The Mindset of a Successful Food Truck Owner

Like any entrepreneur, new food truck owners soon learn that some days are better than others. Starting and running a business challenges you in a way you may have never been challenged before. Regardless of how well your food truck is doing, each day is a new opportunity to learn and improve. Here, we’ve included several things that all successful food truck owners have in common.

Dare To Be Great

First thing’s first—get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you’re a veteran in the restaurant business but only accustomed to managing customer service, as a new food truck owner, you may find yourself wearing a variety of hats, such as inventory; sales; hiring; scheduling; and marketing, to name a few. Food truck ownership requires acute business acumen in all areas of business operations, which sets it apart from typical brick and mortar management.

You may be tempted to shy away from your newfound responsibilities, but it’s important to embrace these challenges as early as you can. Being confident in the wide-ranging responsibilities that comprise food truck management pays dividends (plus, those responsibilities aren’t going anywhere, so why avoid them?). In our experience, the most successful food truck owners are bold in their leadership, even in roles they typically haven’t held.

Learn And Adapt

While there are best practices to observe in starting a food truck business, there is no perfect formula for success. Your food truck may find a different path to success than another food truck, so it’s important to chart your own course. As a new food truck owner, you should regularly review what is and isn’t working for your business. Track as much data as you can and use it to make prudent decisions. Creativity often pays off, but it’s also wise to let your truck’s data drive these decisions.

Empower your employees. Sometimes it can be beneficial to involve them and ask for suggestions. They are working the front lines, and they may see something that you don’t. It also takes some pressure off of you so you don’t feel like you have to generate every idea. Don’t forget to use your customers as well. If you were to look at the back of fast food restaurant receipts, you would see that many of them offer discounted or free menu items in exchange for filling out a customer survey. This is another powerful tool you can use to engage your customers and get beneficial feedback.

Go the extra mile and try to do one thing every day that nurtures this attitude, whether it’s listening to a podcast, reading, or creating a new strategy for your food truck.

Embrace Your Calling

As you’re probably aware, entrepreneurship doesn’t always fit neatly into a predictable schedule — especially in the early stages. If you plan on implementing any of the above suggestions, you will have to do it when the food truck isn’t running. That means that if you want to grow your business, this journey will cost you time with your family, friends, and on some nights, sleep. You will have to be more intentional with your time to ensure that you get the rest and balance you need.

Entrepreneurship also brings financial uncertainty. Catering gigs may fall through, laws and regulations may change, and sales could be low for a time. You can’t control all of these things, but you can control how you handle it. It’s important to look at these instances as lessons instead of failures. If you book your first catering gig and sales are lower than anticipated, instead of looking at it as a failure, look at what you can improve on when booking future gigs. If an employee doesn’t work out, sometimes it’s a learning experience you can use to fine tune hiring processes.

Whether you create a food truck empire or decide to pivot into a different direction, with the right mindset, entrepreneurship will teach you and refine you in a way that will equip you for the future. What has worked for you? Leave any questions or advice in the comments below!

Want to find nearby food trucks, menus, and more? Download the Goodfynd app to find food trucks near you.

The Importance of Mental Health in Food Truck Ownership

In this day and age, more emphasis is being placed on mental wellness than ever before. And rightfully so – according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people, or 43.8 million adults, experience mental illness in a given year. If you think that’s bad, these numbers get even worse in the entrepreneurial space. Of 242 entrepreneurs who were surveyed, roughly 49% suffer from mental health conditions.

Of all career paths, entrepreneurship is as high-risk, high-reward as it comes. After spending years mastering their culinary craft, not only do food truck entrepreneurs have to learn how to start and run a business, but they often have to rely on that income to make ends meet. Although you’re building a new and useful skill set, what used to be a source of joy can one of your biggest stressors. This lifestyle can cause you to lose sleep, worry constantly, and make poor eating choices – all which could lead to mental health woes, even if you’ve never been susceptible before.

