Mobile Food Rodeo Recap
I was really hoping to start this post with “They’ve finally figured it out!” or something along those lines. Unfortunately, I can’t yet do that, although there is a glimmer of hope.
There were several ticket options for the Mobile Food Rodeo – this was one of the things that was handled well.
- Pre-paid single general admission tickets were $7 (plus $1.50 handling fee). There were a couple of benefits with the pre-paid ticket: the price was $3 less than pay-at-the-gate and a $3 tasting ticket to use at any of the trucks was included
- They also offered a VIP ticket which included a one hour early entry; two $3 tasting tickets; and with the limited number of tickets sold, easy access to the trucks
- Pay-at-the-gate tickets were $10 and did not include the $3 tasting ticket
- There were also discounts if you bought two tickets
By noon on Saturday, the general admission start time, there was a line of several hundred people waiting to enter, while the VIPs and judges wandered around inside, eating their way around the venue. Noon came and went, as did 12:30 pm. None of the general admission ticket holders were let in. Time passed. I didn’t hear any sort of announcement to the crowd, although perhaps I missed it. Finally at some point close to 1:30 pm they started letting people in. Turns out, as I read from a Facebook or Twitter post several hours later, that the event owners hadn’t quite gotten everything squared away with the city. This should have been at the top of their list of “Things to Do” and should have been double and triple-checked. I think they were lucky there was only a 90-minute delay and not a total shut down.
One of the things they did well was that once the lines were moving they had several people scanning tickets and placing wristbands on people to get them in as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, this delay had a ripple effect. Now, instead of several hundred people in line, there were probably a couple thousand. (There were 2000 tickets available for pre-sale, alone.) And since they were doing a good job at moving people through the entrance, the venue quickly filled and lines at the trucks were soon extremely long. If people had entered gradually over the first 90 minutes the impact would have been reduced. The lines probably would have built more slowly. At 2:15 pm there were still very few people, other than the VIP’s, eating. Most were standing in line to get their first bite.
The layout for this event was better than some past events. The lot they used was large, however it was wide at one end and narrow at the other. On the wide end lines were straight, well-mannered and easy to navigate. As you got to the narrower end of the lot the lines curled and intermingled and it was hard to tell where to queue for which truck. This was compounded because the trucks were closer together at the narrow end of the lot – which seemed odd. So, location and layout were better than at past similar events but still need work.
Good news – tons of porta-potties! I didn’t notice any lines there at all. There was also at least one table selling just beverages, so you could get a bottle of water without having to wait in line. That was good.
Seating/eating options still need work. Keeping in line with the rodeo theme, there were several rows of bales of hay placed around the venue. There were also a few places to perch on curbs or steps. While I understand this is in keeping with the food truck ambience, it doesn’t take into account that you have already been standing in line to get into the place and also standing in a long line to get your food. I’ve been thinking that the best way to attend and conquer one of these events would be to come with four to six people, send each one to stand in line at a different truck and then regroup to share food. However, this would require a place to regroup to. And when you were all back together, that it was easy to share food. While rows of tables probably aren’t necessary, additional seating/eating options should be available.
Another observation was that one of the food trucks, Skillet, (yes I’m calling them out!) closed up and left the venue just after 2:00! I assume they were out of food but with the general admission people having barely been inside for 30 minutes that’s ridiculous. This event was scheduled from 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm, and they run out of food in 30 minutes? While this is not technically the event organizer’s issue, there needs to be some standard set for the minimum number of servings required to be included in the event. What if all the trucks had been so poorly prepared? And when one truck pulls out early it adds an extra burden to those that remain. As a ticket holder if I arrived at 6:30 pm I might expect that some of the trucks would not be serving but if I arrived at 4:00 or 5:00 I would certainly expect to still see them all there.
And, finally, I’m just not sure these events will ever run as smoothly as we might like. The whole basis of the food trucks is fresh food, prepared to order which directly conflicts with handling big numbers of people over a long period of time. The food truck owners need to get smarter about limiting their offerings and figuring how to partly prepare menu items so they can more quickly fill orders. The pizza vendors have an advantage in this area. They just keep on making pies and then you choose your slice from what’s available. If you want a whole pie with your own toppings you know you’ll have to wait a bit, but most people are serviced quickly. I noticed some of the trucks were better at this than others.
I only sampled a couple bites one of the judges shared with me, although I’ve sampled many of the food truck offerings in the past. There was a little something for everyone at the Rodeo.
I’m not sure if I’ll try another one of these events in the future. I love the idea, but think I might prefer just visiting the trucks one by one, in their “natural” environments. I spent most of the time taking photos and you can see the full set here.