Hot Days at Haute Wheels Food Truck Festival

Categories: Last Night

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Photo by Groovehouse
A woman with an umbrella has the right idea outside the Cut & Fry truck. See more photos in our slideshow.
"If you think you're hot," mused my friend on Sunday afternoon, "think about how hot those guys in the trucks must be."

I stopped fanning myself momentarily and realized how right he was. I shouldn't have been complaining about the heat at the Haute Wheels food truck festival on Sunday afternoon, but I couldn't help it. Shade was at a heavy premium in the concrete parking lot at HCC's Southwest campus. And the lines seemed to be moving at a snail's pace.

The food trucks, of course, aren't normally swarmed by the hundreds upon hundreds of people that showed up to the two-day festival, which sold out on both Saturday and Sunday. For their part, and considering how much work goes into working those tiny kitchens, the food trucks did a great job both days keeping up with the crowds as quickly as possible.

What was more regrettable, however, was how quickly some of the trucks ran out of food.

"Went to Haute Wheels...what a disappointment," said Twitter user Eileen Jones on Saturday evening. "We were told at the entrance that trucks were running out of food and to come back tomorrow."

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A couple shares a bite in the shade.
The next day, however, the food shortages seemed to be resolved. "We made 4 times as much today," Tweeted the MMM Cupcake truck. But, they added: "Still about to sell out! Better hurry if you want a cupcake!!"

Had the food trucks simply not anticipated this volume of customers? Possibly, but it's a great lesson to learn for future food truck festivals or next year's Haute Wheels event. Other takeaways: more seating, more shade and -- for goodness sake -- bring those poor bands closer to the event. They were working too hard to be out in the boonies.

All constructive criticism aside, the feeling on Sunday afternoon was that the kinks of Saturday's festival had been mostly worked out -- at least the immediately fixable ones -- and that the event was going off as a success. Kids sprawled out under the two trees on the property, eating ice cream cones from Snow Dog while teenagers took pictures of each other and their mac 'n' cheese-covered fries from Zilla Street Eats. Boyfriends shaded girlfriends with umbrellas while they took turns eating pho in a cup from Phamily Bites. People took pictures in front of the colorful Bullbutter Bros. Barbecue truck and chatted happily while they waited out the long lines for Bernie's Burger Bus and the Rolling Hunger.

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The umbrella-covered eating area could have been larger.
And even though I cover Houston's food scene for a living, I was stunned to see a couple of food trucks at the festival I didn't recognize. Cut & Fry, a Belgian fries truck? Welcome to my dreams.

If you can measure an event's success in visibility and awareness raised, I'd say Haute Wheels did the trick. It was exciting to see so many food trucks -- and so many different concepts at every single one -- in a city that's so long resisted them. Festival-goers seemed just as excited, and eager for the food truck festival to grow and evolve for future events in spite of the sun and the long stretches of sitting around.

"If the Haute Wheels food truck festival was better organized it could be totally rad," wrote Twitter user Caitlin Kaluza. "Let's just say I'm looking forward to next year."

So am I.

To see more photos from the food truck festival, check out our slideshow.



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44 comments
movingtruckrental
movingtruckrental

that is nice ,,more happiness in that places are to be in ,, 

Jeff
Jeff

 I understand the parking lot aspect. Where else can you hold an event made up of trucks? It's not like you can drive them into a park under shady trees. With city restrictions on them as well, that makes for an awkward situation.

What another person mentioned is something I think every time something like this happens: why are you holding this in May (or June or July or August)? Move it to March or November. We had a beautiful day out, but that was pure luck.

And I am just not a fan of paying $15 to enter a place and then pay for food. It's like a cover charge for a restaurant. But that's just me. I'm bitchy like that. :)

Bigrob
Bigrob

VIP tix got me 4 full size drink (alcohol) tix, bottle of olive oil, sample of a mini empanada and taquito and all the tea i wanted.  I stood in one line, bullbutter bbq, bought a whole chicken and left.   VIP ticket holders should have had an earlier entrance into the event and the VIP tent should have included a variety of food samples from different trucks other than the tequila based items served. 

ann
ann

 We got our discounted tix on deal, so my disabled boyfriend could sit in the shade while I brought him food. It was a good deal for us, so I'm sorry if we inconvenienced anyone. That said, the trucks need to get out more. there is life beyond the Loop. The only reason we went was that it wasn't in Midtown OR the Heights.  we went was that it wasn't in Midtown OR the Heights. 

