anyone talk about your food truck or cart in a positive way?

Do customers talk about your mobile eatery if your food was good?

Do they talk about your business if your service was good?

In most cases the vast majority of people do not spread good things about a food establishment if the customer receives the type of food and service they expect.

Do customers talk about tell others if your food or your service was bad?

When customers receive poor quality food or bad service, this is when many people make sure to let others know about the issues that they have had with a particular food truck or other variation of street food vendor.

Now that we have established that a business owner is unlikely to get positive word of mouth with good service and food, yet very likely to get negative word of mouth for poor service or food, we can conclude that positive word of mouth is much harder to achieve and negative word of mouth is almost an absolute given.

The big question many will have is, why the difference? It is rather simple if you spend any time thinking about it. It is in our human nature to hold onto anger longer than pleasure. We tend to discuss the reasons we are upset far more than why we might be happy about something. Being frustrated or upset by a situation will burn deeply into our memory and we will tend to overreact.

In these cases, the food truck business the primary loser. Yes, the customer may have felt slighted, but ultimately, the business will take the brunt of their frustration in the long run. It often doesn’t take more than a small incident to create bad feelings, particularly when your customer has had a bad day already. You and your customer service staff must be aware of what our customers are seeking. Be understanding and alert as awareness and intuitiveness are key ingredients in customer service. Great customer service comes from paying attention and sensing the moods of everyone that steps up to your truck.

Turning around a situation is well within the bounds of well trained and understanding staff, so all is not lost.

How to create powerful word of mouth is a whole study in itself, but the basics are common sense and logical.

Very often just providing good service or food is not enough to encourage word of mouth recommendations; after all, these things are expected. There needs to be additional reasons for wanting to bring up the subject of where you ate last night and how good it was. Obvious examples are special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day. This could trigger conversations like, “What did you do last night?”…”Oh, we went to <insert your food truck name here>, wonderful food, really fast and friendly, you should definitely try it sometime.”

Although a nice comment, even this type of statement may not attract someone to follow their friend or acquaintance’s recommendation. For word of mouth to be effective it has to have some passion and excitement in it. That means your customer has to have been excited by what they experienced. This, in turn, means that your customer will want to instigate a conversation, rather than just respond to a question they may never be asked.

Hopefully this will make sense to you. Try to remember the last time you were wowed enough by a product or service to start a conversation about it. Very often these situations are few and far between.

How are you going to create sufficient excitement so that your customers want to tell the world? If your customer service is full of passion, that carries over to your customers and can be infectious. Without the passion in your service, how do you expect your customers to get excited? So that’s your starting point, customer service that is full of passion and fire.

Next, ignite the fires of passion in your customer, get them involved and encourage them to join the party. It is much easier to get parties of four or more people to get into the mood. Couples are different, they may well be in their own world. Individuals need more personal attention. Therefore it makes more sense and it is much easier to encourage parties of four or more to become your advocates.

With a little encouragement you should be able to create some word of mouth activity from at least 1 or 2 of the party. Ask if you can take some photos of them in the party spirit. Tell them you would like to place the photos on your customer wall board as well as your blog. (You will need their permission to do this) Offer to email copies of the photos to each of them, so that they can share them with their friends.

For individuals and couples, give them a couple of your business cards each and ask them to pass the cards to a friend or colleague who would appreciate your kind of hospitality, food and service.  Incidentally, we recommend a specially printed card for this purpose. It is very rare for a restaurateur to do this and they really are missing an out on an opportunity.

Manage and meet customer expectations all the time. How do you do this? Back up your brand’s claim or promise each time. A good example is:

  • Maintain your price range within the level your buyers expect, if you need to increase prices make sure you communicate this to them with a little justification of why you need to do so.

Customer service is the framework where loyalty and trust is built on. This is where your company can really stand out in a different way from your competition. Quality customer service is simply going out of your way to please the customer. It is that extra effort, one sincere action, the personal touch that ultimately affects buyers choice to keep remembering you and recommending you.

In part 2 we will be discussing how to utilize the power of word of mouth online; we call this word of mouse.

Keep an eye out for part 2 to be published within the next week. In the meantime if you would like to share how you encourage word of mouth, go ahead and let us know via the comments button below.

