Roam Mobile Food Conference 2013 Recap
The inaugural Roam Mobile Food Conference was held in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, September 14, 2013 and attracted 120+ influential attendees from all over North America and as far away as Japan and Vietnam. Attendees gathered in presentations, workshops and one-on-one consultations with leading experts to learn more about practical mobile food business information, policies and laws, community development and organizing, as well as topics such as sustainability, trends in mobile, and other cutting edge topics. Presenters included experienced, successful mobile food vendors, mobile food vendors associations, well known mobile vending experts, and professional support services including mobile unit manufacturers, lawyers, insurance agents, and food industry marketing and business consultants. The Conference was divided into two distinct tracks:
The Start-up Boot Camp (now called Food Truck Academy)
for those seeking to start their own mobile food businesses. The Start-up Boot Camp was a fast paced all day workshop that provided attendees with all the basics of opening and running their own business. Richard Myrick, author of Running a Food Truck for Dummies and Mobile-Cuisine.com moderated, while speakers such as Matt Hoffman from Multnomah County, Curtis Trailers, Lizzy Caston the marketing director for Roam and a mobile food consultant, and Matt Geller of the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association presented on topics ranging from picking the right unit, to laws and permitting, to business profiting basics, menu development, marketing and more.
The Owner’s Summit geared to existing mobile food operators and owners, urban policy and planning professionals, community advocates and non-profits and others who support the growing mobile food industry. Topics ranged from growing from one truck beyond with Matt Breslow of the Grilled Cheese Grill, DIY PR with Jordan Curtis of Edelman PR, The future of the mobile food industry with Matt Geller from the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association, and More. The Owner’s Summit was moderated by Brett Burmeister, from Roam Mobile Food Conference and www.foodcartsportland.com.
Additional events included an exhibitor hall, one-on-one meetings with the legal support non-profit The Institute for Justice, a working, networking food cart lunch, and a fun on-site food and drinks evening event at a local Portland food cart “pod”. On Friday, September 13, a mobile food cart tour was also available to explore and learn more about Portland’s intense and wonderful street food scene.
What’s next for Roam?
Roam is looking into additional opportunities, potential other cities to host the annual conference, and an even bigger conference in 2017! For sponsorship, exhibitor and other opportunities check back at www.roamconference.com or contact info at roamconference.com. You can also stay up-to-date with news and information by liking Roam’s Facebook Page, or by following Roam on Twitter!
Food Trucks, Carts, Wagons, Trailers…they are called different things in different regions, but one thing is certain, the mobile food industry busted on the business and cultural scene around 2008 and has turned into one of the fastest and consistently growing food industry trends in the U.S and beyond. The Mobile Food Industry is estimated to grow to $2.6 billion per year by the year 2017 in the U.S. alone. Although humble taco trucks, sandwich lunch vans, ice cream peddlers, and hot dog carts have been around for decades, the past few years have seen an explosion in mobile dining with gourmet food trucks, corporate promotional food vehicles, and a growing interest by diners in ethnic eats. Even high end haute restauranteurs and chefs are starting to launch their own food trucks.
Why mobile, why now? The mobile food industry’s growth can be tied to many reasons. The rise of social media, fast-casual dining, an interest in new, exotic and ethnic eats all play a part. Entertainment, fun, and an instant community gathering place for dinners of all kinds including lunch workers, families or even late night party diners plays into it. The rise of social media has also allowed a strong connection between vendors and diners. With a low cost to entry, coupled with a bad economy, vendors can often open up mobile businesses for a fraction of the cost of bricks and mortar restaurants. Even non-profits, governments, and community advocates have realized mobile vending can help with bringing positive uses to blighted areas, serve nutritious and affordable meals to low-income and undeserved areas, help with the local economy through small business development, and can even help serve clean food and water during disasters when no other options are available.
However, some cities and towns are still struggling with mobile vending laws, citing out of date ordinances and anti-competitive political interests.Yet, mobile food vendors are mobilizing – creating vendor associations, getting legal and other policy support, and developing strong public-private partnerships, while in some cities there remains drawn-out battles between vendors and their government agencies.
Still, mobile vending signals a revolutionary change in the way North Americans are interacting with their urban spaces and geographies. Mobile food shows there’s a deep interest in reclaiming public and outdoor spaces, as well as the growth of small locally owned businesses in a bad economy. Mobile dining represents a shift to a more diverse cultural and culinary landscape, and an exciting connection between food lovers and food makers. There’s a reason well known chef, writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain says of street food,
“I think of it as the antidote to fast food; it’s the clear alternative to the king, the clown and the colonel. It’s faster, and chances are it’s healthier than something at a traditional fast food restaurant. I would much rather give my money to a neighbor or an individual than to a gigantic corporation that owns half the world. Maybe it’s naive of me, but I prefer food made by an identifiable human that’s actually cooking.”