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January 2, 2016 Staff

Creating a Profitable Culture on a Food Truck

Every work place has a culture. BusinessDictionary.com defines it:  “organizational culture encompasses values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization,” including “expectations, experiences, philosophy and values that hold it together.”

Some of the values to consider on a food truck include dress code, customer interaction and service values, owner-employee structure and relationships, and clear processes.

Is there a how-to manual on the truck? Are employees trained? Is there room for feedback in the training and on the job? How does the staff interact with customers? Are staff comfortable with one another, with the boss? Is it ok to shout out to customers in line, date coworkers or customers? Every detail surrounding the business is part of the culture.

Culture Impacts the Bottom Line

Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, wrote Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose in 2010. The book offers stories of multi-million dollar deals, business advice and the idea that happiness can be used as a model at work and in life. Delivering Happiness is now a business helping organizations define and understand culture for happy staff, bigger profits and overall success.

As you develop your food truck, set the values and culture by looking back on past experience and forward to what you choose to create. Sometimes a work culture is toxic but populated with good people. Sometimes it’s a great work environment and you work well with very different people you would otherwise not know. As the leader and manager, it’s up to you to design and nurture a culture where everyone feels valued, the goals and tasks are clear, and the people work together for a positive outcome. Create a positive culture with your staff’s input for bigger success.

Observe By Watching

fts2Yogi Berra said “You can observe a lot by watching.” Look at your environment for clues about your food truck’s culture:  dress codes, scheduling priorities and attitudes, smiles/frowns, tone of voice, body language, training process, staff structure, open mindedness, good communication, etc. You may have one other person working for you or a dozen prepping at your commissary and on your truck. No matter the staff size, the culture is critical to the business’ success and your sanity.

A happy employee is a stable, productive employee, and that means consistency in both food and service. A stable staff means efficient human resources for you, the boss:  less time hiring, firing, disciplining and training. It pays to invest in your employees, whether they’re with you for a few catering gigs, a busy summer schedule, or for years.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2014 increased profits by an average of 22.2% and added new employees at a rate five times higher than the national average. You may not want to grow that fast, but the happiest employees are working for the most successful businesses of all sizes.

Do What You Can to Make Staff Happy

How can you make your staff happy? Your culture needs to include the basics:  pay, benefits and appreciation.

Pay fairly, on time and accurately. Tip distribution is one of the best ways to show a staff your appreciation of individuals and the entire team. Study tipping and work your point of sale to encourage tips so your staff makes more. Bigger tickets mean bigger tips. Better customer service means bigger tips. See the pattern?

You may not be able to cover the big benefits a large employer can, like a health plans, paid vacation or child care, but a clear understanding of what you can give your staff makes a huge difference in the culture. Be sure they know what they can eat and when. Do you have uniforms? Launder their shirts, aprons and hats so they don’t have to think about work when off the clock. The added bonus is they’ll look great! Put together a fund for medical expenses your workers may not be able to afford and dole it out carefully. Help them get signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

When the boss appreciates the employees, the employees reflect the good will back to the customers, and that equates to more success for your food truck. Appreciation is the number one thing employees want from their jobs, even ahead of pay, according to Boston Consulting Group’s poll of 200,000 employees around the world.

The culture in, on and around your food truck is critical to the success of your business. Open your eyes, ears and mind to take your business’ pulse and keep it beating strong.

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