Additionally, entrepreneurship can cause social isolation. Not only do you typically have less time to connect with friends and loved ones on a personal level, but genuine conversations can easily be replaced with more shallow, business-centered conversations. “How’s the food truck going?” or “How are your sales?” can become commonplace, which can lead to frustration or shame if things aren’t going well at the time. Your own identity can be lost, or at least difficult to separate from your food truck, as it becomes more and more intertwined with your personal life.

Can you see how this can render food truck owners particularly susceptible to mental health issues? Entrepreneurs are more likely to report depression, attention hyperactivity deficit disorder, bipolar spectrum disorder, and even substance abuse. In order to be your best self, it’s imperative to prioritize your mental wellbeing. Below are a few simple ways you can take steps towards being your best self.

Prioritize Your Physical Health

Studies indicate that physical activity can treat mild to moderate depression as well as antidepressants. When you exercise, your body releases powerful chemicals called endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in your nervous system. Working out has also been known to boost self-esteem, expand the memory, and boost mental acuity.

If you’re not used to working out, start as small as necessary in order to instill the habit. By simply making it a habit to stretch in the morning, you can improve your blood circulation, posture, flexibility, and energy levels. Whether it’s a simple walk around the neighborhood, yoga class, or a local softball league a few times a week, just get moving! According to Psychology Today, improved dietary and exercise habits increase the sensitivity of the dopamine receptors in the brain that signal reward, so even if it doesn’t start out great, it gets better and more rewarding with time and consistency.  

Take Time to Reflect

Food truck owners often find themselves on the go from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. If your food truck operates 5 days a week and you have catering events on weekends, there is little time left for yourself, so it’s important to maximize this time. Setting aside time – even if it’s just 5 minutes in the morning or at night – to process your thoughts and feelings is crucial for your mental wellbeing.

What you do during that time of reflection is your call. Keeping a journal may be beneficial for recording thoughts and recognizing behavioral patterns. If you don’t enjoy writing, you may find it helpful to focus on things to be grateful for or reflect on what lessons you can learn from that day. Or you can simply relax and take a few deep breaths. Doing any of these activities consistently will teach you to have compassion on yourself, which will increase your compassion for others and make you a better leader.

Create A Support System

Earlier, we discussed a few scenarios where connections and can become shallow, so it’s all the more important for you to foster those genuine connections. It’s entirely up to you to decide what type of connections you need. For some, it can be as simple as getting more involved in your local food truck association to be around entrepreneurs in the same space that “gets it.” Others may decide to see a therapist who is familiar with the demands of entrepreneurship and the complexities involved with the lifestyle. Regardless of your decision, the main goal is that you make and maintain meaningful connections.

By putting some of these things into practice, you will feel better and be better equipped to run your food truck business. What are you already doing to take care of your mental wellbeing? Let us know in the comments!

How To Start A Food Truck: Market Yourself

If you’ve been following our “How to Start A Food Truck” series, then by now you are aware of the licenses, permits, and regulations needed to start your mobile business; accounted for all necessary costs; and found your niche within your local food truck scene. Now it’s time to put your business out there. In order to thrive as a food truck owner, you need to attract new customers and keep them coming back. In our overview, we discussed a few ways to do just that; now we’ll dive a little deeper.

Nail The Customer Service Experience

According to Microsoft, 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Conversely, 89% have switched to a competitor following a poor customer experience. Excellent customer service is the nuts and bolts of any successful business. It’s obviously important to have great food, but excellent customer service alone can win over new patrons.

Think about your best experiences as a customer and how it made you feel. Be warm and inviting, but not overbearing. Be sure to make eye contact and smile. If customers come back often, try to remember their name or previous order. Ask them how their day is going. Even if you’re not good with remembering names, you’ll have a better chance of remembering the interaction and associating it with the face. You never know what opportunities can come from just being good to people.

It’s important to hire people with the same vision of excellent customer service as well, since they’ll be an extension of you and your business. Look for people who love people and love food. The more they actually want to be there, the better off everyone will be. Even if you have to pay them a little more, it’s worth it if they’re easy to work with and are bringing back loyal customers.

