After helping organize nine WordCamps, I’ve made just about all the mistakes. Hopefully I’ve learned from each of them. Recently an organizer of an upcoming WordCamp asked me my thoughts on using food trucks to feed WordCampers.

The pro is that you get a nice variety of foods to choose from. Much better and much more fun than the grab-n-go sandwich boxes you’ll find at a lot of camps. (I’m not knocking the grab-n-go option. All options have their pros and cons.) The con is that the lines can back up if food truck logistics are planned poorly. Long lines can dampen the mood of a camp, especially when folks are hungry. And the number one thing to make any camp successful is keeping folks happy. So, here are my tips:

  • Taste test: (This is my favorite tip, because I love to eat.) Test out the trucks ahead of time for service and speed. Again, moving folks through the line quickly is key. All trucks will claim they can move people, but that’s not always true. So if you find the trucks you are considering out in the wild, you can see just how quickly they can turn around and order and deal with a queue.
  • Streamline: Have each truck limit themselves to 3 or so meal options. This makes it easier for folks to decide on a meal (another thing that can slow down the queue). Also it makes it easier for the trucks to serve. Dishing out one of three meals is much quicker and easier than having a full menu. It’s like when you take a party of 20 to a restaurant and they limit the menu. Also, it keeps each truck from running out of a favorite. Often times there will be a clear favorite that everybody wants. If the truck did not bring enough ingredients to accommodate the rush, they run out quickly. Then all the folks that decided on that meal suddenly have to decide on something new, or worse another truck, on the spot – again slowing down the queue.
  • Notify: Announce the choices ahead of time. Use the schedule, the website, the morning announcements, the lunch call, etc. to list out what the lunch truck options are. This let’s folks start getting an idea of what they’d like to choose ahead of time. Again, streamlines the queue situation.
  • Dispersement: Try to stagger the release of people. As soon as the trucks are ready to serve, start sending people over. Don’t wait until the appointed lunch time to announce the trucks are ready. If you can send people in waves it makes it easier for the trucks to manage the crowds and it tends to cycle out the available seating/eating availability as well.
  • Ratios: Generally we find that 1 truck per 100-150 people tends to be a workable ratio. It can depend a bit on the logistics of the day, but that will at least get you an idea of what you should be looking for.
  • Health options: Having each truck provide at least one vegetarian option tends to be pretty doable. However, I’ve had a really hard time finding any trucks that can accommodate gluten-free. But do consider what your health mandates are, because food trucks are harder to account for those. You may need to account for an alternative.
  • Drinks/sides: If you are negotiating that each person gets “one meal,” be sure to clarify what that means. Usually, that is a main dish, a drink, and a side (cookie, chips, etc.). But we’ve had some trucks try to claim that the drink and/or side was not included.

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