Tags Posts tagged with "Mistakes"

Mistakes

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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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instagram mistakes

With over 55 million pictures shared daily and 150 million monthly active users, there’s no denying that Instagram should be part of a food truck’s social media marketing strategy. That’s a huge audience that you can tap into by using Instagram to promote your food truck.

Be careful though, if used improperly your Instagram account could actually hurt your mobile food business. That is, unless you avoid the five most common Instagram mistakes.

Negligent Ownership

In this way, Instagram is just like any other social media platform. There’s no point in signing up for an account if you’re not active or engaged with your followers. A neglected account just makes you and your truck look lazy. If you haven’t bothered to post a picture in months, some customers might even assume you’re closed. Remember that there are millions of pictures being posted on Instagram every day, hour, and minute. If you don’t want to be forgotten, you need to post regularly.

Repeating Content

There’s nothing wrong with some self-promotion across multiple social media platforms. But if your Instagram account is nothing more than another place to show all of the same pictures you’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter, then what’s the point? Why would anyone follow you if they follow you elsewhere and the content is the same? Be sure you’re offering something different.

Not Editing Yourself

Of course you want to show off the food you are serving, but it’s important to make sure your food actually looks good. It’s way too easy to take poor quality food photos. You want to attract customers, not make them think twice about visiting your truck.

Lack Of Engagement

Just like every social media platform we’ve covered, we are going to stress that you need to be engaging your customers. If customers post pictures that relate to your truck, like them. Follow your customers and other businesses in your community. Try hosting a photo contest.  Actually interact with your customers instead of just posting photos.

Not Having Fun With It

Instagram is a great way to show off a side of your business other platforms can’t. Be careful not to only post carefully composed shots that don’t show customers anything new. Show off what’s happening at the grocery store, at the commissary or inside the truck. Customers want to get a sense of who you really are behind the scenes.

Instagram can be a great way to engage your current and prospective customers…if you do it right. Remember these tips and you can avoid five common Instagram mistakes.

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food truck accounting

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 accounting mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

Keep Consistent

One mistake 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 problems 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 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

Finally, 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.

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How much should you charge for your the items on your food truck’s menu?  How do you know if that price is right?  If your prices are too low, you’ll be working really hard for low profit margins.  If they’re too high, many of your customers may seek out alternatives.

food truck menu pricing mistakes

Because pricing is one of the most important drivers of a food truck’s profitability, getting your menu prices wrong can cause a significant dent in your bottom line, and it can make the difference between remaining profitable or having to shut down your mobile food business.

The most common mistakes food truck vendors make when it comes to pricing are usually due to a disconnect between price and value.  When you undervalue your menu products, you set prices that are too low.  On the other hand, over-pricing is a sign that your customers do not perceive the value of your food as indicated by your prices.

Here are the two biggest menu pricing strategy mistakes:

Cost Alone

It goes without saying that you should know exactly how much it costs you to plate a dish from your food truck menu.  However, this number should only serve as a price floor, not as an overall strategy.  While taking your cost and adding a markup may seem like a good idea, this often isn’t the case.  The main reason is because this approach completely leaves the customer out of the equation.  In all honesty, they don’t care about your internal costs.  Just because something is expensive to serve doesn’t mean it is perceived as valuable.  On the other hand, something that is inexpensive to make may be extremely valuable to a hungry consumer.  When it comes to pricing, customers think in terms of whether something is “worth it” to them.  If it is, they’ll buy it; if not, they’ll pass.  Aligning price with the perception of value is the key to getting it right.

The Competition

The easiest way to set prices is to look at all your competitors’ prices and set your number somewhere between the highest and the lowest.  After all, it may seem logical to sit right in the middle.  There are several problems with this approach.  For one, very few food service establishment menus are exactly identical.  You need to know exactly how your products are different or better than your competition, and price based on the unique benefits you provide your customers.  You also need to clearly communicate those benefits to the customers waiting in line to be served, so they understand what they’re getting for the price they’re paying.  Last but not least, it is highly possible that your competitors are not pricing their products correctly in the first place, so following their lead can wreak havoc on your profitability.

