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Think about how much you rely on your employees to operate your food truck. In many cases, they are responsible for preparing your delicious food, ensuring your customers are happy and bringing revenue into your mobile food business. What if they felt mistreated? How do you think they would react?

food truck employee-theft

A single disgruntled employee can do a lot of harm to your food truck operation. A window server, a line cook or even your truck manager, who is not happy with their job can create poor morale with other employees, be rude to a customer, prepare poor meals and even steal from your business.

No amount of operational controls, auditing or inventory will matter is an employee feels alienated or disgruntled. It is not always possible to prevent a situation like this, however the better the relationship you have with your food truck employees, the better chance you will hear about any issues before they become too great. If your staff respects their owner and managers, they also respect your business and realize their jobs are part of its success.

Here are some tips for food truck owners to remember when building relationships with their staff members:

Know your people.

  • If you don’t know your staff, then they don’t know you. It’s far easier to steal from a faceless entity than a person.

Don’t create an atmosphere of distrust.

  • Treat your employees with respect. Don’t talk down to them regardless of their position within your truck. Being friendly will go a long way in building good staff relationships.

Reward employees as your food truck empire grows.

  • Small raises or bonuses as a reward for your rolling bistro’s growth will make your employees feel like they are part of the reason why it has grown.

Don’t nag them about costly mistakes.

  • Constantly harassing staff about the costs behind mistakes creates stress, and more mistakes are likely to be made. Even worse, your truck’s employees might start hiding mistakes if constantly worried about the consequences.
  • If you have an employee that is consistently making expensive mistakes, try taking them aside after their shift or during a down period. If it continues to be a problem, let them know that the loss of their job could result.
  • Use mistakes as a learning tool and an opportunity to inject additional training and re-assurance with policies and procedures.

Every food truck owner, who has been in business long enough, will have to deal with employee theft at one time or another. How you handle the topic of employee theft with your staff does in fact make a difference.

How do you talk about employee theft with your employees? 

Talk with your employees openly about theft and its consequences to your mobile food business, to their job and to the livelihood of those who decide to steal. We are often asked; does talking about employee theft actually increase employee theft. The short answer is no.

Not everyone will be a positive and motivated staff member. However, most employees want to earn an honest day’s pay, be respected and treated fairly. For those people, getting to know them is a way to get them more involved in your food truck’s well-being.

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tip of the dayWhen a food truck business is struggling and the morale of your employees is low, it falls on a food truck owner’s shoulders to help keep employees’ chins up and focus on the future. Use these tips to motivate food truck employees during troubling times:

  • Go to them. Sure your schedule is always packed but don’t invite employees to meet because it’s easiest for you. Visit them in the commissary or truck, especially if you aren’t there with them while they prepare the meals for your customers. This signals that what they do matters.
  • Praise their efforts. No one tires of hearing they’re doing a good job when the praise is genuine. Explain how their output is significant to your truck’s long-term health.
  • Watch their backs. Employees often suffer first when things get tough; show them that the owner supports them.

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tip of the dayPeople are more creative when they feel passionate about their work. Whether they are driven by interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, or a sense of personal challenge, they are more likely to take risks, look for multiple solutions to a problem, and seek out the best one rather than the easiest. These are the people you want on your food truck team.

Get to know potential hires as thoroughly as possible, even before you have an opening for them. Ask them why they do what they do, what disappointments they’ve had, what their dream jobs would be. Look for fire in their eyes as they talk about the work itself, and listen for a deep desire to do something that hasn’t been done before. When you talk to their references, listen for mentions of passion.

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tip of the dayUnderstanding your food truck employee reactions to big changes such as layoffs can help you understand what employees need, not just in stressful times, but every day.

Here are three questions your employees need the answers to regularly:

  • Do I have a job? This isn’t just about job security. Employees want role clarity and an understanding of how their work makes a difference to your food truck business.
  • Who do I report to? Dotted lines litter most org charts these days. Make it clear who employees report to (even if it’s more than one person), by whose metrics they’ll be evaluated, and whose opinion matters to their work.
  • How will I get paid? How much actually matters less than how. Intangible benefits such as mentorship, long-term opportunities, and a belief that what they’re building will last all matter more than the paycheck.

