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food truck insurance checklist

When you’re in an auto accident in your food truck, it can be easy to forget what information you need — you’re shaken up and rattled and in many cases wondering how the accident will affect your mobile food business.

But for your insurance company and that of any other people involved, carry a copy of the following list in your glove compartment so that you get all the information you need to protect yourself and expedite your insurance claim to assure you are back on the road with your mobile bistro as quickly as possible.

Food Truck Insurance Checklist

  • Date and time of accident
  • Accident location (take photos if you have a cellphone with a camera)
  • Name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number of the driver of the other vehicle
  • Injuries (for each person)
  • Name, address, and phone number of each witness
  • Police department responding, including phone number
  • Police case number
  • Police officer’s name
  • Tickets issued (if any)
  • Name, address, and phone number of each passenger in your vehicle
  • Name, address, and phone number of each passenger in the other vehicle
  • Name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number of the owner of the other vehicle (if different from driver)
  • The year, make, model, license plate number, and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the other vehicle
  • The insurance company, insurance agent (name and phone number), and policy number of the other vehicle’s driver
  • The insurance company, insurance agent (name and phone number), and policy number of the other vehicle’s owner (if different from driver)

We hope this food truck insurance checklist will help you in a time of need. If there are any additional items you feel are important but have been left off our list, please share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share it on our Facebook page.

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food truck success

We continually hear that starting a food truck business is one of the hardest small business can start on limited funds. Often the outcome doesn’t result in a fleet of food trucks, a chain of brick and mortar restaurants or even a company deemed successful. The failure rate that occurs in the food service industry can be attributed to many different factors, but often, it comes down to these three common problems.

3 Reasons Why You May Never See Food Truck Success

You have the wrong menu

The biggest mistake you can ever make as a vendor is to create a menu that doesn’t solve a particular need or fill a void. Once you make an assumption about what your market needs, you’ve already started down the wrong path. One of the best ways to create a concept and menu that people will actually pay for is to involve your prospective customers in the process – from the start.

Do your homework, hit the streets and talk to people about what you intend serve. Ask them if they would eat it. Once you gather enough evidence about the need for your menu, you will spend fewer resources trying to convince people to track you down once you start rolling.

Most of the great food trucks started with menus that the owners were passionate about. Start with what you want, validate and focus on making it awesome.

Related: Why Do Food Trucks Fail?

You can’t adapt or change direction

If a food truck vendor can’t give up on their original ideas when the market requires it and make necessary changes, a mobile food business could be heading for a dead end street.

Most food trucks that we’ve seen fail usually have specific immobile goals they want to achieve. Food service is a fast changing business model and demands that concepts and plans need to be consistently re-visited and altered if necessary. Roles within the truck organization, menus, leadership and goals should be open for discussion and re-evaluation when things don’t go as planned.

How flexible are your food truck’s business goals? Successful food trucks are the ones that can change direction on the fly to adjust as needed. There is nothing wrong with making tweaks and sticking to what sells.

Related: 5 More Reasons Food Trucks Fail

Your market isn’t big enough

You need an existing market that is big enough or has enough foot traffic to be successful. How big is your current market?  How do you sustain growth if you are operating in a town that isn’t growing? You could have a fantastic concept, wonderful food and the best service, but if your market isn’t growing, you will eventually struggle to sustain your business.

We hope this article sheds some light on the issues of food truck failure and shows new food truck vendors how to keep their service windows open for the long haul.

If you have any points you’d like to add to this discussion on food truck success, please feel free to add them in the comment section below, Tweet us or post them on our Facebook page.

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public relations basics

Most food truck’s across the country lack the cash to invest in an internal press staff, so as usual, this task is just one more job an already busy mobile food vendor needs to take care of themselves. So what is it that journalists want when you send them information about your food truck or an event you are going to be part of?

public relations basics

Check out our public relations basics list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts for pitching a story to the press about your food truck.

