HOUSTON, TX – By certain parameters, the Haute Wheels Food Truck Festival was a huge success. Over 5,000 people bought tickets to the sold-out event, bringing ever wider publicity and fans to the growing food truck community in Houston.
But many who came out on Saturday left hot, hungry and disappointed, as the unexpected surge of people led to epic lines, long wait times and food shortages.
“What took us by surprise was how everyone arrived at the same time on Saturday, lining up outside before noon,” says Debra Ford, the media relations representative for Haute Wheels. “Everybody went straight to the food trucks, and they got backlogged pretty quickly.”
Saturday wait times just to order climbed to one hour or more, with up to another hour to wait before the food was ready.
“People made a bee line for the Bus, we got hit hard and we never really recovered,” said Justin Turner of Bernie’s Burger Bus. George Shea ofBullbutter Bros. Barbecue agreed, “We had a line from the moment the gates opened until the crowds were gone — 15, 30, 40 people.”
Turner said his stretegy of making miniature burgers instead of the regular sized menu items so people could taste more of the trucks cost him in the end. “People figured it out and started ordering more. I had orders for $100 worth of miniature burgers, so obviously that’s going to slow down the line when you’ve got another 400 tickets behind it,” Turner said.
Ford said many people were able to try different trucks without waiting in too many lines by splitting up and each person ordering enough for the group. But some without a plan of attack where left hungry, with over half of the trucks out of food by 3 p.m., less than halfway through the day.
To the credit of the trucks and the organizers, the system was retooled to make the experience better on Sunday. The organizers sold only about 2,000 tickets (instead of 3,000 or so) and the food trucks stripped down their menus and began advertising the wait times.
“Sunday we started timing the tickets, and I’d use my speaker to say how long it was gonna be for people in line,” says Turner. “Then if they want to wait, that’s their decision.”
When I arrived well after noon, I skipped the more well-known trucks (Fusion Taco, Eatsie Boys) in order to try new trucks and new menu items. My wait to order at Oh My Gogi! ran about 20 minutes, with an expected 40 minute wait for my quesadilla.
I used what I called the Disneyworld method, skipping from line to line to order and then returning later to pick up my food. I used the same method at Hit N Run Killer Street Food, a food truck newcomer, who cleverly split their line between the fish tacos, which were running a slight wait, and people like me who wanted burgers, which were held up almost half an hour waiting for onions and bacon to cook.
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