Events & Festivals FAQs Part 2

(A rant about overpriced festivals)

Why are Food Truck menu prices higher at festivals than for catering or at lunch stops?

Good question! Everybody complains about how expensive food is at fairs and festivals and most assume that it is the food vendors making a killing at the expense of the "captive audience" attendees.  Well, one of the dirty little secrets about festivals is how much many organizers charge those food vendors to participate.  Up to a point, it is understandable (after all, they have a lot of expenses in securing the venue, marketing, security etc), but some situations become completely usurious.  Ready for a little food truck festival economics?

  • First, let's talk about permits.  Every Arizona city requires its own business license.  Every Arizona County requires its own "Environmental Services" (Health Department) permit and sometimes inspections.  That means that if in January a food truck was going to do a festival in Goodyear AZ, they would need a Goodyear City business license ($75) AND a Maricopa County mobile food service permit ($600). If next month that same truck did an event in Havasu City, it would need a Havasu City Business License ($110 ), AND a Mohave County temporary food vendor permit ($95).  Next month Flagstaff? $8 business license, Coconino County Food Service permit $390.  Some of these fees are good for a full year but if you only do one festival a year in a particular city or county a year, you can see how all these fees add up very quickly on a per-event basis!

  • Then you need to pay for vending at each event.  It is common for the "space charge" for a 10'x20' food truck slot at a good festival to be $300 per day (and some are $500+/day).  Assuming that the truck normally makes a 15%  over-all profit they would need to sell over 285 $7 sandwiches a day not to lose money.

  • Additionally, some events also charge a % of sales (not profits) of as much as 25% on top of the space charge. No food trucks I know are making a 25% profit (OK, maybe a few Kettle Corn vendors, but not real food trucks!) so prices have to be raised accordingly.  If you're losing 10% on every sale, you can't make it up on high volume! In fact, even if this truck raised the price of that $7 sandwich to $9 for the festival they would still have to sell 375 of them a day just to break even!

  • One more point:  Beverages.  Many events are sponsored by Coke or Pepsi, or whatever.  Often, those events restrict beverage sales to ONLY products from those companies.  Tough, but I get it.  But SOME of those events also require that all beverages sold by any food vendor at the event be purchased directly from the organizers and at prices  double (or more) for what they could be purchased independently and then ALSO require that you buy all the branded cups etc for service from them as well (again at substantial mark-up).

So, you can see how there is a lot of upward price pressure, just to be able to survive at these events.

People love to talk about sustainability these days.  We ran our successful 100% off-grid goat cheese dairy for over 15 years and know a few things about sustainability.  One key component to sustainability that people forget to talk about is that if you work so hard and spend so much money being "green", or "organic", or "carbon neutral", or "sustainable" that you burn out and go brokeā€¦ you weren't actually being very sustainably after all, were you?  The sustainability of a business, whether a dairy or a food truck  must also be measured in its ability to stay in the game long-term - to sustain the business - and that means paying your bills and making a profit.

We at Grillin N Chillin don't mind working hard (obviously!) and we don't mind paying a fair price for a spot at a festival, but we do mind supporting a rigged and unscrupulous system that shoves a never-ending parade of budding, unsuspecting would-be culinary entrepreneurs through the festival grinder with promises of 10's of thousands of hungry  attendees with unlimited cash, just waiting for their food truck to arrive.  We will not support such organizations or events with our time, money or food.  And we hope you won't either!

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