23 July 2023

Starting a Food Truck: You're a new food truck, how do you work with organizers?

Working with Organizers:

Working with organizers for events and daily stop locations helps to complement your own efforts to expand your business. Every food truck operator should consistently and diligently grow their own business through developing leads, relationships, and opportunities. Organizers should complement your efforts and help fill in your schedule's open days. Just like any other industry, there are great organizers who do a masterful job at securing, promoting, and making a location or event profitable. Unfortunately, there are also those organizers who are disorganized, forget to promote, and just plain do not care about the locations they're managing. This essay will help you learn how to reach out to organizers, how to discern whether they're worth your time, and how to make the most of every event and location you find yourself booked into.

Who are the Organizers?

There are three types of organizers in the food truck space: the event organizer, the lot organizer, and the catering organizer. The event organizers produce larger one-off events that incorporate entertainment and activities for a fun, crowd-pleasing afternoon or evening. Sometimes these are big food truck events (although less likely now), and sometimes food trucks are the food options for the public at fairs, concerts, outdoor movie showings, carnivals, and municipal events. These types of events typically require much more planning, and food trucks are booked way in advance. Lot organizers typically organize daily lunch or dinner locations. These stops are to feed hungry office workers or a community interested in having a food truck serve in their neighborhood. These events are usually ongoing and require much less planning. These events can be "manually booked," or a system like Best Food Trucks can allow food trucks to book open days on an app. Either way, these daily events are typically less expensive and are not booked up too far in advance. Catering organizers bring you catering opportunities. This is pretty straightforward; however, you have to be wary of the catering organizer that gets your proposal and doubles the cost for the client. You don't want to show up to an event with a $15 meal that the organizer has charged $30 for. Catering requests come fast and have a very low booking success rate. It's best to have pre-made catering menus, so you don't spend all of your time creating menus. Most customers will try multiple organizers to fill their request, so the chances of booking a catered event are low. Apply, but apply using pre-made menus so you're not wasting your time. Getting catering events is the best way to spend your time. Pre-paid, you'll know what you need to prepare, and you'll know how many employees you'll need. No food waste, no running out of items.

What to look for with events:

Yearly events give you the best estimates of expected customer counts. Knowing what you have to prep for an event provides you with the information necessary to prep your food, staff your food truck, and prepare your supplies. When an event has a history, it's always important to ask the organizer for the previous year's attendance numbers before you sign up. If the organizer refuses to provide those numbers or is not exact about how many people showed up, it may not be the right event for you. When the event is a brand new event, you want to know what the draw is. What is going to bring people to their event? Is it a concert with a popular artist? If so, you don't have to worry as much about attendance. However, if it's a food truck event, the success will depend on how accessible food trucks are in the region you'll be serving. If you're in a region with a strong food truck industry, people are less inclined to go to food truck festivals as they have plenty of access to food trucks in their city. For example, the first Los Angeles Street Food Festival brought 16,000 people (estimated attendance 5,000) in February 2010. By June 2012, a large food truck event was all but ignored because people were used to seeing food trucks daily at their workplace and their neighborhoods.

Additionally, it's important to ask event organizers what type of promotions they'll be doing. Beware of the event organizer who says, "We'll be promoting on social media and expect the food trucks to do the same." Social media was enough in the early days of the food truck industry, but it takes more to bring people to an event now. Also beware of the "Food Truck Festival." Don't be afraid to ask for a minimum guarantee.

Event logistics:

The most successful festivals have impeccable organization with a tightly scheduled day. The day is scheduled to the minute, truck locations are clearly marked, and everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing at all times of the day. Event organizers who do not communicate the details of the event week's in advance may cause some unnecessary distress.

Things to ask about:

- Onsite contact: Will there be someone you can always call?

- Layout of trucks: Has the organizer planned for the most popular gourmet food trucks to have longer lines than others? Where will you be placed? Be sure it's in an area that is easily accessible to the public.

- 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.

- Security: Will there be enough security? Events are usually calm and easy, unfortunately, events can get pretty riled up, especially when alcohol is a central focus (beer festivals). You want to make sure that there is someone to call if security is required. Sometimes people drinking can put you or your employees at risk.

- What are the fees? Fees have gotten completely out of hand in recent years. The bigger the festival, the crazier the fees. It used to be that 10% was the most anyone could charge. Now, at spots like Coachella, we've seen 50% fees on food. This just means that food trucks have to raise their prices. Make sure to look for hidden fees such as: Power fees, where the organizer requires you to plug into their power. Water fees, where the organizers sell you their water at higher than normal prices. Waste fees, where the organizer requires that you pay their staff to empty trash cans.

- What is your weather policy? What happens if there is a huge storm on the day of the event? Be sure to ask if fees are refundable if the event is canceled or severely impacted by weather.

- Is the event insured? Is the event insured against weather and disasters.

