Have you ever watched The Great Food Truck Race, which is a food truck competition hosted by Tyler Florence on Food Network? If not, you’ve missed a great competition and some excellent customer experience lessons. Fear not! I’m here to summarize those lessons for you.

The show just completed its third season last week, and it took a slightly different twist this time around. Eight teams, with no food trucks of their own, competed in a cross-country “race” to win $50,000 and to keep the food truck that had been designed just for them. (In the previous two seasons, each team came with their own truck.) Each team consists of three people, typically a driver and two crew members.

They start in the LA area and then drive to their first city, where they’ll need to shop (using seed money that Tyler provides; amount varies by week) for food supplies, find a solid place to park, prepare meals according to the local culture, and open for business. Every week, they move to a new city as they make their way to the East Coast. The team that makes the least money each week goes home.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, and there are plenty of challenges along the way, not the least of which are two provided by the show:

  1. Truck Stops, which are cooking challenges that are typically judged by a local culinary expert, provide an advantage for one team for that leg of the race.
  2. Speed Bumps, which are disadvantages inflicted by Tyler, penalize each team; for example, in one episode, Tyler made two of the team members get off the truck, leaving only one person to man the fort.
So what are some of the key lessons gleaned from this show? I’m so glad you asked! After watching for the last three years, I can say that the importance of the following cannot be underestimated when starting and running a business and trying to meet your customers’ needs.
  • Spend money wisely. Whether you’re starting a business or making decisions about where to invest, resources are often limited. Put your money toward items (products, services, resources, etc.) that will make your customers happy. And that leads me to…
  • Know your customers. You can’t meet their needs until you understand who they are and what their needs are. Be aware of the fact that customers in different locations, geographies, cultures, etc. have different needs. Be prepared to address them.
  • Never let them see you sweat. OK, most frontline/customer-facing jobs don’t cause you to break out in a sweat, literally or figuratively. And while, for a TV show, I’m sure the stress and panic of “I have 38 minutes left to sell what’s on my food truck before Tyler needs to count the money” enticed customers to want to help the trucks by buying more food, that’s not the norm. If you’re struggling to make your numbers (financial metrics or CX metrics), your customers don’t need to know about it.
  • Mingle with customers. Get out there and get to know them. Talk to them. Approach them. Be friendly. Build relationships. Earn their trust. Earn their business.
  • Hire the right people. It’s so important that you hire people who are friendly, passionate about what they/you do, want the business to succeed, and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Just as critical is the need to…
  • Work as a team. Teamwork is never more important than when you’re crammed into a small food truck and under a ton of pressure. Communication cannot breakdown. In-fighting among the troops can lead to mutiny, and ultimately, derailment. Without a doubt, that leads to…
  • Collaboration is key. If your team cannot work together toward a common goal, if that teamwork begins to crumble, the entire mission is in jeopardy. 
  • Select a strong leader. The leader must instill confidence in the team and inspire them to do great things, to achieve their goals, to collaborate. Employees and teams that do great things create success for the organization.
  • Be open to new ideas. No one individual on a team or within the organization has all the right answers. As a matter of fact, take it outside to come up with new ideas. Go listen to your customers. Go learn about the local needs.
  • Know your brand. Know your purpose. Be true to who you are. Make sure everyone in the organization understands who you are and lives and breathes it every day.
  • Don’t forget about quality control. Without a quality control team or process in place, you’ll create a lot more future problems for yourself than if you take the time to make sure the product is created right the first time.
  • Convey the value of your products and services. Through solid marketing techniques and tactics, get the word out about your business. Your messaging must be on point. If you forget this piece or only do it half-assed, it could be to the detriment of your business.
  • You’re always selling. Regardless of whether you’re taking orders, talking to customers, resolving issues, driving from one location to the next… you are always in sales mode. Customers are watching you. Customers are watching how you deal or interact with them and with others.
  • Challenges will come your way. You have competition; there will be challenges. Your position is to do it better than the competition… whatever “it” is. Most importantly, serve your customers better. Make it a better customer experience. They’ll be back.
  • And speed bumps are waiting for you. There will be disadvantages along the way. Know that they exist and plan for them. Your biggest advantage is one that you can control: delivering an awesome customer experience, no matter what.

If you’ve watched The Great Food Truck Race, are there any other lessons you think I should add here? I’d love to get your thoughts!

The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer. -Peter Drucker