EMME
EMME

Think about every festival you have ever been to.  They have all had long lines for the food concessions.  So now you have a festival where the entertainment is the food, and out of trucks at that?  You're guaranteed lines.  regarding seating, no chairs are allowed within 100 feet of the food trucks, hence the tables with no chairs.  I think more entertainment of other types so that you aren't going from line to line.  Limited menus, more information about the beneficiaries of the entry fee (maybe have the HCC culinary students run their own food truck, or competing food trucks).  And definitely a shadier area like Memorial Park.    

jk
jk

 why O' why does everyone continue to price themselves into a foolish frenzy with admission fees....$18 for ifest....16 for this piece of crap (and until Saturday I wz a food truck fan) only to be told there was no food left....and my tickets were worthless. Like many others I am on a strict money diet so I choose my "mad money" stuff very carefully....this was a waste of time and bad bad biz for all concerned....hey if ya have a rough idea how many folks to expect via tkt sales ya shoulda been able to figure roughly how much food to have on hand. big big mistakes should have been corrected before ya opened.....surely somebody being paid by my admission fee (times everyone else) shoulda coulda seen this happening.....bad bad bad.even the venue sucked .

csoakley
csoakley

Taking into account this was the first time this event was staged I would say it went OK with lots of room for improvement. Doing it in a parking lot was not the best choice but they do need a large area since trucks (in Houston) with propane need to be at least 100 ft apart (not the case in other cities). Speaking of, has there ever been a food truck explosion that caused this law (beside the Tacos of Tears disaster back in '82)? Also, I think the city would not let vendors begin prep early (so that made for a slow start) and food had to be stored in the truck, not an external refrigerator (city regs again) so vendors ran out of food based on limited space in the truck.

The main problem I had with the event (on Sat.) is that it was way oversold. The organizers said on their site 'Previous events in other cities have sold out'. It seems on Sat that if you had money, they let you in. Bad call, Ripley. If the food trucks were told "We sold all 500 tickets and won't sell any more" then they could plan accordingly. If you knew there were 25 trucks and figured each person would go to 5 trucks and get 2 items from each truck then you should plan on serving 200 people. At least that would give the vendors a ballpark of what to expect rather than getting slammed with an unknown number of people getting pissed off you don't have any food left.

Eric Wilson
Eric Wilson

I was surprised that the $15 entry fee was mainly for drinks, not food. I thought there would be one line or a separate are for samples, which you would use your ticket, then go buy the whole meal at the truck, in a separate line. It could have been a lot more better organized. I also agree that the concrete was a bad idea (thank goodness it wasn't 95 and humid this weekend), and I felt sorry for the band, which was totally outside of the circle of trucks.

kylejack
kylejack

Didn't they have many of these same problems at the Austin event?  Was the wait for food at various trucks really more than an hour? An idea: Sell fewer tickets so the people that get to experience it have a more positive experience.

Me M
Me M

Well, obviously the shortages weren't resolved the next day or MMM wouldn't have been running out.  I also have many of the trucks on my twitter feed and they reported the same issues at roughly the same times they sprung up the day before (such as hour long waits for food).  I think there is a better way to highlight the trucks and the food these chef's create without bottlenecking.  Either give each truck a second prep area outside of the truck (behind it maybe) or just sponsor a truck crawl every couple of months.  Because in the end, this is more about the food. 

And yes, the bands were just random noise when you were on the other end of the parking lot. 

happyfoxy
happyfoxy

 Another problem was the truck were selling full meals.  I was expecting sample sizes so I could try out several trucks but after one meal I was done.

Jennifer_Wingo
Jennifer_Wingo

More trucks or less tickets sold to help lines. Maybe activities to distract people? Or maybe the trucks should slim down their menus so orders will be easier to fill in a short period of time. Just my opinion!

Diana
Diana

I just wanted to say that I paid the extra $$ to be in the Houston Press "VIP" tent and thought that was the poorest excuse to call something VIP ever.  You guys sold like what? 500 VIP tickets and had seating in there for TWENTY.  I would have readily given up my 4 "complimentary beer and wine" tickets that were only good in the VIP tent that only served crap HITE beer for just ONE St. Arnold or something from the regular tent.  At least the water was free.... I feel sorry for anyone who actually paid the full $60 price tag on those VIP tickets because they were definitely not worth the $30 I paid.