While there is no real test to determine whether your prices are set correctly, knowing and understanding the way your customers think and make decisions will go a long way towards pricing for value.  Using a strategic approach when it comes to pricing will help your food truck remain profitable over the long term.

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Many food truck owners miss out on the great opportunity that the Internet provides for their mobile food business by making costly blunders with their web sites. Let’s take a look at ten common mistakes frequently encountered at food truck web sites.

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Hide and Seek

For some unknown reason, there are food truck sites that hide their contact information. This really is lesson number one when building your website. Have your contact information in very easy places to find. You should also have a special “Contact Us” page with more details including catering, hours and other pertinent information. Hide and seek is a fun game when you are a kid, but not on a website.

What’s on the Menu

Your menu is the number one thing that customers look for at a food truck web site. Are you taking full advantage of posting your menu online? Prices should be included and there should be a printable version of the menu available as well, perhaps in a PDF format. Exceed your web site customer’s expectations by posting the most effective menu presentation possible.

Lack of Photography

Nothing else can convey the brand image of your food truck better on your site than quality photography. There is no reason for your web site not to have a variety of beautiful four-color photographs especially since there are no real size constraints with a website like there are in traditional advertising. Photos of your food, your truck, as well as your people can make a major impact.

Who Works in Your Food Truck?

Time and again, I encounter food truck sites with no evidence that any real people work there. This is amazing to me because your people are your mobile food business. Show them off – because this is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other trucks that make your truck special. Who’s in the kitchen, the service window, and who are the owners. Include pictures and bios of as many people as possible.

Hello?

You’ve got to think of your website much like your business telephone. Your goal may be to answer every call within two rings. Likewise, your goal should be to answer every email inquiry that comes from your site within 24 hours (or sooner). Emails, like phone calls are business leads, and customers taking the time to email are serious about contacting your food truck. Respect this and take advantage of prompt follow-up to win business.

No Email Communication

If your food truck is not using email to communicate with customers, then you are missing out on a big opportunity to promote your business and build a loyal customer base. At minimum, you should have a form on your site for customers to sign up for a newsletter or event information. Follow up with regular, timely emails to your list. This is perhaps where many food trucks stumble, yet this is precisely where the most opportunity exists. Contacting your customers on a regular basis with information that they have requested is one of the smartest marketing moves that you can make.

Happy Mother’s Day

This may be a big event for your food truck with a special menu, music and maybe even flowers. I don’t want to read about it in September though! Your Events or What’s New page needs to be fresh and relevant. This area of your site should be a tool to actively promote your food truck and drive business in, and having old information here is a web site sin.

Design and Brand Disconnect

Upscale food, but low scale graphics and site design. It happens all the time on the web. Your cousin’s friend could build your web site 10 years ago, but not today. Your web site is an extension of your brand.  In simple terms, make sure that your web site creates the correct expectation of the dining experience.

Not For Sale

Your food truck’s web site should sell for you 24/7 with no breaks. Many mobile food business sites make the mistake of solely being a content site – i.e. name, menu, phone number. The best web sites look at their Internet program as an integrated marketing and sales tool. They do things like take sell merchandise, help book catering, and promote gift cards. Is your site selling for you? If not, then you’ve got some work to do.

Now Hiring

Throwing a big bright orange “Now Hiring” sign in your truck’s service window can be a bit tacky for sure. Having an Employment Opportunities section on your website is not tacky in the least. Take advantage of your website to spread the word about what a terrific place your truck is to work by posting open positions with detailed job descriptions. Build an online job application form, and include information of how prospective employees can best submit their information.

If you are looking for strategies to incrementally increase your business, then take a good look at your web site to ensure that you are not committing any of these web site sins. These ten mistakes are all easily avoidable and must be reconciled in order for a food truck to successfully capture business from its Internet efforts.

