Set and Exceed Expectations to Pull Ahead in the Food Truck Business

By Richard Myrick

Expectations are the nonverbal agreements you establish with your food truck customers about the food and service you and your staff provide them. These may be things such as the quantity or quality of your food, but they may also include the timing involved in getting an order completed or even the plating and appearance of their meal as you serve it. These expectations are the basis on which your customers evaluate your food truck and measure their satisfaction with it.

The more you meet — and even exceed — your customers’ expectations, the more likely those folks are to become loyal followers of your food truck.

Setting expectations for your food truck

Meeting customer expectations is essential for creating repeat customers; if you don’t, your customers will seek out an alternative to your truck, no matter how good your food tastes.

The process of setting customer expectations requires careful attention to the beginning of the initial customer experience. Your job is to describe what you provide, how you prepare it, and what the customer should expect. If you don’t make this clear from the start, customers may define their own expectations, which may or may not match the expectations you want them to have.

You can start this process as soon as your service staff greets each new customer. Ask each customer whether she’s been to the truck in the past. If she hasn’t, explain the style of cuisine, the ingredients, or each menu item and any special cooking techniques used, such as how long your beef brisket is marinated before it ever gets on the truck.

If a customer is a regular but you have a new menu item, you can provide her with this same type of information and even compare it to other food she’s already had. If you’ve modified your operations, such as preparing a dish in a new way or a new chef trying a new cooking technique, share this information with your customer so you’re able to set her expectations from those she may already have.

Going beyond your customers’ expectations

After you set your customers’ expectations, set a goal for your staff to exceed them. Exceeding expectations simply means delivering your food on time and as advertised while at the same time providing your customers with excellent service. This formula leads to long-lasting relationships with the individuals who frequent your food truck.

You can exceed expectations with simple things, such as giving a first-time customer a sample of a couple of your menu items to help her determine which one she wants to order. Or if a customer orders multiple items off your menu, throw in a free side item or drink. You don’t necessarily need to give anything away for free; just add more value or over deliver to each customer.

You can do so by something as simple as a smile on a rainy day or a hand-written “thank you” on each receipt. You’ll find that using these tactics is a great way to create buzz around your business and to get your customers referring others to your truck.

Consider two food trucks with comparable menus, meals, and prices:

  • One delivers its services strictly to expectations. The service is good but somewhat impersonal. Customers get what they pay for — no more, no less.
  • The second food truck owner has set a different standard for his employees. Returning customers are greeted by name when they step up to the service window. The individual taking the order remembers the menu item the customer ordered and enjoyed on her last visit and suggests another menu item that he feels the customer may like as well. The chef even comes to the service window before the customer leaves to make sure everything is prepared to her satisfaction.

At the first truck, the customers’ expectations were met. At the second, the customers’ expectations were exceeded because of the way they were treated. It didn’t cost any more to provide this extra service, but it did require a customer-focused business owner and staff.