Three Keys to Building Food Truck Super-Fans

Close your eyes and picture your favorite regular customer. You know the Suit—extra hot sauce, hold the cheese—who always gives you a smile and a healthy tip. Or that chatty college girl who seems to have converted her whole dorm into fans of yours—thanks to her, you can make a few extra payments on your own college loans.

These are your super-fans—your heart-loyal, got-your-back fans who want nothing more than their usual and your success.

What is it that keeps those two regulars coming back, week after week? Is it the food? Your prices? Perhaps the fact that you always remember his order and to slice her sandwich in half?

Whatever it is, it’s your special sauce!

We know quite a few food truck super-fans. To shed light on the loves and habits of such adoring food truck foodies, we polled them about what keeps them going back to their favorite trucks time after time. Their insights may just be the boost of clarity and confidence you need to take your food truck business to the next level.

Here are the three keys that keep the super-fans coming back for more.

1. Great Food Worthy of Dreams and Fan Accounts

Seems obvious, right? But you know as well as I do that there are trucks (not yours) serving sub-par food. And you must know that many food truck foodies were once skeptical newbies, unsure if they could place their hunger in your hands. What does that mean? That your food needs to make an amazing and memorable first impression to have any chance at all of converting a newbie into a raving fan.

Good food isn’t good enough. You need delicious meals that make the mouth water and appear in your fans’ dreams. This is food worth talking about at the water cooler and posting pictures of on Facebook, making all their friends jealous. But more than sparking envy, you want your happy customers to play the hero with their friends, telling them about this great new discovery they made (you). That’s what great food does.

We asked Lina, one of our food truck super-fans, why she consistently returns to her favorite truck, Kogi. “KogiBBQ combines 2 cultures food (Hispanic & Korean) that I am familiar with & throws them together in ways I never imagined.”

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That’s a bold statement—“never imagined.” But if you do a simple search on Twitter for people talking about KogiBBQ, you’ll see tweets filled with equally grand superlatives: “absolutely love,” “phenomenal,” and “my new cheat food.” Someone even created a Twitter account named @Kogiholic and calls Kogi “God’s Chosen Food.” (That, my friends, is a super-fan).

The KogiBBQ fanbase is so crazy-mad in love with them that they’ve caused people from other cities to beg for the truck to visit their cities—everyone wants to try KogiBBQ’s Korean burritos they’ve heard so much about.

Sounds like a great problem to have right? It is, so long as you don’t screw up customer service, which shows up #2 as a super-fan must.

2. Electric Customer Service That Makes Them Say ‘Wow!’

Sure, you could just sell great food; that’s probably enough to keep gas in your truck. But if your goal is to be the best, the unmissable food truck destination, the shining moment in your customers’ day, then electric customer service must be a part of your recipe.

The need for out-of-this-world service is so paramount because it’s at the heart of your reputation. Moreover, your super-fans put their reputation on the line every time they recommend you to friends. If the friends don’t like the food, that’s a difference in taste. If the friends are unhappy with the service, that’s personal.

Here’s what you need to do: Treat every customer as if he is your biggest fan. Ask his name and where he’s from. Ask him what attracted him to your truck. Ask if he has any questions about the menu. Tell him a story about your truck. Put a little treat in his bag free of charge on his first order. Make sure he leaves saying ‘wow!’

You can test the effectiveness of your customer service magic by getting out of the kitchen. Grab a notebook and step away from your truck, at least a half block down the street. What do you see? Do people approach your truck but then walk away? Do they get in line, or do they seem confused about the ordering process?

Walk closer to your truck and listen to the people in line. What are they talking about? Are they asking other customers in line questions about the food that your menu doesn’t answer? Do they have questions about payment? How long do they stand in line before someone in the truck gives them a smile?

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Now examine the ordering process. Does it feel like a transaction, or does it feel like an interaction? Did your employee greet the customer with “Next!” or did the customer get a nice “Hello! What can I get for you?” or “Hello! Do you have any questions?”

And when the customer finished ordering, did he know where to stand to wait for his food, or did he have to figure that out on his own? How does the customer know his order is ready? Is he listening for a number to be called, or far better, is he listening for his name to be called? Did he get another thank you or “Have a good day” as his order was handed to him?

Next, sit down with an order of your food. Are there utensils in the bag, or did your customer need to remember to pick those up himself? Are there plenty of napkins? If your customer takes his food back to the office, is there any way for his coworkers to know where it came from—a logo on the bag or the napkins? Is there anything extra in the bag, like a mint or a fortune cookie?

In our chats with food truck super-fans, the most surprising customer service insight came from Michael. When asked how he finds new trucks to visit, he said that he gets his best recommendations from his favorite food truck’s employees. The truck not only serves great food, but also has employees willing to take the time to have a conversation and share their thoughts on other good food. It’s the combination of the great food and the great service that has made Michael a dedicated fan.

And when new fans are looking for you, you’d better be easy to find—#3 on the super-fan list of must-dos for awesome food trucks.

3. Location Made Easy Using Social Media Updates

The FoodTruckr team has pored over hundreds of food truck Facebook and Twitter profiles. You’d think that food truck owners would use these mega social platforms to share their location directly to their fans. That’s common sense, right? Apparently not.

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We were shocked at how hard it was to figure out what city many trucks were in, much less their specific location within that city. If you’re thinking that’s a missed opportunity of galactic size, you’d be right.

Granted, we understand that setting a specific location schedule is more challenging in some cities than others—and downright impossible in cities with tight regulations and stiff competition. Thankfully, updating your food truck social media accounts isn’t that tricky. (If you need some help with your social media, consider joining our newsletter to receive a free copy of our ebook 6 Free Social Media Tools to Get People Talking About Your Food Truck).

To stand out from the crowd, make your truck the easiest to find. And when you can’t beat the competition to the best location, get close. If others share an intersection (“Parked on the corner of 3rd & Main!”), you share a map.

The Google Maps app makes finding and sharing your precise location easy:

  • Find your current location.
  • When it appears, tap on the address.
  • You’ll see two options: Save and Share.
  • Click on Share to post a map link straight to Twitter or Facebook.

If you’re happy with your current level of business, then by all means don’t mess with your success. But if you want more business, then it pays to be extra helpful with your location updates.

Every single super-fan we talked to mentioned using Twitter or Facebook on their phones to find their favorite trucks. From our research, it seems that sharing location updates frequently via social media is a significant advantage for those trucks attracting the largest fan bases. Providing an address and a map is like holding your super-fan’s hand and walking them right up to your window.

Be Extraordinary

Great food, electric service, and easy to find locations are the three essentials that super-fans want most from their favorite food trucks. When you deliver on those elements, you’re bound to spark raving conversations about your food truck, which will net you some new foodies that adore your cooking and return week after week.

When you treat your customers like gold, they’ll have no choice but to become your super-fans.

image by Charleston’s TheDigitel

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About the Author

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Mindy Holahan is a staff writer and the #FoodTruckFan columnist. Indeed, she’s a big ole fan of food trucks, particularly if they sell fish tacos. She has a background in the hospitality industry, loves working with writers, and gets positively giddy about the intersection between cooking and science. Follow her on Twitter @HolaMindy for daily bouts of enthusiasm or on Instagram @HolaMindy for her adventures and epic failures in gluten-free baking.

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