Tags Posts tagged with "Staff"

Staff

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take you for granted

You know you are a good boss. You’re fair, you keep your emotions in check and you care about your food truck staff. Unfortunately over time some staff members will take you for granted. This could result in feeling entitled to extra favors, and assuming you make so much money it doesn’t matter. So how does this happen and how can you make a change?

For most food truck employees, if you don’t give them rules and reasons why policies and procedures are in place, they will make up their own. If you don’t provide them, they’ll ask someone else, or base decisions on what they did in their last job and many of these assumptions will be wrong.

7 Common Areas Where Food Truck Staff Take You for Granted

Here’s a quick list of some of the most common problems I have seen over my time working in the food service industry. Do any of them ring true in your food truck and need your attention?

  • Left-over food taken home. I have always found it funny how there’s always a little extra left over after a shift when truck owners allow this policy. If you notice your food costs being higher than planned a simple change in rules needs to be instituted. I’m all for offering staff meals, but not full take-out orders.
  • Continual roster swaps. No one loves organizing shift schedules, and it’s very easy to let staff members make fixes and changes themselves. Unfortunately you can bet that eventually you will end up in a miscommunication and will be short staffed with nobody to cover. If you don’t have one in place already, it’s time to create a Swap & Request Book. It will still need your supervision, but this system is much easier for everyone keep informed and your truck properly staffed.
  • Tardiness. I’m sorry but texting that you will be late 15 minutes before your shift just won’t cut it. If someone continually is late it’s time to give someone an official warning. Everyone knows who the offenders are, and if nothing is done will wonder why it’s tolerated.
  • Phone use. We understand that almost every one of your employees will have a phone with them while on shift, the key is to regulate when they use it. Any time a problem surfaces nip it in the bud before it becomes bigger. Even though for some staff it may be like taking away one of their limbs, if you have issues where staff members are using their phones at the wrong time…have them turn them off and place them somewhere out of their reach. Share the rules and make sure there is secure storage for phones not being used.
  • Poor grooming. Not to come off as stodgy old man but some of today’s common cultural grooming techniques just don’t fit inside a mobile food service business. For men, the daily shave now seems to be optional. If you’re growing a beard, let it grow (but don’t forget a beard guard if you are preparing food). But if you only bother to shave twice a week, it’s now time to make it daily. Your staff manual may need more explicit guidelines, with pictures and clear examples of what’s OK and not OK. Discreet facial studs and rings are also common, but the role of the owner and a food truck’s staff is not to alarm the customers – do you need to tighten up on multi-colored hair, big rings and studs or ear tunnels? It’s not discrimination to enforce a common set of guidelines.
  • The truck is a mess, and it’s not busy. The famous saying, “if there is time to lean there is time to clean” needs to be regularly enforced – do you have a cleaning checklist posted in the truck? If you don’t, it’s time for a change so develop your own.
  • Playing off owners (or managers). As kids, we all knew which parent to ask for certain things, and when. The same thing happens in the business world. You certainly don’t need a 10 page policy on every instance, but there certainly needs to be clearly written directions. If you and your partner and/or managers are getting played by your staff members, put a list together and write up the standard response. Maybe it will be just for the two of you, or you can add it to your food truck policy handbook.

I hope these tips can help food truck owners prevent themselves from being taken advantage of by their employees. If you have any additional areas that I missed, please feel free to add them to the comment section below.

Looking to fill a position in your food truck or restaurant? Place an ad with us to find experienced candidates.

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wear-many-hats

If you’re like most food truck owners, your business card has your title listed as CEO or owner, but you know that on any given day it could just as easily read executive chef, line cook, customer service, marketing manager, technology director, accountant…etc.

Food truck vendors don’t have the luxury of passing duties off to a group of department heads.  The success of your mobile food business depends on your ability to wear all of the multiple hats needed to keep the wheels of your business spinning. At times, the crazy pace needed to operate properly can turn even the most capable person into an overwhelmed culinary entrepreneur wearing far too many hats.

It’s this point that most will begin looking at hiring staff members to help with certain jobs on the truck. Before looking to bring on help, you should sit down and objectively assess your own strengths and weakness. What areas of your business do you love? Where do you need more discipline and development?

By identifying your areas of weakness, you can see where you could best get assistance from an employee. When hiring it’s always best to try to maximize your own strengths and fill in gaps for your weaknesses, rather than just hire for what you’d consider “lower wage” work.

