To gain a competitive edge and a customer's attention, food truck owners must find new ways to be clever, creative or original. I'm often smiling at a newly discovered food truck's ingenuity, which is why I've decided to recognize these bits of business-savvy whimsy. Here we go..
1. Pick a memorable food truck name or theme.
Double entendres, homonyms and other types of wordplay are food truck tricks worth repeating. Think clean, plus funny and/or pun-ny, and you've got the idea. Yes, I said clean, because you want families to stop by for dinner.
Awards in the homonym category go to Arizona's Pizza Daux, Colorado's Basic Kneads Pizza and Utah's TheCurryer.
My latest "fun with words" discovery is Ba-NOM-a-NOM, a vegan frozen treat truck in Fort Collins, Colorado. Just saying the name makes me laugh. I picture a little kid chowing down on yummy food ("nom nom nom") while singing along to Muppet Tonight (Ep. 107, the "Mahna Mahna" skit) with Sandra Bullock.
No clue? Say the name out loud. You'll get it on the way home, and you won't forget the name of the truck, either.
2. Invite orders by text message.
People want everything faster these days. Still, you're a food truck and most customers don't have to wait in long lines, unless you're working a busy metro street corner or slinging hash en masse at a huge gathering. You say that's the norm? Okay, then. But even if your customers casually stroll up to your window to place an order, check out this next trick.
Planet of the Crepes Tucson offers its "txtahead order system" anytime, which shows you don't always have to be hamstringed by the lunch rush to tap into technology.
3. Accept credit cards with your smartphone.
If your food truck doesn't take credit cards by now, you're repeatedly serving up a heaping helping of disappointment. Hear that sound of someone walking away and not ordering? I know, right? So, why are you missing sales? Get a credit card swiper and/or app for goodness sake.
The barrier to entry can be incredibly low. Free device. Free downloadable app. No contract. Swipe rates start somewhere around 2.7%, depending on the service you choose. Why wouldn't you do this for your customers?
4. Make your menu board both attractive and easy to update.
One of the many reasons you like owning a food truck is the autonomy that comes with being able to change your menu on the fly. Too many food truck owners take this to mean they can skimp on the expenses of a decent menu display. Not so. Image can govern perception, so don't ruin a scrumptious offering with an awful presentation.
The Uprooted Kitchen in Chandler, Arizona displays its daily menu on metal boards, complete with magnetic office clips and printed cards. The modular look is professional yet kitschy, and doubles as a visual treatment for its website and blog.
5. Publish your gigs to a public Google calendar.
I read that Facebook is starting to throttle the post visibility of your fan page. That would mean only a percentage of your fans will see your posts. If so, you'll want to start working on Plan B for letting customers know when and where to find you.
One solution: use a Google calendar to keep track of your gigs. In other words, "publish once, distribute everywhere." Now you can display that calendar on your Web site plus add a free calendar tab to your Facebook fan page.
So there you have it. Five simple ways to raise the bar on your food truck business operations. See you next time.