Food Truck Safety Tips: Propane and Other Safety Hazards

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Last year a Philadelphia food truck exploded killing a mother and her daughter who were working the food truck and injuring a handful of other customers and passers-by.  It was a shocking incident especially since it was caught on video. Officials are saying that the sudden spike in food trucks took many cities by surprise so much so that there appears to be a lack in planning especially with regards to safety.

According to IBISWorld, food trucks have grown by an average of 8.4% in the past 5 years. It is expected that by 2017, the food truck industry would be raking in sales of US$2.7 billion in the United States alone.

Safety Protocol for Food Trucks

In order to stay well within the safety zone as a food business, food truck owners have to follow minimum safety protocols. They are:

Prevention of Food Contamination and Sanitation

Salmonella poisoning is serious and can cause young children and seniors to end up in the hospital with severe infections. It is more common during the summer months when the food trucks are out with a vengeance. It is caused by food contamination and poor food handling. For example, if you touch raw eggs and then touch the plates that will be used to put cooked food, you are cross contaminating your plates. If you find a roach in your truck and kill it or handle pets before cooking, you could contaminate the food. Unfortunately, contaminated food does not look contaminated.

To avoid this kind of problem:

  • Wear gloves
  • Assign only one person to handle raw ingredients
  • Change gloves everyday

Other sanitation problems are falling hair, dirty hands and nails, and servers that do not bathe and shampoo daily. You should also clean your truck before you open and after you close for the day.

The Danger of Propane Tanks

The explosion in Philadelphia was caused by a propane tank leak. Usually, you will hear a hissing sound if there is a leak but it does not always happen. If you smell something like rotten eggs, check your tank. You can do a spot check by applying some bubbly soap to the tank’s main valve. If there are bubbles, you can be sure there is a leak. Shut down immediately and call your supplier. Also, to make sure your tank isn’t leaking, have a supplier who is licensed and has a good reputation. Do not accept tanks that are badly maintained and buy an electronic leak detector. You should also have good ventilation.

Safety measures should be one of your primary concerns because your food truck can affect the lives of others and expose them to danger and risk to life and limb which insurance cannot always correct.

Food Truck Robberies: How To Prevent Your Food Truck Business From Being Victimized

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Food truck crimes is nothing new. They have been happening since the time food trucks were limited to servicing construction crews on site.  However, there has been a slight upsurge in crimes against or by food trucks that have caused police officers to take a more serious look at the safety and security of food trucks and their customers.

A few examples of the crimes that took place last year include being robbed at gunpoint, selling of drugs from a food truck, petty thefts from food truck employees, and stabbing of food truck owner. By being aware of these past crimes, it is possible to avert anything happening to your food truck business. Knowing and planning ahead is always almost 50% of the work in securing your business.

How To Prevent Theft and Lower Risks to Robberies

The top reasons for being victimized are:

  1. It’s easy to rob from a food truck because they usually don’t have CCTV or any security cameras.
  2. Food trucks work up to late and the workers are tired and less alert by late evening.
  3. Many food trucks pick locations that are not heavy with foot traffic because of complaints from brick and mortar establishments.
  4. There are usually only 2 people manning a food truck.
  5. Most food trucks accept only cash transactions.

In short, food trucks are extremely vulnerable to thieves and robbers but you can prepare and set up your food truck to lower the chances of being a victim.

Secure your Truck and your Workers

Since food truck workers can get very busy with customers, install CCTV cameras. You will need one pointed towards the person taking orders and receiving payment and one at the main entry/exit door. You should also consider an auto lock for your door so your workers do not get taken by surprise. Finally, put exterior lights around the truck to keep your surrounding bright. If you’re just starting out and can’t afford the cameras, pretend to have them just the same.

Schedule Cash Pick-Ups

When you are expecting a flood of customers for special events, arrange for someone to come and pick up your cash. You can even pay for cash service pick-up so your truck does not carry a lot of money at any given time. In addition, make sure your cash is hidden from customers or anyone from a vantage point. Keep your cash register hidden from plain site and make sure you have sufficient small change. If you keep asking for smaller bills, you’re telling everyone within hearing range that you are enjoying a good sale day and have run out of change. You might also want to sign up for a wireless credit card payment system.

Finally, never park solo to sell food. Try to stay part of a pack or make sure the street or park is well-lit and patrolled.

