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So far Food on a Truck has created 6 blog entries.

Instant Customer Feedback Is Essential For Food Trucks

It’s no secret how important customer feedback is to food businesses. In general, when we think of customer feedback we think of the reviews people write on websites like Yelp, Facebook, and Google.

If you’re a business owner, you also know that those websites tend to attract two types of customers: your diehard fans and the one person who had a below average experience and is geared up to write a diatribe for their 1,000 local followers. But what about all of the people in between who you never hear from? Clover-Customer-Survey-Overall

These customers are your “silent majority”. They are the people who could eat at your food truck daily without ever telling you how awesome you are. They are the people who stop by once, who didn’t have a great experience, and will pass you over the next time without giving you the chance to fix the perceived error.

Food-Truck-POS-Customer-Survey

But if you could harness the opinions of your silent majority more effectively, you would actually wind up making better adjustments to your business instead of relying solely on people who think you’re totally awesome or those who think no one should visit your truck ever again.

By using Food on a Truck, you will be able to get customer feedback as soon as customers are emailed their receipt. This gives you the chance to grab customers – and their feedback – before they get to Yelp. When customers feel heard, they often feel better. Giving them the ability to share instantaneous feedback directly to you will make them less likely to take their complaint to a public forum. It also gives you the opportunity to privately respond to more serious negative feedback and create a relationship with a customer who may return if you can satisfactorily respond to their perceived sleight.

customer survey receipt

Printed receipt from Customer Survey, part of the Food on a Truck app package

Having more frequent customer feedback from a wider variety of your customer base also gives you the chance to educate your customers in the specific ways your customer base has asked to be educated: Are they having trouble finding you? Are you not explaining your dishes well enough? Is your truck just not a good fit for certain neighborhoods? These are questions you can answer if suddenly your “silent majority” starts to let you know they wish they had known your signature sandwich contained mayo.

Being clued in to what customers like, and more importantly, don’t like about your business can help you make a variety of decisions as a food truck. This customer feedback can help you more quickly decide:

  • If a hiring decision is working out
  • If the quality of a new meal is up to par
  • If they felt like they were waiting too long

The examples of the way this instant feedback can help you calibrate your business model are endless, but the clear positive effects of it are invaluable.

 

How has feedback helped you improve your business? Let us know on Twitter @FoodOnATruck

By |November 15th, 2015|Categories: blog, growing a food truck business|Tags: , , |0 Comments

EMV: Protect Your Food Truck From New Credit Card Regulations

Come October 1, 2015 there will be a big change in credit card processing. On this date, new credit card standards called EMV will take effect. This switch is an effort by major credit card companies to battle fraudulent charges. The system is already widely used in Europe and it’s now coming to the US where half the world’s credit card fraud happens. The EMV system couples an updated POS system with credit cards that contain microchips instead of the standard magnetic strip we’re used to.

What this means for retailers is that as of October 2015, if a fraudulent charge occurs at your food truck (on a credit card with a microchip) through your swipe and sign POS system, you are going to be held liable for those charges. And yes,  the entire ticket amount!

Food On A Truck is a food truck POS system. We have designed the software specifically with your business needs in mind. This includes protection from credit card fraud. We’ve planned ahead and made sure that our food truck POS system will be able to handle EMV charges so you can focus on food service.

What is EMV?Food Truck

EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa. It references the three companies that began the change in technology to better protect consumers and credit card companies from fraud.

It’s not entirely new technology, the EMV system is already being used in over 80 countries. It’s taken longer to hit the US because of the complexity of the American market. Credit cards with microchips have been around since 2002, you may even have one yourself.

What does it mean for my food truck?

It means that you should update your food truck’s POS system to one that is EMV compliant to avoid taking on the liability of fraudulent charges. Food On A Truck is safe, secure, and already capable of handling EMV transactions. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure that we offer our users the best possible food truck POS experience possible.

Food On A Truck’s POS hardware will be able to accept credit cards with a microchip that don’t require a swipe of a magnetic strip. Customers with these credit cards may have the option (depending on their bank) of attaching a PIN to their card for an additional layer of protection. Food On A Truck’s EMV-enabled POS system will actually read the chip on the card and make sure that it’s valid. It’s an incredibly secure way for your customers to spend money.

