Food Trucks – A Growing Trend

Food Trucks are becoming the “In Thing” in many major cities, with the range and types of food available matching that of many restaurants world wide. Combine the choice of food with the ease of purchase and nominal price and you have a growing trend that should be around for many years to come.

Food trucks have been around for ever but were normally confined to the old favorites like hot dogs, burgers, and of course ice cream. Now, you can name any country in the world and there is probably a food truck selling one or more of their hand held delicacies from a small window in some city near you.

I still remember my first food truck experience.  It was three o’clock in the morning and I was feeling a bit under the weather. It probably had something to do with the large amount of beer, wine and spirits that I had consumed over the last several hours at a downtown pub in the heart of Adelaide, Australia.

I was still in my late teens and at the time was prone to do these sorts of things along with all of my friends. Luckily I have grown out of this habit.

There is a tradition in many Australian cities near the main drinking areas to have a food truck that specializes in pot pies, yep, pot pies!! Now the pot pies themselves are to be found in every deli and lunch place in the country, what makes these “pie carts” as they are called, different is what they add to the pot pies. Most of the pies are beef and gravy cocooned in a light fluffy pastry. When ordered from a pie cart they put in a bowl and cover it in green pea soup with a dollop of ketchup added to the top.

Are you still with me! Too much to drink, feeling woozy and looking at a meat pie covered in green pea soup and ketchup. This is a kill or cure hangover remedy!! Well actually it is a cure, cure remedy. If you eat it and manage to keep it down for more than ten minutes, you will feel better just because of the food in your stomach. If you eat it and lose it, you will feel better just because you have purged the booze from your system. Win, win.

If you happen to be in Adelaide, Australia late at night try The Pie Cart right outside the casino in the old railway station. You don’t have to have the pea soup! If you are in Sydney try Harry’s Café de Wheels in the theater district right next to China Town, both are worth a try.

More on food trucks and street food in my next blog.


Product Sampling in Your Restaurant

Product Sampling

The next subject on my list of Local Store Marketing ideas is product sampling.

What is product sampling? Giving away small portions of your menu items as a taste test to new or existing customers in the hope of either promoting trial of your restaurant or enticing existing customers to use you more often.

Sampling to existing customers, dependant on your concept usually means:

1. Adding a small plate of samples either at point of purchase or point of payment for coffee shops and other establishments that require the customer to order or pay at the counter
2. Delivering a trial sized plate to the customer at the table while they are deciding their order
3. Giving the samples after the meal at the table.
4. Sampling outside of your establishment. Normally at the edge of your lease line or close enough to control usage and your team.
5. Any other means to bring your product to people as a trial.

What should you sample? Anything that will retain its quality when not served in the usual manner and will still have eye appeal when served in small portions.

Here are a few sampling ideas that I have seen work in the past:

• New menus or significant changes to a current menu can be stressful, so prior to releasing it try a sample plate on your regular customers and get their feedback. It not only helps you to test your ideas and weed out some of those mistakes we all make, it makes your customers feel special.

• Bakeries or any business that sells pastries, cakes etc., can easily cut a pastry into small pieces, arrange on a doily and plate, stick a toothpick in the piece and have a team member go for a walk. Make sure that the team member is well trained on the product, pricing and ingredients.

• Coffee shops can buy sample sized paper cups and give out these to existing customers with new products or specials or as in the bakery scenario have a team member go for a walk.

• In one very large coffee concept who uses the sampling method on a regular basis, they were dumbfounded to find out that when sampling two new cold beverages prior to summer that the number one comment coming back from customers was “we didn’t know you sold cold beverages.” Sampling works!!

• If you have products that are almost at the end of their shelf life use them to sample. They have to be discarded anyway so why not use them to build sales.

Assuming you have decided to try sampling, remember to:

Spend the time training your team on the correct way to sample. Use team members with personality rather than product knowledge, you can always teach that prior to the sampling process. It is almost impossible to teach personality.

Spend time on packaging. A well presented sample will induce more trial than a tired piece of cake on a plastic plate, for higher priced items you may even want to look at individual sample packaging.

Run sampling on a regular basis, especially during slow periods, and add a discount for coming into your establishment on the day of sampling. A 10% discount card for the specific product can be given to people who have sampled your product and in the case of the large coffee chain I mentioned, they wrote the date and $1.00 off on every sample cup for a full sized beverage.

Good luck adding sampling to your LSM and if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Domino’s Delivery Vehicle to be Designed by Fans! Why not drivers?

Hey Domino’s, Don’t Forget The Drivers!

Domino’s announced a contest to get their fans to design a delivery vehicle! (Click here to check out the contest! )What a great idea to create some buzz around Domino’s. It’s not just a jazzed up regular car but a completely, newly designed vehicle just for Domino’s delivery. This is a pretty cool promotional idea although it remains to be seen whether they will build a prototype as a promo gimmick or will they actually use this car on the streets? Domino’s has never to my knowledge provided vehicles to their delivery drivers (exception is Asia where they had company scooters).

What stood out to me as a neglected part of this contest is the delivery drivers themselves. I would bet that some of you reading this post may have actually been a pizza delivery driver at some time – I was, in high school. It was a great way to make a living and a lot of fun. Although the customers will have fun designing their ideal delivery vehicle (not sure what that could be – a jet car to get the pizza delivered faster?) it would be real fun to see what delivery drivers and former drivers would come up with. I can remember pizzas sliding across the back seat of my Nissan (Datsun at the time lol) as I whipped around corners at mach speed trying to get that pizza delivered and back to the store for the next one or three.

Now I am not trying to take anything away from the Domino’s customer who knows what they want – when they said the pizza wasn’t to their liking any longer, Domino’s listened and went back to the kitchen to come up with a better product. They listen to their customers and maybe we will see a customer designed pizza delivery vehicle on the road that will revolutionize pizza delivery. If anyone can do it Domino’s can. I just think they might be missing out on some real practical design elements that the drivers could recommend. Either way – can’t wait to see it!