The $25 food truck meal.
Have you ever been at a festival with food trucks and wondered, “How on earth is my burger, fries and a drink over $20?” Answer: it is not the food truck. Event organizers are now charging up to 40% of a food truck’s gross sales to participate in their event. Participation fees for food trucks used to be 10%.
Food trucks, like many restaurants, operate on very small margins. After a food truck owner pays for food, employees, food truck and commissary rent, propane, gas, insurance and incidentals they’re typically left with about 10-15% profit. Well attended events with big sales numbers will increase the margins a bit, but not enough to justify a 40% fee. So what happens? Food trucks must pass along a portion of the participation fee to the customer so they don’t lose money on every order. The public, understandably, sees these higher prices and mistakenly assumes the food truck is taking advantage of the customer’s attendance. We’ve seen terrible Yelp reviews that start off with: “I used to like this truck, but then they overcharged me at an event and now I won’t go back…”
Customers who are already paying the high costs for a ticket shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant prices to get a meal while enjoying an event. Food trucks provide a great service to outdoor festivals. The eclectic food options and the ability to serve anywhere makes them the perfect choice for large scale events. But the food truck industry is successful because food trucks bring great meals to the public at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, when food truck owners are forced to pay 40% to be part of an event they have to raise their prices to a level that most food truck owners find unacceptable. The question I hear most often is, “why don’t food truck owners just skip the high fee events?” Food trucks have to get out and do business. They can’t pass up events, especially in the areas that have a short season. Food truck owners have to get while the getting is good. They would most definitely prefer to do the events and charge their normal prices.
So what can the public do? If you see an awesome food truck event, why not try asking the organizers via social media how much they’re charging food trucks to attend? Currently, organizers aren’t blamed for the high cost of food because it’s not clear how much they’re charging the trucks. Instead, the blame for high prices falls directly on the food truck owners. If the public joined with food truck owners and demanded that organizers lower their fees, food trucks could charge their normal (or close to normal) prices. Let’s bring down the price for food this upcoming event season. #driveforfairness
By Matt Geller
SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Assoc/ National Food Truck Assoc
7 thoughts on “The $25 Food Truck Meal”
Excellent article. As a food truck owner I can tell you this is 100% true. The Kaboo event in San Diego wants 45%. Nope.
Thanks for saying no! This year I may only attend 2-3 events as anything above 10% causes me to raise prices too much. I love my customers too much to do that to them. Picking up a catering gig would likely get me a better return on my money.
As a San Diego resident, a proud foodie, and a huge concert goer, this angers me!!! The tickets to most events are overpriced, so for them to gouge us in this way as well is infuriating!!! Such GREED!!!
With most markets fairly flooded with FoodTrucks event promoters have certainly taken advantage by duplicating or even triplicating types of trucks and charging from 10% to $300-$400, as much as $3-$4,000 for a weekend! We’ve gotten pushed out of many of our seasonal events by “newbie” trucks, desperate to get into events and willing to pay “whatever” to get in! You can see the markets fall off later in the season as people are tired of so many (expensive) events to a point where many either failed or were cancelled due to low presales.
There is nothing that will stop this nonsense until people come to their senses, realize that FoodTrucks are NOT GET RICH QUICK, 10 Taco, BBQ, Burger Trucks in 1 place is inherently stupid because no one makes money and good existing trucks work together to forge their own path devoid of high dollar brokers!! Good luck to y’all this season, gonna be a rough one
Thank you, Matt, for writing this article and getting the facts out.
I run a food truck called The Fix on Wheels. We have been in business since 3/10/17, so almost a year. We love serving our food to customers and we have rave reviews, but we haven’t participated in events where the bookers charge an exorbitant fee because we know we cannot charge that kinda money at an event. People already expect high prices at events, but they don’t expect good food. They expect SERVICEABLE food. Our food is good but no one is gonna pay for serviceable and then the premium for good. They shouldn’t have to take that risk, either. We know what people are willing to pay at an event, so that puts a cap on what we can charge (and it also means that we cannot do events where bookers decide to arbitrarily rape the trucks involved because they think they can).
The other issue that Mike so eloquently pointed out in the comment above is that some unscrupulous bookers also have no problems just doubling and tripling on trucks that have the same or similar cuisines. And then letting us figure this out when we get there. We then find out that we are charging different prices, and of course consumers are gonna wonder WTF burger truck A charges $2 more than burger truck B.
And then they are gonna go to the $3 taco truck which then eats all of our business. But who cares? Not the booker…who is gonna take his 40%.
Who loses? The consumer. The consumer pays too much, is pissed off, and then we get blamed. And I can understand why.
I suppose as trucks we can all put out a disclosure sign on our menus saying prices reflect the fact that the event booker is taking a 40% cut of our revenues, and to name the booker and give out his or her contact information.
Unscrupulous bookers like the guy who spends all day sucking the kneecaps of his clients at SpaceX also charge $70 for trucks TO PARK IN A METERED SPOT ON THE STREET WITHOUT THE CITY’S APPROVAL are also why we don’t work with that booker anymore. Never once did that booker ask me what my sales were. He didn’t care that I just paid $70 to him for $300 in revenue, while my breakeven for the spot was $500. And meanwhile he takes 23% of my revenue for himself.
On the other hand I worked with a great booker named Stacy who asked me for my sales, negotiated a guaranteed minimum for me, and never charges more than 10% for her work–even if we were to make a killing that day.
Oh, and she adjusts her fees downward if our sales are not good that day and her effective fee was more than 10%.
So for every skell booker like “I suck your kneecaps, SpaceX” out there, thankfully there are Stacys.
People that run the events are too greedy & the food truck owners are forced to raise their food prices in order to make ends meet. Unacceptable. This IS their livelihood. Food truck owners are a rock & a hard place. We love their service, & need to speak up on order to enjoy foods we love @ reasonable prices. Speak up ! Make calls! Stand by your favorite food truck owners. Fair NOT frivolous rates to participate in these events!!
Thank you so much for this article! It needs to be known that us trucks are being taken advantage of in many ways. We are just trying make a quality product at a good price and serve it to our fans and potential fans. I’ve seen some events that charge $900 for a weekend and we only make $3000! After labor, fees, gas, propane, food, etc – we lose! How are we as business owners supposed to take care of our families and pay our workers?! I feel like it should be known and us as trucks should stand up and say NO to these events! I am apart of the Philadelphia Mobile Food Truck Association and an event came up this year that raised it’s prices in fees. Our association gathered and we lowered those prices by standing up and saying NO we wont pay that. A small success for us but everyone else needs to know that they can come together and fix this!