Information on Planning an Event with Food Trucks
The Association and its members have compiled the logistical information for public event planners below to help you plan for your special event using local mobile food vendors.
Where can I do food truck events?
Each county and city has different mobile food vendor regulations, so you can check with us or the county health department first. Every mile a truck drives costs around $0.45 cents in fuel, increasing their overhead for an event, and this does not include additional employee costs.
Based on the experience of many mobile food vendors, we have compiled a list of the items that can help to create a successful event:
Number of attendees:
The ideal ratio of attendees per truck is between 200 and 300 if everyone is expected to eat. With less than 200, it’s difficult for the trucks to make money. Over 300, the lines often get long and the customers are unhappy. If it’s not an “eating” event, that ideal ratio should double. One food truck can feed 100-125 people per hour. If you want a 2-hour serving window, you should figure one truck for 200-250 people. Depending on the event, be sure to consider how many people you think will eat. Not everyone attending large festivals will eat, but if there is a truck in your backyard for a holiday party you can plan on all of them eating. If you are considering a gathering of 2,000, choose eight hot food trucks and a couple of desert trucks.
Event hosts should not be charging food trucks based on past or expected foot traffic, as they have no control over this factor. (Most food truck owners will prep the amount of food for the anticipated foot traffic you have told them about and then cut that in half.
Cost / Fee Structure:
With all costs included, the trucks expect fees to be approximately 5-10% of their sales for the day and NO MORE. Some prefer a flat fee upfront and no percentage taken on the back end. It must be one or the other but never both. (If the fee is over 10% of sales, then they need an exceptional sales day to make up for it.) I know that a flat fee is often easier for the organizer. If that fee structure is chosen, please keep in mind the trucks would ideally need 10x that fee in sales in order to profit. If you choose a flat fee structure, we have recommended that our members ask for a guarantee of attendance. Please do not be surprised if you see this as many events/festivals have promised the world and delivered less than ¼ of the projected attendance. (Most trucks/trailers require a minimum to come out for a catering or public event. This covers their prep-time, travel, and basic operating costs (trucks coming from another county need to cover their cost of the temporary event permit also). A normal lunch or dinner can typically range from $1,500 to $3,000+ for savory trucks depending on the vendor popularity, event location, timing, and day of the week (i.e. $1500 worth of food) and $750 to $1250 for dessert trucks.)
Often, food trucks have to prepare food days in advance. If attendance is higher than anticipated, vendors run the risk of selling out well before the end of the event. Customers will go home angry and trucks have not capitalized on all possible sales. Conversely, if tickets are selling slower than anticipated, the trucks may have to throw away product. If you can provide estimates of attendance the Monday before, and then 48 and 24 hours before the event, it will help the trucks prepare appropriately. Your marketing and promotion of the event will show the food trucks how much you care about their success. Facebook event pages can work very well to give you attendance estimates.
Logistics of the event:
Load in times: Please keep in mind how load-in times impact our business. We pay our employees from the time of load in. Ideally, all trucks will be in position 1-hour prior to the start of the event. If special temporary food facility permits are required, trucks should be in place and ready for health (and fire) department inspection 2- hours prior to the event. Please communicate load in times 2-weeks in advance. Trucks need to schedule employees’ hours 1-2 weeks in advance. Without knowing the load-in times, it makes scheduling very difficult.
The most successful events/festivals we have seen have impeccable organization. The day is scheduled to the minute, trucks’ locations are clearly marked, and everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing at all times of the day. Specific items to be wary of are the layout of trucks: plan for the most popular gourmet food trucks to have longer lines than others. Waste facilities: pay attention to the quantity and location of trash cans and restrooms to keep the area clean and in compliance with all codes and regulations. And, last but not least, promote the heck out of having food trucks!