Maybe you’ve already seen them in your neighborhood, or heard about them in the news: a new generation of food trucks that serves everything from tri-tip and crepes to cupcakes or any ethnic cuisine you can imagine.
Unlike a traditional ice cream truck, or the hot dog and taco wagons at a downtown street corner, these new gourmet food trucks are modern kitchens on wheels.
Sure, you could raise funds with the old fashioned food trucks as well, but the diverse cuisines of the new gourmet food trucks will get people curious and surely attract a large crowd. Besides, who can resist a fundraiser that you can leave with dinner already taken care of?
How do you raise funds with food trucks?
1. First, decide on how you would like to make money with food trucks: you could charge a flat fee; you could ask for a percentage of sales; you could pre-sell food tickets; or decide on a combination of all these. But the easiest way to make money is to ask the owners of the food trucks for a flat fee or a donation amount of their own choosing. If you opt for the voluntary donation, be ready to name a suggested minimum.
2. To find food trucks that do business in your area, keep an eye on your local news sources, or go online and search for “food trucks” and “food stands”. You can also check sites like FoodTrucksMap.com, RoamingHunger.com, or Yelp.com and Zagat.com for more information. Yes, even Zagat, the well known restaurant review service has reviewed gourmet food trucks in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco!
Since food trucks usually tweet about their current locations, you can also try Twitter by searching for #foodtruck or #foodtrucks and see what comes up. Many food trucks will have the city as part of their username.
Talk to the owners of the food trucks and find out if they’d be interested in taking part in your event. If there is a lot of interest in your event, you’ll have to decide how many food trucks you’d like to host, which largely depends on how many people you think you’ll be able to attract to your event. To get a great deal of excitement going, plan for an event with at least five or six food trucks with different cuisines, possibly including a vegetarian/vegan choice and dessert. Pick trucks that offer a diverse selection of foods, so you’ll have something for everyone.
3. Decide who to invite to your fundraising event: is it only a specific group (like students and their families), or the general public? This may depend on how large and what kind of place you’ll be able to reserve and how many food trucks vendors have showed interest.
4. Before you book the food trucks, you’ll have to pick a place for the trucks to set up. It could be a school parking lot, in or alongside a park, or any other open space that has parking nearby and/or heavy foot traffic. Once you’ve picked a couple of potential spots, see what the availability is for these places for a few specific times.
Getting these permits and locking in specific dates with food trucks has to happen simultaneously: You don’t want to be stuck with a space that you can’t get the trucks to and you don’t want to reserve the food trucks for a date that you can’t guarantee a place for. Make a spreadsheet that lists potential locations, dates and food trucks so you can stay organized. Also consider drawing up a map that shows exactly where the trucks will set up, and where the trash cans and any seating arrangements can be placed.
5. Volunteers: Make sure you have at least one person available to direct the trucks on where to set up exactly and to answer any questions. This person should be available to the vendors throughout the whole event. You’ll also need volunteers who keep the place clean and keep an eye on the trash bins and empty them as needed, and volunteers who will stay after the event and will help clean up, and wrap up any business with the vendors.
6. Some food trucks will provide their own seating or standing tables, but some of them won’t. You don’t always have to eat sitting down, but it’s nice to have a place to put your drink. You could ask people to bring their own lawn chairs, or set up in an area that already has some seating options. You could arrange for small standing tables that can be rented from an event company.
In any case, you probably don’t have to plan for seating for everyone; many will buy their dinner and then leave, others won’t mind eating standing up, or sitting on a grassy area. However, do make sure your event is wheelchair accessible and you do have at least some seating available.
7. Arrange for trash disposal. Some foods may be wrapped only in a piece of paper, while others may be sold in a styrofoam box. You may also have to plan for lots of recyclables like bottles and cans (Recycle Bottles and Cans to Raise Funds). You may want to consider the amount of trash a food truck will generate before you make your final selection. Some owners will supply a trash can near their truck that they will service.
8. Time to announce your fundraiser! If you’d like to get a feel for how much interest your supporters would have, you could talk about your plans for your fundraiser on your blog or social media accounts right from the beginning of the planning phase. You may get more ideas for your event and be able to better gage potential interest in such a fundraising event.
If you’d rather wait to announce your event until you have all the details planned and then announce your event, that’s fine too. In any case, take full advantage of your social media accounts, blog, email list and any other marketing tools, like a printed newsletter and flyers. Note: Having lots of followers and “likes” in your social media accounts will help convince the owners of the food trucks that they’ll be able to sell lots of food at your event.
9. At the start of your event, have your volunteers in place (see above), set up signs, or use balloons or any other decorations to direct people to your event and to attract passerby traffic. You could also arrange for add-on fundraisers like a raffle to maximize your return on this event.
Are you excited about this kind of fundraiser? You’re not the only one! Even large organizations like the Make-A-Wish foundation and Toys For Tots have successfully raised funds using food truck fundraisers. And if your event is well visited, you could make a food truck fundraiser a regular event and plan for a “food truck night” every month.
(Image credit: iStockphoto/wdstock)