This Summer’s Top Food Trucks in Melbourne

Australia’s summer months start  in December and end in February thus it is the middle of the hot summer months Down Under and the Aussies are out having the time of their lives in beaches and water parks while most of North America and Europe are freezing. It also means that Australia’s food trucks are all out in full glory and aiming to entice tourists and locals to sample their food. Here are the top 10 best food trucks you can find in Melbourne out of the 81 food trucks roaming the streets of Melbourne.

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The Taco Truck has over 40,000 Likes on social media has managed to captivate residents of Melbourne with its creative tacos. They offer 6 varieties of soft tacos with sidings and a rather extensive drinks list that includes wine, beer, and margaritas. And their fish tacos come highly recommended!

Beatbox Kitchen is owned by the same operator of the Taco Truck and is known as the first “real food truck” in Melbourne. It serves huge burgers and fries with generous servings of cheese. You can pile on the patties if you want for an additional price of $3. With more than 28,000 Likes on Facebook, this food truck either has a lot of friends or serves excellent burgers!

Gumbo Kitchen is another senior food truck that started its operations in 2011. It serves New Orleans cuisine which means spicy food with a lot of oomph especially their crispy pork belly.  Also popular on their menu are the hush puppies, buffalo fried chicken and of course, the gumbo.

Mr. Burger is one of the few food trucks that offer gluten free food. Their food is simple, hot, and spicy – if you want it with jalapenos. Although the feedback on Mr. Burger is split about 90% do agree that you should try their gourmet burgers at least once.

Happy Camper Pizza serves thin crust pizza with a variety of toppings even dessert toppings. Their food truck is a 1960s Airstream which in itself is a novelty already. Their pizza crust is crispy without being burnt and the ingredients are all high quality and fresh.  They are vegan friendly, accept orders for delivery, and will accept reservations.

Other food trucks that should be sampled are Ghost Kitchen (Taiwanese), Lil Nom Noms (Vietnamese), Yogurddiction, Hammer and Tong for its soft shell crab burger, and Little Mushroom Co for mushroom burgers.

Technology You Can Use To Operate Your Food Truck More Efficiently

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Operating a food truck is not easy because of the pressure to make money as soon as possible and the need to stay relevant so income gradually increases and stabilizes providing you with a steady income year in and year out. One way to reduce the anxiety regarding operating, finance, and accounting details is to install software that can help you monitor your progress on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.

In addition, with technology you can save on other costs such as labor and productivity.

Here are some suggestions on what technology you can use to keep a vigil eye on your business while you attend to your customers’ needs and orders.

Install a POS system

A Point of Sale (POS) system does not only record your daily sales, it can help you keep track of your inventories and work hours for the computation of payroll. You will need to invest in the software, hardware, and training of your workers. There are more than half a dozen options that can be bought online, many of which have free trial offers.

The basic criteria for a good food truck POS system are: affordability, user-friendliness, ease in customization, and with a good selections of functions.

Get a Simple Mobile Payment System

This is one way to accept credit card payments without having to go through the complex system. You can use your mobile phone or tablet to process payments, or tie the mobile payment system in with your POS set-up.

Consider Cloud-based Services

From managing your workers to securing your files, you can use different cloud-based systems like Dropbox, Mailbox, Asana, 30/30, Evernote, Skype, Quickbooks, Neverlate, Pramata, ZenPayroll, Expensify, and Square. You will have to check for charges associated with cloud services because you can easily rack up thousands of dollars in charges if you leave your workers free and unlimited access to some cloud services.

Social Media Marketing

Naturally, you need to use social media like Twitter  to spread the word about your outstanding products. Just make sure to screen everything that is posted online so you avoid offending anyone or commenting in such a way that would question your integrity and business ethics.


Planning Your Food Truck’s Commissary

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Every successful food truck has an organized commissary so if you plan on staying in the food truck business for a while, you should think ahead about setting up a commissary to help you stay organized, clean, and ready for anything including food or ingredient shortages, price fluctuations on raw materials, and an area where you can create new dishes to offer on your menu.

Understanding the Need for a Commissary

A commissary is the place where you can stock up on your ingredients so you do not have to keep making trips to the market or ordering from your suppliers. Some food ingredients can be stocked up without affecting the freshness of your food like seasoning, oil, baking ingredients, and packaging, among others. If you can order in bulk, you get a chance to lower your costs by asking for the wholesale discount. The commissary is not where you cook the food you will sell daily but you can create new dishes and use the area to store the perishables on your food truck every night.

Depending on your location, you may even be required to have a commissary if you are not allowed to cook from your food truck by some city ordinance. If this is the case with you, will cannot use your personal home kitchen as a commissary but you will be required to find a place that is licensed for commercial use.

