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Mentoring For Food Trucks

Many food truck owners start off with the perfect menu but very little practical business experience. That’s why SCORE (Service Corps. of Retired Executives) provides mentoring for food trucks.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses grow (including those in the mobile food industry) and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

Founded in 1964, the organization boasts approximately 400 chapters across the United States. There are four types of mentoring that a current or prospective food truck owner can use, face-to-face, over the phone, by email and teams. They cover the gamut of small businesses and if one mentor may not specialize in one aspect of running a mobile food business, they can easily put you in touch with someone who can.

Their mentoring members cover a wide number of skill set areas, everything from senior management to technical skills to operational human resources.

Their mentors are heads of organizations and have worked for powerful companies. In addition to the weekly mentoring available, SCORE offers low cost classes such as, “The Buzz About Creating Your Own Business,” “How The Right Information Can Make You A Lot Of Money,” “Get More Customers With A Great Marketing Strategy,” and “Making Your Business Profitable, How To Find The Cash In The Cushions.”

These classes are designed to take a novice and teach them how to get all the key tools in place to ensure they’ll be successful. SCORE mentors present the information as well as provide the necessary steps to implement it. For food truck business owners looking for mentoring on a less structured business, SCORE also offers mentoring by appointment which varies from city to city.

The Treats Truck – NYC

For Kim Ima, it was love at first sight – not with a person, but with the idea of the Treats Trucks. Kim wanted to spend her days baking delicious cookies, brownies and other treats and then serve them on the streets of New York, her adopted home town. “It combined my love of baking, my love of treats and my love of the city,” Kim says. “The more I thought about the idea and how it could evolve, the more I wanted to do it.”

There was only one problem; Kim had no idea how to get her idea rolling.

Kim went to SCORE and researched potential volunteer mentors before she requested a meeting with Elliot Merberg. It was then that Kim’s vision was closer to becoming a reality and ultimately did become just that.

Kim worked with Merberg on a wide range of startup issues and other things she needed to consider as she put together the business plan for Treats Truck. “Sometimes when I met with Elliot and he didn’t know the answer to a question, he simply asked someone else to come over and help us,” Kim says. “There were always plenty of people with specific experience to draw on.”

Merberg also helped Kim manage the emotional ups and downs that come with starting a new business. “When I got over-enthusiastic, such as wanting to start with two trucks, he’d advise me to slow down and focus on starting with one,” Kim says. “When I got frustrated about something and was too hard on myself, he’d show me how things were actually going OK.”

Become a SCORE Mentor and provide mentoring for food trucks

Are you, or have you been, a food truck owner? Do you enjoy sharing your experience to others?  Are you willing to commit 10-12 hours per month assisting other culinary entrepreneurs start or expand their mobile food business dream?

If so, SCORE would love to talk with you. You could join a team of local mentors who counsel clients throughout the country, one of which is probably close to you.

To become a SCORE volunteer, go to www.score.org. Or follow them at Twitter@SCOREMentors We hope you’ll consider joining the ranks of 13,000 other volunteers nationwide and become a SCORE mentor and help the mobile food industry continue to grow.

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2014 RAM ProMaster

Food trucks are here to stay, no matter what some bloggers have written.  And after visiting the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last week, it’s clear that the automakers want in on the food truck industry.  I had the pleasure of speaking to two different automakers that are definitely familiar with and looking to promote their commercial offerings to the mobile food industry.

Food trucks aren’t really new in this industry because automakers have been serving food to the media at the Los Angeles Auto Show for a couple of years.  The difference is that more manufacturers are taking a more serious look at this industry with its commercial truck and van segment.

The NAIAS is typically home to major product announcements and launches with global automotive media in strong attendance.  The products on display are primarily consumer automotive while other large shows around the country have a higher concentration of commercial vehicles on display.  Having said that, I was excited to see the Ram ProMaster proudly displayed on the main aisle in the Chrysler family of brands booth.  I was happy to sit down with Robert Hegbloom, the Director of Ram Brand Marketing, to discuss their plans with the Ram ProMaster as it relates to the food truck industry.

