I am leaving for Singapore this evening and the past two days I have been contacting every food blogger I could get my hands on. I though this would be a great way to be introduced to all things food. These individuals all have Facebook so I shot them all a message that looked like this:
Let me begin congratulating you on Singapore’s food blog finalist! My name is Allen Tan, and I am currently an entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada who would like to start a food business. Food is a huge passion of mine and I would love to follow my dreams of starting a food truck in Toronto. I have a specific interest in learning asian street food, and I thought it would be in my best interest to fly over to Singapore to learn first hand.
I am writing to you today for your expertise about singapore street food. From the looks of it you are well seasoned in the food industry and I would love to ask you a couple of question if you allow me. I thought this would be good chance to get familiar with the food culture, by talking to an expert.
Hope to hear back from you!
Once I got the green light to ask them questions, my second message looked like this:
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for helping me! I arrive to Singapore this Tuesday and I have no time to waste! With your help, I believe I will have sufficient knowledge to educate myself on Singapore’s food culture.
I have come up with questions that I think will give me a better understanding of the food culture.
1. Are there any young entrepreneur that you can think of that run food business’s or hawker stalls?
2. Where/What are some of the most famous hawker stalls? (based on news and demand)
3. What is the most famous Singapore street food dish? Most underrated food in Singapore?
4. How has Singapore Street food changed over the years? and Why do you love street food?
5. Are there any food stalls that would take volunteers?
I am traveling Asia for around 3 months and I hope to expand my culinary knowledge. I notice that my hometown fails to provide authentic asian street food. I hope to tap into this market by learning first hand how it is made. I want to learn how to recreate some of these dishes so I can bring them back home. I would like to thank you for your time, if you are available, it would be my pleasure to ask you to join me on a food tour around Singapore. I am here to research and would love to meet locals that share similar interest as myself!
This is how I have attained a bunch of knowledge prior to even stepping into Singapore. =)
This past summer I attended an event at Steam Whistle Brewery. It was called “The Next Great Food Truck”. At this point in time I was your average joe. No experience cooking, never seen a food truck, didn’t even know what a foodie was. All I had was an idea, to start my own food truck.
At this event I met Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro’s. I didn’t know who he was prior to the event. I only knew he screamed OLE! and made sandwiches.
Couple months later I ran into Matt again at Dundas Square. I told him if he ever needed any help to give me a shout.
We didn’t cross paths for a while but that didn’t stop me from keeping in contact. We kept in touch through Twitter.
When I arrived back from studying food trucks in Los Angeles, I saw that Matt was having his 1 year Anniversary. I wrote an email expressing how I would love to volunteer and help out. He accepted my offer!
From that day on I bumped into Matt once again. I attended a Marketing lecture held by Push Food Forward. I got to talk to Matt on a personal level. The conversation escalated quickly and we set a date and time for me to help out, this time it would be for a lunch service.
This backstory took over 7 months! In that time Matt has made huge leaps in his business and I have been taking notice the entire time. Looking on, Matt has been a huge inspiration and I wish to be on his level one day. The stories and lessons I’m about to share with you are something that I will cherish for a very long time!
Its time for my story….A day with Fidel Gastro!
I was in front of 40-50 students all looking at me. I had no idea where to start talking, I have never done a presentation on myself EVER! I just let the words flow…
I pulled up my website onto the projector and started there. I explained how powerful social media was. I told my story of how I tweeted some frustrations with my Wordpress website and an angel (@cathoulahan) reached out to help me. Catherine started her own website development company and helped develop a website for me.
I explained how powerful twitter has been for myself. I tell everyone how Twitter has helped me get onto food trucks in Vancouver, Toronto and a University.
After showing everyone my website and social media accounts, I jump right into my company name to catch peoples attention. I explain how food is all about shared experiences and my brand name resembles that.
Lastly, I explain how my future food truck is unique and is in it’s own niche. I pretty much paraphrase the “about me” section of my website. I talk about how no food truck in the world has based its concept on traveling the world to find the recipes. Since I only had 5 minutes I had to wrap things up quickly.