Part 2

swot analysis

A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats); much like that of a competitive analysis, is an important part of planning your food truck’s future.

The strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) sections provide a look at your truck’s current market position.

The opportunities (O) and threats (T) sections help you project possible goals and challenges that may affect business down the road.

  • Strengths: In a SWOT analysis, you look at the strengths of your business first. Strengths include those things that you do better than others and what makes you stand out from your competition.For example, you may have a permit to operate your truck on weekends in a prime location near a bar that doesn’t serve any food past 10 p.m. Whatever your strengths are, use them as a base for future decisions.
  • Weaknesses: Weaknesses in a SWOT analysis refer to those areas in which you can improve that would help better the product or services you provide. That you’d see advantages in assessing your weaknesses may seem counterintuitive, but understanding your weaknesses makes them easier to deal with.For example, a weakness can be a lack of expertise in preparing popular desserts that are common in the type of cuisine your concept follows.
  • Opportunities: The opportunities section is critical to your mobile food business’s development by helping you discover ways to improve. You use the strengths and weakness you’ve already listed to identify your opportunities.Opportunities may be internal, such as pointing out that by hiring a pastry chef that has formal training in creating desserts, you’d be able to eliminate one of your weaknesses. Opportunities form the basis of the future goals you adopt.
  • Threats: Lastly, SWOT analysis looks at threats or possible issues your truck could run into. Examples of threats your food truck business may face include the addition of competition in the market, increased gas prices, and changing consumer trends.Threats may also come from changes in legislation or licensing requirements. Identifying threats can help you prepare and plan for issues that may come up that could throw your goals off course.
Here’s a sample SWOT analysis:

SWOT analysis chart

  • Strengths:
    • Strong, experienced food truck staff
    • High brand recognition
    • Prices are cheaper than competitors’
    • Pride in putting forth innovative food with the freshest ingredients
  • Weaknesses:
    • Limited funds available
    • Costs rising due to increases in food costs
  • Opportunities:
    • In a new, emerging food truck market
    • A main brick-and-mortar competitor has closed
    • Collaboration with a local bar to start a dinner and a drink package
  • Threats:
    • A main competitor has lowered its prices
    • Municipality reexamining current legislation and may add further restrictions on food trucks

Have you conducted a SWOT analysis for you food truck? What were the results or issues you ran into? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

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.

employee performance reviews

As a food truck vendor you have to wear many hats. Being the boss is one of them. While wearing your boss hat, I’ll ask you this: Which is worse: receiving a performance review, or giving one to one of your food truck staff members? At least with the latter as the owner, you have some control.

When you’re the one conducting an employee performance reviews for one of your food truck employees, try doing these three things to make it a productive experience.

3 Simple Steps To Improve Employee Performance Reviews:
  • Set expectations early. Make employee-evaluation practices clear at the beginning of the year with individual performance planning sessions.
  • Set the right tone. Everyone hates the “feedback sandwich”: compliments, criticism, then more niceties. Deliver a positive message to your good performers by mainly concentrating on their strengths and achievements. Confront poor performers and demand improvement.
  • Avoid money talk. If possible, don’t mention compensation during the review; but if you must, take care of it at the start of the conversation.

Do you have any additional tips for food truck vendors to use when giving employee performance reviews? We’d love to hear how you handle them with your employees. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

twitter lists

tip of the dayTwitter is an important way for food truck owners to learn about the mobile food industry, build relationships, and extend the impact of their work.

Even Twitter enthusiasts can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tweets and the velocity of conversations, but Twitter lists—groups of individual Twitter accounts—can help focus your attention.

You can quickly focus in on updates from the people you really want to hear from industry experts, well-networked colleagues, and customers simply by looking at your two or three most crucial Twitter lists.

Separate your incoming stream into Twitter lists by thinking about:
  • Development: Who do you want to learn from? Section out the smartest people you know or want to know.
  • Interactions: Which relationships do you want to initiate or strengthen? Engage with the people who will have the greatest impact on your effectiveness by mentioning and retweeting them.
  • Goals: What do you want to accomplish? Tune into the people and conversations that support your food truck business aspirations.

