#FoodTruckFan: How to Sell the Cost of Better Ingredients

On Wednesday in the “How to Start a Food Truck” series, we wrote about the importance of quality ingredients. As a customer, I wholeheartedly second that.

I’m sure that as a business owner, you constantly feel the tension of ingredient prices. Do I buy the cheap grocery store-quality tomatoes, or do I buy the fresh-from-the-local farm, $3 more per pound tomatoes? Will my customers even notice the difference?

To some people, there’s no difference between the two—at least not one they’re willing to pay for. They want your sandwiches to be cheap, fast, and good enough. Essentially, they want you to be Subway.

Let them eat at Subway. You don’t want these customers.

Why? Because you can’t compete—at least, not where it matters to them. You can’t compete with a massive chain restaurant on price. So don’t.

Where you can compete is on quality. The customers you want, the ones who will become loyal, reliable customers, recognize quality and will pay for it. And these aren’t all “foodies” either. Your average office worker will choose fresh over Subway—they just need to understand the value.

This brings us back to my favorite topic, one that I continue to bang on like a cheap drum—tell your story. Tell me why you choose higher quality ingredients.

  • Use your social media to show us the farm stands where you buy your food.
  • Put up a sign next to your menu labeled “Today’s Local Ingredients” and tell us where they’re from.
  • If you use grass-fed beef, tell us! (I will always choose that burger over a regular one.)
  • Cross-promote with other local businesses. If you use a local bakery, include “All baked goods from Awesome Bakery” in exchange for a sign at Awesome Bakery that reads “Proud supplier to Mindy’s Sandwich Truck.” Share a little of the Awesome Bakery story on your social media.
  • Hold joint events with your favorite suppliers—celebrate the anniversary of the Awesome Bakery by parking outside their shop on a busy Saturday morning.
  • It’s okay to get a little frisky now and then! Tweet out a picture of your beautiful $8 sandwich next to a disappointing $4 Subway sandwich with the caption “Your choice: fresh or fast.”
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The farm-to-table movement continues to grow. The photograph above is one I took this summer at Wise Acre Eatery’s farm dinner, an event I have not stopped talking about since August. The event has made me a customer for life, because they did everything right.

  • They educated me about the food and what it takes to produce high quality ingredients.
  • They introduced me to other local businesses, including a brewery and a cheese producer.
  • They told me the story of their business and why the food they produce is important to them.

I connected with the Wise Acre Eatery mission and I now view myself as part of their extended family. Their success matters to me.

Now, there is an equilibrium you need to find. If the going rate for lunch in your downtown area is $6, you can’t jump in with an $18 offering and expect massive sales. Educate your customers over time on why quality matters. Try wording like this:

  • Freshness matters! All our bread was fresh-baked today at Awesome Bakery.
  • When possible, all produce is purchased from local farmers.
  • Because it makes a better omelet, we only use organic, cage-free eggs.

I’d love to hear how you educate your clients on the freshness of your ingredients. Share with us below.

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Image by Mindy Holahan

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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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