Know Your Audience

It’s very beneficial to take excellent customer service a step further and get to know your audience. As a matter of fact, by doing so, you are doing your business a favor. Customers can give you valuable insight on how to improve your business processes. Here are a few basic questions to ask that can help you engage customers and potentially improve your business:

“How did you find out about us?”

Nearly any response to this question can give you some helpful information. Even if they found you simply because you were close to their office, then maybe it would be beneficial to put flyers in that office building. If they found you online, where did they look exactly? How did they search for you? You may even consider running an ad and gauging the results.

“Were you satisfied with everything?”

The customer’s response will either serve as affirmation that you’re doing great or a potential opportunity to improve. If they have any negative comments, remedy the situation with the individual customer if possible and evaluate if there’s something you can change to prevent similar issues. You may have to put your ego to the side for a bit, but it can go a long way if the customer sees you going the extra mile.

Get Involved With The Community

The more activities you are involved with, the more people you’ll meet, and almost every person you meet is a potential new customer. If you haven’t already, consider joining your local food truck association, who can help get you plugged into some events. Network with other fellow truck owners to see how they get booked for other events. Your city or county may have events that allow for food trucks, so be on the lookout for those as well as who to contact. Look for event coordinators who can book you for private events through office buildings or other means. We’ve discussed other options in a previous blog entry as well.

Make Your (Online) Presence Felt

According to ad network xAd and call measurement provider Telmetrics, consumers who search the internet for food using their mobile device has a nearly 90 percent conversion rate. In order to get your name out, it’s of utmost importance to take advantage of this very effective form of free advertisement. Even if you don’t have a website, you should at least have well-run social media accounts that, at minimum, communicates to potential customers exactly where they can find you.

When posting your food truck’s location, be as specific as possible. Share the exact street address or cross streets, not just a neighborhood or metro stop. Don’t forget to list the times you will be there. Post your schedule for the week in advance so customers may plan in advance. Check out food truck finders, such as Goodfynd, where you can easily and efficiently set your schedules in advance and have it automatically post to social media for you.

Additionally, use it as an opportunity to engage with others. Consider asking customers where they would like to see you appear next, if there’s anything they’d like to see added to the menu, or anything else you can think of. Reply to as many comments and Yelp reviews as you can. The more engagement you get, the higher you will appear on web searches, especially if you have a website.

There are many elements that tie into running a successful food truck business, and it’s crucial to set a good foundation and positive culture in the beginning. Any more questions about what it takes to start a food truck? Leave it in the comments!

 

5 Ways to Boost Food Truck Sales Using Social Media

You’ve got your food truck up and running. Now what? Fine tuning your social media footprint is an effective, economical way to increase sales and ensure the success of your business. There are many platforms to choose from, and all of them have unique audiences of potential customers to engage.

According to smartinsights.com, there are over three billion active social media users. 48% of consumers are more likely to buy from a responsive brand. 46% of consumers are more likely to take advantage of promotions offered through social media. If you’re not sure how to leverage the power of social media to improve your business, we’re here to help!

1. Hashtags

A hashtag is a way of categorizing social media posts and making your content viewable to audiences that you may want to attract. It’s used within a post on social media to help those who may be interested in your topic, and they can find your post when they search for the keyword or specific hashtag.

A great way to harness the power of the hashtag is to do a little research on which hashtags are popular or commonly searched. The top five hashtags on Instagram right now are #instagood, #photooftheday, #food, #igers, and #lifestyle. Including one of these relevant to your post may help boost engagement with your content on Instagram. But these alone won’t do the trick. You need to be tuned into which hashtags are popular in your area. For example, in Washington, D.C., one of the top food related hashtags is #dceats.

2. Influencers

According to pixlee.com, a social media influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. They have access to a large audience and can use their authenticity and persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. Their followers trust them and their taste. A stamp of approval from an influencer boosts your food truck’s credibility.

Keep an eye out for influencers in your local food industry and connect with them either online or at a local food related event. Remember that this endeavor can’t be one-sided. What do you have to offer them and how do you stand out to the other businesses that contact them? This is something you’ll want to have figured out before you approach them.

