Food trucks count ArtPrize Eight as success


This year, food trucks lined up between the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Rosa Parks Circle during the 19-day ArtPrize event with hopes of generating a strong stream of revenue from attendees of the competition.

Brennan Summers, owner of A Moveable Feast food truck and president of the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association, said ArtPrize is “hugely important” to his business, with sales during last year’s event accounting for 25 percent of his annual revenue.

“In 2015, we completed just under 2,900 orders during the 19 days of ArtPrize,” Summers said. “No other events come close to comparing. There may be other events during the season where we do a similar amount of business as an average ArtPrize day, but those only last for a day, not 19.”

He said he was expecting similar numbers this year.

“Sales this year are almost exactly the same as last year at this point, which surprises me given the rainy weather this past week,” Summers said.

Summers said he noticed the weekends were busier during this year’s ArtPrize, which probably accounts for the similar sales figures.

Tina Iker, events manager for Donkey Taqueria, said the restaurant’s What the Truck food truck relies on ArtPrize each year for consistent sales.

“During ArtPrize, it is a consistent amount of money we can plan for, and each year has been consistent,” she said.

She said even with more food trucks operating this year and being in the same location, sales have stayed steady.

In fact, having more food trucks clustered together seems to be a benefit.

“I think the more trucks, the better,” Summers said. “It creates more of a destination to attract people. At some point, we would reach a saturation point where there are just too many trucks, but we haven't gotten there yet.”

While the saturation point may not have been reached, Rosa Parks Circle hit its limit for how many food trucks could operate there this year, forcing some food trucks into other, less optimal locations.

“Rosa Parks Circle is definitely the best spot in the city for food trucks during ArtPrize, and unfortunately, we've reached the physical limit of how many trucks can fit here,” Summers said. “I know there are some trucks that haven't done as well in other places, and we're working on ideas to allow more opportunities for more trucks at Rosa Parks Circle for next year.”

Summers serves as the liaison between food truck vendors and ArtPrize.

ArtPrize operates under a city special events license, which means the organization has to permit all food trucks that operate on city public spaces.

“We worked hard to make the city as accessible to vendors as possible,” a spokesperson for ArtPrize said.

Food truck vendors said the biggest challenges they face during ArtPrize include staffing, food projections and weather.

“I typically have two full-time employees and one part-time employee during the season,” Summers said. “That's simply not enough to cover the hours during ArtPrize, so it's always a challenge to find enough help to cover all the hours.”

Iker agreed ArtPrize puts a strain on What the Truck’s staffing levels.

“We can pull from our restaurant,” she said. “It gives our staff a chance for extra hours and cash, but scheduling is probably our biggest challenge.”

Rainy and cold weather, which typically occurs for at least some portion of ArtPrize, also leads to struggles for the food trucks.

“When the weather doesn't cooperate, it's easy to end up with too much food on my hands,” Summers said. “Plus, my season basically ends when ArtPrize is over, so I don't have further opportunities to use any supplies I might have left over.”

Besides providing a great platform for sales, Summers and Iker said ArtPrize also is an opportunity to get their names out into the community and reach new customers who might not have heard of them before.

“Other than revenue, I think the biggest benefit is increasing my exposure,” Summers said. “I've been operating in Grand Rapids for three years, and there are always Grand Rapids residents who have never heard about us. So, it's nice to be able to showcase what we do to a new audience.”

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