Hegbloom believes this product is a smart choice for food truck industry professionals.  Its best-in-class features set it apart from the competition.

I’ve seen all sorts of food trucks around the country and on television.  I’ve spoken to several owners about how they’ve retrofitted their trucks to fit their needs and the problems they’ve had because the truck wasn’t built with their specific needs in mind.

I could rattle off the best-in-class of features directly from the Ram ProMaster media kit, but I’d prefer to elaborate and bring some of it to life for practical food truck purposes.

The fuel economy, cargo capacity and payload are great features.  Fuel economy is key when having to move around several times or make several trips to and from your commercial kitchen to restock or travel long distances to see your customers.  The payload can hold up to 5,145 pounds of equipment and supplies.  The towing capacity can haul up to 5,100 pounds of additional supplies, or your portable smoker and more.

This is the only vehicle in its class with front-wheel drive.  Because of this, the Ram ProMaster is able to offer the lowest step-in height and highest standard ceiling height.  As a food truck owner/operator, you’ll have headspace to work while the lowest step-in height means comfort and reduced fatigue and risk of injuries while getting in and out of the truck.

The front-wheel drive also offers some ease of driving and handling because most of us are used to that in our everyday driving.

The Ram ProMaster is a great utilitarian commercial vehicle whose corporate offices are taking notice of the food truck industry.  It was developed from the successful, long-standing Fiat Ducato.  It has 30+ years of reliable service and more than 4.5 million units sold.

Ram Truck is well known for being the most upfitter-friendly brand in the truck market.  That’s good news for kitchen builders and food truck owner/operators that can work closely with their preferred dealers to customize their kitchens.  Let’s keep in mind that while a full kitchen will fit, the equipment will most likely need to be smaller in scale to fit in this space.  If your kitchen equipment needs and operational staffing are minimal, this can be the right vehicle for you.  Watch for the Ram ProMaster at your local Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Association and various food/restaurant related shows in the future.

Other vehicles in this segment are the Nissan EV, the Ford Transit Connect, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.  All of them bring different features to the party and all are solid commercial vans for food truck use.  They will all be discussed over the next few months.

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The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, as we research for our daily content on food trucks, food carts and street food, we stumble upon some items of knowledge that we just did not know. We have decided when these fun facts pop up, that we would share them with our readers in our section titled “Did You Know?”

For today’s DYK fun food facts we will look at Pierogi.

Pierogi Fun Facts

The Facts: Pierogi are boiled, baked or fried dumplings of unleavened dough traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit.

  • The word pierogies is popular in the U.S. and Canada because it underlines a ‘plurality’ of this well-known Polish food. However, this usage is not so appropriate since in fact the word ‘pierogi’ is already plural in Polish language.
  • Pierogi enjoyed a brief popularity as a sports food when Paula Newby-Fraser adopted them as her food of choice for the biking portion of the 1989 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
  • October 8th is National Pierogi Day.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team organizes a ‘pierogi race’ during their games. Four types of pierogi called Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, Jalapeno Hannah and Oliver Onion take part.
  • A small village Glendon, Alberta, Canada unveiled its roadside tribute to Ukrainian pyrogy in 1991. Glendon’s pyrogy is a huge statue of one pierogi put on the fork. The statue is 25-foot height, weights 6000 pounds and is made of fiberglass and steel.
  • The largest edible pierogi was made during Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana. It was a 92-pounds huge pierogi.
  • In November 2005, a woman claimed she had an image of Jesus Christ seared into the side of a pierogi she made. Her family placed the pierogi on eBay and netted $1,775.

Pierogi Facts We Missed

If so, please feel free to let us know in the comment section below. We always love to add to these lists. If we can verify that the facts is just that, a fact, we will give the reader credit in the article.

Reference: Wikipedia: Fun Facts about the Pierogi.

 

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - Last week, I heard that Philadelphia was getting the Philadelphia Public History Truck. I wasn’t sure what a Philadelphia Public History Truck was, or why a Philadelphia Public History Truck was something that Philadelphia needed, so I reached out to its co-founder, 28-year-old South Jersey native and Temple graduate student Erin Bernard, to find out.

