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Add Some EASY Carnival Food...

Posted by Katie Knight on Feb 15, 2022

Food Trucks May Be The Best Idea for Feeding a Carnival Crowd

Here's The EASIEST Way To Provide Food At Your Carnival!

Updated April 12, 2023

Food trucks are the "in" thing and have been increasing in popularity since about 2010. There are several benefits to having food trucks provide the food and drink catering at your carnival. We have found this to be a win/win strategy where carnival planners are working together with small business owners to simplify things for their festival while helping small businesses at the same time! We have a few suggestions to make sure that all parties feel like this was a worthwhile partnership - so please see our six tips below!

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nb-one.jpg Negotiate Your Rates 

Typically, food trucks at carnivals operate by giving back a percentage of their total sales to the organization hosting them. Many food trucks are willing to give back 10% of their total sales: remember, this differs from their profits! However, try to negotiate for higher than just 10% of total sales by telling the food truck companies that you'll have pre-sale food tickets for guaranteed sales.
(We'll explain further at point #3.) 

One school was able to negotiate a 20% rate with a food truck that typically gave 10%. They even found a smoothie food truck that offered 25% back on total sales for the event! 

nb-two.jpg Have Food Pre-Sale Tickets

Having pre-sale food tickets will allow you to accomplish two main things.

First, pre-sale tickets let the food truck owners plan for their food sales. This will prevent them from running out of popular food items, as they know how many of each item they have sold before your event even starts!

Second, when families have spent the money to buy their pre-sale tickets for food, this ensures that "saved the date" and will attend your event! And, at the end of the day, getting folks to attend your carnival is the primary goal of any event but especially important for fundraising carnivals!

Food Trucks in a School Parking Lot

nb-three.jpg Map Spaces In The Parking Lot

Most food trucks are very large! Plan for plenty of space for parking so all of these restaurants on wheels have a fair shot at selling their goodies! Find out the general size of the food trucks you'll host at your carnival, and map out approximate spaces they'll need in your parking lot. Keep the food trucks near each other, but ensure you have enough room for carnival-goers to form lines that won't become too crowded.

two different food choices from a food truck

nb-four.jpg Choose A Variety Of Foods

You certainly don't want two different ice cream trucks, especially if you have a total of 4 or 5 food trucks. Food trucks may choose to not come back if their competitors took away potential profit! Be sure to offer a variety of foods, and try to include both healthier and less healthy (traditional) options to meet your carnival-goers' needs.

To determine how many trucks you'll need, each owner about how many meals they typically sell in an hour. Assume about 1/2 to 3/4 of your guests will eat from the food trucks. If you expect to have 600 carnival guests, your food trucks will sell about 50 - 75 meals an hour, and the carnival is 3 hours long, then you'll need at least 4 food trucks. Use this estimation as a rough guideline and feel free to ask the opinion of the food trucks who will be in attendance. Possibly asking how many customers they can serve in a hour.

Outdoor eating area for school carnival 

nb-five.jpg Plan for a Seating Area

Remember that you'll need a designated area near the food trucks with tables and chairs so your guests will feel like they have a place to sit and rest while eating, if they choose. Adding table clothes with simple weighted decorations in the middle of each table make the area inviting as well!

We suggest having about about 10 - 20 seats per 100 people that you anticipate attending your carnival. You will find most kids eat on the go and this area is generally used for a short time and then the seat is ready for the next carnival goer. But having a seating area is especially important for adult guests who may want to sit and enjoy a bit to eat without balancing their drink and food while standing.

Also, don't forget to include nearby trash cans and recycle bins. And, consider having a few extra napkins and plastic utensils in containers that the wind will not toss around!


nb-six.jpg Finally, Consider Inviting Your Neighborhood

We know of one school that put out local flyers and had yard signs throughout the neighborhood inviting everyone to their carnival and to enjoy food trucks right in their neighborhood. 

This school found out that they had homeschool families enjoy the fun and some families without school aged children come by to skip cooking and choose their favorite meal from the assorted food trucks! This school made a nice profit and found a way to include all members of their community at the same time. In addition, it helped to increase the sales for the food trucks, ensuring that those small restaurant business owners are wanting to come back next year!

In most cases, the neighborhood will notice all the fun taking place at their local school carnival on the day of the carnival, but they may not feel welcomed and just keep driving and will not participate unless you invite them.

One more benefit... If you have a silent auction, your neighbors may be tempted to see what goodies they can bid on and this helps to raise the prices and the profits for your fundraising part of this event!

Thanks for reading the Carnival Savers blog! We have lots of helpful hints and tips to help all types and sizes of carnivals - check it out by clicking here! Wishing you all the best with your carnival planning!