Mobile food festivals, food truck round-ups, food truck fairs, food truck throw downs.. they go by many different names, but at the end of the day, they're all the same. It's a fact that when multiple food trucks, carts and stands congregate in a single location,
They draw masses of hungry customers, curious and excited about the food options before them. Are they really all the same, though?
All too often do we hear that event goers leave events feeling cheated, and mobile food operators drive away in the red. What makes one event successful and another a virtual food truck graveyard?
There is a very simple golden rule in operating a mobile food business that most operators tend to overlook. Hope is for the weary; confidence in knowledge is the key to success.
Before you say 'yes' to that next tempting food truck extravaganza, arm yourself with knowledge to make an informed decision. This is your business, after all, and the event organizer holds your livelihood in his hands.
1. Does the organizer come with a track record? Too many inconsistencies means the organizer doesn't possess the knowledge and experience to produce successful events. Ask the organizer to account for low turn-out events, previous complaints, etc. If the organizer has little or no track record, be skeptical at best.
2. Is the event a 'pop up' or regularly scheduled event? Regularly scheduled events which occur at the same location on a regular frequency are much easier to judge. They typically come with a reputation. Pop up style events rely entirely on the experience and reputation of the event organizer.
3. How many people and vendors are expected to attend the event? If the organizer can't give you a solid estimate, how can you plan your inventory for the day? Ask the organizer for the estimated attendance, then ask how he derived these numbers. If the organizer has a solid track record, you can more than likely feel confident in his answer.
Pay very close attention to how the organizer is promoting the event, and remember the golden rule of advertising - only 1%-2% of the people reached will buy a product. Targeted advertising increases the odds of higher attendance.
Put into simple math, if the organizer says that he expects 5,000 people to attend his event, you should expect his advertising to reach a minimum of 250,000 people in a targeted demographic (2% of 250,000 is 5000 people). Targeted advertising could include event aggregate services like Zvents, or Facebook ads and event listings, Yelp event listings, and print media, such as fliers, postcards, magazine ads, posters or billboards.
The ratio of attendees to trucks is critical to your inventory planning. In general, if less than 500 people per vendor will attend the event, plan for a slow day, and set your prices accordingly. Plan consumption generally, dividing the number of planned attendees by the number of vendors. But, don't lose sight of critical factors - know your competition, consider popular vendors that may draw more customers, etc.
Plan special promotions, when allowed by the organizer to draw people to your truck or stand. Promote the event and your specials to your own customer base, and ask that the organizer promote your specials, as well.
4. What's the draw for the event? Whether it's live entertainment, exhibits, charity fund raiser, or a theme, the event isn't going to attract attendees, unless there's.. well, an attraction.
5. Is the event a 'piggy back' event? If the food event is part of a larger event, location is critical. Be sure that the food will be a primary attraction at the event in an area with high foot traffic.
6. Are you getting what you're paying for? What's a fair price to pay to vend at an event? There is no real set figure, but generally speaking we all want a value for our money. The amount you're willing to pay should be commensurate with your confidence level in turning a profit. The Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association recommends that mobile food operators ask for a guarantee of attendance if the organizer requires a flat fee for vending.
Ask the organizer where your money is being spent. Consider the revenue sources and weigh them against the fee that you're paying. Are there commercial sponsors covering expenses? Is there an admission fee to attendees? Is there a fee for attendee parking? Will alcohol be served?
There are many other factors to consider when deciding when to vend at an event, but these six questions will address the most significant of them. If you're confident in the knowledge you gain from asking an organizer a few simple questions, you'll not only make an informed decision, but you'll be ready to serve hundreds of hungry customers each and every time