With that said, at some time in the future your business is going to grow beyond your own abilities. This means you need to staff up the truck. While it may seem like a dream that you will be able to delegate some jobs, growth can bring its own set of problems:

  • When you’ve been used to running your business on your own, it can be difficult to relinquish control of day-to-day details. But it’s critical to let go. Successful vendors don’t micromanage what each staff member is doing.
  • Make sure you’re giving your food truck employees the freedom to make decisions (even make mistakes and correct the mistakes themselves). In the long run, you’ll have a wiser, more confident, more effective and more capable crew. And you’ll be able to focus on the strategic aspects of your business.
  • Make sure your staff clearly understands the results you expect. The mark of any good food truck employee is their embracing of the goals you set for your business.
  • Staff must be personally accountable for their actions. The best staff works under general supervision and manages themselves.

Make time to work on your business (not just in your truck).

When you own a food truck, it’s all too easy to get lost in the daily grind inside your truck and put off strategic, long-term planning. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to dedicate time in your calendar each week to consider your business and market trends, think about potential opportunities and do some long-term positioning.

The majority of food truck owners will always wear and point out that they wear too many hats. Make sure these multiple hats are helping more than they are hurting your mobile food business.

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food truck tip of the day

tip of the dayStudies have shown that as much as 90% of learning and career development takes place on the job; which makes sense since continuous learning is a key to building a sustainable career in any field. While some of your staff members may have years of formal culinary education and other that have worked under some of the country’s best chefs…the fact is that you and your food truck managers are going to be their most important career developers while they work for you. Help your food truck team members flourish with these tips:

  • Instead of a yearly conversation about career goals during performance reviews, talk with them frequently. Regular discussions about their career objectives and interests will help them to refine goals and spot opportunities for development.
  • When planning a group project, ask team members to identify both how they can contribute and what they would like to learn. This avoids their volunteering to perform only tasks that they already know they can do.
  • Ask employees to report back  to you periodically on what they feel they have been learning and how they are using their new skills and knowledge to better your mobile food business.

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Over the years we’ve touched on topics crucial to running a successful mobile food business such as type of cuisine, parking locations, commissaries and selecting the right platform (truck, cart, trailer etc…) to serve your food from. In this article we’ll cover aspects that delve beyond those obvious concerns.

key ingredients

The key ingredients that matter most to creating an awesome mobile food business are your food, your staff and you. If done the right way, your food truck, food cart or trailer will thrive in the industry and stay on top.

Here are three factors that will propel your mobile food business to the next level above the competition:

Food Identity

Your food is your business’ identity. You first must portray yourself in a very definable way to your customers so they can equate you as the go to spot for your cuisine. Failure to define yourself is a huge mistake when trying to separate yourself from your competition. For example, let’s say that there are a bunch of burger trucks in your area, which means there has to be something about your food that makes it stand out if you too will be serving burgers.

How To Make Your Food Awesome

  • Uniqueness. Get your customer’s attention with original dishes. If you plan to serve common dishes, add some flair and make them just 10 percent better, you’ll have an inspiring and stimulating menu your customers will get excited about.
  • Go local. Get some local farm fresh produce. Not only are you bringing in very fresh ingredients, you are supporting the local economy. Today’s customers do take notice of this fact.
Supreme Staffing

You need to hire people who have a passion for the mobile food industry, a sense of urgency when handling customers and a willingness to be part of your team. The service experience is right up there with food when it comes to the top two elements to a great dining experience.

Your staff needs to work in sync because if they don’t, you could end up with reviews that minimally praise the food but ruthlessly criticize the service. Customers want to eat great food but at the same time, they want to be treated like royalty.

How To Build An Awesome Staff

  • Processes. Create employee manuals containing your processes and procedures, and ensure they are updated regularly. This gives your staff a way to succeed as a unified team moving in the same direction. There is nothing worse than attempting to manage a bunch of individuals trying to do the same thing, each in their own way.
  • Outstanding training. Your food truck staff has to know their job. Ensure your staff gets thorough book training on procedures along with on-the-job training complete with food tasting and menu education. Basic training should also include job shadowing a veteran staff member. Don’t stop there. Expose the staff member to the other job roles within your food truck. This will allow for position flexibility in case someone can’t show up for work and leaves you hanging.
  • Solicit feedback. Always communicate with them and more importantly, don’t stop listening. Give real-time feedback and think of yourself as a coach to your team. You don’t have to portray yourself as almighty. Look beyond your ego and start putting your people first.
Personality Plus

Food trucks don’t fail, people fail. As the owner, you are the people. Whatever happens under your watch is on you. This could be hiring a truck manager who under-performs or not training your staff to prepare your awesome recipes consistently awesome. Ultimately, the responsibility rests on your shoulders.