Thus, before you make plans about a commissary, find out what the local laws require. This will save you a lot of time and grievance not to mention unnecessary expenses.

Some of the common rules on running a commissary:

  1. Commissaries are subject to sanitation inspection and must have local certification renewed every year.
  2. It is possible to rent shared space with other food truck owners to save on rental and local government fees.
  3. Some cities do not allow the food to be cooked in the commissary stating that they have to be served fresh from the food truck. This usually applies to meals that have to be served hot or contain fresh ingredients like salad greens.

The benefits of having a commissary are multiple. For instance, you get storage space. You also have a place to park your food truck when it is not in use. It also makes it convenient for disposing of trash and cleaning your kitchen equipment.  Finally, you can use the commissary as your  business address which will make it convenient for anyone to contact you.

Choosing Your Food Truck: Should You Buy Used or New?

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The biggest expense when setting up a food truck business is buying the food truck. And although the growth rate for new food trucks in the past 5 years is around 12.4% or over 4,000 food trucks now operating around the country, there are used food trucks being sold in the market. The question to answer then is whether to invest in a new truck or buy a used truck.

There are some people who believe in the superstition that buying second-hand or used items especially if it is connected to failure will mean trouble. If you think along these lines, you should buy a new food truck although it will cost you more and still give you a 50/50 chance of success or failure.

Other Factors That Should Be Considered

Superstition aside, there are other factors that must be considered when buying a truck. The first questions you should answer are:

  • How much storage do you need? How much cooking will you be doing?
  • Do you want gas or diesel?
  • Where do you plan to sell because there may be parking restrictions on size and length of truck?
  • Would you rather buy a food truck ready-to-use or buy a truck and customize it?
  • Are you willing to consider leasing a food truck?

A ready-to-use food truck will mean that you have to make do with the lay-out and plan around it whereas a customized truck can be outfitted to suit your business plan.  In addition, to order a custom-made food truck would take time to finish and this will delay the opening of your business. You are also taking a chance that the person you order the custom built food truck from is spot on with your instructions.

One way to decide on the truck to buy is to scout around at existing food trucks that are selling foods similar to what you have in mind. Many food truck owners are happy to discuss their business if you approach them properly and you could solicit excellent tips on buying your own truck.

Keep in mind that food trucks do not necessarily have to be trucks. You have other options like buying a minivan, cart on wheels, or a minibus. The idea is to tie down the food truck design to your business concept so it is attractive and a crowd-pleaser.

How To Beat Your Food Truck’s Closest Competitor

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A food truck today is more challenged than a food truck that operated 5 years ago. This is because of the increasing number of food trucks on the road. Same market, more players suggests tougher competition and higher risk factors.

If you have a food truck and are facing threat from your closest competitors, you might want to try an indirect approach in beating them as the better option on the road. Here are some ways you can boldly address the competition without having to handle any direct confrontation.

Lower Expenses

Except for marketing and advertising, you should always be on the lookout for ways to lower expenses without affecting quality. For a new business, you need to ask around since you have no Profit and Loss figures yet. Find out who the best suppliers are, the quantities that will give you volume discounts, and where to find quality ingredients at low costs. Typically, this means buying in wet markets instead of supermarkets where the prices are almost always a tad higher.

You could also go over the day’s trends and find out when you can shut down the food truck rather than pay salaries on dead time.

Just don’t be stingy with advertising although be creative so you don’t have to spend so much. Use the Internet and social media to boost sales. Hire a social media marketing professional (even an intern) to drum up interest in your business.

Nothing Beats Outstanding Rapport with Customers

If you want to stand out as a food truck worth visiting and revisiting, you need to work hard on keeping your customers happy. They should be happy to eat your food, happy to wait for their food, and even happier to keep coming back for more. It’s really all about this. How many stories are there of millionaires going back to their roots where they would buy their lunch from a hotdog stand just because that guy selling the hotdogs was nice to them when they were just starting out? You need to be that personable hotdog vendor who everyone loves and can never forget. It’s what build loyalty and a special bond between business owner and customer.

Finally, don’t fear competition even if they are huge successes in the food business. Celebrate all successful food trucks because it legitimizes your existence. Concentrate instead on cooking great food at fair prices and being a wonderful vendor to buy from because that’s what people will remember and recommend. Just avoid stepping over the line and being too friendly or too personal with your customers. Keep it professional, straightforward and respectful.

Retail Fashion Trucks: The Next Big Thing?

