Based on the experience of the trucks of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association (CFTA), we have compiled a list of the items our members have learned 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
With all costs included, the trucks expect fees to be approximately 5-10% of their sales for the day. If the fee is over 10% of sales, then we need an exceptional sales day to make up for it. We 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 (after paying our sales tax) 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 have promised very high numbers and delivered less than ¼ of the projected attendance.
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 unhappy 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 updated estimates of attendance the Monday before, and then 48 and 24 hours before the event, it will help the trucks prepare appropriately. Sharing ticket sales (when applicable) is a helpful tool as well as previous years attendance.
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 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.
We understand that VIP tickets are important to some customers and profitable for the venue. VIP times are not profitable for the trucks because we are feeding only a handful of people. Please limit VIP times to half an hour. The customers will get to eat their pick of 2-3 trucks without lines, the organizers make money, and the trucks break even.
The most successful festivals we have seen have impeccable organization. The day is scheduled to the minute, trucks locations are clearly marked, everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing at all times of the day.
Specific items to be aware of:
Layout of trucks: Consider staggering savory and sweet trucks so that they are evenly spaced out.
Power usage: If you are going to provide power for food trucks, make sure to ask each truck well in advance of their power usage so larger trucks pulling more amps aren't on the same breaker or generator.
Size of trucks: Food trucks vary in size so during application process, make sure to ask trucks of their dimensions.
Service windows: Most food trucks serve out of their passenger side window, however some have the ability to serve out of both. Make sure to ask trucks what size they serve out of before making layout. Make sure there is enough room for trucks to turn around if necessary so service window can accommodate.
Drinks: There are often times that event organizers sell drinks (soda/water) as a way to make money for their organization. Please notify food trucks during the booking process if drink sales are not permitted.
Other food items at your event: Is the event selling their own food? Will there be other food vendors besides trucks? Is there another organization that will be selling $1 hot dogs? These items greatly impact food truck sales so please be as honest and upfront with food trucks as possible about all food being sold at your event. This includes the number of food trucks already hired.
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
Tables are often a nice touch for your attendees/guests to be able to eat comfortably.
Food trucks often participate in fundraisers and charity events. We have donated a percentage of overall sales, donated a percentage of sales to a ‘signature item’, added $1 to each menu item with that dollar going to the charity and donated food to events. Many food trucks are asked several times per month to donate food/sales to an event. While there are many great causes out there, please keep in mind that we are small businesses and often times it is difficult to donate.
Food trucks rely on social media and marketing for our business so we are very good at promotion. If your event has a website, Facebook page, twitter handle or artwork/poster, please share with food trucks at time of booking. We will post, tweet and market the event to our followers as best as we can and we expect event organizers to do the same for food trucks. Often times a food truck will research an event before committing to see if there is ‘buzz’ online about your event. If there is no information found online, there is a good chance that the public doesn't know about it and attendance may be low. We will do our best to market your event, but we need event organizers to do the same!
Please keep in mind that food trucks often book their schedules months in advance. The more lead time you can give a food truck – the better!