Bystander
Bystander

"If you can measure an event's success in visibility and awareness raised, I'd say Haute Wheels did the trick. "

Hm, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I would measure an event's success by the happiness level of its guests.

Production professionals have a phrase that, after reading all of the comments on Facebook, I think applies: "Shows are for pros." Sounds like a portion of that $16 ticket should have gone toward paying a real production professional or two who might have done basic calculations on how many guests 20 trucks could logically support.

I ope they can get it together if they do another one of these - there is  great potential.

Theo
Theo

 All I have to say: if it was as hot as it should have been for mid-May, I would have been pissed. Or in the hospital. Drink station by the entrance ran out of bottled water by 2:30pm on Sun. AYFKM?

SirRon
SirRon

And on top of all that there was a huge cover charge to get in the door. There has to be a better way to enjoy food trucks. hmmmmm.

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

I still don't understand why I'd pay to get into a parking lot to wait in line for a food truck that I can frequent for free on any given day. When I asked this question to friends, it seemed like they were too lazy to drive to the trucks or just weren't twitter savvy enough.

Florida63
Florida63

 I applaud you for trying to put some lipstick on this pig.  This was a joke.  I got there only one hour after it opened on Sat and after one beer, in one hour and waiting in excess of 30 minutes for a bahn mi (which I abandonded) I bailed. I came with a group of friends and we started the "divide and conquer" strategy until we concluded that individually standing in lines was not the way we wanted to spend the afternoon.  I felt bad for the trucks and the bands. These people were working their @ssess off for a very poorly planned event. Did I mention the ONE person pouring beer at the St. Arnold booth?

As for next year.....find someone who has planned something bigger than their kid's birthday party or HS prom.

PatriciaO
PatriciaO

Here's my thing on that, I got a heads up from fellow foodie who went on Saturday to go early, bring lawn chairs, and divide and conquer to maximize the enjoyment of the fest.  Then on FB, the event ask for feedback, and when I wrote them, they were less than friendly about it.  And they were: more trash bins available around the tents (there were maybe one every 2-4 vendors), alert attendees what the drink ticket system (they give you 5 tickets but each drink cost 2 tickets each) and that they are avilable for $1 each.  Of course, each of the trucks sell drinks too.  Lastly, ask your vendor to show up on time.  One of the vendor didn't show up until 1:30p when the gates open at Noon.  Of course they weren't prepared to serve as they arrive, so it's another 20 mins before they can take order.  The event took in $500 deposit from each of the truck, that can be part of their stipulation.  Just need to be more organized... totally agreed to have someone more experienced like HoustonPress to run it.

Gajlea
Gajlea

I wish they'd partnered with someone who knows how to do an event (Houston Press, maybe?) to avoid all the pitfalls you mentioned. No one wants a parking lot party with no shade on a 90 degree day, especially with everything so dispersed, and then no food on top of it all.

Frankel
Frankel

I want to see Houston's food trucks at the Art Car Parade! The trucks are just as colorful as the cars AND they sell food!! 

Seal6
Seal6

Bitchy bitch Jeff writes: "Where else can you hold an event made up of trucks? It's not like you can drive them into a park under shady trees."

Memorial Park? The fruit loop, as it's known among some.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

The Austin event, from what I understand, was not organized by the same people. And it did have the same issues, and they did pledge to learn from Austin's foibles, but in practice, you can never really get it until you do it yourself.

The organizers did, however, put together the Brewmaster's Brewfest in Galveston last year, which was a very busy event and was probably overloaded. They are not inexperienced at putting on these events, but I would say they might get a little ambitious in ticket sales and don't account for how to handle all those people. The Brewmaster's Beerfest sold out really early in the day too.

Ali
Ali

I'm right there with you, Diana. That was beyond ridiculous. 

Courtney
Courtney

EXACTLY. You pay for the convenience and also, oh, forgot to mention...$$ GOES TO CHARITY, PEOPLE. Stop being stingy and lazy.

