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Food on the Move

Texas food trucks are go-to mobile culinary shining stars for events

By Amy Durham

Food trucks have a long history, dating back to chuck wagons serving beans to cowboys and push carts offering hot rolls to city workers in the late 1800s. Today, these mobile culinary units have evolved into everything from beans and rice to gourmet fusion fare. This menu variety makes food trucks a catering option for just about any meeting, convention, or conference.

Food trucks bring charm and versatility to meetings, along with a mobile kitchen for venues without food preparation areas. The line in front of the food truck window fosters an atmosphere conducive to networking and collaboration. From breakfast meetings featuring gourmet coffee and pastries to lunch breaks with an assortment of international cuisines, food trucks also allow planners to cater to various dietary preferences, ensuring a culinary experience that resonates with all participants.

Food trucks in Dallas’ Warren Park || Courtesy of Visit Dallas

Texas, known for its rich culinary landscape, has witnessed a surge in the popularity of food truck catering services in the last decade. Of course, it’s vital that food trucks have the necessary permits and insurance to cater an event, and contract terms should be settled well in advance of the day. Ensure there is a suitable place for a truck to park—no one wants to stand in the mud to grab lunch. (And certainly no one wants to stand by helplessly while a food truck’s tires sink into said mud!)

Once all the boxes have been ticked—including head count, location, menu, setup requirements, payment methods, and service times—a food truck vendor can make a meeting experience feel more fun and interactive than a traditional catered meal. Even with a traditional caterer, an additional food truck for ice cream, popcorn, or a specialty themed treat can leave a lasting impression on attendees.

Ways to Use Food Trucks

The food served out of a truck does more than get attendees out of their seats. The right truck can emphasize the theme of an event or bring local flavor to attendees who live outside the area.

“We love a good immersive food experience with an outside vendor, so long as it fits the theme,” says Sarabeth Quattlebaum, founder of Sarabeth Events in Grapevine. For holiday parties, she has contracted with Hot Shots, a Frisco-based vendor, to bring a custom coffee and hot cider cart to events. She also enjoys a creative approach to desserts with Make Your Life Sweeter, based in Dallas. “They can customize just about anything sweet, and they love being creative,” Quattlebaum says. “I melt over their gourmet cotton candy.”

Texas has a vast landscape and a wide selection of regional flavors to match. Tacos and barbecue are usually favorites in any region, but there are some areas of Texas where food trucks have brought out the best in local cuisine. Snow Bros, a San Antonio food truck, makes gourmet shaved ice that goes way beyond a snow cone. Its Texas Heat flavor combines tamarind, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and chamoy—a spicy sauce found in Mexico and in dishes on many of San Antonio’s restaurant menus. Huckleberry in Austin is a food truck that brings attendees the flavor of the Gulf Coast in dishes like the shrimp roll with Cajun poached shrimp and fried capers and aioli.

Snow Bros shaved ice truck || Courtesy of Snow Bros

Food swag bags are trending for this year, and popping a sample of food truck fare in a swag bag lets attendees take home a delicious memory. “I think guests genuinely love the local bites and sips that can be included in swag bags,” says Quattlebaum. “I have noted that guests are over the typical swag-bag trinkets that get tossed.” From sauces and seasonings to jams and sweet treats, food truck kitchens can cook up a souvenir that will make more of an impression than a branded pen or notepad. Often, vendors are happy to customize something for a meeting that fits with the theme and the needs of the planner.

While casual or business casual meeting atmospheres lend themselves to food trucks, formal events can also take advantage of these convenient vendors. Indoor food carts work well for an additional treat near a grazing station, and bite-size noshes in containers allow attendees to sample food without mussing formalwear. 

Food trucks are especially handy for accommodating dietary restrictions or augmenting meals. Vegetarian, plant-based, and gluten-free options can be more than an add-on entry to the lunch menu, instead taking center stage with a dedicated food truck. For events where a traditional caterer is also on-site, a food truck can provide part of the menu. Barbecue out of a local food truck and side dishes from the catering team bring two kitchens together for one meal.

Which Foods to Choose

Food truck menu variety has exploded. Before contracting the latest sushi burrito menu, keep in mind that younger or more adventurous crowds typically go for these trendier pairings. A large portion of more traditional crowds will be happy with classics and menus that represent a particular cuisine or culture.

Easy Slider Food Truck || Photo by Two Pair Photography, courtesy of Easy Slider

Grilled cheese sandwiches and sliders (including those from Easy Slider in Dallas
Fort Worth) are perennial favorites, offering a convenient and flavorful way for guests to enjoy a satisfying meal. Global cuisines are also well represented among Texas food trucks. The fusion of diverse cuisines, where chefs artfully blend flavors from different culinary traditions, results in innovative offerings. This means attendees can look to a food truck for a gastronomic experience, not just a boxed lunch. Korean-Mexican and Thai-Indian are popular fusions, and of course, combining barbecue brisket with dumplings or yucca fries make many come back for more. 

When choosing a menu, also consider the meeting’s focus on sustainability and the priority the organization places on locally sourced ingredients, sustainable farming, and other eco-friendly practices. As independent restaurants, many food trucks have control over their entire process and can control aspects of service and food preparation where bigger establishments might not have flexibility.

Where to Find Them

Across major cities in Texas, these rolling kitchens have shown a dedication to quality, creativity, and customer satisfaction. From Houston to Austin and Dallas to San Antonio, the food truck scene is brimming with options for mouthwatering eats. Search online, ask colleagues for recommendations, and be sure to sample fare at an event to watch the kitchen in action and ensure it fits with the vibe of the meeting.

Lubbock Downtown First Friday Art Trail || Courtesy of Visit Lubbock

Austin, among the top cities in the country for food trucks, boasts more than 1,000 trucks. Food truck parks are scattered throughout the city where people can sit at wooden picnic tables and enjoy any number of fresh meals. This makes finding a food truck in Austin fairly easy, but even national chains offer food trucks for events in other areas.

“We recently did an event with Kendra Scott, and we had the [Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers] food truck as one of our food vendors,” says Becky Navarro, founder of Pearl Events Austin. “It worked out really well because the event was aimed for college-aged attendees. Cane’s was fast, great quality, and all the guests were happy. Their truck is also big and beautiful, so anyone who drove by our event had to be curious.” Food trucks are attention-getters, so if spreading the word about a cause or a launch is a priority, park the trucks where passersby can see them.

From Lubbock to Tyler, small cities are hopping on the food truck bandwagon. Permits for vendors and parks are being issued across the state in unexpected places. Orange, with a population just over 19,000 in East Texas, opened a food truck park last year. And down in the Rio Grande Valley, San Benito opened the city to food trucks where previous restrictions kept them out.

With a growing number of options around the state, food trucks bring a fun, versatile, and tasty addition to meetings in Texas.