Food Truck Fight: Five Reasons Why We Will Not Be Returning To The Midtown Foodtruck Fest Anytime Soon

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.

9 comments on “Food Truck Fight: Five Reasons Why We Will Not Be Returning To The Midtown Foodtruck Fest Anytime Soon

  1. I agree that the event wasn’t perfect and I can’t speak for truck owners and their experience, but as someone who has gone to several events like this with my family, I actually though it was one of the best.
    One, the coupon system, though maybe awkward for some, makes things flow faster at the trucks. People aren’t fumbling for money, trucks don’t have to make change, etc. Thus, we had not a single long line (we’re used to the 30 min lines at other events). Second, the attachment to the mall meant we could go into A/C with out kids when we got hot, a huge help.
    Drinks, we didn’t have problems with them at all. They were available at the trucks, at the trailer up front and inside the mall.
    Seating, there was about as much seating available here as at any previous truck festival I have gone to.

    The biggest complaint we had was the lack of trash cans around and yes, we were told, too, that the wristbands couldn’t be bought with credit card despite us showing them the Facebook post saying that it is possible.
    But then, those are small complaints to me and got outweighed by the positives for our family.

  2. Charging cover for a food truck event….c’mon, seriously!!! Me and my friends walked up & turned around & left as soon as we found out that there as a “cover” charge to get in. Ridiculous. How many others walked away?

  3. Typical Dallas. Organization with a total lack of common sense applied. Nothing is made easy here!

  4. I agree, James! When I see covers for a food truck event and I am not aware of the organizer or it does not fully support a local charitable cause, I don’t even write about it on my blog…much less attend it.

    As for the food truck owner how penned that awesome list, good for them for standing up for themselves and fellow food trucks. I don’t like the idea of tickets at a food truck event. Tickets work great at the Fair or at Cupcake Camp but hat does not mean it will work at all large events. To me, that was a complete sign of distrust from the organizer that they were not expecting to get paid by everyone. The only way to insure event organizers treat trucks fairly is for trucks to organize and insist on full disclosure or simply don’t participate. At the end of the day, the truck owners and staff are the real business people that consistently work to keep us interested in their food and coming back for more. To me, they have the right to be treated fairly and they shouldn’t have to ask, it should just happen. That is good business!

  5. I am a huge supporter of food trucks. However, I will not go to an event where I get charged an entrance fee for the privilege of trying to spendi money at food trucks — even if the entrance fee in whole or part is going to charity. I know the last part will rile some people, but I give enough money directly to charities that I support without feeling the need to pay for the right to stand in line and pay money for food. This is particularly true given that several of these food truck events have been rife with complaints about lines, lack of seating, lack of drinks, trucks running out of food, etc. I would rather go support a local restaurant and sit while I wait for my food, and there also are plenty of non-chain local restaurants that are deserving of our support.

  6. On Saturday, I was initially excited about going to my FIRST food truck event until my mom & I arrived to a deserted old mall. When we finally figured out how to get to where the trucks were, an older guy at the elevators was telling people it’s $5 cover and we had to buy tickets and he informed us that the “drinks” weren’t worth crap (guess the staff weren’t to big on the event either). I saw quite a few people turning around to leave. Not that $5 is a lot but there are much nicer events that were free the same day. $5 for what?? I was ready to spend my cash on the food! We left and went to the food truck event that was in Addison at Vitruvian Park and we had a blast!

  7. Prior to the event when I read there would be a $5 surcharge AND tickets used it totally turned me off to the event. Love a food truck but the organizers can’t expect to charge at the door and have food up charged.

    Nice comments from the truck operator.

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