Last weekend the first Midtown Food Truck Fest took place at the mall formerly known as Valley View. It was (and is planned to be) a monthly Friday, Saturday, and Sunday event with over two dozen food trucks including a few driving in from out of town. To attract customers to eat street food in the the heat, the food trucks were to park in the cavernous parking garage. Several months earlier, the TX Food Truck Fest at Valley View was a huge success for customers and for the food trucks. However, according to customers and truck operators, the Midtown Food Truck Fest, organized by a different group, was an unmitigated disaster.
Typically event organizers put these large events together to promote a business or a charitable cause. They provide some seating, trash cans, traffic control, government paperwork, parking, and advertising. They charge the food trucks an entry fee and a percentage of revenue. Depending on the event’s cause, the food truck owners might marginally raise their prices to offset the organizer’s percentage take. The entry fee can range from nothing to several hundreds of dollars, and the revenue percentage split can range up to the 20% range.
I didn’t go to this particular event. I saw little reason to go to a vacant mall parking lot in 108 degree temperature to try food trucks that can easily be found. However one from the customer, indie food truck blogger, Food Truck Terry provides this customer perspective. I’ve copied and pasted a complaint from a food trucks owner who participated. They prefer to remain anonymous but below they’ve listed five reasons why they will never participate again.
How to Make Food Trucks Angry:
5 Reasons Why We Will Not Be Returning To The Midtown Foodtruck Fest Anytime Soon
Food trucks have exploded in popularity over North Texas in the last several months. With that, event organizers and event promoters seem to see only dollar signs when they think of having food trucks at their events. If food trucks are going to be your main feature at an event, common sense says to treat the trucks and truck owners fairly. Here are a few reasons why we feel the first Midtown Foodtruck Fest at the Valley View Mall was a failure.
1. If you don’t know how to deal with or organize trucks, ask a truck owner to help organize it instead of hiring a concessionaire.
We understand that food trucks are a new phenomenon and you might now know how to go about organizing an event that involves them. The right thing to do? Ask a successful food truck owner for help. The wrong thing to do? Hire a concessionaire who has no clue about how food trucks operate. Several EXTREMELY successful events have been organized by food truck owners- Teena Ngyuen with Nammi Truck organized Frisco Streats, Kristin Leonard with Rockstar Bakeshop organized The Village Rallies and Dain Pool with The Butchers Son organized Taste Curbside at the Taste of Dallas and more. WE ARE MORE THAN WILLING TO HELP. If we can make an event successful by organizing it right, it benefits you and it benefits all the trucks. Also, we won’t charge you for organizing the event. When you hire a concessionaire- he is out to make money off you and the trucks. He has no compassion for the way trucks operate. MANY of the smaller operations count on the cash from that day’s sales to go buy product or pay employees and gas for the next day. We don’t have the cash reserve to bankroll a large event and then wait a week to get paid. If the trucks have no money to go purchase what they need and pay for day-to-day operations, they won’t be able to sell anything. The way to make your event successful is to ask for the input of the food trucks. We have been doing this EVERYDAY to great success and we know a thing or two about how our customers operate and what they like. We are more than willing to help organize events- whether you are looking for three trucks or thirty trucks.
2. Treat all truck owners the same- we talk to each other.
One of the biggest things that annoys us is being treated unfairly. All the truck owners know each other and we do talk to each other. Once it comes out that each truck is paying something different, or you are taking a different percentage fee from one truck to another, or some trucks were made to pay a deposit, or some trucks were allowed to leave for another event, we will get angry. At a successful event, you can’t play favorites. It needs to be the same across the board for each truck. The only exception to this rule is this- it is acceptable to charge less for a dessert truck than a hot food truck. Dessert food trucks consistently serve less people at a lower total ticket price than other trucks (not everyone will buy dessert, everyone will eat dinner.)
3. DON’T USE A TICKET SYSTEM!
There are certain expectations when you go to visit a food truck and there are certain expectations when you go to visit a state fair. Do not combine the two. We already have a built in trade system in place- you hand me money or a credit card and I hand you your lunch. This is a great system, it costs event organizers nothing, and people know that is how you purchase food from a truck. If you introduce tickets as a payment system, it confuses our customers, which makes us angry. You had to pay to print tickets, you had to pay to have people staff the ticket table. Take this money and instead spend it on more advertising to get people to the event. With tickets, we have to tell someone who is ready to pay with cash at our window, go walk away and purchase a ticket. Now we have to hope they will return to our truck and not a different truck, or just walk away altogether. If you are using tickets because you don’t trust that the truck owner will give you your percentage, then don’t invite food trucks to your event. We understand that you are trying to make money too. We understand that events are going to have percentages. We will happily pay you the correct amount because we don’t like to get cheated either. Remember that most of us are owner-operators, any percentage over 10% makes it not profitable for us to be there.
4. Have cold drinks readily accessible for purchase everywhere.
As food truck owners, we understand you have to make money somehow. We have accepted the fact that at some places, there will be a drink sponsor or the event promoter will have exclusive rights to selling drinks. We get that. However, if you won’t let the trucks sell drinks, you MUST have drink options readily accessible. There needs to be a drink station near ALL of the trucks. This event should have had at least three drink tents- one at the front next to the bar, and one down the middle of each of the rows of food trucks. We don’t want to give our customers detailed directions to the drink tent. It should be easily accessible and visible.
5. Give people a place to sit and eat their food.
When people come to an event specifically to eat food, give them a place to eat food. When you go to a restaurant, even fast food, you expect to sit down. When you give our customers a place to sit and eat their food, they will stay at the event and hang out. This accomplishes two things- it makes the event look full and well-attended, and it lets people go back to the food trucks for more. There needs to be tables down the middle of each row of trucks so that people can eat. If there is nowhere to sit down and eat, our customers will eat in their car…and then drive away.