This is a regular feature of my blog reviewing questions, tips and comments from around the internet and from my communication with my vending clients.
“Hi everyone guys have u ever just quit your job and went full time for your business”
Going full time is never an easy decision. Likewise, there is no “one size fits all” answer. If going full-time means quitting your present job WHILE your spouse continues to work providing family income then full time may be an option your family can handle.
On the other hand, going full time as the SOLE source of income is a completely different situation. Either case requires serious questions to be answered BEFORE making the plunge.
Deciding to go full time can and should be a mathematical decision ONLY. Think of it this way if you are currently living paycheck to paycheck how hard will it be if you have to live DAY TO DAY without benefit of that security blanket job?
“What is the best brand of hot dogs to sell?”
This question gets asked every week on one or more forums. Without fail someone will wrongly answer – “Go to your most popular grocery store and see which brand has the most representation.” This answer is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. It echoes a passage from a book written by a failed business owner pretending to be a hot dog “guru”. One of the reasons a business fails is not understanding the relationship between inventory and profitability. Grocery stores of any size (ones big enough to where you could compare shelf space allotments by brand) are governed by two rules. One is contractually obligated shelf space the other is profits. Chain grocery stores sign contracts with manufacturers assigning space for products completely independent of what product sells the best. The key is PROFITS and/or REBATES. So, looking at a huge display of Oscar Mayer hot dogs does not mean they are the most popular it means the store gains more profits when that brand sells. It also means since the display is larger than the other brands, shoppers will probably only notice and subsequently purchase Oscar Mayer.
Think about it as a businessperson. Which product would you give the bigger display to the one where you make $0.50 a package or the one you make $1.50? The science of product placement and merchandising paired with profitability drives shelf space allotment and sadly popularity takes a back seat. Here are just a few of the many sites that explain merchandising:
“How did y'all go about hiring your first real employee? (For dummy’s lol)
Tbh, I feel like I can't trust anyone with money, how do you overcome that & what are some tips to cover yourself for loss.”
Recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training can be scary if you have never hired someone. Add in handing your business and profits over to someone else’s care and you may face sleepless nights, too. Without writing a book lets go over some basics.
Recruiting is fairly simple. However, be mindful of WHERE you recruit and the image you leave. You can post ads on your own Facebook, your business Facebook and website, Craigslist, Indeed and any local online job boards. Enlist your local job services, unemployment offices, high schools, Goodwill or economic development centers. Really limit ads on your business pages. Posting "help wanted" often gives the impression you are difficult to work for or short handed and service may be suffering.
Interviewing requires just a little training so you aren’t asking illegal questions for your state. Research “legal interview questions in (my state)” and you will find lists of forbidden questions. You should ask “why” or “what if” questions and avoid “yes or no” questions. Seek experience and test that experience with questions specific to the past food job and your needs. For example, I make it a point to know my competition and how they operate. If I get a Taco Bell employee, (one of the few fast foods I have not worked) I ask questions specific to my observations of their operations. Like the portion size of scoop for the taco meat or the cook time for the rice. The more details they know the more likely I have found a conscientious employee. If you plan on the employee handing cash give them a simple test for making change. Ask what they would do if they saw a co-worker stealing. You would be surprised the number of people that will answer “nothing”.
Not trusting other people with money is rather cynical, however, “trust but verify” is a sound business principle. If you are considering hiring even one person you should have some type of policies written out. Including tardiness, cash handling, food waste, calling off work and dozens of others. Each policy should have a threshold and a consequence if that threshold is broken.
If you can’t absorb a small cash loss (theft) you are not ready to hire people and turn your business over to them unsupervised. Grow a little more you have time.
“Cold temp is coming in fast; how do you guys prevent your food truck plumbing from freezing up ... all my pipes are PVCs, I’m afraid it might burst when winter hits. Thanks!”