How will Food On A Truck protect me?

Food On A Truck is ready and able to handle all EMV transactions. FOAT will:

  • reduce skimming during transactions at your food truck
  • allow your truck’s customers to use a PIN
  • will detect and prevent use of counterfeit, lost, or stolen card

Ultimately, the FOAT system is better for you and your customers: they won’t have to worry about their lost or stolen card being used at an unprotected business and you don’t have to worry about assuming liability for fraudulent transactions. It’s win/win.

What should I tell my customers?

When you’ve switched your food truck’s POS system to Food On A Truck’s app, you can let your customers know that their information is safe. Clover’s system offers a higher level of security than the consumer grade hardware used by other frequently used food truck POS systems like Square.

We know changes like this can be jarring and worrisome for small businesses, but we’re here to help. If you have more questions about how Food On A Truck can help keep your business assets protected, get in touch with us or Tweet at us – we’re happy to help.

Get on Food On A Truck’s email list to be notified about details of our October launch and ensure that your food truck is protected when the EMV switch occurs.

By |September 20th, 2015|Categories: blog, payments|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Facebook For Food Trucks

Like Twitter, Facebook is an integral part of your social media arsenal (followed closely by Instagram, we’ll write about that soon). Facebook is one of the best ways for your food truck to keep in touch with its customers.

As on any social media platform, it’s important to maintain a neutral, friendly tone on your Facebook page. On a Facebook business page, your customers have the ability to not only post to your page (although posts by those without administrative privileges on Facebook are now kept off to the side and no longer appear on your page’s wall), they can also leave your food truck ratings and reviews. It’s important to put your best foot forward and leave only the best impression on your followers.

We’ve put together some great tips on how to best use Facebook for your food truck:

Fill Your Food Truck’s Profile Out Thoroughly

the fat shallot about page

Whenever you fill out a social media profile, you should be as thorough and as accurate as possible. People will often arrive on your food truck’s Facebook page because they want to find out what you serve or where you’ll be. Make it as easy as possible for them to find you. Post menu and location updates as often as you change them. Fill out the “About” section and be sure to include a link to your website.

korilla bbq foodBe a Person

It’s true you’re on Facebook to remind your customers about how awesome your food truck is. But it’s important to remind them that people are what make your food truck awesome in the first place. Remember to post pictures of your truck, your staff (with their permission, of course), and your food along with your location and menu items. If you participated in an event, be sure to take pictures and post a status about what a great time you had. The event holders are likely to share your post and expand your reach to even more potential customers.

Share A Lot of Pictures

People love pictures of food. You can’t go wrong with awesome snaps of your food taken either by your food truck’s staff or your customers. If someone shares a great photo of your food on their social media, be sure to share it (and give them credit for it) with your followers. A well-timed photo around lunch time can tip a customer in your favor while they’re trying to decide what to grab during their break.

Facebook for communityBe Part of Your Community

You should find other local businesses, music groups, and even other food trucks to follow on Facebook. By keeping in touch with what’s going on in your community, you can share other events and awesome local projects with your Facebook page. You don’t have to devote a lot of time to this, but several times a month share something cool that’s happening in your community. You’re apt to gain more followers when the people and businesses you’ve shared “like” your post and expose it to their community.

You can also tag organizations and business in your posts. If you’re participating in an event thrown by a particular group, be sure to mention them (by typing an @ symbol followed by their business name) so they have the chance to share your post with their Facebook followers.

Don’t Be Shy

Invite your Facebook friends to like your food truck’s page and encourage them to share it with their friends. The more people who view, like, and share information from your Facebook page, the more visible your Facebook page will be. Friends are usually more than happy to be able to help you and your business out in such an easy way.

Respond to Customers in a Positive Way

People take to social media because they want to be heard, so the best thing you can do when someone takes the time to post to your page or send you message, is respond to them. Even a simple, “Thank you!” will reinforce your customers image of your food truck as an awesome place to visit.

