Once the DMV Food Truck Association, more or less, won the war for the District's streets, the group had to deal with its own existential crisis: Would it pat itself on the back for the victory and close up shop? Or would it look for new missions?
The organization opted for the latter, and its latest endeavor may be its grandest: The association is hosting the inaugural Capital City Food Truck Convention on Sunday, April 19, at One Eight Distilling. The day will be dedicated to break-out sessions, industry speakers, state-of-the-art show trucks and carts from major manufacturers, awards and, of course, food from the people who sell it daily on the streets.
Food is one reason — budget being another — why the convention is taking place at a distillery, and not a venue that traditionally hosts such events like, you know, a hotel or convention center. Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the food truck association, says convention sites typically require you to use their contract caterers, which doesn't exactly make sense for an industry that produces its own meals. A few of the association's 78 members will prepare food for conventioneers instead; the specific trucks have not yet been announced.
While the convention is designed for industry pros, Ruddell-Tabisola says the one-day event is open to the public. So why would those without food trucks care to pony up for a day of talking heads, blathering on about such subjects as adding catering to your mobile enterprise and accessing capital to grow your business?
"I speak with people every week who are interested in opening a food truck," Ruddell-Tabisola responded when I posed the question via e-mail.
"Regardless of their background," he continues, "they have the same questions: where do I find a truck, how does licensing work, what is the business really like, etc.? So for them, this is an opportunity to find information for all those questions in one place and to meet everyone."
Ruddell-Tabisola also notes the Great Recession of the late 2000s put people on high alert how vulnerable their jobs are. "There's a lot to be said about the job security of entrepreneurship," he wrote. "I think there's a growing appreciation for that, and the food truck industry provides a very accessible way to open your first business."
Organizers will also take a moment to hand out the debut FTA Honors. Association members will vote for the winners of the media award, the service award and the challenger award.
Conference registration is $49 for association members and $119 for non-members until Feb. 28. From March 1 to April 12, registration will run $69 for members and $149 for non-members. You can register on the DMV Food Truck Association site.