15 June 2023

Food Trucks for Events

Based on the experience of the trucks of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors’ Association (SoCal MFVA), we have compiled a list of the items our members have noticed help 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.
  • Fee Structure: 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. 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—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 festivals have promised the world and delivered less than ¼  of the projected attendance.
  • Attendance estimates: Often, food trucks have to prepare their 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 will not have capitalized on all possible sales. Conversely, if tickets are selling slower than anticipated, the trucks may have to throw away product. For example, most trucks threw away hundreds of dollars of food after attendance at the OC Foodie Fest was far below expectations. 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.
  • 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.
    • VIP Times: 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.
  • Organization: The most successful festivals have impeccable organization. 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. Specific items to be wary of are:
  • Layout of trucks:  Plan for the most popular gourmet food trucks to have longer lines that 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.
  • Security: If you're going to have alcohol, be sure to have the proper amount of security.

To have a great food truck event, you need great planning, amazing food trucks and attention to detail. Making sure food truck operators are taken care of will ensure that your event goes smoothly. Overcharging, lack of communication and dictatorial demands will turn the best of the best food trucks and leave you with a substandard food truck selection. Be kind, communicative and fair and you'll have a great event.

Food Trucks for Events

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