3. A Picture Says 1,000 Words

The proverbial “bread and butter” of your online presence will be photos and information about your menu items. This will be how you get your potential customers excited about your food truck. Taking high-quality photos of your food is critical to marketing your business and attracting business, so you must devote time and energy to producing the best possible photos. Consider having professional photos taken of your menu items. This can sometimes be costly, but it is worth it to ensure that your food looks its best in your social media content.

Another easy way to get photo content of your menu items is to rely on photos your customers have already taken. If you haven’t already, consider adding your social media handles and hashtags to your signage to encourage your customers to take and share photos of your truck and your food. Consider offering promotions to customers who take “shareable” photos of your food.  

4. Follow the Eyes

Pay close attention to the type of content social media users are flocking to. While you’re researching the food truck industry in your area, consider the successful content of other businesses. Are videos getting the most interaction? Boomerang on Instagram? What does your audience care about?

Look at your own metrics – is there a certain campaign or post that performed well? Think about the reasons why and see if that mirrors the same trend in the food and beverage industry at large in your area. Follow social media brands and experts to learn from their insight into emerging trends. Once you’ve learned how to use your metrics to position yourself, it’s also important to stand out. Learn to establish and maintain your own unique individuality, and your brand will shine bright.

5. The “Lifestyle” Feel

Your business’s social media account is bigger than just food. Followers tend to tune out and are less engaged when every post is aimed solely at selling them something. Your audience trusts you when you allow them to see the human element to your business. They want to see behind the scenes content. They want to see family members and travels. Your audience wants to care about your food truck’s story and the people behind it tell that story. When your content showcases more than just what you’re selling, it will have a direct impact on your following and the engagement on your content.

Whether you’re a social media novice or you were born to ‘gram, there’s always something new to learn when it comes to social media and its marketing power. Share your insights with us in the comments and let us know how you’ve used social media for your food truck!

 

How To Start A Food Truck: Finding Your Niche

It’s important to create a unique and memorable experience for your customers so that they continue to come back. If you are already aware of the licenses and permits required to start a food truck in your area and have a financial plan in place, you are well on your way to opening your restaurant on wheels. However, there are a few more things to consider, like: 

  • What will you name your truck?
  • What kinds of food will you sell?

These are a few questions you may have already began to ponder or have already figured out. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry; we’re here to help!

Scope the Scene

Although there is some camaraderie among local food trucks, at the end of the day, each owner is responsible for their own success. For that reason, it’s important to know what you’ll be going up against. Is the surrounding area you’ll be serving already saturated with food trucks? If so, what kind of food do they serve? Based on what you’ve observed, what can you do to make your business stand out?

If your area doesn’t already have a lot of food trucks, then you have an untapped market to use to your advantage if you execute correctly. If your area already has a lot of trucks that serve the food you’re thinking of serving, it’s not the end of the world, but you will need to critically think through how you can bring something unique to the table. What sets you apart from the rest of other food trucks?

Choose A Theme

This may have been the first thing you figured out, but it may be worth reevaluating as you get closer to actualizing your food truck dreams. What kind of food will you serve? Some of the most popular themes include BBQ, cupcakes, ethnic fusion, regional cuisine, or burgers.

If you’re a New Orleans transplant living in San Diego and you’ve been making cajun food for as long as you can remember, then it may be a no-brainer to have a cajun theme for your truck because there aren’t a lot of cajun food trucks in San Diego. However, if you are thinking of opening a cajun truck in Louisiana, you are going to face more of an uphill battle.

Name Your Truck

When approaching your food truck, prospective customers generally make swift decisions as they decide where to invest their lunch money. Your food truck’s name and appearance can greatly affect their decision to choose you. It is important that your truck’s name is memorable, stands out, and accurately depicts who you are and what you do.