  1. DO some research and figure out the right reporter before you pitch a story. All reporters have beats and Associated Press also has national writers who specialize in certain areas, including business, entertainment, medicine, health, sports and lifestyles.
  2. DO make sure your story pitch is national in interest and sharply focused. AP is for national and international news. Stories about local food truck events and a new menu items developed by a local food truck aren’t AP stories — but they might be a better fit at a local publication.
  3. DO write succinct press releases, preferably with bullet points noting the time, place and date of the event and a FEW sentences explaining the “what” and “why” of the story. Every newsroom in America receives hundreds of press releases each day by fax and email. Long winded pitches fall through the cracks.
  4. DON’T shop your story around to multiple reporters at once. If one reporter turns down your pitch, it’s likely all reporters will turn it down. If a reporter can’t handle your pitch or it isn’t in their beat area but he or she thinks it has interest, the reporter will pass it along to the appropriate person. Please keep in mind, they talk to each other and pass along pitches all the time.
  5. DO tell reporters that if (despite no. 4) you’re sending a pitch to multiple people within the same newsroom. If a reporter begins a story based on a pitch, only to find out one or two other reporters in other departments or beats have done the same thing, this will make reporters more cautious the next time you pitch something.
  6. DON’T call to follow up on a pitch. If they are interested, they will call or email to let you know.
  7. DO take no for an answer. Nothing drives a reporter crazier than getting multiple pitches for the same story from the same person after they’ve said no once, twice or even three times or having a spokesperson argue on the phone over a “no” response. If you accept a no this time, maybe the next time they will work with you. If you drive them nuts when they are on deadline, that won’t happen.
  8. If you really have a great story, DON’T wait until the day before, or even two days before, to pitch it. The best stories may require a week or more of planning and reporting. Too often, pitches that could have been a good story, but we are first notified of them the day of the event or the day before. That’s just not enough time to turn around a story, alert all the editors, coordinate any video or photo coverage and edit the piece.
  9. DON’T assume you know everything about pitching the media. Media is ever changing and fast moving. With the proliferation of news sites on the Internet popping up daily, news comes in many forms and we can all learn a thing or two!
  10. DO be consistent and send news out regularly. One day your food truck story may be the one that gets chosen to follow.

If you and your food truck follow other rules that would fit into a list of public relations basics, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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instagram food truck account

You might already have an Instagram account for your food truck. If you don’t, outside of the over 60 million photos shared daily and it being one of the most popular social media platforms, in the past we’ve provided reasons why your food truck should have an Instagram account.

Not only can it help you grow your mobile food business… if you use it correctly. If you think your account could use some clean up and/or tender loving care, check out our quick tips to improve your presence on the Instagram platform.

Use photos of more than food

If you’re running your food truck kitchen properly your food looks great, and you want to show it off to customers. But if picture after picture simply showcases plates full of food, there is a good chance your customers will end up getting bored. It’s important to take pictures of things other than food. Consider posting pictures of your staff members, your truck’s awesome wrap, promotions, and more. This will show your personality and makes your feed a lot more interesting.

Ask questions

Just like any other social media platform, it’s important to engage your customers and encourage them to share. One way you can do this is by asking questions and getting your customers to post their photos. You could ask customers to share images of them eating your food, or something as random as a picture of something they wish you had on your menu. This will get your followers involved in more than looking at your photos.

Don’t use crappy photos

Of course, this should go without saying, but it’s extra important: make sure your photos showcase your food truck’s brand. Poor food photos won’t get you more followers or encourage anyone to track down your truck to wait in line for something that looks unappetizing. You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional photographer, but you do need to make sure your truck and your food look great.

Use hashtags

Never forget about the power of the hashtag. Just like they work on Twitter and more recently on Facebook, hashtags can help your customers find you. For example, let’s say your food truck is based in Phoenix. By hashtagging your photo with #Phoenix or #PHX, anyone searching for that tag (including potential customers) will come across your photos.

Offer deals

Hey here’s an interesting twist…promotions! Give your current and prospective customers a reason to follow you. Sharing photos is great, but make sure your customers are also getting something. A recent trend I’ve noticed is trucks that share photos of their new promotions or share discount codes. If customers know they’ll be the first to find out about new deals, they’ll be more likely to follow you.

Instagram can be a great way to build business and increase sales, but only if you use it right! By using this guide, you can improve your food truck’s Instagram account immediately.

If you have any Instagram tips you’d like to share, please feel free to add them to the comment section below.

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website building mistakes

Most new food truck owners I’ve spoken with, dream of having an awesome website for their mobile food business.  The site will look great, attract new customers and acts as a virtual promoter 24 hours a day.  While this can be achieved, the reality is that the road to creating a great website for your food truck is usually filled with potholes.

Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a developer to help build your site, there are a few things you should watch out for when you get started.  These are 5 of the most common mistakes I see vendors make when they start developing the website of their dreams.

Not Owning The Domain

This is more common than you may think.  Whoever owns the domain name owns and controls everything.  All settings and changes originate from the Domain Name Service (DNS), which is controlled by the person who owns the domain.

Whether it’s good or not so good intentions, sometimes a web designer may tell the novice website owner, “don’t worry, just pick the domain you want and I’ll take care of it for you”.  What this usually means is that they have purchased the domain under their own account and thus own the domain.

