My wife and I attended the food truck rodeo near Al's Garage this recent Saturday. There were five food trucks: Captain Ponchos Tacos, Parlez Vous Crepe, Only Burger, Will and Pops, Blue Sky Dining. I enjoyed the event, and since I have frequented all of the vendors except for Blue Sky, that is where I bought my dinner. There was a good turnout, and many of my friends were there too. We all had a good time. Here are a few comments I have about the experience.
Location: I felt the location was very dangerous for that number of people and trucks. There were a lot of families, and small children were darting around in every direction. Thankfully, it appeared their parents were doing a good job looking after them, but we were awfuly close to Franklin Street. This part of the street makes a bend as it crosses between Chapel Hill and Carrboro - and despite the posted 20MPH limit, cars frequently go twice this speed. I think this location is fine for a single truck, with smaller crowds, but with that many people near the street it simply made me nervous.
Noise: There are two parts to this. One was the band, which I felt was too loud. They were packed between the trucks, and this contained the sound from their speakers. They were actually pretty good, but listening to them was painful. It was impossible to have any sort of conversation. Maybe I'm an old fuddy duddy, but we all could have enjoyed the music at a significantly lower volume.
Generators: With food trucks, come generators. They are a mild nuisance with one truck, but with 5 the sound was bad. I think it's great that the vendors try to locate them away from the people, but some of the more powerful generators are still pretty loud.
Beer: Or rather, the lack of it. I guess I am just not a soft drink person. I want an ice cold beer with my food truck grub. I totally understand the laws and permits would have made this impossible at this rodeo, and it seemed a family event, so maybe the lack of beer was fine for most. But I want a cold brew. This is why the trucks work so well at places like Johnny's in Carrboro or FullSteam in Durham.
So here are my suggestions to food truck vendors
- Think carefully about your location near busy streets
- If you are having music, set expectations with the bands about volume and make sure the musicians understand you may ask them to turn it down. Step out of the truck for a moment and hear it for yourself. If people are holding their ears in line, take that as a sign something needs to be done.
- Try to broker deals with your sites to use their power instead of running the generators. For example, I wonder if you couldn't work out a deal with Johnny's to plug in to their power. Of course, some remote places will always require the generators. If/when you need a new one, consider sound output as much as power output.
- Keep on operating at places that offer additional drink choices, like Beer!