FoodieGirl
FoodieGirl

They've planned Wine & Food Week and Brewmasters, just to name a few :) Two very huge events. Do some research before criticizing :)

Courtney
Courtney

 Um...Houston Press was partnered. Do research before you make jumps to conclusions. People are so quick to do that without knowing the whole story. OF COURSE the vendors were asked to show up on time. It wasn't "Hey, show up whenever!"...it was "HEY. MAKE SURE YOU SHOW UP ON TIME BECAUSE THE FESTIVAL IS STARTING SOON AND WE DONT WANT HOARDS OF ANGRY PEOPLE". Really. Calls, texts, nothing...will get a late vendor to show up sooner. That is out of the event organizers' hands. Everyone wants to be a damn event planner all the sudden, like they know what to do! Give me a damn break.

FoodieGirl.
FoodieGirl.

Um. Houston Press was actually a partner...you seem to know how to produce a large-scale event, maybe you should do it. =)

Cheflambo
Cheflambo

The only pitfall was that there was a GREAT turnout.  Yes, the weather was warm -- would you have preferred rain?  There were professionals in control of this event, and all regulations and organizational measures were in place.  A line for food at a food truck is a good thing, and the anxious kids I saw were (suprisingly) well controlled by their patient parents.  I thought the mobile food community was well represented, and, like KS, I discovered a few new ones to add to my rotation.  For a "first annual" event I thought they did a great job. 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Some trucks will be at the Art Car Ball Friday night.

Aflacqck
Aflacqck

Great god, foodieGirl! Hopefully you're not the PR person for anything. You are defensive, deaf and dumb.

SirRon
SirRon

Remind me again how much of my $$$ turned into $$ to CHARITY. I'm too lazy to look it up.

There are better ways to give... I'm guessing.

She's Electric
She's Electric

 I'm going to assume you're one of the organizers since you're going batshit defending this thing against even minor, valid criticism. So here's some advice: Stop being so defensive and learn from your mistakes.

Gracylue
Gracylue

FoodieGirl - her comment was a pretty legitimate one and the organizers asked for feedback, which this commenter provided. Houston Press sponsored the VIP tent, but had no hands in the actual organization of the festival outside of that arena. While there are many, many rude and poorly researched comments about the festival, this isn't one of them. 

Gnshns
Gnshns

Houston Press was a sponsor with advertising, not a partner in any organizational sense; they had no control over how things were run, which was the problem. Good advertising can make a bad product sink faster.....

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Just to throw my two cents in... The Houston Press was a sponsor of the event, but we didn't organize it. There is a huge difference. :)

Azure2
Azure2

There is no such thing as a "first annual" event. If it is the first one, it is simply that...the first one. Annual events are held once a year and you cannot call an event "annual" if it has never been held before...it should not be called "annual" until the second year. Sheeesh, I hear this all the time. 

Ali
Ali

 What event were you at? I didn't see any professionals in control of anything. I saw people who didn't know anything about what was going on, who couldn't direct you to particular trucks. I saw no shade, no chairs and no tables at an event where FOOD is the star. I saw what could have been a potentially dangerous situation had the weather not been beautiful with the lack of quickly available refreshments and shade. I saw a lot of very unhappy people. 

I really feel they did a disservice for the mobile food community. Outside of the food circle and people who generally live innerloop, I don't think the trucks get that much hype. And this is how they were introduced to a new audience? I don't blame the trucks, but I'm going to bet a lot of people do, at least a little bit. 

Heckofajobbrownie
Heckofajobbrownie

Glad they threw the party, but an event held in a bare, sun-baked, concrete parking lot next to the freeway in Summer isn't a great foundation to build on. Then the food vanishes and they're turning people away three hour before closing? Not sure I'd call that a 'great job'.

Gracylue
Gracylue

Also, asking the vendors to show up on time and doing something more formal (i.e. having a daily deposit that they don't get back if they're late) are two different things. People tend to be a lot more punctual as a whole when there's money on the line. 

Ganstel
Ganstel

Silliness. See usage. Obviously a podcast listener, who doesn't have discretionary discretion.

FoodieGirl.
FoodieGirl.

A DISSERVICE? You're kidding! They benefitted the food trucks COMPLETELY. Food trucks are now making a bigger statement than before and with the advertisements that Haute Wheels put out, the food trucks will be getting all the $$$ and customers after the festival. Everyone was unhappy and everyone wants to be a damn critic when they're on the other side. Somehow, people are event-planners all the sudden and know how much work goes into it. The place was obviously understaffed and they tried the best they could. Are you aware of the organization that held it? How many physical people are in that organization? NO MORE THAN 10. But this festival was held with a good heart and good notion. So negativity is NOT welcome.

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