Philly Public History Truck

Image from phillymag.com | Mark Krendel

So what the heck is the Philadelphia Public History Truck?
It’s a mobile museum going from neighborhood to neighborhood in Philadelphia, and the idea behind it is that instead of having a public history exhibit where academics have constructed it, the exhibit is community curated. So all of the community members are invited to come together and contribute and share their stories and objects to put into an exhibit.

Why haven’t I seen this on the street yet?
Right now, we’re in our first exhibit cycle in East Kensington. I’ve done oral history interviews, and I have objects that community members have given me. We’re doing a storytelling block party and First Friday at the Little Berlin fairgrounds in October, where I’ll be serving apple cider and pie and taking oral histories.

So when you say it’s a history truck, are we talking like a food truck, a semi?
The truck was a post office truck. Then it was a water ice truck. And we acquired it through the East Kensington Neighbors Association. The president of EKNA, Jeff Carpineta, he gave it to us. He’s been incredibly helpful. I love the truck. It says “Touch of Philly” on the front.

Find the entire article by Victor Fiorilla at The Philly Post <here>

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Charles goodnight

Cattleman and inventor Charles Goodnight was born on March 5th in Texas. As a tribute to the man who may be the one individual most responsible for the food truck industry we have today we have put a short biography together for you.

Charles Goodnight: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Charlie Goodnight, also known as Charlie, was born with the Texas Revolution. He came to the state from Missouri the year Texas entered statehood, and, later, with a handful of men, invented the American ranching industry and the chuck wagon. He is sometimes known as the “father of the Texas Panhandle.” Essayist and historian J. Frank Dobie said that Charles Goodnight “approached greatness more nearly than any other cowman of history.”

The chuck wagon (a cowboy’s portable kitchen wagon used on the cattle trails) was invented by Goodnight in 1866 by using an army surplus Studebaker wagon to create what is considered by many as the first food truck. Goodnight purchased the government wagon and had it completely rebuilt according to his specifications in seasoned bois d’arc, the toughest wood available.

The distinguishing feature of the wagon was the sloping box on the rear with hinged lid that lowered to become a cook’s worktable. The box was fitted to the width of the wagon and contained shelves and drawers for holding food and utensils. Since early 17th Century England, individuals involved in the meat business referred to a lower priced part of the beef carcass as the “chuck.” To the cowboys, “chuck” was food, so the box was called a chuck box and the wagon became known as a chuck wagon.

charles goodnightMost chuck wagons had the same basic design. They were large, sturdy, four-wheeled wagons with bows across the top covered with waterproof sheets. There was usually a cowhide stretched beneath the wagon bed and fastened at the corners; it was used to carry wood or cow chips.

Chuck wagon food was comprised of black-eyed peas, beans, corn and cabbage. Of course, there was lots of beef and bison steaks and stews spiced with chilies, garlic, and onion or the occasional catfish or shrimp caught from the rivers, lakes or coastal waters. Sourdough breads (sourdough bullets), quick biscuits, skillet corn bread and cowboy coffee were served with the meals.

The chuck wagon was drawn by oxen or mules. The wagon usually carried food, eating utensils, a water barrel, as well as tools and bed rolls, all tucked away in drawers and shelves and covered by a canvas covering. A hinged counter that folded out was used for chopping and preparing the food.

Without the chuckwagon’s creation by Charles Goodnight, not only would the trek Westward changed, but who knows if there would be a mobile food industry like we have today.

More on Charles Goodnight can be found at PBS.org <here>

 

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ups-natural-gas-truckNEW YORK (AP) — New York City is getting its first food truck fully powered by compressed natural gas.

Proponents say it’s easier on the environment.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Texas oil and gas investor T. Boone Pickens are discussing the details Thursday at City Hall Park in Manhattan.

How does natural gas compare to diesel?

CNG LNG

Available in compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG), with near-zero emissions, natural gas engines are not only quieter than their diesel counterparts, they’re also decidedly cleaner. Switching to natural gas translates to potentially significant fuel cost savings: As the price of diesel continues to rise, the cost of natural gas remains relatively lower and stable. Federal and state vehicle tax credits—as well as infrastructure tax credits available to green fleets—can greatly reduce acquisition costs.