There are a few ways you can approach selecting a name. Sometimes, it’s as simple as incorporating your area name and what you serve, such as DC Slices, the DC-based pizza truck. Naming your truck after a cultural reference is another option. For example, Come’Chop, meaning “come eat,” is a West African food truck whose name pays homage to the culture. If done correctly, clever puns, such as Basil Thyme, also make for great food truck names.

Regardless of which way you go, the name should be easy to remember and catchy. It should also be able to stand the test of time, so avoid anything trendy.  Be sure to think of alternative names in case you cannot legally use your first or second ideas. And test your idea with friends, family, or even strangers. Get feedback on your name to ensure that the message in your name gets across to third parties as you intended.

In the absolute worst case scenario where you just can’t get seem to get those creative juices going, remember that the internet is your friend. There are helpful tools out there such as business name generators that can get you started. If nothing else, maybe it can give you the inspiration you need to think up the name you really want.

Research Your Name

Once you have a solid idea for a food truck name, you need to contact your state’s Secretary of State office to find out how to check for registered names in your state. Next, you will need to verify that your name isn’t already a federally registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If the name is available, you will want to go through the necessary steps to legally secure the name as soon as possible. If it’s not available, this is where it’s helpful to have alternative names. Once your trademark is registered, it remains registered to you as long as you file a renewal every ten years.

Next, check to ensure that your desired domain name and social media handles are available. Ideally, your food truck name, domain name, and social media handles are all the same (e.g., foodtruckname.com, @foodtruckname). If your truck’s domain name and/or social media handles are taken, consider making the minimum amount of additions necessary, such as adding your state to the end (e.g., foodtrucknameny.com). Whatever you decide to do, try to keep it as uniform as possible.  

If you have any more questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them. In the final installment of our “How to Find a Food Truck” series, we will give some insight on how to market yourself once everything else is in place. In the meantime, download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you!

5 Easy Steps to Grow Your Food Truck Business

In order to grow your food truck business, you have to expose yourself to as many customers as possible. The internet serves as free advertising, and when used to its full potential, it can help to quickly expand your following. That said, your time is precious, and it can be challenging to know which online services to use to foster the most efficient growth. Below, we explain how we can help make a big impact on your business in just a few easy steps.

1. Sign up for Goodfynd

Goodfynd is a hub for food truck owners to market themselves to hungry customers. We:

  • Are FREE to use
  • Will save you time, and
  • Will increase your customers.

Don’t believe us? Then ask one of our 140 food trucks that have already signed up.

1

2. Register your truck

Search for your truck on Goodfynd. Once you locate it, press the blue “Claim Business” button.

2

If your truck doesn’t show up here, no problem! Click here to register your truck. It only takes a few minutes.

3. Post a clear picture of your food truck

Customers need to recognize you, especially if you’re in a city that is saturated with other similar trucks. If they don’t know what your truck looks like, then they will likely skip it for a truck that they can more readily identify.

3

4. Show your food

9 out of 10 customers are more likely to purchase food if they see what the food looks like beforehand. Who doesn’t like to see their food before they eat? Upload high-quality photos of your menu items for your soon-to-be customers!

4

5. Set your schedule

Your customers don’t have a lot of time and need to know exactly when and where you are. The more detailed your location, the better.

5

Set an exact time (Example: 11am – 2pm).

6

You can also sync your Goodfynd page to your Twitter account, and we’ll periodically share your location and schedule automatically!

7

Upload a great picture of your truck and your menu items, set your location, and let Goodfynd do the rest! We’ll promote your business to a social network that receives over 5,000 views per month. Sign up or claim your truck for a free account here.

8

How To Start A Food Truck: Counting The Costs

In our first installment of this series, we gave an overview of things to consider when starting a food truck. If you have already researched the licenses and permits required, then the next step to actualizing your dream of owning and operating a food truck is to set up a financial plan. Some of your expenses will be obvious, but it is important to understand how one expense may affect another. Here are some of the main costs to consider:

The Food Truck

It goes without saying that this will be the most important investment of your entire food truck journey. In some ways, buying your food truck will be like buying a house. Do you want to buy a fixer-upper and make renovations as you go or do you want to invest in a brand new truck and have peace of mind?

