If you have heard of Ben & Jerry’s, Kenneth Cole, or Toms Shoes then you get the concept behind socially responsible companies. We celebrate these companies for making meaningful impacts and aligning their business missions with social causes. But, have you considered that food truck businesses can be structured to be socially responsible companies?
Besides the obvious good vibes that business owners get from positively impacting their communities in purposeful ways, there are benefits to the bottom line as well. The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility reported that 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for products or services provided by socially responsible companies. More than 65% of employees would rather work for a company that contributes regularly to a social cause.
Drive Change is an example of how a mission driven food truck can flourish. Operating in New York City, their food truck, Snowday, uses the food truck work environment to employ young people returning home from prison to help them transition back into society. The food truck is routinely booked, has won a Vendy Award, and is a crowd pleaser in New York City. Transforming your food truck business into a socially responsible model can be a win-win. Here are a few ideas about how to get started.
Five Ways That Food Trucks Can Become Socially Responsible
Portion of Proceeds
The easiest way for your food truck to quickly adopt a socially responsible model is to choose a non-profit organization and begin donating a portion of all proceeds. Here are a few examples of how that can work:
- 1% of all combo meals will be donated to XYZ charity.
- Once daily sales reach “X,” donate “X” to a local charity.
- 3% of all profits help support the XYZ Foundation.
Any variation of “a portion of the proceeds” can be used to contribute regularly to a community organization in exchange for marketing and publicity.
A bit more tricky, a BOGO food truck agrees to match for each item sold. If your food truck has a specialty item, the promotion can look something like this:
“Buy one “specialty item” from XYZ food truck and we will feed one homeless person a hot meal.”
Partner with a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to facilitate the donated meals.
Commit to hire an underserved segment of your community, such as recovering addicts, veterans, or the homeless. Make it the mission of your food truck that “X” percent of your employees will fall into this demographic. Drive Change has implemented a one year fellowship for young people returning home from prison. The fellowship is in its third year and is reporting success.
Another way to demonstrate social responsibility is to encourage employees to get involved by compensating for volunteer hours. Partner with a local organization, like the Boys and Girls Club or Habitat for Humanity and offer to pay employees for a set number of volunteer hours each month. Employee volunteer programs cultivate a healthy work/life balance for employees while earning “socially responsible” status for your food truck.
Feed Customers Responsibly
Focusing on environmentally friendly operations and providing ethically sourced foods can make the world a better place. Clover has created a brilliant business based on this belief that includes twelve locations, two of which are food trucks. They participate in farm shares, keep their menu simple and locally grown, and are transparent about ingredients. Their mission resonates with their customers, who flock to their locations and do not mind paying a bit more to eat food that helps the community and is healthy. Start small and consider introducing a few locally grown menu items and see how it goes.
The Bottom Line
There are limitless ways to position your food truck business as a socially responsible staple in your community. The first step is to decide what issue is important to you, commit to it, and start brainstorming. When your food truck positively impacts the community, issue press releases and don’t be afraid to request marketing opportunities in exchange for your contributions. Socially responsible food trucks are a win-win opportunity.
About The Author
Julie Wilson earned her M.P.S in Publishing from The George Washington University and writes several blogs in various industries. She is a Managing Partner for ProblemSolutionHQ, a software company committed to developing simple solutions for small businesses. She is currently focusing on streamlined food truck solutions with the launch of FreshCheq.com, a food truck food safety app. Julie can typically be found in line at the vegetarian food truck.