Friday 4 July 2014

Food Truck Frenzy – Whitby, ON

This is a few weeks late, but Brian and I went to The Rotary Club of Whitby’s Food Truck Frenzy on Saturday May 10th. It was held in the parking lot of the Abilities Center with proceeds benefiting: Joanne’s House Youth Shelter, Feed the Need Durham, T.A.M.I Coalition, and the Abilities Center. It was a two-day event – on Saturday and Sunday, running from 11am-9pm, and included 15 food trucks, a few local wineries and breweries, and live music.

The food trucks included were from all over the GTA. The ones that participated were – Bestia, Busters Sea Cove, Dobro Jesti, Frankie Fettuccini, Gorilla Cheese, Grillin Like a Villain, Hollywood Cone, Luchador Streetery, Mr. Corn, Pancho’s Bakery, Randy’s Roti, Smokes Poutine, Stuttering Johns and Tiny Tom’s Donuts.

Ever since completing the event management program at Niagara College, I have a tendency to look at events from that viewpoint and sometimes notice things that the average attendee wouldn’t. For a first time event, I think they did a great job. Was everything perfect? No… but things rarely ever are. The hardest thing about a new event, is knowing what to plan for – in terms of the number of attendees, potential problems, etc. That’s why the longer an event runs, the smoother things tend to go as they have previous experience to draw upon when planning.

15 food trucks was a good turn out in terms of the space provided by the parking lot. I think that anymore would have led to it being too crowded The parking lot is a decent size, but its not huge. However, that being said, 15 trucks weren’t enough based on the massive amounts of people that showed up. Brian and I got there around 11:30am on the Saturday – only 30 minutes after they opened – and there were already lines for each truck. The lines were mostly reasonable at this point, but by the time we left around 2:30, they had skyrocketed. The more popular trucks had at least an hour line, if not more (I heard a few people say they were in line for almost 2 hours!) – and the less popular ones were at least 30+ minutes (those ones tended to be the deserts like Tiny Tom’s Donuts or Hollywood Cone). I definitely think that the event underestimated the amount of interest and attendees.

When you go to an event like that, you expect lines and I personally didn’t have a problem waiting. But others around us felt differently. Many only tried one truck and ordered all their food from it, rather then getting a chance to try a few different trucks and their options. Some people just left, and on their way out cautioned others not to bother coming in. For the families with small children that attended, I could definitely see why it was frustrating. It was one of the first warm days (I got a bit burnt from being outside), very crowded, and long waits for food. If I had small children, I don’t think it would be an event I would take them too.

But since it was just Brian and I, and benefited some great causes, we made the best of it. We split up, each of us taking a different truck and them meeting back in a certain area to share. While it meant we didn’t get to spend much time together, it did mean we were able to sample a variety of options.

Hands down my favorite was Busters Sea Cove. The shrimp tacos were amazing, and left me wanting more. The shrimps were lightly battered and had some sort of spice to them. If I could only have picked one truck, that would have been it! I think a lot of people felt that way, because it had one of the longest lines. It was our first stop, and even after only 30 minutes of being open, we waited an hour.

Frankie Fettuccini was one of the places Brian went to, and the wait time multiplied since the truck ran out of certain food/items. Apparently, they had to send their staff across the road for more oil, and by the time Brian was served they had taken a few things off their menu. Running out of items was happened to a few of the trucks in the time that we were there – so I definitely think the organizers and trucks had under estimated the attendance and the demand.  Brian ordered their rice balls, and their bacon mac and cheese. Both were okay, but I actually preferred the rice balls from Dobro Jesti, as they were stuffed with goat’s cheese. I thought it was a unique take on a traditional Italian rice ball.

One place we both loved was Bestia – a food truck that had an on-board wood burning pizza oven. The pizza was delicious – perfectly cooked, and great tasting cheese and sauce. That line was also pretty long, but the pizza was worth it! We finished our feast with a dozen of Tiny Tom’s Donut’s – something I love getting at the CNE.

There were other trucks we would have liked to try, but we had more then enough food just sharing one item from each truck. Plus, Brian was getting a little impatient with the lines, which were continuing to grow.

Price wise, I thought it was reasonable for the event and food being served. For what you are getting (the size of the items) it was definitely more on the pricy side. I think we spent between $55.00-$65.00 in total. It is something we would do all the time? Probably not. But again, for a once-a-year event that benefits charity, it was worth it.

I am glad we went, and would definitely go back again. I just hope that the organizers take this years experience and learn from it. Perhaps by moving to a larger location, including more trucks, or figuring out a way to combat the lines. This year maybe wasn’t as family friendly as they had hoped, but going forward I definitely think there are ways they can improve what was a great first time event.  

Part of the reason their event was so successful, was an excellent job of marketing it! Having lived in Durham almost all my life, I can attest to the fact that the region has lots of events throughout the year. But one of the biggest problems is learning about these events. So many times I have read about an event after the fact, either in the local newspapers or online, and regretted not knowing about it sooner. The organizers of the Food Truck Frenzy, did a remarkable job getting the word out well in advance – though the papers and social media. I think that played a huge role in the swarms of people that attended.  Plus, they did an awesome job manning the twitter feed during the event. Social Media is a big deal these days, so its awesome to see it being utilized effectively.

If this event returns next year, I recommend checking it out!

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