Cart diners: What do you think? Is this a big issue for you when dining at carts and what do you think carts can do to be better about it?
Business owners: How important is keeping regular business hours and how do you let people know when you are going to be closed, or when you change your business hours? What challenges do you face in keeping and communicating your schedules?
We’ve been running Food Carts Portland since 2007, and have just about seen and heard every question, comment, compliment and complaint out there about the carts. But the number one gripe we continue to receive from readers to our website, Facebook page and Twitter? Food Carts’ Hours of Operation.
There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to visit a specific cart and making the haul out there only to find out their posted hours on our website have changed or for some unknown reason they are closed. Or, assuming a cart keeps hours similar to other carts, or for some carts even keep regular open hours (a few very much do not). Trust us, it’s our frustration as well. This is especially true when a cart contacts us to give them a write up, we ask when they are open, and then go out there only to find a big old CLOSED sign up. We know of more than a few carts that have lost fans and customers – permanently – because of this issue.
On the flipside, we understand and respect the cart owners’ issues and limited resources. More than any other businesses we know of, food carts follow supply and demand quickly and accordingly. If it’s a rainy, cold Sunday in June and only one person has stopped by, a cart will decide Sundays are no longer feasible. Heck, some of them just close up that day if there aren’t any customers. Makes sense. Why waste valuable time and money? And yes, hours do change depending on the seasons, locations, and amount of resources a cart owner has. Some are solo operations – if an owner gets ill, that’s it, there is no backup. Or, if something in the cart breaks and they can’t operate until a special piece of equipment is fixed and the parts for it are available. Or, a worker flakes, suddenly quits, or otherwise can’t be there and the owner runs another cart or has a catering gig or something, well, we are out of luck again. Of course, Food Carts Portland tries, but we can’t be at all 450 plus food carts to get updated hours on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. We rely on cart owners and cart eaters to let us know and even then, it is a challenge.
Yes, some carts are more professional than others, keeping everyone abreast of their hours on their websites, twitter updates and even email lists. And others? Well, let’s just be kind and call these “starter businesses”. They are still learning the fundamentals of marketing, business communications, and what it takes on a daily basis to run a business and are stretched thin in time, money and other resources. Some don’t speak English, have smart phones, or know how to use social media, and this makes communications a challenge. Some simply don’t have the money to hire more workers, and some are just starting out and have mechanical and other problems. But yes, some carts are simply flakey.
Business owners: If your hours change, simply drop us a line at FoodCartsPorland@gmail.com. We won’t publish last minute schedule changes or closures; that’s when social media can help you. Get a Facebook page and Twitter account. Get a website that’s easy to update and keep it updated. Try, try, try to keep regular hours. It’s important for your reputation, in gaining and keeping loyal customers, and your livelihood overall.
Our advice to diners? If you are really, really craving a certain cart CALL AHEAD right before you visit. Or, just take it in stride and look at it as an adventure. Have a back up cart plan. And do let us know when a cart changes posted hours by email us here. It really helps us keep this site updated and correct.
The Food Carts Portland Team.