What you can do

Be sure that you are the one who actually purchases the domain name.  There are services like Go Daddy that make it easy to buy a domain name, which costs less than $15 a year.

Using a Free Website Hosting

Using a free hosting solution like Tumblr or WordPress.com, which is the self-hosted version and highly recommended) may seem like a great way to save a few bucks when you’re first starting out, and these are great solutions…..but not for a business.

A free hosting solution will usually offer you a free sub-domain on their site, such as: “Myfoodtruck.wordpress.com” with the option of adding your own domain “mywebsite.com” for an additional fee.  First of all, you should never create a business site as a sub-domain off of one of these sites, it screams the fact that you’re cheap, not-committed to your mobile food business and may not be around for long.  The other problem is that you have no control over your server, meaning if it slows to a crawl or your site goes down completely, it can be difficult to find customer service to fix it.

While the free model for food truck marketing has worked well for many, when you use a free service, you are not the customer, you are the product.

What you can do

Purchase your own hosting like InMotion Hosting or BlueHost, which offer plans that start at less than $5 bucks a month.  From there you can use a CMS such as WordPress.org to build your website which you will host on your own server.

Not Using a Common Content Management System (CMS)

If a developer tells you they have their own CMS solution that they want you to use, run for the hills. Popular open source Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Drupal, will work just fine for a food truck vendor’s needs.   These platforms have been tested and improved upon over the years and have huge communities of developers who continue to add value to those platforms.

So why would a developer want you to use their own CMS?  Basically it’s a “lock in” feature, meaning that once you start up with them, it is very difficult for you to leave.

What you can do

Insist on using an open source CMS like WordPress for a traditional food truck site.  If you ever need to leave your current developer, there are thousands of developers at your fingertips that can easily take over that project for you.

Creating a Blog Separate From Your Main Website

This is a fairly common problem I have found with some food truck owners.  They create their main site, often a static HTML site and then create a blog on a free platform like Blogger for their blogging.  The reason they usually do this is that their main website is either an HTML site or some complicated CMS, where they have no clue how to use it and blogging platforms like Blogger are simple to set up and use.

The problems with this approach:

  • You have two separate websites to manage.
  • They look, feel and act differently from each other.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is spread out over two different websites.

What you can do about it

Make your blog part of your main website.  If you use a CMS like WordPress, it’s simple to add a blog as it comes installed already.  In basic terms, it will look like this: “www.myfoodtruck.com/blog/the-name-of-blog-post”.

By adding the blog as part of your main website, you can use it to help build the search rankings for your entire website.

Letting Your Someone Else Write The Copy On Your Site

It’s amazing how many people spend time and money building a website for their food truck business, and then blow it by treating the actual copy as an afterthought.  The words on your food truck’s website are what actually sell your brand.  This should be one of the most important steps in the entire website development process, yet many vendors spend very little time on it or hand the responsibility to someone, who doesn’t know you, your concept, or your menu.

Your designer or developer may tell you they can create the copy for you for an additional charge.  It’s an easy upsell for them, poor results for you.

What you can do about it

Once you have your food truck website layout completed and you know what pages will be created, you need to get yourself someone who can write.  There is a big difference between a writer and a copywriter, a copywriter writes with the intent to persuade and sell, which is what you want for your food truck website. Even if you have a small budget, you can find quality copywriters locally or online at sites like Elance.com.  With a small budget, I recommend to start with your homepage and main menu page(s).

Get it right from the start

Avoiding some of these mistakes can help any food truck owner avoid headaches later on down the road. Ultimately, my advice is to do your research before spending your heard earned time and money on your food truck’s website.

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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.

Connecting

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.

Learning

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.

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food truck text messaging

If you’re like most food truck owners, you are looking for a simple, in-expensive, yet profitable marketing strategy, than you’re going to love this article.

Running a food truck business revolves round a lot of different variables that can affect your business. Everything from weather, seasons, your parking locations, your staff, and the quality of your food. As a mobile food business owner it’s important to consistently have the line at your service window full.

As a huge food truck fan, I can admit that few people want to step up to a truck with no line. Most customers want to see line full of people (ok maybe not too many), life, and laughter. It’s the social proof that the truck with all the people in line must be good.

It’s important to note that mobile marketing if used properly can be extremely powerful and can fill your line very quickly so please choose wisely on how you use these strategies.

Coupons

A simple, straight to the point coupon never hurt anyone. Many food trucks are seeing great success by simply sending out a coupon or discount to their subscribers. Just imagine, it’s a Wednesday afternoon and you know that every Wednesday is your slowest day so you create a Wednesday texting discount club. Send a $5 off or 15% off coupon via text and you’ll start to see some great results.

