Vida Floyd is on a mission to spread her love of Cajun and southern cuisine. In November of 2020, she launched Jewell’s Cajun and Southern Cuisine, a food truck serving the San Antonio area. And she hasn’t looked back since.
A Louisiana native who ended up in Texas, Vida has always enjoyed cooking and loves entertaining—two skills that are key to succeeding in the competitive food truck industry. She named Jewell’s in memory of her beloved mother. “My uncle taught me how to cook gumbo when I was ten years old. Now I can cook it with my eyes closed,” Vida said.
The decision to run a food truck was an easy one for Vida. “I’m a people person, but I never wanted a brick and mortar restaurant with all of that overhead,” she said.
It’s interesting to note that Vida hasn’t always worked in food service. Her career includes a 20-year tenure at the U.S. Department of Health. Vida also worked in special education for 15 years. Finally, she turned to catering—which evolved into her food truck. “It’s like I finally grew up and realized what I wanted to do,” Vida said.
Strategies for success
Vida generously shared her recipe for success. “You have to have a strategic mind. I’m in Texas, but I promote southern cuisine, so I have to understand the audience to reach people,” she said. It also doesn’t hurt that Vida does a lot of research and majored in marketing as an undergraduate.
Some of Vida’s most successful strategies for building her food truck business include:
Give people a meal to talk about
“When people experience a good meal, they love to tell their friends,” Vida said. She credits word of mouth for accelerating the growth of Jewell’s Cajun and Southern Cuisine.
There was also carry-over—Vida’s following from her catering business has followed and supported the launch of her food truck. Her secret? Do something big. In Vida’s case, it was her annual “Gumbo Fest” event, which she has done for several years, that put her on people’s radar. “When you cook gumbo for 400 people, in a pot so big you could stand in it, people remember,” she said.
Create the right menu
Part of strategic thinking for a food truck operator is understanding the negative assumptions people may make about your food—and creating a menu that shatters those assumptions. “When people hear Cajun, they think seafood and spicy. Not everyone likes seafood and spicy so I make sure to have menu items that defy those expectations,” Vida said. To reach these customers, she always has meat dishes —and vegetarian items—on the menu.
Communicate with your customers
Vida relies heavily on social media to communicate with her customers and to engage new followers. She keeps active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now, her nine-year old granddaughter is helping her set up an account on TikTok.
Content on Jewell’s social media pages is a mix of photos of Vida’s food, on-location photos, photos of customers, and flyers promoting upcoming events. One of the most charming posts is a video of Vida grilling shrimp that was shot and narrated by her granddaughter, Taylor.
Since Vida’s already got enough on her plate keeping up with the event booking, cooking, and serving, she uses PosterMyWall to quickly create her graphics and flyers. She also uses the PosterMyWall menu tool to quickly create and update menus. “It saves me so much time,” she said.
Design is important too. “Your flyers have to pop when people see them,” Vida said. Her personal approach is to include a lot of color; she almost always adds a touch of her signature purple. She also includes either a Jewell’s logo or a photo of herself on her designs.
Vida has also had a lot of success incorporating video into her designs. “People like video, especially when it comes to food,” Vida said.
Promote your events
People can only attend your events if they know about them. Vida promotes her events through a calendar on her website, social media posts, and by texting event flyers to her contacts. Occasionally, she will also print out flyers. And she always creates an event on Facebook—which triggers reminders in her followers’ feeds.
Vida also said it’s important to schedule your event promotions. “You have to know your audience—and time your posts and outreach just right. Do it too soon and they forget. Do it too late and they’ve already got plans,” she said. Her recommendation for launching a big, new event is that you start as early as six months out. Once the event is well established—like “Gumbo Fest”—you only need to start promoting two or three months out.
For smaller events and promotions, Vida starts promoting a few weeks out—or even the week before. (Premium and Premium Plus subscribers can use PosterMyWall’s social media scheduling tool to schedule posts in advance.)
Create special menus and promotions
One of Vida’s strategies to keep in front of her customers is to create a one-day special menu. Examples include an “Only Oysters” event and a “Crawfish Boil.”
Choose the right location
Another of Jewell’s favorite strategies is to be where there are other food trucks—but not too many. “I’m now in a location where there are only two permanent food trucks. The other trucks help draw more people, but with only a handful of trucks, there are plenty of customers for everyone,” Vida said.
You also don’t want to be somewhere that has too many trucks offering the same cuisine as yours. “Having another Cajun food truck at the same location would draw some business away from me. But parking my Cajun truck with six or seven taco trucks. Now that works in my favor.”
Leverage delivery services
One of the biggest challenges in operating a food truck is the weather. “I’m going to start using Grub Hub and Door Dash,” said Vida. Not only will this increase her revenue on rainy days and during the rainy season, but it’ll also create a way for people who are unable or too busy to leave their location to buy from her—regardless of the weather.
Brainstorm new venues and opportunities
“When it comes to where and what they eat, people always like a change of pace,” says Vida. For this reason, she puts a lot of energy into identifying new places to park her truck—and new businesses and organizations she can work with.
She’s had a lot of success partnering with schools to offer a lunch option during teacher development days when teachers are at school and students aren’t. In the future, she hopes to work with hospitals to periodically provide something beyond what the cafeteria offers.
Vida’s many strategies have paid off for her. “Running a food truck is a lot of work, but you can also really have fun with it,” said Vida. And by using Vida’s strategies, your food truck just might be as successful as Jewell’s Cajun and Southern Cuisine.