A common question for this time of year. Likewise, a common ILLEGAL answer – “I find the best way to prevent things freezing is to not have things that can freeze on the truck. You don’t need water tanks in the winter, so your dishes at home or at your commissary”
Guess this guy doesn’t wash his hands! It is scary to think someone selling food to the public believes water is not needed and thinks washing dishes at home is acceptable. I cringe at the thought of animal fur, cigarette ash, children with colds and sticky hands “helping” wash the dishes. Cooking and ware washing is forbidden at home for good reason. These types of answers are why local governments side with B&M restaurants against street vendors, to be honest, I don’t blame them. Every guest these poor operators turn off to street food is a guest I will never be able to serve. They hurt my business.
As far as winterizing I will be posting a checklist and link it here.
This last section is more of a commentary on whining by vendors. There is a successful street vendor in the southeast that recently promoted themselves to a brick and mortar restaurant. After years running a very successful hot dog cart, they seized an opportunity to lease a restaurant. By all appearances they are doing quite well. I have referred to them a time or two as vendors to emulate with their attention to guest service, their marketing ability on social media and their quality standards.
Like most folks making that jump from a cart to a B&M they have experienced growing pains and stumbled a time or two. Nothing too business damaging and they recovered nicely.
However, this weekend for the second time since they opened, they have done something dumb, not by accident but on purpose. Repeated occurrences indicate patterns and patterns indicate predictability.
When they first opened, they had a guest with a child that had “allergies” to nuts. A nut allergy is not to be trifled with and unless you have taken the Serv-Safe allergen course you may not know exactly what to do. The owner not feeling comfortable refused to serve them. Mistake number one. Frankly if you don’t fully understand the food business DO NOT GET IN IT.
The owner compounded the error by airing his side on his Facebook Business page. Mistake number two. He took what should have been handled quietly & internally and broadcast it to all his followers. Understand his BUSINESS PAGE not a private, closed vendor group. He continued to compound errors by making a second post including his updated menu photograph including a disproportionately large allergen notification in the center of the board. Mistake three.
I believe there was one more post whining about what I am sure was an embarrassing situation. Each post was to justify how poorly this was handled, again these posts should never have been on the business page. Remember this rule for guests and employees: Vent or chastise privately, congratulate or reward publicly.
This weekend a new situation was aired on the business page. Apparently, they ran out of an item and a guest that came in for THAT specific item became rude. Again the owner refused service. Compounding the problem, the owner felt obliged to again post a summary of the situation to his Facebook Business page. While defending himself, “there is no way to know in advance how much to prep before you all come through our door unless you RSVP - which is what we have always recommended when possible.”, he invited people to go to McDonald's and Cracker Barrel. (BTW Cracker Barrel is not fast food and don’t require a RSVP.)
Determining how much food to order is actually not difficult any more so than monitoring inventory levels and running to the local grocery store BEFORE you run out. That is called "thinking ahead". It is not a difficult skill to learn. Rarely in 40 years have I run out of product and had to tell someone we were out. When I did run out I made certain the guest was happy rather than say "just order something else."
Running out of something is not fun. It certainly is no more fun than having a crucial piece of equipment breakdown at lunch. (like the broiler at Burger King putting them out of the burger and grilled chicken business at the same time) As restaurant or cart owner your single goal is to extract as much money as possible from your guests in a manner that makes them want to repeat the process tomorrow. Posting a whining rant about a rude person on your business page and inviting people to eat somewhere else is not the way to ensure you stay open tomorrow.
That’s why I no longer follow this restaurant nor recommend it as an example of how to operate and market. Quite frankly, that much vitriol impacts service, quality and taste. I expect them to be out of business this time next year unless they stop whining and learn how to put guest needs first.
I have had a passion for helping people since an early age back in rural Kentucky. That passion grew into teaching and training managers and owners how to grow sales, increase profits, and retain guests. You’ll find a ton of information here about improving restaurant and food cart/trailer operations and profits. Got questions? Email me at Bill_Moore@live.com