Today’s mobile food businesses need to recognize that customer loyalty goes a long way. Continually re-evaluate your approach to customer service.
- Take some time and effort to provide meals based on various dietary needs or allergies. Expanding your customer base through simple changes to some of your favorite menu items can be as easy as swapping out some ingredients for others.
- Use social media to notify your loyal customers about up-coming specials to keep them coming back.
- Make all of your customers feel like a member of your food truck family.
These simple changes or additions to your current customer service plan can help pave the road to continued growth of your food truck business.
When something is new, it’s human nature to treat it like a chore. Chores are often time-consuming and not fun. While I know on weekend mornings, it really only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to vacuum the house, however, the idea of doing it becomes daunting.
If this is how you look at social media for your food truck business, of course it is going to feel overly time consuming and like a chores. You may even figure you just don’t have time for it. However, if you think of it like speaking with your customers at your truck, you will be ready and happy to add it to daily your routine.
Do you already take the time to make sure customers understand your everything involved in preparing your menu items? Do you consider that something you don’t have time for?
Maybe on busy days you do not feel like you have the time; regardless, you still understand the value. Same principle, different audience. Both are your customers.
Many food truck owner forays into social media yield nothing more than wasted time and effort. Before you establish your food truck Twitter account or start a Facebook page, step back and think about what messages will be relevant to your customers or potential customers.
Of course you want to send out your next location or your special of the day/week, but if your other communications aren’t useful or interesting to them, you might as well be tweeting into a black hole.
Start by understanding the conversations that are already happening around your food truck. Then craft messages accordingly.
Before sending anything out, ask yourself:
- What value does this message carry for our customers?
- What action are we hoping to inspire?
If you don’t have a clear answer to each of these questions, it’s time to return to the drawing board.
It’s not always easy to have friends at work when you own a food truck. The most important owners need to maintain their leadership and friendships is courage and the willingness to act in the face of emotion. Three tactics can help you navigate this and at the same time make you a better mobile food vendor.
- Have a strong, clear commitment to your business objectives. If you want to achieve something, you must be willing to make hard decisions. Be transparent, upfront, and passionate, even as others, including friends, disagree with you.
- Develop your friendship skills. Skills like integrity, listening, and setting strong boundaries, can help you manage dual roles of friend and food truck owner.
- Be prepared to lose the friendship. Recognize that you ultimately can’t control what happens to a friendship. Some people might not be able to live with the decisions you make. Learn to deal with the loss and move on.
I’ve recently noticed that many food trucks tend to forget the word “social” in social media. They may post location updates on Facebook or compose tweets on Twitter, but they don’t progress further than that. They never take the time to read the replies or actively engage by responding to their followers. Ultimately this is the reverse of what social media is all about and every food truck vendor should take full advantage of the many social media platforms at their disposal.
If the number of social media platforms stresses you out…instead, focus on your customers and learn how to engage with them more effectively. Significant time is spent on researching how to use various social media tools, but understanding your customers and how they react on social media will be more beneficial to your mobile food business in the long run.
Food truck owners are always looking to save as much money as they can to help keep their profits up. Food waste is one area that can help this cause that often overlooked. Starting today, we will filter in some handy cost saving tips that you can use to keep your food yield as high as possible.
Have you ever open a jar of honey to find that it’s turned into an awful looking crystallized mass? Instead of throwing it in the waste basket, try this trick to bring honey back to it’s original state:
- Place the jar in a bowl of hot water until the honey is smooth and runny, this should only take 5 to 10 minutes.
To prevent crystals from forming again, store the honey in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) and avoid the introduction of moisture.
Surviving the inevitable ups and downs of being a food truck owner can be tough, but persistence is an essential skill for a culinary entrepreneur. Here are three tips for seeing your mobile food endeavor through:
- Don’t predict your failure. It’s easy to see everything that could go wrong in your mobile food empire. Instead of looking at all of the possible future failures you could see, focus on the task at hand of you and make it a success.
- Don’t let feelings get in the way. You may not feel like doing another draft of your business plan or pushing for a 30 day credit line from your suppliers after you’ve heard “no” too many times. But do what you must despite how you may feel.
- Lean on your family and staff. When you’re having a bad day or feel like it’s not worth all the effort, talk to your family inside and out of your food truck and share what you’re feeling.
I spend a lot of time in food truck lines and I have seen good service, I have seen absolutely spectacular service and I have seen down right awful service.
Today’s Tip of the Day comes from the service I saw at a food truck a couple of months ago.
The customer in front of me had a bill for $12.50. They promptly handed the service window attendant a $20 bill. What happened next took me back…the server asked, “Do you need any change?” Huh? Were they really angling for a $7.50 tip?
What’s worse in my opinion was that the customer wouldn’t have gotten back something even close to what they might if they left a 20% tip. In this case it makes the customer feel stingy for not leaving a nearly 80% tip.
If you are a food truck owner you should be training wait staff that the correct phrase would be “$7.50 is your change” while extending the change back to them. This gives the customer the opening to say “That’s OK” if they intend for them to keep everything.
Don’t let the first day you open your service window be your official “Grand Opening”.
A reader of Mobile Cuisine is a friend of a food truck owner that sells different coffees and gourmet breakfast sandwiches. Because of their excitement to get open as soon as possible, they pushed up their grand opening 2 weeks earlier than they had originally planned. Unfortunately the food truck owner has virtually no experience running a business. They have never taken inventory, run a cash register, or even opened an Excel spreadsheet.
It is always recommended to have a soft opening a week or two before you make your Grand entrance into the market. During that time you have a chance to adjust your menu by eliminating or adding some items, take customer suggestions, or even rework the operational flow in the kitchen if its needed. You can let people know you’re open but don’t do any marketing or advertising. This will result in a small steady stream of people who will already be familiar with you and your staff personally. Basically this time will allow you to work out the kinks on a very forgiving customer base.
You get ONE opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t mess yours up by bringing in the local customer base on the first day you open your business. You may never get the chance to bring some of those customers back again.
In owning a mobile food business, just as any other food service industry business, critique is often negatively equated with criticism. But constructive criticism is essential in any arena that requires creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Since leadership requires all three, food truck owners need to be sure they are not only open to criticism, but that they actively seek it out. Ask your staff members, other food truck owners and customers — to poke holes in your menu items, customer service and operations.
Critique can be a useful approach to test ideas and keep your mobile food business relevant.