As long as you’ve got a steady stream of customers, you can continue making adjustments and tweak the restaurant to make it more successful over time. But if you’re not getting enough business to pay for inventory, repairs, and other expenses the time you can spend figuring things out will be significantly reduced and you’ll have a reduced chance of being successful.
In this DIY guide, we’ll show you how to begin marketing your food truck online. While most of the tactics recommended in this article are free there is a significant time required to accomplish them. We hope this takes the guess work out of what can be done to promote yourself online. If you have any questions about the recommendations, feel free ask us questions in the comment section below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Being active on social media is critical to help build a loyal foodie following. By having a Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare account specifically, you will be able to let potential customers in the area know where you’re going to be parked on a specific day and promote new or special menu items.
Here are the basics you absolutely need in terms of social media profiles:
Facebook: Select the “Company, Organization or Institution” link and follow the instructions listed to create a digital presence for your business.
Twitter: Twitter is arguably the second most important social network to be involved with after Facebook. The nice thing about Twitter is that you can easily Tweet your trucks location from a smart phone and the 140 character limit makes it an efficient form of marketing.
Foursquare: Foursquare was designed for mobile restaurants. This social network connects you with members that are located near the same location. Customers that visit an establishment and “check in” to alert their friends where they’re located. Although this social network is less popular than Facebook and Twitter, it is an important to build a profile on this network since it’s designed to market to users located in your area.
Posting frequency: For social profiles like Facebook and Twitter, it’s not simply enough to setup a profile and forget it. You’ve actually got to post content regularly and direct customers to the Facebook and Twitter URL to ensure you’re able to stay in touch with these customers over the long term.
Although there’s not a strict rule about how often you need to post, we recommend starting out by posting at least 3 times per week across all your social profiles. Don’t know what to say? You can post location where you’re parked, images of your food, happy customers, and images from any festivals or charity events you might be attending. Tell the daily story of your food truck and people will get accustomed to looking on Facebook and Twitter to discover where you’re going to be next.
After you’ve setup your social profiles, the next step is to establish a presence on review sites like UrbanSpoon.com and Yelp.com. These websites allow users to write reviews about the food, customer service, and overall experience of any restaurant, including food trucks.
Signing up and getting your restaurant listed on these websites is important because local folks that are serious about food use these websites to discover new places to eat. After you’ve signed up for an account at both locations make sure to tell some of your best customers to leave a review on these websites. This will help your listing stand out and help generate some buzz.
Most large cities have special websites that list and organize food trucks that serve a specific metro area. You can find online directories that serve just about any major area like DC, Boston, Los Angeles, or Chicago. While you probably won’t get a lot of new customers by being listed on these website’s it won’t take up much of your time to get listed either. Usually, you can submit a single email or fill out an online form for consideration and that’s all the work you’ll ever need to do.
To find food truck directories serving your area go to Google and type the following into their search field:
(city) food truck directory
(city) food truck directories
Example: Los Angeles food truck directory
Here are a couple examples of food truck directories I found after conducting searches of my own:
FoodTruckDirectory.com: Click the “Truck & Cart Submission Form” button to have your truck added.
PHX Street Food: This directory organizes and lists food trucks serving the Phoenix, Arizona. If you live in the Phoenix area, you can apply for this website by completing the form here.
Keep in mind that each directory will have different submission requirements. If your truck is denied entry into one of these directories don’t be polite and thank the website owner for their consideration. Often you might just need to resubmit your business at a later date to get approved.
Food Bloggers and Local Press
Thanks to the advent of the internet, literally anyone in your community can become an online food critic with almost no barrier to entry. Getting coverage from local food bloggers and journalists can help spur an initial interest in a food concept and help get those critical first followers for a truck.
Fortunately, getting coverage from food bloggers is easy. First, you’ve got to find out who’s consistently writing reviews of restaurants in your area. This could either be in a local magazine or a personal blog. It really doesn’t matter. To begin your search for people to review your food, go to Google and type the following queries into the search field:
(city) food reviews
(city) restaurant reviews
(city) food truck reviews
(local food truck name) reviews
Boston food reviews
Boston food truck reviews
Bob’s Donut Truck Review
By conducting these types of searches in Google, we’re trying to discover who is writing about food in your area. Again, people could be writing these reviews as part of a local magazine, personal blog, or even just posting lengthy reviews on a website like Yelp.com.
When you find a review that you like try to find the author’s contact information. Contact information can typically be found on a side-bar listing social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook) for the author, an email address, or a form located on a Contact Us page.
After you’ve figured out how to contact the reviewer, the next step is to reach out to them and request that they review the food at your cart. Here’s a template request you can use:
Hello (Insert Food Blogger Name Here),
My name is (insert your name). I’m the owner of (insert food truck name). We specialize in serving the best crepes in the Boston Area. I read your review on (other food truck name) on your blog and would love to have the opportunity to share our food with you as well. I would also like to offer you a free $10 gift certificate when reviewing my truck so that you don’t need to spend any of your own cash.
Thanks in advance for your consideration. Of course, I’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have about my truck and take any photographs to supplement the review.
Thanks. – (Insert Your Name and Contact Information Here)
If you want a better response rate, consider offering the food critic a free $10 gift certificate as a small thanks for visiting your truck like in the template above. Usually, smaller critics will be thrilled to receive a free voucher to try out a new place. Although you might need to give out some free food to use this tactic, it’s a whole lot cheaper than taking out an ad in a newspaper or other form of traditional advertising to generate buzz for the business. Often, it’s a lot more affective than traditional advertising as well.
Keep in mind if you decide to use this marketing tactic that you could potentially receive a negative review if the experience is less than stellar for the reviewer (or if they’re simply having a bad day). As a result, you probably don’t want to invite a critic to review your truck during its first week of business. Make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to perfect the menu as much as possible to ensure a positive review.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the abundance of online marketing opportunities for food trucks and a sense that you should do everything all at once. That’s not what we recommend. Instead, try to focus on the most important aspects of online marketing and stay consistent. In Food Truck Empires opinion, the following are what you need to do online:
1.) Create Facebook and Twitter pages. Update them with new information at least a few times per week.
2.) Get listed on review websites like Yelp.com. Encourage your best customers to add reviews there.
3.) Reach out to local food critics. Foodies are friends foodies and getting the support of this demographic early can help you build a following fast and attract more press.
We’ve hope you’ve found value in the DIY guide to marketing a food truck. Again, if you have any questions, let us know in in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Also, please share this post with anyone you think would be interested. Thanks!