Food truck booking providers offer various support services
Photo courtesy of iStock.
Editor's Note: This is part two in a three-part series about food truck booking services.
As food trucks have multiplied at a rapid pace in the past decade, various support entities have emerged, such as event organizers, food truck parks and food truck operator associations. Another service that has made its presence known in this rapidly evolving industry is the food truck booking service, provided by companies that match food trucks with clients, as noted in part one of this series.
Booking services, in addition to matching food trucks with customers, typically screen food trucks to make sure they have the necessary permits, licenses and insurance that a client will usually require.
In some cases, depending on the size of the organization, the booking services actively solicit businesses and organizations that are interested in employing food trucks on a recurring basis or on a limited-time basis for special events.
They oftentimes provide other services for food trucks as well, such as customer locator apps, marketing support, help with regulatory requirements, on-site serving assistance and even menu development.
Food Truck Operator recently interviewed representatives from several booking services to find out how they match clients with food trucks and what additional services they offer.
Food truck expands into booking
Christian Murcia is one of several booking service operators who began as a food truck operator himself. Murcia launched his booking service, Curbside Bites, two years after starting a food truck, Crepes Bonaparte, in 2008. The company, based in Fullerton, California, also has a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a full service catering operation.
"We were already booking food trucks for locations where our truck was going, but after having multiple clients reach out to us about booking, we decided to spin it off into a separate company," Murcia told Food Truck Operator.
Murcia books recurring services (daily, weekly and monthly), one-time events and catering for food trucks. He has about 250 Southern California food trucks in his network.
For recurring services, Murcia charges the food truck a fee or a commission, and sometimes a combination of both.
"For recurring events, we have a rotating mix of trucks that is approved by the client," he said.
For larger locations, like college campuses, the client sometimes keeps a portion of the fee.
"For one-time events, the client is provided a list of trucks to book and we confirm with the truck," Murcia said.
For catering, Murcia charges the client a fee.
Food truck customer gets into booking
Where Murcia got into the food truck business as a food truck operator, James McIntosh was introduced as a customer. He became interested in the booking side of the business three years ago when he noticed that food trucks in San Diego, California, did not seem to have sufficient marketing support.
"There weren't enough places for the trucks to go to," McIntosh said. This prompted him to start Downtown Bites, a booking service which now represents between 300 and 400 local food trucks.
Clients tell McIntosh what type of cuisine they want, then he sends a list of available trucks for the client to choose from. He then negotiates a flat fee with the selected truck and coordinates the logistics.
McIntosh offers the food truck a money-back guarantee if the location gets rained out.
In addition to securing the job for the truck, McIntosh prints flyers about the truck that the client can use to promote the event. McIntosh also provides social media marketing for the truck.
Truck operators form Food Fleet
Food Fleet, a multistate operation based in Los Angeles, was launched in 2013 by a group of food truck operators who recognized the need for a service to help food trucks find large customers. Carly Jacobson, vice president of operations, said the company focuses on corporate clients, colleges and convention centers.
"We work both for the food truck and the client because we want to give them business, and we're also helping our clients to get these mobile food vendors for their locations, either as an amenity or to help grow their profits," Jacobson said. "It depends on each different client."
Food Fleet meets with its food truck partners and samples their food, Jacobson said. The company website has a registration form where operators provide their business license, seller's permit, food truck and menu photos, certificate of insurance and health permit.
The company, which works with nearly 2,000 food trucks and "popup kiosks" in approximately 20 states, calls on clients to find out what type of food they are looking for, then reaches out to their food truck partners based on a client's needs. In some cases, the client may have a specific truck in mind, based on the information posted about the trucks on Food Fleet's website.
In cases where more than one truck meets the client's needs, Food Fleet discusses the trucks with the client and to help narrow the choice to one or two trucks. Food Fleet then contracts the truck operators to find out which truck is available. The client makes the final choice.
Food Fleet sends its own representatives to larger client events to make sure lines are moving and customer service is "on point," Jacobson said.
"Most of the time, we like to be on site for big events," she said.
For recurring events, the company provides truck operators with a list of available spots, then schedules the trucks according to their availability, one month at a time. The client advises Food Fleet what type of food they are looking for, but does not choose the specific truck for recurring events.
"[A food truck operator] who wants to do the lunches, we'll let them in, if they pass our vetting procedures," Jacobson said.
"Whoever responds and is interested will have a shot in the schedule, depending on the client's needs."
For prepaid events, Food Fleet negotiates fees with clients. Jacobson did not wish to reveal information about fees.
For cash and carry events, Food Fleet charges the truck a flat fee or a percentage. In some cases, the client also pays a fee.
Food Fleet's marketing team creates flyers and social media support for its vendor partners, Jacobson said. It also assists them with menu development.
Food Fleet also builds food trucks for businesses that want to operate their own trucks.
Some food truck booking services provide food truck locator apps for consumers. Part 3 in this three-part series will take a look at a few of these players.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.