Is natural gas better for the environment?

By implementing natural gas-powered products, you’re doing your part to help the environment. Some of these new engines reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) up to 20%. By investing in a natural gas-powered vehicle, you’re greening-up your bottom line and the environment.

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Forget Panda Express.The latest in airport dining is food that comes a truck.

airports food truck trend

The Cheesesteak Truck can be found at Tampa International Airport once every week. (Christine Osborn)

It was really just a matter of time. Food trucks have invaded nearly every city in America. Why should the airports — the first glimpse travelers get of the cities they’re visiting — be left out?

A few airports have recently brought food trucks to their cell phone parking lots. Orlando International has six food trucks at its commercial lot and taxi staging area. One — Los Angeles International — even has plans to build a structure that looks like a food truck in Terminal 4, rotating the offerings from the city’s most popular food trucks.

Tampa International has the most robust offering. The program started in mid-November as a way to service the throngs of people waiting in the cell phone parking lot to pick up loved ones during the busy holiday travel season. The 30-day trial was such a success that the airport has extended the program through August, with a new food truck every day. There’s the Cheesesteak Truck, serving the obvious; Nicos Arepas Grill, serving Venezuelan arepas and chachapas; the Dude and His Food, serving burgers, hot dogs and the like; Graffeaties, serving global street food; and several more in the rotation.

And while the program has been successful from a customer-service standpoint, it’s “not a money-making initiative for us,” said Christine Osborn, communications manager for Tampa International Airport. “But it’s really caught on, and customers love it.”

It is, however, making money for someone. Tom Bradley owns the Cheesesteak Truck, the featured food truck at Tampa International that’s there once a week. “At first I wasn’t sure how it would do, but it’s been great for business,” he said while ringing up a customer who was purchasing a cheesesteak. “When you’re on a street corner, you get the lunch crowd, but that’s pretty much it. Here we have a steady stream of business most of the day.

“My favorite are flight delays,” he said, remembering a particularly busy day around Christmas when snowstorms in the North were keeping people waiting for hours in the cell phone lots for loved ones.

The food truck at Austin – Bergstrom International Airport in Texas is also a recent addition: Twist of Spice — serving Tex-Mex, paninis and salads — arrived in the cell phone lot last month. Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook said the pilot program’s been well-received. “The feedback’s been all favorable,” he said. “There are picnic tables to eat at, it’s very pleasant.”

Find the entire article about the new Food Trucks at Airports Trend by Genevieve Shaw Brown at abcnews.go.com

More Food Truck Trend

 

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Numerous food truck vendors have joined Pinterest, the popular visual bookmarking tool. Unfortunately  there are plenty that are making mistakes along the way as they try to figure out how to use the site for marketing their food trucks.

pinterest dos and donts

Pinterest, which launched in 2010, has grown to more than 11 million users. Every day, people use the website to “pin” images and videos to their personal pin boards so they can save and share the things they love. The site gets social when people follow each other and repin or comment on each other’s pins.

The vast majority of Pinterest users are women between the ages of 25 and 34, so it’s a natural place for mobile food business to spend time if they want to connect with that target audience. If you are wondering how to use it, it is easy to get creative inspiration by reviewing other food truck pinboards.

With that in mind, here are some Pinterest do’s and don’ts to help you use the site to promote your mobile food business.

Do’s

Tell stories and tap into emotions. Pinterest is a place for storytelling. Help consumers become emotionally connected to your food truck brand by pinning content that reveals more about your brand personality than just your menu items.

Get social and build relationships. Pinterest is a social destination, so get involved with its community. Find active Pinterest members and build relationships with them by following them, repinning their content and commenting on their pins. The commenting feature in Pinterest is still greatly underutilized, and you can stand out by using it frequently.

Create group pinboards and crowdsource. You don’t have to go it alone on Pinterest. Create group pinboards and invite other users to pin content to those boards. For example, ask customers to pin pictures of them before they eat one of your menu items or while they wait in line to give their order. You also could hold a contest to crowdsource pins. Ask customers to review your food on your website and pin a quote from their review to a special contest pinboard. You benefit from more reviews and a pinboard that’s filled with testimonials.