What to look for with daily lots:

Daily lots do not require the preparation and logistics of a full-scale event. A well-managed lunch location should allow you to show up 15 minutes before serving time and set up for lunch or dinner. Beware if the organizer wants you to show up an hour before your shift. Managing employee hours helps ensure your shifts are profitable. Before scheduling a lot, you'll want to know how the organizer promotes the location. Often times the organizer is at the mercy of the location's "Gatekeeper." The gatekeeper is the person who notifies the location's employees or residents about the food truck coming for the shift. If the gatekeeper fails, the organizer will fail, and the food truck will have a bad shift. Automated systems like Best Food Trucks help to automate the outreach process and auto email customers about the schedules. Just like with events, you want to ask organizers how trucks have been doing. When you ask, be sure to inquire about your particular cuisine type or something similar. A daily lunch location may do really well for hamburgers but terrible for salads. Also, ask about the day of the week. We've seen very often that people are less inclined to eat unhealthier foods on Monday vs. Friday. When people have a big wild weekend with drinks and unhealthy food, the last thing they want is a burger for lunch on a Monday. You should also ask about the breakdown of the customer base. If the location is a blue-collar factory with a higher percentage of men, the successful cuisines are going to be different than a gender-balanced tech company with a younger workforce. Blue-collar locations typically see more traditional fare like burgers, sandwiches, Mexican food, and pizza being successful. Tech companies see salads, wraps, Asian fusion, and bowls being more successful. Don't be afraid to ask about the location and the people you'll be serving. Be wary if the organizer doesn't know the answers to these types of questions. Recently, we've seen more of a need for minimum guarantees. Minimums help protect you against a bad location, but more importantly, they encourage gatekeepers to get the word out and promote your arrival.

How do you find the organizer?

Talking to the food trucks in your region about who they like to work with is very important. The best thing you can do is to attend food truck events and stop by daily lunch locations early and speak to your fellow food truck operators about their experiences with different organizers. Often times, daily locations are run by your fellow food truck operators. You can also use Instagram and Facebook to research who is doing what locations. When talking to food truck operators, be respectful. A veteran food truck operator doesn't want to hear how you, as a new truck, are the best at what you do, so be humble and nice and they’ll typically help. 

You found the organizer! How do you reach out?

Organizers everywhere are approached daily by new food trucks asking for opportunities. I'm shocked every day how someone can email me from a Gmail account with a personal email and simply say, "Hey, how do I get access to _____ location?" DO NOT DO THIS. A first email to an organizer should be an introduction. When approaching organizers for locations, it's important to include a signature block with your name, your truck name, email, social media links, and anything else that can introduce your food truck to an organizer who gets inquiries from new trucks every week. Also helpful to include: a link to your menu, a pic of your truck if you haven't worked with them much in the past. If an organizer has to try and figure out who you are, they're just going to ignore you. Organizers that have been working with food trucks for a while already have a stable group of trucks they like working with. Adding a food truck that they've never worked with is not in their best interest. An organizer is trying to provide awesome food to their clients from a food truck that shows up on time and does a great job. Adding a new food truck to their rotation is always a risk. Your job is to convince the organizer of your competence and your desirability. How do you do this? Have a menu with GREAT pictures. Great pictures tell an organizer you're committed to making your food truck the best it can be before you even hit the road. Tell the organizer who else you've worked with, what amazing events you've done before. Include links to any stories or blogs written about you. Provide social media links with pictures and comments of things written about you.

When you're a brand new truck, organizers typically ignore requests. They want to see what you've done before they start booking you at locations. Organizers are like middle management. They serve truck owners and clients. Too few orders? Trucks are mad! Food truck is late or serves meals slowly, clients are mad. It's a delicate balance. When you have been on the road for a while, chances are organizers will reach out to you. The way you respond to them says a lot about you and your business. We've seen trucks lash out at organizers they don't know. "WE DON'T WORK WITH ORGANIZERS" or "WE DON'T PAY FEES!" That's all well and good until an organizer gets some amazing contract with the City, or the Super Bowl, and you want to do something with them. Organizers have long memories and will blacklist you pretty quickly for rude behavior. It's just as easy to respond with "We're not interested at this time, but we'd love to hear back from you" or "we're not currently taking daily events because we're focused on catering." If everyone in the industry, food trucks, and organizers, thinks that you're easy to work with, you will get more requests and opportunities. If people believe you to be hard to work with, you'll be the last food truck called. An organizer will ask a veteran food truck about you, and if you've been hard to work with, don't expect a call back.

Easy Things You Can Do:

- Have a great menu. Great pics, great descriptions.

- Be nice. If a food truck owner on the street asks you to move up a foot so he can park, DO IT!

- Be on time. Late food trucks wreck events and daily spots.

- Be great at customer service. The best meal you've ever served with a bad attitude will turn customers and organizers off much faster than a mistake you've served with a smile.

- Stay for your whole shift, or call the organizer before leaving early.

- Wash your truck daily. A dirty truck makes organizers and customers super nervous about what the inside looks like.

- Do not leak. If your truck leaks, bring a box to put under the leak. You don't want to leave any marks.

- Keep the organizer updated. If you're going to be late, tell the organizer. They're going to hear it from the client.


Working with organizers is a great way to grow your business, increase sales and fill up your schedule. Just as you have to sell yourself to organizers, make sure they’re selling themselves to you. Organizers who seem to be disorganized and have a hard time answering you with clear and concise responses, may be tough to work with. 

Starting a Food Truck: You're a new food truck, how do you work with organizers?

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