Last weekend we had unbelievably good weather for April. My son and daughter were given a bunch of lemons by a neighbor so they approached me with the idea of opening a lemonade stand. Naturally I encouraged the idea because there are so many valuable business and money lessons they can learn from operating a lemonade stand. Here are some of the lessons they learned which reminded me of some of the lessons we all can learn from selling lemonade:
You have to have the desire to make money. It takes work to open a lemonade stand. I loved that it was their idea to open the stand. They didn't even want to drink any of the lemonade because it would cut into profits. Also, around closing time they did not want to come in. I told them we needed to clean up and get ready for dinner. They said they would eat later and would stay open. The sales side of me wanted to let them remain open, but the dad side (more like the mom side) made them wrap it up.
You need offer a quality product that you believe in. Before they got started, I told them that the lemonade has to be great so customers can tell their friends and neighbors and would come back for seconds. We measured carefully and taste tested (a few times) to be sure the lemonade was just right. We added ice to be sure the product was cold on such a hot day. It's hard to beat homemade lemonade. I stop at every lemonade stand we come across because I want to encourage kids' entrepreneurial spirit. However, last summer we stopped at a stand and the kids pulled out a bottle of store-bought lemonade from under the table. The lemonade was not good and the price was $1 for a small cup. We will not be returning to that stand should they reopen...
You need to know your demographic and choose a price point that works. I told the kids that you will probably get more customers if your price is reasonable. We talked about selling on value vs. price. I think they understood, but could tell I was starting to bore them. Since the lemons were free and the cost to make the lemonade was near nothing, they were making pure profit. They decided that 50 cents was a good asking price and that they would give great service to try to earn tips.
People can't buy what you're selling if they don't know you're selling it. Before we even made the lemonade I told them they need to make a sign. Once they were all set up they had the idea to make an arrow sign that said lemonade so they could be like the guys on the corner that spin their sign to get attention. The fact that they came up with this was a very proud moment for me as a dad and a marketer. They also started shouting chants like "fresh squeezed lemonade", "ice cold lemonade", "homemade lemonade", etc. to get attention of walkers and neighbors.
When selling a product, location is key. We are at a corner that gets a fair amount of traffic. They situated their table at the end of the driveway and asked that we move cars and garbage barrels parked near the driveway so customers can park and so that the stand would be better seen. Their location also made it convenient for cars to stop like a drive through, which a few did. For food trucks, location is a vital part of your business that you need to constantly be thinking about and improving.
A big part of the buying process is the customer experience. My kids seem to always smile, so that was the easy part, but they were also very friendly with customers handing them them the cups, saying thank you, come again, etc. Customers will remember this lemonade stand and be sure to stop again. I have mentioned service in many previous entries on this blog. Make sure you stress the importance of service to your food truck staff.
Business is messy, clean up after yourself. In most businesses, whether it's a food truck or lemonade stand, there is clean up that needs to happen after the sale. It could be paperwork, processing, or actually cleaning up a messy kitchen like in our case. It's a responsibility that is easy for salespeople to neglect. After closing down the stand and bringing in the table, umbrella, chairs and supplies, we spent ten minutes cleaning the kitchen.
Not on the list, but just as important is to have fun! If you're not having fun in your line of work, what's the point? Life is too short to not enjoy what you do. We had fun with our lemonade stand and my kids inadvertently learned many valuable lessons during the process. Sure selling hot food from a truck is a bit lore complicated and may not be as easy or fun, but there are ways to make food service fun. Get regular feedback from your staff, their ideas might surprise you and they will have more fun if their ideas get put to work. Don't over complicate things and always go back to fundamentals if you get stuck. If a seven-year-old can run a business anyone can!