Everything was said and done, I over came my fears of presentations and I crossed another thing off my bucket list. Couple months ago, I have set a goal to become a better public speaker and this is a step in the right direction. Cant wait to see what the world has in store.
The Owner of RE-UP BBQ, Michael, spoke to the university class about his experiences with food truck marketing. He shared his real life situations and consequences with the students.
Here are 4 marketing tips he mentioned:
As Michael presented, Andrea the Marketing Professor walks over to me and whispers “Can you talk after Michael finishes?” *Gulp!*
As I have learned from studying food trucks in Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver, Food Truck Marketing is all about building a consumer base right from the beginning. I found that customer interaction is one of the biggest factors in differentiating your brand amongst competitors. As humans, we are programmed to talk about delicious food and recommend places to our friends and family - do not underestimate the power of Word of Mouth. With that being said, there is no better tool than Twitter to help you interact with these customers. I connect with my fans directly to their mobile devices through mentions and direct messages. If you are interested in starting your own business, my biggest marketing tip would be to start your own twitter account and build your brand!
Each team had 10 minutes to present their projects to the class. Looking at the students, I could tell some were more very nervous. It reminded me of my school days when I would be trembling during my presentation, arm pits sweat, big piss stain in my pants…
I felt really weird being on the receiving end of the lecture. It would be completely different than another other University lecture I have ever attended. I listened attentively; the things I was about to learn could be applied to my own marketing plan.
The students answered the majority of these questions:
I sat there for 40 minutes scribbling down notes I found interesting. When students were talking about how they would spend their marketing dollars, some ideas opened my eyes, some I disagreed with.
I offered to get my hands dirty to get more time with Michael and Lindsay. Without hesitation they put me straight to work! A box of potatoes and an empty bucket landed in my lap. After being shown a demonstration of how to peel a potato I was on my own! My very first potato, I was thinking to myself “Could these tools be *that* sharp?”
Just as I finished my thought, I peeled a bit too far and it ended up in my right pinkie finger. I thought to myself “Oh fuck! on my first potato? This is embarrassing!” The blood was running down my pinkie and I said calmly to Lindsay, “Can I have a band aid? I cut myself…..” Lindsey looked over at me with a blank stare on her face. I could tell she was thinking “wow what a noob!” She didn’t stare for too long before helping me get a band aid. I felt embarrassed but Michael and Lindsay just laughed it off, not too long after I was back to peeling.
Once I peeled the entire box of potatoes, for my reward? A beer! What goes well with beer? A full rack of smoked ribs! I KNOW!!! BEST PRESENT EVER! It felt like my birthday all over again! The simple joy’s of beer and meat.
Before the day is over, Michael mentions that he’s going to give a presentation at Capilano Univeristy the following day and sends me an invite. He explains a university class has written a marketing paper about the Vancouver’s Food Truck scene! MY jaw dropped. Are you kidding me? I have been looking for something like this for quite a long time. I would meet me him at the University the following day.
The past 48 hours, lets talk about some intense food truck networking! It all started with a tweet.
There’s one individual who stood out from the rest, she was not a food blogger or from Vancouver. It was one of my new twitter friends from Toronto @mjprufrock. She tweeted me about this place called “re-up bbq”. *click here for twitter snapshots* I did some research and they have quite the reputation for BBQ! (Familiar with Eat Street? Click here!) From a couple of tweets I got myself a meeting with the owners of Re-up BBQ!
I wake up the next day and it was raining outside (as it always does in Vancouver). I take a 30 minute sky train to the Vancouver River MArket. I walk up to the counter and introduce myself to Lindsay one of the owners of Re-Up BBQ. She was welcoming and super friendly. I started to ask questions upon questions gaining more insight into their business. We covered quite a few topics before I was introduced to Michael, another owner of Re-Up BBQ.
To be continued.