Just say ‘I do’ to food trucks
Bobby Hughes’ family was worried about the food truck. They were used to sit-down wedding dinners with towering cakes. But Hughes and his Colombian bride, Angelica, were opting for a more relaxed approach when they asked the owners of a local food truck to cook up a South American-inspired menu for their Houston wedding.
“My Texas relatives are meat-and-potatoes people,” Hughes says. “So there was some concern about the food. I was asked if people should bring their own sandwiches.”
No sandwiches required. Hughes says his family and other guests ended up being impressed with the custom menu created by Consumed — a self-billed “Mobile Food Dispensary.” Normally purveyors of upscale burgers and fries, the owners worked with the couple to offer Argentine empanadas, goat cheese and pesto-slathered sliders, veggie tacos and Arepa, a traditional Columbian flat cornbread topped with pulled chicken and jicama slaw.
Hughes’ brother-in-law, Julian Alvarez, had suggested using the food truck after learning that the couple’s wedding venue didn’t have a kitchen. Alvarez knew the owners of Consumed from their usual spot outside the Down the Street bar, and he offered to pay for the food as a wedding gift. The couple loved the idea, and appreciated not having to agonize over seating arrangements.
Hughes recommends a food truck to anyone who wants something relaxed and different, but he says couples should manage their expectations.
“It’s a food truck,” he says. “They’re not going to serve everyone at the same time, but in the meantime your guests can have drinks and talk. It really takes the edge off.”
Mei Li, owner of a Boston truck called Mei Mei , agrees that trucks add to a casual, fun atmosphere.
“It’s fun for guests to walk up and order,” she says. “It’s a new experience for a lot of people, and adds a level of excitement and options that a traditional caterer can’t provide.”
Mei Mei, run by three siblings and offering a locally-sourced, Chinese-American menu, has been so successful that it also now has a sit-down location and a shipping container-based lunch counter.
Having done many weddings, Li suggests that couples consider the style of their wedding, the number of guests and the limitations of the venue when selecting a truck for their special day. Also, learn what a food truck can or can’t do.
“Food trucks don’t usually offer table linens, waitstaff or cleanup after the meal. You may need to negotiate that or hire an outside vendor for those services,” Li says.
Chat directly with the chefs, she says, to make sure the menu items make sense for the crowd size.
“Nobody wants to wait a long time to eat at a wedding,” Li says. “Be willing to be flexible and creative — the operator will know best what will work.”
Li recommends using a truck for either the cocktail hour or the main meal, and limiting menu items to three or four options. Another option is to have chefs serve appetizers directly from the truck and then bring family-style portions to each table, or provide a buffet.
For those who prefer a traditional sit-down dinner but still want the fun of a truck, consider a dessert van.
“Everything is already made, so it’s like a dessert buffet that I’m constantly refilling,” says Lora Kleinwachter, owner and head chef of The Bumblebee truck in Denver.
The Bumblebee, a curvy, 1962 P-30 van that’s even cuter than its name, was rescued and refurbished into its current, Instagram-worthy state and has been traveling to weddings and events ever since.
“People love to take pictures with the Bumblebee, and kids freak out when they see her,” Kleinwachter says.
While her menu options include full-scale cakes, she often suggests the most portable treats — like baked doughnut holes or chocolate trifle cups.
“By dessert time, people are often dancing and socializing,” she says. “Guests, especially the children, love anything that’s easy to eat and carry around.”
While many savory food trucks can save couples money compared to a sit-down dinner, dessert trucks can be a splurge. With a $1,000 minimum plus travel and hourly service charges, Kleinwachter knows her truck can cost more than the average cake. Yet she says many couples hire her because they want something special.