Don’ts

Use pinterest for direct marketing. Pinterest states that the site should not be used for direct marketing, advertising or sales. Excessive and overt self-promotion is clearly unacceptable, so make sure you’re pinning diverse content, not just pictures of your menu items. You need to get creative and use Pinterest for indirect marketing.

Forget who the Pinterest audience is. Approximately three out of four Pinterest users are currently women. While the site is beginning to attract more male users, you shouldn’t waste time pinning a lot of content that women are unlikely to be interested in.

Pin anything and everything. Cluttering your pinboards with everything you think people might like is a mistake. Just as people don’t like to sift through clutter in search engine results and on websites, they don’t want to be overwhelmed on Pinterest. Stay focused, but don’t be afraid to pin interesting content that your target audience would enjoy and that’s at least loosely connected to your food truck business. This type of content can help give your brand more personality.

 

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Many new food truck entrepreneurs try to keep their existing job until their food truck is established and begins generating enough income to pay the bills. The problem with this philosophy is that starting your food truck business before you quit your job isn’t easy.

juggling jobs

While you juggle your existing job and your new mobile food business, keep these points in mind:

Put Your Existing Job First

Always remember that until you hand in your resignation, your existing job comes first. Before moving ahead with your business plans, make sure you understand the responsibilities and work hours involved in running a food truck.

Balance Your Time

Operating a food truck takes a lot of time. Between the food purchasing, food prep, operation of the truck in addition to all of the marketing and communication involved, many truck owners wish they had more time. Start slow, this may mean operating the truck on weekends or at food truck events to start. This will allow you to concentrate on your job without taking away from your ability to build your food truck brand.

Also, try to meet on weekends with suppliers, potential employees and other people related to your mobile food company. This will help you avoid potential conflicts with your work hours. Avoid the temptation to meet with people before work. Traffic jams and other unpredictable delays can make you late for your job.

Inform Your Employer

If you think your employer will be receptive, tell your employer that you’re starting your own food truck business. That will make it easier to talk to your supervisor about changing your work schedule if you need more flexible hours.

Use Your Own Equipment

Never use your employer’s phones, computers or other equipment or supplies for business related to your own company. If you don’t have a smartphone, invest in one now. Use it during breaks at your job to answer e-mail and make phone calls related to your food truck.

Prepare Your Family

Prepare your family for the prospect that you’ll be working on your new mobile venture on weekends and into the evenings on some weeknights.

Be Patient

Stay focused on your job while you’re at work. You may need that job longer than you expect. You can’t predict how long it will take to get your food truck established.

Did you start your food truck while still employed? Share your tips on how to balance them in the comment section below.

 

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BOSTON, MA - The food trucks that roam the streets of Boston have claimed their top spots for the official start of the city’s mobile vending season.

roxys food truck boston

image from boston.cbslocal.com

More than 50 food truck vendors participated in the city’s annual live lottery of prime sites on Jan. 16 where Edith Murnane, the city’s director of food initiatives, drew names of vendors who then chose shifts at 17 locations throughout the city.

The truck vendors, which offer a variety of fare, will begin serving at their chosen sites and times in April, which is the official start of the 2013 food truck season.

The City of Boston passed the Mobile Food Truck Ordinance in April 2011, launching the Mobile Food Truck Pilot. Under this pilot, 15 public sites were opened in downtown Boston and Boston’s neighborhoods to 15 food truck vendors.

Since Boston’s the 2011 launch, the number of vendors and trucks on the streets has grown steadily. In 2012, 16 new truck businesses and 23 new trucks began operating in Boston, according the city.

The city has also established a total of 18 public sites, including three cluster sites that allow two or three food trucks to operate at a time.

“I’m thrilled that Boston’s food truck program has grown so quickly and has expanded to such a diverse selection of vendors,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement. “My administration has worked vigorously to allow these local businesses grow while providing the public with delicious, healthy, and accessible food.”

The schedule for the public sites as determined by the lottery is available here.

Find the original article by Johanna Kaiser at boston.com <here>

 

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