This is especially true in the face of criticism or negativity towards your business. Be sure to apologize for whatever your customer feels was unsatisfactory about their visit to your food truck. If the complaint warrants it, you can even invite them to message you so you can offer them a discount or some way to make up for their bad experience. Being courteous and offering to help may not always make the customer feel better (though more often than not, it does), but it will definitely make your other customers feel comfortable supporting your business.   

Taceauz Loceaux menuAvoid Charged and/or Controversial Topics

Your social media is likely to be the first thing many customers see before interacting with your food truck. You want to put your best face forward. You’re likely to live in an area with a diversity of viewpoints and you don’t want to alienate a group of customers because of something unrelated to your food truck.

Summary

Using social media well does take practice, but the more you do it the better you’ll get. Don’t be discouraged by its importance. Just be yourself, make sure your customers know where you’ll be, and engage your customers when they engage with you and you’ll be on your way to leaving a positive impression on current and future customers.

 

By |September 6th, 2015|Categories: blog, social media|Tags: , |0 Comments

An Open Letter In Support Of Food Trucks

If you own and operate a food truck, you’re probably aware of the many obstacles facing trucks in the industry. But what happens when the hurdles you’re facing are being created by your own city? As food trucks gain popularity, cities are struggling to figure out how to fit them within existing business regulations. Food trucks from Las Vegas to Boston have faced a number of problems from their local governments such as time limits on parking, how close they can park to other food businesses, and even whether they can park on public property.Food-truck

If you’re a food truck facing tough laws that are hurting your business, take it upon yourself to get involved in local politics. You can help bring about the change you wish to see simply by meeting with and educating decision makers. The key to these interactions is friendliness, positivity, and a well-prepared vision statement of how great food trucks can be for your community.

At Food On A Truck, we know how valuable your time is and how time-consuming it can be to fight for your business’s rights in public forums. We wanted to lend a hand, so we wrote this open letter that details why your business is a benefit to the local economy. You can share the letter with your information added on your social media, distribute to your loyal customers, and send en masse to your local representatives. Please feel free to share with other food trucks and let us know how it worked for you @FoodOnATruck.


Dear [Your City’s or Local Representative’s Name Here]

We know that when anything new is introduced into the city it can take some time to work out the new rules and regulations. However, in light of [describe the troublesome rules/regulations your city is planning to implement in relation to food trucks], we at [Your Business Name] were hoping you would take some time to consider how beneficial a rise in food trucks can be for [City Name].

Food trucks are in demand. People want quality food that’s also convenient. The food truck market has quadrupled in the past five years and there are expected projections that it will bring in nearly $3 billion in 2017. Our city can reap the benefits of this booming new economy.

Food trucks are as safe as restaurants – and can actually be safer.  In cities where the safety standards for food trucks are the same as restaurants, food trucks tended to outperform restaurants in safety inspections. It makes sense: we have one small kitchen we take with us everywhere we go!

Food trucks are a financially accessible way for local entrepreneurs to start food businesses. Starting a restaurant business is expensive. A food truck can be a way for young people and those who want to avoid taking out large loans to harness their entrepreneurial spirit and participate in our local economy.

Food trucks can help bring a wide range of food options to areas that may lack access to food variety or healthy foods. Whether arriving in a downtown business district or a neighborhood in which fast food is the only option, food trucks have the ability to close these gaps.

Food trucks can help revitalize a space. By bringing hungry locals into the streets, you will see a renewed interest in and care for public spaces. For example, the Midway Food Park in Austin Texas has become a community hot spot once local folks began to see the virtue of a shared, public communal space.

Food trucks can help other local business. It’s not uncommon for food trucks to team up with other local businesses. Food trucks have partnered with local bakeries to have freshly baked bread and pastries. They have developed relationships with breweries to provide food outside of tasting rooms. Food trucks bring people out into streets they may not normally spend time in – and once people are out, they tend to step into other local businesses.

Successful local food trucks mean more money injected back into the local economy. It’s no secret that when folks have more money, they spend more money. By not inhibiting food trucks, you are helping to reinforce our city’s economic foundation.