“Buy any entree and get a free appetizer – TODAY ONLY”

Meal Specials

Want to attract more traffic and customers to your service window for lunch? Send a quick meal special text message to get the ball rolling.

“Today’s special – Fresh Mahi Mahi Tacos, Fresh Cut Fries and a Drink – Only $9.99. See you soon!”

Order Up Notifications

Stop yelling out the window looking for the customer who is waiting for their order, instead… a text message directly to your customer’s phone. It’s cleaner, easier, and much more efficient for your business.

“Your order is now ready. Please come to the service window”

Birthday Reminders

As a food truck you can learn a bit more about your customers, gather their birthday information, and send them a special gift on their birthday or leading up to their birthday so they can choose your place for their birthday breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

“Happy Birthday! Find us today and get a FREE Burger”

Raffles

Some trucks I have visited have a “card bowl” at their service windows. This is a great way to collect your customer’s information for later follow-up. If you are running a contest or a raffle, you can send a text message to the winner or simply send out a coupon to all of the subscribers to bring more customers to your food truck.

“Congratulations! You won a $25 gift card from our truck! Please show this message to our service window staff to claim your prize.”

Have you used text messages in your mobile marketing strategy? Let us know how it worked for you.

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10 hiring mistakes to avoid

Hiring staff members for your mobile food business is hard work. When you are a food truck owner and you don’t have an HR department to help there is a lot of opportunity to make a lot of hiring mistakes.

Here are 10 that you should avoid:

Hiring friends

This is actually two mistakes rolled into one. Usually when you hire a friend you don’t really consider whether the friend is the best person for the job. The first mistake is to hire without getting as many candidates to apply as possible (more candidates means a higher chance that at least one of them is great). The second mistake is that since your friend may not be the most qualified, you may have to fire them someday. Not only will you lose an employee but in many cases also a friend.

Reviewing each resume

If you’ve done the first thing right and properly advertised to fill a position, you’ve attracted a pool of great candidates, which could end up as 25 to 50 resumes. You certainly can’t screen all 50 of them quickly; there just isn’t enough time in the day. If you don’t have any other employees to help you, explain in your ad how long you expect the process to take.

Skipping the phone screen

Once you’ve finally screened all of the resumes, you will likely still have 5 – 10 good candidates; too many to efficiently meet face-to-face for a busy food truck owner. Your next step should be a phone screen. A 15 – 20 minute phone conversation will help you see if this is a person you’d like to meet. What have they really done? Do they care about the things you care about? Are they on time? The phone screen is a great way to eliminate some folks that you don’t want to even spend 5 minutes with face-to-face.

No written questions

If you go into the face-to-face interview without questions that you plan in advance and write down for yourself, the interview has as much predictive value as a coin flip. Instead, write some questions down. Ask about the candidate’s actual experience (what did you do in that role?) and some behavioral interview questions. Ask each candidate those same questions to get an apples-to-apples comparison.

No testing

There are some things that are easy to assess in an interview and others that are hard. If you are hiring line cooks, you should ask them to cook something for you. Ask service window staff to sell to you. You want to see someone demonstrate their skills. Good candidates will leap at the chance to show their stuff.

Doing it alone

You need some other eyes and ears on the candidate too. Some truck owners do tandem interviews, where you have one person asking questions and another listening. Others let the candidates’ future peers have a crack at them.

Hiring too fast

When you have an open position on your team it can be debilitating. You can’t keep doing your job, their job and the job of hiring. I can almost see food truck owners thinking, “I hope this is THE ONE.” When you go into an interview with that thought process you can easily overlook warning signs. You may not probe in areas where you see potential weakness because you don’t want to find weakness. You want this person to be THE ONE.

Not understanding pay

It can be tough to figure out what the market rate for a job is; but you have to know that going into a hiring process. Do some research, look at other food truck job postings or ask other local food truck owners what they pay their staff so you know what to expect.

Not selling your business

It’s easy to be critical of the candidates and you should. But if you’ve got a good candidate you need to also sell them on your mobile food business. They need to know that you want them and that this position has exciting possibilities for them.

Not closing the deal

When you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to make a solid offer. Don’t try to low-ball them; make an offer that they will feel good about accepting. Be prepared with all the information they will need to make a decision, such as benefits and vacation time. Show enthusiasm that you really want them on the team and you can see them making a big difference in your food truck business’s performance.

Hiring staff members for your mobile food business can be hard, but if you avoid these mistakes you’ll have a better chance of success.