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Brick and mortar restaurants might want to start pushing a potentially new blockbuster business idea to get the stress of having to fight for customers from roving food trucks. An innovative business woman just started a truck business – but she isn’t selling food. She’s selling fashion around the Washington DC area. It’s a pink business truck known as Street Boutique and it is starting to create waves as it parks around the DC area selling beautiful accessories and clothing.

Now, selling clothes on the streets is not a new idea. It’s been around for centuries and still is very common in many underdeveloped and touristy countries. However, most of the items sold on streets are either very commercial or of very cheap quality.

Perhaps it is time to challenge fashion empires with a rolling store that sells trendy clothes and beautiful accessories especially for working men and women who may need a change of clothing or do not have time to go shopping during their lunch break or after work.

The keys to a successful rolling boutique are a quick-changing inventory and forward-thinking (in terms of fashion trends) business owner. It’s about being in the right place and having the right items at the right price. However, the price advantage for now for a rolling boutique would be charging for the convenience. People will buy at a slightly higher price if the item they want is available immediately and without having to out of their way. It also plays on impulse buying which is a tremendous marketing angle with the proper merchandising display and creativeness.

With Street Boutique as the example to follow, it would also be a good idea to have variety. People will even consider gift-buying from rolling boutique stores because it would mean not having to deal with crowded malls and long cashier lines.

The Street Boutique also allows customers to walk into the truck and look around. The biggest issues you may have to hurdle are: petty thefts, marketing, and lack of space. Thus far, Street Boutique is getting a lot of excellent reviews from new customers who appear to veer towards being loyal customers eventually.  For Street Boutique, the truck required lower capital to set up which meant being able to buy more inventories. Whether this becomes a new fashion business trend or not remains to be seen but for now, its uniqueness and convenience is encouraging.

Impressive Show of Force: Food Trucks in Belgium

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Belgium is part of Western Europe and known as the land where the saxophone came from and where music is heavily incorporated into one’s daily life with multiple music festivals and events. It is a federal monarchy and a population of over 11 million. Belgian food is fondly described as German-plenty but of French-quality. A few of the most popular foods from Belgium that the world has received with gusto are the Belgian chocolates, waffles, beer, and fries. Belgium’s national dishes are steak or mussels with fries.

In Brussels, Belgium’s largest city as well as its capital city, food trucks have been popping up all over the city – and some of them in very unusual shapes and sizes. Some of the top most appealing food trucks in the city are:

Keep on Toasting – This is one of Brussels’ earliest food trucks and it specializes in gourmet croquet-Monsieur which is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. They operate around the city and often are booked for private events. However, they are available on social media where they post their calendar of events and daily locations. They also only accept card payments.

Petit Nuage – This is a cutesy 3-wheel blue and white food cart which makes it a food trike that serves waffles on a stick and organic ice cream (only during the hotter months). Their waffle dogs served on sticks and with different fillings are delightful snacks that are gaining popularity among locals and tourists alike.

Mellow – Mellow is a pink ball foodie stand that reminds you a little of a Japanese cartoon character. They serve organic frozen low fat yoghurt and will only come out to sell when the summer months roll in.

Hopdog – This is a foodie business that offers 10 different kinds of hotdogs including vegetarian and sweet dogs. They offer 3 portions sizes: small, large and extra large.

Sinstreetfood – This food business offers Indian cuisine like samosas, curries, veggie burger, and rice meals.

El Camion – This food truck used to be a mobile dental clinic that now serves bar food like blood pudding sandwich and boulets sauce lapin which are rabbit meatballs.

Asap – This food truck is incredibly designed to look like an old school English food truck. It serves wraps, English sandwiches, and salads. Every day, they find a different location to grab the lunch crowd.

Other interesting food businesses to hunt down in Brussels and sample their food are Le 3e element (Thai cuisine), Plan B Street Food, Il Sapore Della Dolce Vita, and Fourcette a Bicyclette with their amazing hot meals in glass jars.

Why Food Trucks are Closing Shop: What Can Happen to the Dream

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Just like start-up restaurants, there are food trucks that flop and close shop. In Canada, Calgary city government has made major changes to its licensing rules that a number of food trucks have not been able to comply with. In the United States, many city authorities are also feeling the pressure from brick and mortar restaurants who complain of a considerable drop in their profits blaming food trucks for their losses.

Yet, many food truck owners are reporting robust sales and a friendly relationship with authorities. How then can it be reconciled for some food trucks to work tremendously well while others give up? Continue reading »