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tip of the dayIf you want to manage and lead  a successful food truck, you’ve got to know what your staff needs. So why not ask them?

Get in the habit of asking your food truck staff members: What can I do to help you be more effective? You’ll likely get a variety of answers including complaints about others, direct criticism of your performance, and requests you can’t do much about. Take everything under advisement, don’t be defensive, and admit mistakes.

Heed what you hear and take action. Perhaps you need to step back or learn to delegate better. Maybe there is an uncooperative member of the team you can coach or an unnecessary policy you can remove. Treat these conversations for what they are: an opportunity for you to learn.

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tip of the dayBeing the boss of a food truck is a tough job, especially when you need to counter the natural tendencies that separate you from the people you have hired and manage. Knowing what these traits are can help mobile food vendors avoid them. Here are the top three to watch out for:

  • Self-deluding. This isn’t just a problem with bosses; the majority of people estimate their skills to be higher than they are in reality. Be aware that you might be self-aggrandizing and find ways to get input and evaluations that show you what your true skills are.
  • Heedless of subordinates. Those in positions of power are watched carefully by those under them. But that level of attention is not reciprocated. When you start staffing your food truck, don’t forget to remain curious about and engaged with your employees.
  • Insulated from reality. No one wants to deliver bad news to the boss, so the boss often doesn’t know the full story. Create a culture within your mobile food business in which the messenger isn’t shot, but lauded for bringing important information forward.

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tip of the dayWhen hiring new employees on your food truck, you want to focus their first month on finding out as much as they can about the organization, the people, and their role. This can start before they step foot on the truck. Once informed that they have gotten the job, suggest they browse through your website and to talk with people who know your organization well, such as former employees.

Soon after they begin the job, have them review your training manual and performance expectations. If they are going to be in a management position, have them look through recent reviews for all of their direct reports. They should meet with each of them one-on-one and ask about their view of the team and where it needs to go. While they’re taking in all of this information, be sure they develop hypotheses about what they need to get done and the best way to go about it. And of course, all of this learning will generate additional questions, so tell them to never stop asking them even when they’ve started to take action.

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tip of the dayMobile food businesses that are too inwardly focused often miss important happenings and opportunities in the market. Use these three ways to get your food truck to look outward for customer insights, competitor moves, and market changes: 

  • Listen to customer-facing employees. Your service staff are your ear to the pavement. Value them, ask them what they hear from customers, and if necessary, train them to listen for the right information.
  • Get people out front.  Ask your manager(s) to work in the service window. People calling the shots should meet customers face to face.
  • Share data, good and bad. Some food truck owners protect their employees from troublesome market or customer data. While well-intentioned, this hinders your staff’s responsiveness. If there is bad news, deliver it with a well-articulated action plan.

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tip of the dayPeople don’t like being pushed, or even nudged, to do something. So when you need your staff members to take action—change their behavior, adapt a new strategy—inspire them to commit rather than forcing them to.

The best way to do this is to listen, without your own needs and biases getting in the way. Try to understand where your employees are coming from. Resist the urge to defend yourself, explain yourself, or offer quick fixes. You can help more effectively later, when the time is right, if you don’t pre-judge what they need (which might be very different from what you think). Instead, remember that you are listening to learn. Ask questions like: What does that mean for you? How do you feel about it? What’s your perspective on it? This is listening of the highest order.

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tip of the dayOne of the hardest things to do as a food truck owner is to tell an employee that they are fired. Here are three tips for handling this gut-wrenching situation:

  • Bring answers. When a person is let go, he’s likely to have a lot of questions and concerns. Come prepared to address his logistical questions, such as when his last day is, how his peers will be notified, etc.
  • Listen, don’t react. Losing a job can be traumatic. Don’t get caught up in responding to your employee’s emotions. Listen with respect. Offer to talk again later when the emotions are not so raw.
  • Talk to your team. Firing a food truck employee impacts everyone on your team. Not only does it change work assignments, but people might also wonder about their own job security. Share what information you can to reassure the people left behind.
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