We hope you will keep these points in mind as you make decisions regarding food trucks in the future.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

By |August 16th, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Pros and Cons of Starting a Food Truck

Starting a business in the food industry can be very rewarding but aspiring entrepreneurs must also be ready for the challenges. The growing popularity of food trucks today makes it very appealing to people who want to initiate or expand their culinary ventures. But what can you expect when it comes to starting a mobile food business?

Food Truck

Food Truck Venture: The Advantages

With relatively lower initial investment and operating costs, starting a food truck is cheaper and faster than opening a restaurant. The smaller expenses of a mobile food business make it a great avenue for first-time entrepreneurs to enter the food industry and learn the landscape, providing invaluable experience that can be beneficial for future undertakings. Food trucks can also become a complimentary addition to established businesses like catering companies wanting to increase revenue or expand their market without the need for drastic changes on operations.

The dynamic of the food truck business is a bit different compared to running a restaurant or providing catering services, which makes it great for people who enjoy bustling working environments. In peak hours, working in a food truck is rarely boring because service is faster and more intimate as you develop rapport to customers when they become regulars.

Trying new recipes or modifying products are also much easier for food trucks. Menus are designed to be uncomplicated but delicious, which can be both challenging and enjoyable for entrepreneurs. The variety or customization of dishes and the ability to offer new products quicker also gives an edge to food trucks over non-mobile restaurants. Also, many customers who love food trucks enjoy trying out new innovative products.

In addition, the ability to participate on events like concerts or festivals can be very profitable to mobile food businesses, a revenue stream that is not available to restaurants.

 

Food Truck Venture: The Drawbacks

Though the mobile food industry is exciting, prospective entrepreneurs must be ready for its challenges.

Getting a food truck business started through a bank loan can be tough. Banks are skeptical lending money because some believe that the food truck trend is just a fad and may suddenly vanish. It might be easier to get a loan if you have a substantial business history, some form of collateral, or if the loan is cosigned by someone with a good credit record.Food Truck 2

Another challenge is the regulations. Some states and municipalities have clear rules regarding mobile food businesses while others do not. Entrepreneurs need to research and contact relevant agencies on individual locations they plan to operate or sell at and obtain business requirements. In addition, local restaurants may lobby against food trucks due to the increased competition and unclear regulations, which makes starting a mobile food business a bit more challenging.

Buying the right truck and finding a commercial kitchen can take time and money. A retrofitted used food truck typically cost $30,000 while a newly designed mobile food preparation vehicle with all new equipment can cost more than $100,000. A state licensed commercial kitchen is also a requirement in most municipalities where the food truck must be parked. In some cities where cooking in the truck is not allowed, food must be prepared and packaged in a commercial kitchen. A shared-use commercial kitchen can save you money but may cause delays when another food truck is using the facility. A private commercial kitchen (whether purchased or leased) will always be available to you but require a larger investment.

The mobile food industry is also very competitive as more businesses take the plunge. Margins can be low and sometimes, the business may even lose you money. Because customers will be out in the open to buy from a food truck, the weather can affect revenue. Food truck operations can be seasonal in places with cold climates while even in warmer locations, unexpected rain can put a dent on sales.

Food trucks are nothing new but the industry’s surging popularity offers great opportunities and potential for success to innovative and passionate entrepreneurs today. Every business venture has its risks and rewards. But knowing where you want to go and striving to get there despite the challenges makes a difference.

As Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

By |July 5th, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Keep Your Food Truck Generator Running

Portable Generator

 

 

Powering ovens, blenders, and refrigerators on-the-go, a portable generator is essential to the successful operation of mobile food business. Due to its importance and the amount of required initial expense, food truck owners need to make sure they get the most out of their generators throughout its life-cycle.

Generator failures are not just inconvenient but can also lead to your mobile food business missing opportunities and losing revenue.

 

Impact of Underloading

How you use a generator can affect its efficiency, performance, and reliability. Some models of generators (particularly, diesel and gas engine generators) are designed to operate with a certain amount of load. If such generators are underloaded for extended periods, the engine can experience “wet stacking” and get damaged due to the unburned oil, fuel, and other particle deposits.