Please note: You can either create your own list or subscribe to a list created by someone else. Creating or subscribing to a list allows you to see only Tweets from users on that list. Lists are not a way to send Tweets to a select group, just to read them.

Do you have any additional advice for those interested in creating Twitter lists for their food truck Twitter account? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share them 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 newsletter

Loyal customers love to keep up-to-date with their favorite food trucks. Mobile food vendors have the unique opportunity to communicate with their customers via newsletters. They show your customer base that care about your employees and customers to go above and beyond when it comes to communications.

First and foremost – decide whether you should implement a hard copy, email version, or both. You can use the same content across both of these platforms. Have in-house copies for customers to snag when leaving your service window. Ask loyal customers if they would prefer to receive an exclusive e-newsletter with special coupons or perks.

10 tips to creating an effective food truck newsletter for your customers:

Regular Communication

In order to be perceived as credible, you must communicate regularly and consistently. A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is appropriate for most mobile food operations. You can adjust the quantity based on the amount of content you can generate without adding an extra element of work or stress to yourself. However, once you decide, do your best to keep true to your pattern of posting. Consumers prefer to know what to expect, so try your best to cater to their expectations.

Visually Pleasing

Add photographs of events, customers, chefs, or specials of the month. Also consider implementing snapshots of your Facebook or Twitter feeds highlighting customers’ positive feedback or a positive rave about a particular dish on the menu.

Be sure the layout is aesthetically pleasing as well. For branding purposes, utilize the food truck’s colors and logo. Find the perfect balance between content and photos. Content heavy pieces are less likely to be read than those that have a combination of both photos and writing.

Make it Easy to Digest

In addition to the layout being visually pleasing, break up text-heavy sections by utilizing bullet points of subheadings. The content should be readable, using average language and avoiding jargon.

If your readers are overwhelmed, they will bypass these sections, regardless of how rich or engaging the content may be.

Clickable Links

Make your newsletter as user friendly as possible by making your links clickable. For example, always have your Facebook or Twitter accounts linked on your e-newsletter.

Make sure you always add a link to your menu. If there is not enough space to upload photographs from an event, you can add a hyper linked keyword that directly links to an ancillary photo site, such as a Flickr account. If you have been featured on Mobile-Cuisine.com or a local blog, link to it.

Social Media Icons

Always include any social media platforms you are a member of, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and or Foursquare. Even if it is not an e-newsletter, add small icons that represent these sites along with the URL. They will remind your customers that you have a presence on these various social media platforms.

Probe them to interact with you by providing an incentive such as a check-in on Foursquare. For example, checking-in 5 times unlocks 10% off of your meal.

Add Boilerplate Info

Your food truck has a history, even if it be short and sweet. Give your mobile food business a little personality by adding a brief, but interesting background of your truck.

List Upcoming Events and Specials

Dedicate a section of your food truck newsletter – preferably the same location for consistency purposes – that lists upcoming events and the specials of the week or month if you have planned them out in advance.

If possible, include photos to entice customers to join you for the next special menu item or event. Spice up your descriptions and vary your content to keep readers engaged.

Include a “Spotlight” Section

Food truck customers love a human element to writing pieces. Make your star employees and customers feel special by adding a “Spotlight” section.

You can create a Q & A interview, feature article, biography or simply a “Getting to know____” to create a more humanized feel to your food truck newsletter.

Call-to-Action

As mentioned previously, give your readers a reason to not only read your article, but also go a step beyond. For example, if customers sign up for an e-newsletter, they will receive 5% off their next visit or a free meal on their birthday.

Add a hidden code to bring to your food truck for an exclusive deal only offered to those who read the newsletter.

Be Creative

Your customers are your brand ambassadors, so maximize your resources. If you have given them a reason to love your food truck, they will continue to be an advocate for you.
Ask them to forward the newsletter to a new friend and they will receive a free appetizer or dessert.

Customers love to be informed and feel as if they are a part of your family; therefore, the main purpose of your newsletter is to engage with your customers in a different way, while still leveraging it as a marketing ploy. Food truck newsletters are a fairly cost-effective and unique way to communicate with employees and customers alike.

Do you have anything else to add to this list that you include in your food truck newsletter? If so, share your thoughts in 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.

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