Depending on which path you choose, the price of the food truck will range from $50,000 to $200,000, not including the cost of decorating and wrapping the truck. If you buy a used food truck, you are accepting whatever condition it’s in at the time of purchase, for better or worse. One important thing to consider when buying a used food truck is outside financing. Since the truck’s condition is questionable, it is risky for banks and brokers to provide a loan, so you may need to pay out of pocket. It is also essential to know if the truck’s warranties have expired already.

The price of a brand new truck will be on the higher end of the spectrum, but it is easier to finance and you’ll have fewer repairs and hidden costs to worry about down the road. You can also have your truck and kitchen built to the exact specifications that you want and within the law. On that note, we can’t stress this enough: check the local laws and permits before purchasing your food truck. Can you imagine getting a good deal on a food truck only to find out that it’s not in line with your city or county regulations? Not fun.

By doing a simple online search, you can find online marketplaces where you can search for used trucks, but it may be helpful to check with your local food truck association and local food truck owners for perspective and referrals first. Whether new or used, it is ideal to buy your truck local. According to Restaurant MBA, it will also cost an additional $3,000-$5,000 to fully wrap your truck.

Commissary Rental

In most cities, you cannot prepare or store what you will be selling in your home, so many food truck owners turn to private kitchens that rent out space to caterers and other food entrepreneurs. You can either rent out a kitchen for yourself or rent a shared space at an hourly rate. These commissaries may offer a safe parking space for your truck as well. Unless you already own a brick and mortar restaurant where you can prepare food, this is your best option. Commissary fees, including kitchen space, parking, and waste disposal, can run between $250-$1,250 a month.

Business and Truck Insurance

Not only do you need to protect your physical investment while out on the road, but you need to protect your business as well. You will need to seek auto insurance that covers commercial liability and includes accidents, theft, vandalism, and anything else you deem necessary. If you have a barbecue truck or regularly cater large events, you probably need to tow your grill or extra supplies, and they may need coverage as well.

From a business standpoint, you need to protect yourself and your employees. For example, workers’ compensation covers any employee who needs medical treatment due to ailments or injuries sustained while working. Business personal property insurance protects anything that isn’t nailed down to your truck, such as smokers, mixers, and pans. Umbrella liability covers anything you can think of that isn’t already accounted for. Lastly, you need to protect yourself in the event that a customer gets food poisoning.

This list is not all-inclusive, so based on your research, determine what is required and decide which protections are necessary for your business. In general, you can expect to pay $2000 – $4000 annually depending on coverage levels and what percentage of the year you plan to operate the truck.

Other Costs to Consider

By this point, you have your food truck, a kitchen to prepare your food, and the insurance to cover it all. Below are some miscellaneous costs to consider.

  • Employees: Expect to pay anywhere between $8-15 per hour per employee. Employees with food truck or restaurant experience will be easier to train, but you will have to pay them on the higher end of that spectrum.
  • Food: Initial inventory for food and supplies (pots, paper products, uniforms) may cost around $1,000, depending on what supplies you need.
  • Fuel: The cost depends on the size of your truck and how often you drive, but it will still cost $250-500 monthly.
  • Point-of-sale (POS) system: You can purchase a basic cloud-based POS system with reliable service for as little as $200. The more sophisticated systems can cost up to $1,000.
  • Training and certifications: Some states require for your employees to attend food safety training and/or obtain a food handler’s certification. Check with your state to verify the cost and requirements.

Given these expenses and the licenses and permits we covered in our previous blog, you can expect to pay at least $60,000 to start your restaurant on wheels. This does not cover all of the expenses required, but this does give you a reference point for the more costly expenses and how to approach them. If none of these options work for you at the moment, it’s not the end of the world. Consider starting a food cart or concession business. The up-front costs aren’t as expensive, the regulations may not be as strict, and you can still build a following to set up your next venture.

In our final two installments of our “How to Find a Food Truck” series, we will discuss how to find your niche in your local food truck scene and putting yourself out there. In the meantime, download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you!