How You Can Become Awesome

  • Self-reflect regularly. The toughest thing for anyone to do is critique themselves. It is not in our nature to tell ourselves we are wrong. As a leader, it’s okay to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be exposed. That doesn’t make you weak; it actually makes you more authentic and respectable.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask your staff for honest feedback. Let it be known that honesty is the only way for you to improve as an owner. Don’t forget your staff extends further than just managers and service window staff. You should be listening to your line cooks just as anyone else. Customer feedback is also very important to the growth and development of your food truck. Let it be known that you want to know what customers think to make their experience better.
  • Keep growing. Food truck owners can always improve. What’s more, your staff has great ideas, so ask them. Your mobile food business needs to keep growing to thrive and it’s vitally important you grow with it.

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In the past we’ve talked about how loyal employees create loyal customers for your food truck. Now we want to get into how to create those loyal employees, the rockstars that are invaluable to your mobile food business.

i quit

With people in the foodservice industry switching jobs like they are changing clothes these days, attracting and retaining talent should be one of the most important goals of your business. The rest will come if the foundation is solid. How do you do this?

Make it difficult

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a job at the best companies? Rounds and rounds of interviews.

This seems counter-intuitive on its surface, but so do many things that actually work. Your hiring process should be several steps, with time in between. Quick hiring leads to high turnover almost every time. Do 2-3 interviews with each candidate, with increasingly pertinent questions each time. Ask them open-ended questions that allow for detailed and expansive answers. “Yes or no” questions should be essentially eliminated. Have more than one manager or leader involved with each interview to get different views.

Focus more on whether or not they fit into the culture you want to build than their skill set and resume. These are still important, but you can have the best [fill in position here] in the world, and if their attitude stinks or they don’t get along with others – they are a liability, not an asset.

Train them

If your attitude is “here’s the job description, now go do it”, you probably don’t have the crew you want. There are two things that you should do with every employee on a regular basis, and the first is training.

If the position is so basic that new training is all but pointless, then cross-train them on other positions and responsibilities. Always find some way to build their skill set, to allow them to learn new things and expand their knowledge and experiences, and do it on a regular basis.

Assess regularly

The assessment portion is where most managers fail.

Observation and the recording of performance is only the first step, and most end with simply presenting this to the employee with a grade of some kind. You have to lose the manager mindset and become a coach. Read a book on coaching – actually, read all that you can on the subject.

A weekly or monthly performance review should involve asking more questions than it does presenting your opinions. Learn to approach a situation with “I noticed that you are struggling with…, how do you think you could improve in that area?” Let them use their brains, and beware – they will not be used to this at first, and it will take some time to get them used to it.

Always be constructive, and let them make their own decisions, even if that decision is that they need to leave the company. When you are transparent and up-front about your expectations and about their performance, you never have to fire anyone. They always make the decision on their own to improve or move on.

Set goals with them, not just for them

This is another step in the assessment process, but one that deserves special attention. Every human being has an internal desire to be something more, to do something better, even if they aren’t aware of it all of the time.

If there are paths for promotion in your organization, let them know what they are and what they require. If they are interested, work with them to set up a plan to make it happen, over a planned period of time. Succession planning is a very overlooked part of most businesses, but it is extremely important.

Share your dreams for expansion, and get input from them. Even if you don’t have many promotion paths right now, your vision of the future might, and that is something you can get them involved with.

Always set some kind of goals with them. Ask them what they want in the future, and help them get it. The rewards here can go well beyond the walls of your food truck and return in ways you never imagined.

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tip of the dayDid you snap at a member of your food truck staff who didn’t get their work done? Or did your mistake on the line make a customer wait too long for their food? When your mistake affects someone else, here’s how to make up for it:

  • Admit that you were wrong. Own up to what you did — or failed to do.
  • Show you understand the repercussions. Don’t assume you know how the customer or staff member feels or thinks, but acknowledge that you know you’ve negatively affected them.
  • Tell them what you will do differently. Reassure them that you won’t behave the same way in the future. Be specific about what you will change.

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Maintaining a complete and comprehensive set of employee files is one of the most important things a food truck owner can do to limit their liability as a small business owner. Properly kept employee files can help you stay organized, reduce workers comp claims, lawsuits and even increases in your insurance premiums.

messy-desk

The following article will walk you through the process needed for mobile food vendors to keep a comprehensive employee file for each of your staff members.

There are plenty of human resource management programs on the market today. Some are integrated into timekeeping and payroll software but can cost as much as $10,000. So how does a food truck owner on a tight budget track employee information when they can’t afford an expensive employee management software solution?

The best tool we have found is to create a spreadsheet to track and maintain your food truck employee records. This spreadsheet will allow you to input the most vital staff information will calculate employee absence and tardiness.

Below is a detailed description as to what exactly should be in this the spreadsheet so you can build it yourself at no cost.