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Most food truck product ideas that fail do so because they are never synchronized with a well thought out ‘Menu Execution Strategy!’ Since “ideas” are a dime a dozen, rarely do menu ideas cause a food truck failure. Rather, most menu ideas sink because they are supported by a weak menu execution strategy – and the same could be said for many QSR menu product failures.

Common-Mistakes

Origin of food truck menus

I trust that we can agree that most food truck ideas originate from either a Mom’s, Grandmother’s, or family heirloom recipe. The same principle also applies to ethnic product recipes like Korean BBQ ribs. Unfortunately, most of these recipes are limited in scope such as one or two products – which is not enough to make a menu to build a brand around. A stronger brand, and the execution of new products, translates into a stronger business strategy and financial model.

Food truck comfort foods

A second driving characteristic of food truck menus is the concept of ‘comfort foods.’ Comfort foods reflect those menu items that have a degree of flavor familiarity, contain locally grown ingredients, contribute to eating indulgence (without guilt), and provide a “one-up” eating experience.

Menu execution mistakes

New food truck operators can significantly improve their business bottom line profits through avoiding the following food menu execution pitfalls:

  1. Resist the urge to sell large numbers of core products. Instead, build a menu around a limited number of core protein-based products like chicken, seafood, beef and pork. Remember that core protein products also represent the highest food costs, and the highest end-of-day food cost if they are not sold. The driving principle is to manage down core protein food product availability, portion size, and food costs.

Find the entire article by Darrel Suderman at Pizza Marketplace <here>

 

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Family Business

Starting a food truck as a family business seems like as natural as starting up a family business in any other industry but at the same time it can also create some unique problems. If it is done properly it can bring in a steady income and keep your family employed for years. Done improperly it will keep attorneys paid and employed instead.

Starting a business with family members can truly be rewarding but if you have committed any of the following oversights, you need to take care of them as soon as you can. And if you’re considering launching a mobile food business with family members, don’t even think about cutting corners and making these potentially fatal blunders:

Mix family finances with the business’s

A lot of family run businesses start as a side job or a hobby that eventually turns into a money maker.  When you start to outgrow that stage, you need to look into housing it in a formal legal entity like a limited liability company or a corporation.  This is especially important if a number of family members might be liable, as would be the case if, say, they signed for loans or chipped in cash or otherwise could be considered partners. Without this protection, you all could end up bankrupt if something goes wrong. That’s not the kind of family sharing you want.

For most small family businesses, an LLC is a great choice.  It gives personal liability protection like a corporation, without formalities like a Board of Directors or meeting minutes.  An LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity, so business profits flow through to the owner(s) and the LLC pays no separate tax on profits. Also, having a legal entity allows for easier transition planning.

If you don’t form a legal entity like an LLC, or if you want to do business under a catchier name, you need to file for DBA or a “doing business as” status.  This is simply a way of stating that your business name is not the same as that of the legal entity controlling it. In many states, not having a DBA will make it hard to open a business checking account and may even keep you from being able to sue a vendor or customer who wronged you.

No employment agreements

You may not want to discuss with Dad what will happen if he calls in sick too many times or how with Grandma how much money she has to pay you. But everyone in a family business has to make their expectations clear about employment, operations, even dissolution. And you have to put the agreements in writing. It may seem awkward to talk about it now, but it will be ten times more awkward after something goes wrong.  And something will.

No succession plan

The last thing you want to think about in a family business is what will happen to the company if you are hurt or pass away.  It’s no fun to think about, but you should consider who will run the business, either temporarily or permanently, if you can’t run it.

In a mobile food business you may want to identify a professional who might be interested in purchasing your business. Spend time with this person and get him or her acclimated to what you do and how you do it. Introduce them to your recipes, suppliers, payroll, payment issues, website and social media access and a host of other contacts and tools they will need to take over.  Let others know you’ve designated an heir and mention it in your will.

Remember that if you do not have a formal legal business entity like an LLC, your food truck business technically passes with you.  With the right structures in place you can leave your ownership (or fractions of it) to your loved ones in your will, and they can keep running the business in the same name without interruption. After all, that was the point of having a family run food truck business in the first place, wasn’t it?

 

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