Generally, standby-rated and prime-rated diesel engine generators are designed to be operated between 50 and 85 percent while continuous-rated diesel engines are optimized between 70 to 100 percent load. Underloading a diesel engine generator for long periods of time can impact its performance and long-term operational life. Light load operation (less than 30 percent) of diesel engine generators should only be 30 minutes for every four hours. After the time limit, diesel generators must be run on at least 70 percent load for the next two hours.

Generators that run using natural gas or bio-gas are typically designed to operate between 60 to 100 percent load. Adequate load is required to ensure that the generator engine’s cylinders have enough pressure to maintain oil control. Deposit build-up on generator components like valves, spark plugs, and piston rings can cause cylinder liner polishing, accelerated component wear, poor performance, and power loss. Natural gas engines are more sensitive to underloading so check the recommended time limits below.

Low load operation time limits for natural gas generator sets:

0 to 30 percent load = 30 minutes operation

31 to 50 percent load = 2 hours operation

51 to 100 percent load = Continuous (the manifold air pressure must be greater than the atmospheric pressure.)

The inefficient use of your generator set can increase your generator’s maintenance cost and downtime that results to your food truck business incurring loss that are otherwise preventable.

Generator Maintenance

Some of the common reasons why generators fail are wet stacking, fuel and oil leaks, faulty level gauges, corroded or worn out connections, and battery failure. Due to the vital part it plays in your food truck’s operation, doing proper maintenance is important to make sure your generator remains reliably.

Making the time to check the condition of your generator ensures that you will get the most out of your investment and prevent sudden failures that can halt your food truck’s operation. Letting a professional service and maintain your generator is the best option, for convenience and peace of mind. Seek the assistance of a mechanic or technician for routine maintenance like checking fluid levels, verifying control panel readings and indicators, or inspection for wear and tear, among others. Maintenance schedules (annual, semi-annual, or quarterly) should be followed based on manufacturer’s recommendations to increase reliability and apply preventive measures.

Fixing a generator

If you want to do basic maintenance on a generator yourself, refer to the owner’s manual for details regarding manufacturer’s guidelines. The following inspection and parts replacement can be done by generator owners themselves (may vary depending on your generator’s model or manufacturer):

 

  • Checking and charging the battery
  • Inspecting oil level
  • Changing engine oil (dispose used oil properly by following local regulations)
  • Cleaning or changing filters
  • Inspecting or replacing spark plug

Remember to only use recommended replacement parts for your generator. When looking for those parts check the company’s website for replacement parts, or another highly recommended website is repairclinic.com (http://www.repairclinic.com/Shop-For-Parts/a31/Generator-Parts).  They have many different parts for  all kinds of generators. They are very inexpensive and reliable parts.  They have all brands and you can search for parts by specific brand and model of your generator. It’s super easy!

Another website you may find your parts on is northerntool.com (http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/category_generators).  They also have inexpensive parts and they have generic parts and parts by specific brand name model.  All their parts are very reliable and durable.

Also, if you are looking for videos on how to do the repairs yourself. Youtube is a great source to finding amazing videos on how to do it! I can’t tell you how many times their “how-to” videos have helped me out. They helped me replace parts in my car!

Safety Tips

The proper use of your generator not only prevents it from failing when you need it the most but also protects you, your business, and customers from harm. Here are some tips on how to avoid risks and dangers when using portable generators:

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm and never operate a generator in an enclosed area. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be fatal to anyone with prolonged high level exposure.
  • Never use the generator in wet conditions to avoid electric shocks.
  • Never plug the generator to a wall outlet to power a house (known as backfeeding) as it is very dangerous to utility workers repairing power lines and neighbors served by the same utility transformer.
  • Do not overload the generator. Do not underload generators for long periods of time.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use extension cords rated for the load.
  • Turn off appliances connected to the generator before shutting down the generator.
  • Never refuel the generator while in use. Let it cool down before refueling.
  • Do not store extra fuel near the generator. Fuel fumes can get ignited by an electric spark. Keep a fire extinguisher ready in case of emergencies.
  • Stay away from some parts of the generator that heat up during operation to prevent burns.
  • Do not use the generator for more than the recommended run time.

 

By |June 20th, 2015|Categories: blog, food truck safety|0 Comments