Employee Record & Attendance Spreadsheet

One of the main functions of an Employee Record is to record vital employee data. The following information should be included in any basic employee record:

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Birth date
  • Gender
  • Street address
  • City
  • State
  • Zip code
  • Cell/Home phone number
  • Email
  • Start date
  • Position hired for
  • Direct supervisor (if applicable)
  • Emergency contact
  • Contact relationship
  • Contact phone number(s)

In addition to all this basic information, you should also have a digital or written record of every occurrence of all tardies, unexcused absences, excused absences, sick days used, vacation days used and personal days used.

By building the spreadsheet with summation formulas you will be able to track every occurrence listed above day by day. It should also add all the occurrences into total columns for each occurrence so you can view the total number of times they are late as well as excused and unexcused absences, sick days, vacation days and personal days.

With this spreadsheet, your employee information can be tracked digitally to cut down on paperwork. You can also print it to put a copy in the actual paper file for the employees.

Some other items (if applicable) you should store in your employee’s paper file include:

  • Job application and Resume
  • Written Employment Offer
  • Signed receipt for your Employee Policy Manual
  • Signed Job Description
  • Employee Contract
  • Signed Training Manual receipt
  • Copies of completed and signed Employee Evaluations
  • Completed W-2
  • Signed Reprimands along with copies of Employee Policy Manual pages showing which policy the employee violated
  • Signed Customer Complaint Reports or Employee Incident Reports involving employee
  • Signed Employee Benefit acceptance or denial
  • Awards or Bonuses earned
  • Any other contract, agreement or receipt signed by employee
  • Employee Termination Record

PLEASE NOTE: A common form that employers make the mistake of putting in the employee file is the I-9. I-9s should all be kept together in one file separate from employee records. This helps keep the employee records private from federal immigration agents should your I-9s be requested. Also, medical records should not be kept in an employee file. This will keep you compliant with HIPAA rules relating to patient privacy.

I hope this article helps you as a food truck owner to keep employee records that will keep your small food business safe from fines, lawsuits and other liabilities.

If you feel we have left any important employee information out of our suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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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 dayIf you claim that every project or task you assign to your food truck team is critical, it won’t be long before they begin to ignore your sense of urgency and do things at their own pace (which is likely too slow for you). If everything is important or urgent, then nothing truly is.

Use relativity to convey when a project is truly critical to food truck business. Be selective about when you apply pressure or claim that something has high impact on your sales or marketing goals. The less often you raise alarm, the more likely your mobile food employees are to respond how you want them to.

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Your service window staff members have more interaction with your food truck customers than anyone else. If they are well-trained, helpful, and friendly, this can be a good thing. But on the other hand, it can also be a very bad thing.

food truck from sales window

Of course you want these individuals to help your mobile food business, not harm it, so make sure they avoid doing the following things:

Make guests feel unwelcome

Every guest at your food truck should feel welcome. That means greeting each guest as they arrive (either in line or at the window) and being friendly at all times. Service window staff represents the food truck, so they have to be sure they’re courteous at all times.

Be too casual

The flip side of not being friendly enough is being a bit too friendly. Service window staff should never touch customers or interrupt a conversation. And no matter how casual the atmosphere around your truck is, they must always be professional—never touch the rims of cups or the ends of utensils, always write down orders, and remember that the customers aren’t personal friends. They deserve to be treated with respect.

Hide things

Service window staff shouldn’t lie to customers, deceive them, or be anything other than honest. Is there a delay? Tell the customers as soon as possible. Will there be an automatic gratuity added for large parties (if this is policy)? Let guests know, so they’re not unpleasantly surprised. Is there an upcharge for subbing out a side dish? Make sure to mention it. And always let guests know the price of specials and whether the truck is out of something before they order.

Argue with customers

This might seem like a given, but it’s important. The quote, “The customer is always right” is a cliché for a reason! When a customer complains, service window employees should do their best to listen and help. They should fix the problem when possible, or refer the customer to you or the truck manager if there’s nothing they can do. They should never, ever fight with customers or dispute their complaints, even if they’re wrong.

Make the customer feel rushed

When customers come to your truck, it’s a treat. What they don’t want is to feel rushed and pushed out of line so the next customer order can be taken. No matter how crazy the line at your service window is or how many people are waiting in line, make sure customers feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Ask if the customer wants change

This is a simple action that can really make your employees look unprofessional. The customer will let a server know if they can keep the change. Asking just seems presumptuous and rude.

The most important thing for a food truck service window server to remember is to always be friendly, courteous, helpful, and professional. By keeping these tips in mind, your staff can avoid big blunders and keep you from losing sales!

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