Larry and Emily Johnson have been co-owners of Lil Bites Food Truck since 2018, and they love every second. “It all started when we were doing a Facebook quiz on what our dream jobs should be. When the quiz results said ‘chef’, we realized how true that was, and how much we enjoy cooking and feeding people,” Larry said. Eventually, the husband and wife took a leap of faith, quit their cushy corporate jobs, and started their food truck business.
Today, Lil Bites Food Truck serves everything from fried pickles, empanadas, Philly cheesesteaks, and jalapeno poppers to delicious deep-fried key lime pie. Their food is so delicious that Best Self Atlanta Magazine named them the best food truck in Atlanta two years in a row.
Larry and Emily do a ton of promotion to get the word out about Lil Bites. And Larry has a degree in photography, which he uses to take mouth-watering pictures of their food.
Larry shared his go-to strategies to promote your food truck:
1. Maintain a strong social media presence
Facebook has been an extremely important platform for the Johnsons to promote their food truck. They have over 1,600 followers, which allows them to effectively relay important information about menus and scheduling, as well as reach new customers.
Every Monday, the Johnsons post the schedule of where they’re going to be that week — and at what time — on their page. On Wednesdays, they repost the schedule to reach people who missed it the first time.
The Johnsons also post pictures of their food to entice people to visit. They keep the design of their food posters extremely minimal. “We let the food pictures speak for themselves. We don’t want to clutter our posters, so we only add a picture of the food and the dish’s name so people know what to ask for,” Larry said.
The Johnsons use PosterMyWall to create all their posters for social media because it helps them create their promotions the way they want — in little time.
Their page also has plenty of pictures of Larry and Emily, to let customers see that they really are a family-run business. “We want our food truck to have a fun, wholesome, and whimsical vibe. So we post pictures that reflect that,” Larry said. For instance, there are a lot of pictures of raccoons because that’s Emily’s spirit animal.
Customers love the personal touches that the Johnsons apply to their marketing. Injecting their individual personalities into their page content helps build trust with their customers, fosters a sense of connection, and increases the likelihood of people coming back again and again.
The Johnsons also use Facebook to promote special discounts and promotions. For instance, military personnel and first responders always receive a discount. The Johnsons also repurpose their Facebook content and post it on Instagram, which helps them reach additional customers.
2. Integrate with the community
Larry and Emily have established themselves as a community-friendly food truck. It’s important to distinguish yourself from the competition by offering more, and the Johnsons have done just that by listening to what their customers want.
They participate in local events such as the Star Wars Trivia Night at their local brewery by parking their food truck at the entrance and providing attendees with mouth-watering snacks.
“A lot of food trucks don’t offer anything for kids. We filled this gap by adding a complete kids menu because we know it’s important for parents to get their kids fed. We even give out coloring books to kids!” Larry said. The result is that whenever Lil Bites attends a local event or festival, they always attract a long line of parents and eager kids.
Larry and Emily give customers a sense of ownership by adapting the names of their dishes to fit the nicknames that customers create for them. When a customer accidentally referred to their empanadas as “pandas”, the Johnsons laughed and renamed the dish. Now they hold occasional Panda-monium Nights, where they offer special deals on empanadas.
3. Create fun, meaningful partnerships
Lil Bites Food Truck’s deep-fried key lime pie desserts resulted from a partnership with Kenny’s, the company that makes the key lime pie. The partnership allowed Larry and Emily to introduce an exciting new food item to their menu, and it gave Kenny’s an opportunity to connect with new local customers. That’s a win-win partnership!
Larry and Emily have also partnered with multiple Atlanta breweries. They park their food truck in the brewery parking lot and serve customers who show up. These customers get a delicious meal to go along with their drinks, thereby increasing sales for both businesses.
Lil Bites approaches these partnerships by reaching out to the prospective partner on social media. If they say yes, the Johnsons share their menu and schedule, and the brewery invites them to park their food truck on their premises for a fixed number of hours. And because of Lil Bite’s huge social media presence, many breweries reach out to them on Facebook and Instagram as well.
4. Offer catering and ordering options
Accessibility is crucial when it comes to any food business. The Johnsons have noticed that people want their food immediately — and with the least amount of hassle.
In response, Lil Bites provides a variety of service options, including catering for small parties and companies. This service is booming because of the range of food options on the Lil Bites menu, and their ability to be flexible to accomodate the customers’ needs, like providing many vegetarian options.
Lil Bites Food Truck also offers several ordering options. “In winter, people don’t really want to stand in line outside the truck to get their food. So we started a service where customers place their order at the truck and provide their phone number, then they wait in their cars or homes. They receive a text from us when their food is ready for them to collect,” Larry said. This service proved to be extremely popular with customers and increased revenue versus the prior winter.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, touchless service became important. So the Johnsons introduced contactless ordering and payment through the Lil Bites website. All customers had to do was pick up their meal from the food truck window.
Even after the pandemic, the Johnsons will continue to provide a variety of ordering options. These include a kiosk with a tablet people can order through that sits next to the truck and online pre-ordering for people who want their food later or at a later date.
5. Build a robust website
A well-thought out website is key to providing a positive customer experience. Larry and Emily use their website as a one-stop shop for all their customers’ needs. They use the website to:
- Encourage reviews. Customers who leave a review are entered into a monthly drawing to win $500. Reviews encourage new customers to try Lil Bites and help the Johnsons improve their menu and services.
- Join Lil Bites VIPs. Customers become VIPs by sharing their email in exchange for access to exclusive discounts and promotions. In return, the Johnsons are able to build a customer email list.
- Book catering jobs. Prospective catering customers can view the Lil Bites menu and contact the Johnsons for more information.
- Take orders and receive payment. After ordering and paying through the website, patrons just need to collect their completed order from the food truck window.
6. Send out strategic emails
The Johnsons use the VIP sign-up system on their website and their record of online orders to build their email list. Once or twice a month, when they have a new menu item to introduce or other news, they send out an email blast.
“Too many emails can be annoying, so we only send out emails when we really want to let our customers know about something,” Larry said.
7. Leverage location-based promotion
Larry and Emily have a Google Business page that lets customers find the location of the Lil Bites truck through a quick Google search. They locate their truck north of the city, near the suburbs, where there is less competition from other food trucks.
The Lil Bites truck itself serves as an advertisement. “We have pictures of our food on the truck, and we’ve added our website address and social media information so people can find us online and have a look at our menu before ordering,” Larry said.
8. Good visuals and consistency are important
When it comes to creating promotions, whether social media posts or menu cards, Larry stresses the importance of using consistent elements and strong visuals.
The Johnsons use a unifying theme across all of their graphics. Every photo is taken by Larry and the Johnsons use the same playful font and school bus yellow type on everything.
Why school bus yellow? “I like yellow because it induces hunger,” Larry said.
PosterMyWall has been a huge help for Larry and Emily in this department. “I love that you can edit a design on your phone, it makes everything so easy. We’ve found a bunch of nice templates that we use for all our promotions,” he said. All he needs to do is take a picture, customize the font, and his graphic is ready.
Larry and Emily will be introducing new food items to their menu as soon as the weather turns colder. And they’ll be marketing those items with PosterMyWall.
Larry had one final piece of advice for anyone looking to promote their own food business. “Make promotional content that looks good. If you’re not making an effort to get the word out about your food, people won’t know you exist. This is why marketing it right is so important,” Larry said.
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