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10 commandments of starting a food truck business

From my years of covering the mobile food industry and speaking with some of the most successful food truck vendors, I have created this list of 10 factors that most often contribute to the ultimate success or failure of any new food truck.

  1. Thou Shall Work In Foodservice Industry First. Cook, clean and manage some personnel. Hands-on experience working with staff and serving the public will tell you if you are a fit for the mobile food industry. If this isn’t a possibility, speak with folks who can explain the hours and tasks a food truck owner needs to be able to deal with to succeed.
  2. Thou Shall Define Your Concept. Don’t try to do too much. You can add and modify a little as you go to stay fresh, but don’t confuse the customer with too much at your grand opening.
  3. Thou Shall Research Local Food Truck Legislation. Not understanding how your local municipality regulates the mobile food industry can quickly lead to improper food truck builds, wasted time and money. This research will also inform you what it will take and how much it will cost to get fully permitted and licensed.
  4. Thou Shall Plan Ahead. Building a successful food truck business requires a lot of planning. This must include creating a fully executed business plan. This tool will help you (and possible investors) understand your concept and what you will need in order to operate and thrive.
  5. Thou Shall Lead & Supervise. Be involved in everything from the layout and construction of your food truck kitchen to the hiring of employees. Opening a food truck requires an owner who is present and leads their mobile food business.
  6. Thou Shall Preform Site Selection. You don’t have to be an expert in market analysis, but before you start, select a few local spots where your truck will operate. Once again, speak with food truck owners in your area, almost all of them will tell you their experiences with certain parking locations.
  7. Thou Shall Develop A Budget. Don’t forget the little things when budgeting for your first year of business. Build in contingency and operating capital for at least your first six months of operation.
  8. Thou Shall Select Your Suppliers. Visit and compare your bakery, produce, meat and grocery suppliers. Team up with businesses based on service and quality, not just price.
  9. Thou Shall Conduct Training. You only get one chance to open. Allow employees enough time to learn your systems and hold two or three dry -run tests before your grand opening.
  10. Thou Shall Never Fear Failure. In order for you to succeed you need to face risks. Believe in what you are doing.

What say you? While there are plenty of other issues new food truck owners will face, I felt that these 10 commandments are the top factors someone planning to start a food truck business needs to understand.

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top 10

You’ve done it; you’ve built your food truck, perfected your menu, gained all of the required licenses and permitting and now it’s time to hit the streets…RIGHT? Wrong! There is one more step you need to take before your truck hits the street.

What is this mystery ingredient? It’s the ingredient we’ve seen numerous food truck operators miss that leaves their grand opening turn out less than expected.

You must build buzz around your food truck by contacting the media, posting press releases, using social media, and taking part in events, awards and other activities to get the word out about your new, mobile food business.

But before you move forward, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Here are 10 things to avoid when starting your food truck PR efforts:

  1. Distribute a press release to hundreds of media members via e-mail. It will go in the trash, and your system will probably crash. Find out who your local newspaper and television food editors and reporters are. These are the people you want to build lasting relationships with.
  2. Send out press releases without adding SEO friendly keywords relating to your food truck business and the community you plan to operate in. You are missing out on a great opportunity to snag more online attention.
  3. Pitch a reporter during a deadline. This is the quickest way for your story to be missed or even ignored.
  4. Say “No comment” to the press. There are better ways to respond to questions. If you aren’t comfortable giving the media an answer immediately, let them know that you get back to them with an answer…and then follow up as soon as you’ve gathered yourself.
  5. Hire a publicist who guarantees placement in all of your local media outlets. Due to the nature of PR, this is a promise that is impossible to keep.
  6. Create your own Website without getting outside feedback. You are too close to the information and risk missing some grammatical errors.
  7. Provide content that is boring and old. Instead, offer valuable information for your local market at all times, and you’ll build long-lasting, customer relationships.
  8. Forget to update your Website on a regular basis. How old is the news and information on your site? If it’s not current, you’ll look outdated and lose business to the competition.
  9. Stop communicating with customers. Outside of face to face conversations at your service window, there are numerous processes to create newsletters, blogs, e-mails, social media, and more, there is no reason you should not talk to customers and get their feedback on a daily basis.
  10. Avoid any public relations or search engine optimization activities because you lack the funds. There are free and inexpensive ways to build buzz around your new mobile food business.

For PR and SEO copyrighting success, take the time to provide value to all of your prospective customers and the media, so your food truck builds positive buzz fast. If you aren’t sure if your work is up to par, have a professional copywriter review it or even write it.

best food truck graphic ad
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