Sunday, April 17, 2016

Food Truck Wars at 6 Bends Harley Davidson's Top Rocker Field in Fort Myers, FLorida

This is an optimistic Post Mortem on the April 16, 2016 Food Truck Wars at 6 Bends Harley Davidson's Top Rocker Field in Fort Myers, Florida

"Half a league, half a league,  Half a league onward,
Into the valley of the Top Rocker Field
 Rode the Six Thousand.

"Forward, to the Food Trucks!
"Charge for the craft beers!" he shouted.
 "Get on line now, dear,  for the pork sliders and fish tacos," she pleaded.

Into the valley of Dehydration
 Rode the Six Thousand.

The Good News is that the attendance by the well behaved crowd at the goodly assortment of nicely chosen food trucks  exceeded the promoter's expectations. (Note: 6 Bends Harley Davidson was NOT the promoter.) Many are willing to attend next year, IF some much needed changes are made.

The Bad News can be listed on a few Food Trucks' long chalk menu boards. I'll cover the highlights. 

 No one correctly estimated the crowds that would arrive. The saying "Piss Poor Planning Prevents Proper Performance" comes to mind.  Those who arrived by car at the start, 11:00 a.m., were guided by police and volunteers into one of two pathways-to the left, or to the right. There was no walkie-talkie communication among the parking attendants  for coordinated parking. There was No back up system to handle the increasing flow of cars already trapped in the long one-way parking routes   when the parking  spaces ahead were already  overfilled. Soon, as the lots filled, people spent 20" en route to an already filled lot on the left side, then 20 minutes later, were directed into yet another filled lot on the right. Thus parking could take 45"+. There were a lot of unhappy campers.   Piss poor planning, or inadequate expectations?  I favor a bit of both.

 The small Top Rocker Field was maxed out with  about 40 food trucks. Planners  intended it  to hold perhaps 3,000 people, spread over 7 hours, from 11 am to 6 pm . The promoters were not prepared for the crowd of perhaps 10,000+, concentrated instead over 4 afternoon hours.  What a "Cluster Truck" mess ensued.  Once parked, it was yet another 45" line to just get in the gate. People were NOT happy, and that was before entering!

 Once in the Field, they were told that craft beers were sold out. That was the vendor's responsibility, not the promoter's, as back up kegs could have been planned.  Free water was not available in the heat, only $3.00 small bottles. Those fortunate to had had a beer or two were likely to have a touch of dehydration.  There was not ANY shade to escape the sun. That's POOR planning. There were no Porta Potties at all in Top Rocker Field. NOT SMART, guys. Nearest bathrooms were a few hundred yards away in the beautiful 6 Bends Harley Davidson dealership.  A steady stream of ambulances lined up to take away a steady stream of people, aged  from 40's to upper 70's,with heat exhaustion (not the more serious heat stroke.)  

  Once in the small Top Rocker Field, the wait time on lines for each food truck ran from 20" to 50 minutes!! Fifty Minutes! There were insufficient order takers. Orders were written by hand on paper tickets, instead of using multiple order takers with iPads for more efficient order taking.  Groups of 4-6 friends, or families, hoping to try the wares from 4-6 different food trucks realized the absurdity of the situation. Then, instead of ordering one top item from each of several  food truck, they backed off and wisely instead ordered 3 or 4 items from one or two trucks, and called it a day.

My group of friends struck culinary gold at famed Robin Almodovar's Palate Party Gourmet Food Truck, truly "A Party in your Mouth." We had read in advance of that she was a Hell's Kitchen Top 6 Finalist, and won Best of the Best Food Truck from Miami New Times.

That whet our appetite.
Robyn's tacos on left , Short ribs on right
The  BBQ short rib grilled cheese ($10) came on deliciously crisped bread enclosing hot crispy onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, with roasted garlic aioli. HIGHLY Recommended!

The Slow roasted pork sandwich with caramelized onions, arugula, tomato jam and garlic aioli ($9) was juicy! Most added a fried  egg on top, for $1 more! Recommended.   With such competition for a palate, the quite nice Crab cake sliders with sweet chili tomato jam , aioli and mixed greens offered goodly crab, however the taste of the sauces were not sufficiently different in ingredients to stand out from their more highly regarded brethren. The Soft shell crab, and fish tacos were other top sellers.

Cucina Bambina Gourmet Italian Eatery was manned by friendly efficient folks. Only in service for 3 months, the tiny truck did not have a following yet, and the line was just 5 minutes long. Hallelujah! 
We enjoyed their "Bambina Sandwich" ($10) with a big hunk of fresh mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, salad with arugula, roasted peppers and balsamic on a torta roll. Recommended.
Food was inspected by the pros

Red Zeppelin Rockin' Lobster Roll was tops with a generous amount of real Maine Lobster on a roll for $15. Highly Recommended.

Moca Loca had a great chocolate shake.

We tried 3 items from another truck. Let's just say that we left most of the forgettable pulled pork and other items on their plates. Yuck. Better vetting of a truck's wares before accepting them to the Food War is in order.

The judges had it a little easier!


With the long waits for food at each overwhelmed food truck, one of our group bugged out early. We left earlier than anticipated, having tried far less food trucks than we wished. Bummer.

Attendees dodged the rain
I'd go to the next Food Truck War/Rally. Really, I will. This was the inaugural event-a first time for the promoters, trucks and attendees. Hopefully lessons were learned. Next time have it at Jet Blue, with oodles of parking spaces, bathrooms easily accessible, free water to avoid dehydration, and better crowd control. Did I mention SHADE?  Many table and chairs are needed for tired customers.  It's an endurance contest standing on lines for hours.

 So cut customers a break, and give them ample table spots (in and out of shade)  to put their food, drinks and tired bodies, PLEASE!! Vendors need  more efficient order taking. They need to create dishes that are quicker to prepare. Better vetting of trucks to maintain high quality of food across the board is hoped for- this is subjective.

Thank you 6 Bends Harley Davidson, for letting the promoter use your Field!

PS, my car-ful of friends were so emotionally distraught from the experience (and lack of beer)  that we cured it with  Norman Love chocolate therapy, followed by

Fort Myers Brewery's "medicine!"


Unknown said...

Sorry you had a rough time but who knew Ft Myers actually had that kind of following for food trucks. Sure the event coordinators had some major issues but when has anyone done everything perfect on their first try? As far as long waits for food I know that The Munch Mobile's ticket times we're 5-10 minutes. Thanks Six Bends for the opportunity.

Ivan Seligman said...

Yes, while it was a "baptism by fire" for some truck crews and customers alike, we agree that the next time will be smoother functioning and overall just better for all. Any hints you cold share with other trucks for shortening turn around time would be super helpful. Just getting their lines down from 50 minutes to your 5-10 minutes would rock! They may have to rethink what they make so it's quicker...that's doable! Thank you for your insight.