Tonight we held our first event of the season, a Ginger Beef Throwdown at the Royal Alberta Museum. After a beautifully sunny day the dark clouds that rolled through around 4:30pm had us a bit worried, but they didn’t last long and soon yielded a lovely spring evening. And what better way to kick off the long weekend than with food trucks!
One of the aspects of What the Truck?! that we’re most proud of is the agile nature of our festival and our commitment to continuously improve the events. Tonight’s Ginger Beef Throwdown was the second Truck Stop: Throwdown Edition that we’ve organized (the first was our Pulled Pork Throwdown last August). We learned a lot from that experience, but the most of all, that we needed to develop a better line system. Because essential to this type of event is encouraging patrons to try several dishes in order to cast a vote for their favourite, we had to make it easier for people to obtain food from multiple trucks.
We didn’t take the line-up shift lightly – a lot of thought went into it, and we made sure to consult with the trucks before finalizing this change. Our rationale with an “intentional bottleneck” at the food ticket line would not only lessen the pressure on the trucks, but would also speed up the overall wait time for patrons – instead of a long wait at each vendor, once people had tickets in hand, it would be a seamless exchange of tickets for food. This system also allowed us to work within the constraints of the Museum’s space – because trucks were only permitted to park along a small section of the curb below the terrace, we knew the main line-up had to be situated elsewhere.
One thing we didn’t anticipate was the sheer number of people, and so soon. Though we now expect our share of early birds, we didn’t think the line would start as early as 4pm, just as we were starting to set-up! Just after 5pm, the line had reached the end of the terrace and started looping back. It was very likely that we had as many cumulative attendees as we’ve had attend our larger What the Truck?! events in the past!
We recognize that we did not communicate this system as well as we could have. While the majority of patrons were more than patient, and were understanding that the food would be well worth the wait, we heard many frustrated comments from people who were confused as to why cash wasn’t being accepted by the trucks, or why it looked as if Mack and I were halting ticket sales for no good reason.
While it wasn’t perfect, this system (which we would only ever employ for throwdown-type events) streamlined the wait for patrons, as we hoped it would. We could have started with a better idea of portion numbers from each truck, and counting down from there, could have better informed those in line about what was still available for purchase, but it isn’t foolproof because we can’t always anticipate what dishes people will choose to buy.
Manageable lines at the trucks
What we do know is that we couldn’t have done this without the trucks themselves! They continue to amaze us by pushing the limits on their capacity. Thinking back to our first events in 2011, these trucks are more than doubling the dish numbers being pumped out of the service windows. Bravo!
Volunteers were also more integral to this particular throwdown, as we took on the responsibility of selling food tickets and drinks, to allow the trucks to focus on preparing their ginger-beef inspired dishes. Thanks to Joseph, Kim, Felicia, Caleng, Linda, Phil and Robyn for your energy and tireless help!
The Royal Alberta Museum was also a new partner for us, and we are happy that they decided to approach us with this idea as a way of promoting Chop Suey on the Prairies. Thanks to Lauren and Linda for coordinating with us, especially in the days leading up to the event. The Museum told us they had more than 400 people take in the exhibit, which is wonderful news (not to mention the gift shop which had probably its busiest night ever). Congratulations to Michelle Oosterhuis, who won a copy of the Eat St. cookbook, and to Wade McKinley, who won a membership to the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society.
Kudos to Josh Classen at CTV for broadcasting live from the event, and to Virgin Radio who provided a soundtrack for the evening. A shout-out also to Alex and Linda, who let us borrow their sign boards so we could display the menus on the terrace, away from the truck lane.
Of course, you’re probably on the edge of your seat to learn who won the throwdown: The Lingnan Express was the victor with their traditional Szechuan beef. Congratulations!
Thanks to everyone who came (and voted!). We hope to release the details soon for our next What the Truck?! event taking place in June. Stay tuned!