8 Marketing Tricks to Sell Food

These skills will come in handy wherever you aspire to make sales — be it offline, or online. Let me tell you upfront that selling at a local market is hard work. It is not easy to stand, service people, and collect rejections all day long. I salute those who have no other choice. For everyone else, I do recommend to give it a try nevertheless because it turns you into a more outspoken person who becomes astute in attracting a wider audience.

Do it only if you have an agenda to make best use of your time. My objective was to collect feedback from customers for home-made Malaysian condiments in order to optimize their recipes for mass production.

The food market was an ideal place to get my feet wet. Here is what I learned to make sales.

1. Adjust your presentation according to what you want to sell

I was once leaving my stand to refill water and upon walking back, I finally experienced for myself how a potential customer would be seeing my stand. I felt that the presentation was off and did not clearly convey the main product.

I realized that the topology of items displayed is so significant that whatever you place to the middle of the table is the product that is sold eventually.

So I arranged my products according to what I wanted to sell at any given time of the day. Before lunchtime, I would highlight hot tea together with toasted bread and would re-arrange everything to highlight marinated chicken skewers for lunch.

2. Prioritize readable messages over originality

The first menu I designed featured Malaysian dishes in their native language. It listed “satay skewers”, “teh tarik”, and “kuih”. Big mistake. I was only able to sell what the customers were either familiar with or what they saw with their own eyes. My delicious ceylon hot tea with sweet condensed milk and frothy top, teh tarik, did not sell at all, even though it was clearly listed on the menu. No one knew what it was or that it even existed as an offering. And no one will bother looking up foreign words.

On the next day, I set up the stand with an entirely new menu readable to the target audience and advertised my tea on a poster hanging at a pillar. It finally sold well. Too well, in fact, that it sold out that day.

List or even advertise every product you have in store. If you do not clearly state what you have in store, you are not going to sell. Customers neither have the curiosity nor time digging into every hole to discover what’s inside. Put it all out concisely and let the sales come in.

3. Show the finished product to let customers know what they are getting

Especially with regards to food, you want to envision how the dish looks like and to gauge whether it is something you may enjoy eating.

In order to trigger the appetite of potential customers, I placed a finished serving right in the front of the table. It allowed me to convey quickly and without words what exactly my potential customers would be getting.

Malaysian chicken satay skewers served with rice, cucumber and savory peanut sauce.

4. Offer a free sample to every single passer-by and get their feedback in return

If someone approached the stand to read the offering, I would greet each and everyone with a friendly smile to show that they have my attention if they needed me.

The grilled satay chicken skewers were served with a hot peanut sauce which may be quite unfamiliar to them. Hence, I offered the free sample to ensure they understand what the whole dish is about and to at least get some feedback on the sauce. Either in words on in their expression. After all, this is precisely why I was doing this whole thing for. Some will continue to stroll around and come back to buy the meal.

5. While you prepare a customer’s dish, ask if they would like a drink

Want to get the most out of every customer? Try this: While you are serving their meal, ask if they would like to have a drink with it that suits the dish really well. Many will actually give it a go and spend an extra dime for a drink.

6. It is infinitely easier to sell what the audience is already familiar with

Trying to educate the market is several times tougher than selling what everyone is already familiar with. Instead, I chose the tougher route and had to explain the same vocabularies and cooking methodologies over and over to anyone who cared to ask. It sure is fun to get into conversations with people, but it can get tiring, too.

If you are selling cakes you just have to make them look pretty, but if you sell kuih (the type with glutinous blue-colored rice and coconut egg jam), you have to make them look pretty and have a hell lot to explain before you make a sale.

7. Customers appreciate it if you act consciously about hygiene

Use one bare hand to receive money and give back change, while serving with gloves using the other. Never mix them up and your customers will appreciate that you are acting hygienic with the food they will be taking in. Just like in every business, it is about ethics and morals that convey trust and make your customers happily come back in future.

8. Don’t forget the children

Did you know that no one caters to kids nowadays? Use this to your advantage by offering servings that appeal to children. I figured that out by accident after placing beautifully crafted chiffon cupcakes on the table, originally intended for the usual suspects: adults.

Three kids showed up eying my cupcakes and asking for the price. They pondered a short while and bought one to share. After they left, several more kids were suddenly circling the food market looking for that cupcake they saw their peers digging into happily. The 20 cupcakes sold out in a matter minutes. It then dawned on me that I was the only stand that bothered to offer anything interesting to kids.