Last Revised 3/21/15
These days, you don’t need to look far to find food trucks in more and more cities nationwide. Food trucks and mobile food vendors are offering great-tasting fresh food at lunch time, dinner time, and often late night as well.
Food truck events are quickly becoming more popular. You can find regular food truck events in city after city. Many of these events, like The Gathering in Baltimore, Civic Center Eats in Denver, and The Daily City Food Truck Bazaar in Orlando, are built entirely around exposing more people to more trucks in a fun, social environment.
As food trucks grow in popularity, they are showing up at more and more private events, fundraisers, community events, state fairs, and festivals, too. It’s because food trucks are a great way to offer diverse food options. Plus, it’s easy for them to show up and set up quickly at just about any location, and with their popularity they often draw more attention and interest to events.
More often, and quite frequently, we are contacted about how to locate and hire food trucks for events, and are being asked for advice on how many trucks to have and how fees for food trucks are determined. We have talked to numerous food truck operators that help in organizing large food truck events. We have also attended many food truck events and have talked with the event organizers in charge of securing food trucks.
The answers to these questions are often event-specific and can vary from city to city and for specific events. However, we have decided to offer these basic tips as guidelines based on our conversations and experience.
Number of trucks that should attend an event: Often mobile food vendors will recommend that you have one food truck for every 200-300 attendees, if the event is focused around eating. If it is not primarily an “eating” event, that ratio should be closer to one food truck for every 400-500 attendees. For food trucks to have a successful event they need to average at least 40-60 customer per hour. This number can vary depending on numerous factors, but when deciding on how many food trucks to have at your event, make sure to think not just about the overall number of attendees, but also the number of attendees you expect to actually eat over the course of the event.
Attendance estimates: Mobile food vendors will often begin ordering and preparing for large events days in advance. Food trucks work hard to prep and have the proper amount of food for the number of attendees they expect to feed. As the event date approaches, it’s important for the organizer to communicate to each truck whether the expected number of attendees has gone up or down from the original estimate. Providing these updates a week in advance and 48 hours in advance are the ideal times to do so.
Fee structure: When hiring or requesting a food truck or mobile vendor for your event, trucks and vendors can be compensated in a number of ways.
By the event organizer: This is similar to hiring a caterer; you simply contract with the food truck to serve a particular number of people within a certain budget or by a designated menu, or a combination of both. This is the most commonly used method for private events and special occasions.
By the attendees: This is similar to street service. A truck or vendor is requested to provide service at a specific location or event, and the attendees then pay for food directly to the truck or vendor. Keep in mind that in this scenario, most food trucks will need to do 45-60 sales or more per hour. This payment method is most common for larger events or at locations where there will be significant foot traffic with many people looking for a variety of food options.
By guarantee: This is often the best solution for smaller events or to be able to have multiple food trucks at your occasion or event. The attendees pay for the food directly but the organizer agrees to guarantee a certain amount of sales. The organizer pays the difference between the actual sales at the event and the guaranteed amount.
By vendors paying a fee: If asking a food truck or mobile food vendor to pay a flat fee to attend your event, keep in mind that the truck or vendor will need to earn 10 times the amount of the fee. A reasonable and often preferred alternative to a flat fee is for a food truck to pay between 5-10% of their sales at the event in lieu of the flat rate. If you are holding an event which charges an admission to the general public, and where you are expecting the food trucks to be a major attraction and help draw in crowds, there should not be a fee for the food truck to attend.
Types of food: Close consideration needs to be given to the food type that food trucks serve. If it is determined that you need five trucks for an event, the right balance of type of food is essential to the success of the event. With too many of the same type of trucks without balancing the type of food being served, your attendees may not have a good experience, and the food trucks may not have a successful event.
Pre-event requirements: When attending events food trucks expect that all licensing, permitting, and fees for the event are being taken care of by the event organizer. If there are any special licensing, insurance, or permitting requirements for the trucks to complete before the event, they should be communicated well in advance of the event.
Load-in times: Preparation and set-up time varies by type of food, type of vehicle and many other factors.To prepare for an event, most food trucks will arrive 30-60 minutes prior to the event's start time. In case additional time may be needed to complete special inspections, licenses, or permits, please be sure to communicate those details to the food truck well ahead of the event in order to allow sufficient time for the food truck operator to arrive, set up and meet the additional requirements.
Layout of trucks: Event organizers will have the best sense of how to lay out the mobile food vendors. It will often be determined by the size of the event space, the number and type of vendors, and what type of other activities and entertainment are scheduled. In many cases having food trucks parked together leads to the most success because it increases the ease and excitement of the experience.
Keep in mind that no food truck wants to work on an incline and many can’t. Food trucks should be parked on flat surfaces. If trucks will be parked on any incline please communicate this in advance. Inclines encountered approaching a final parking position can also pose problems. Trucks may be over 25 feet in length and can bottom-out on particularly steep driveways. In addition, many trucks are 12-15 feet tall. Be mindful of low hanging wires and tree branches. Upon their arrival, communicate any areas of caution to the driver of the truck.
Waste facilities: Food trucks generally supply their own trash cans. For larger, well-attended events, having adequate public trash cans, recycling bins, and restrooms should be a consideration. Having restrooms conveniently located for the food truck operators is always appreciated.
Most food trucks are available for private parties and offer catering services. In these cases you should work directly with the food truck to determine the menu and pricing.
We hope that these tips prove to be valuable for you. With over 4,000 food trucks and mobile food vendors listed on Food Trucks In we are certain you will be able to find wonderful food truck options that will help make your upcoming event a success.