Recap: Ginger Beef Throwdown!

Tonight we held our first event of the season, a Ginger Beef Throwdown at the Royal Alberta Museum. After a beautifully sunny day the dark clouds that rolled through around 4:30pm had us a bit worried, but they didn’t last long and soon yielded a lovely spring evening. And what better way to kick off the long weekend than with food trucks!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

One of the aspects of What the Truck?! that we’re most proud of is the agile nature of our festival and our commitment to continuously improve the events. Tonight’s Ginger Beef Throwdown was the second Truck Stop: Throwdown Edition that we’ve organized (the first was our Pulled Pork Throwdown last August). We learned a lot from that experience, but the most of all, that we needed to develop a better line system. Because essential to this type of event is encouraging patrons to try several dishes in order to cast a vote for their favourite, we had to make it easier for people to obtain food from multiple trucks.

We didn’t take the line-up shift lightly – a lot of thought went into it, and we made sure to consult with the trucks before finalizing this change. Our rationale with an “intentional bottleneck” at the food ticket line would not only lessen the pressure on the trucks, but would also speed up the overall wait time for patrons – instead of a long wait at each vendor, once people had tickets in hand, it would be a seamless exchange of tickets for food. This system also allowed us to work within the constraints of the Museum’s space – because trucks were only permitted to park along a small section of the curb below the terrace, we knew the main line-up had to be situated elsewhere.

One thing we didn’t anticipate was the sheer number of people, and so soon. Though we now expect our share of early birds, we didn’t think the line would start as early as 4pm, just as we were starting to set-up! Just after 5pm, the line had reached the end of the terrace and started looping back. It was very likely that we had as many cumulative attendees as we’ve had attend our larger What the Truck?! events in the past!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown
The line for tickets

We recognize that we did not communicate this system as well as we could have. While the majority of patrons were more than patient, and were understanding that the food would be well worth the wait, we heard many frustrated comments from people who were confused as to why cash wasn’t being accepted by the trucks, or why it looked as if Mack and I were halting ticket sales for no good reason.

While it wasn’t perfect, this system (which we would only ever employ for throwdown-type events) streamlined the wait for patrons, as we hoped it would. We could have started with a better idea of portion numbers from each truck, and counting down from there, could have better informed those in line about what was still available for purchase, but it isn’t foolproof because we can’t always anticipate what dishes people will choose to buy.

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown
Manageable lines at the trucks

What we do know is that we couldn’t have done this without the trucks themselves! They continue to amaze us by pushing the limits on their capacity. Thinking back to our first events in 2011, these trucks are more than doubling the dish numbers being pumped out of the service windows. Bravo!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown
The trucks

Volunteers were also more integral to this particular throwdown, as we took on the responsibility of selling food tickets and drinks, to allow the trucks to focus on preparing their ginger-beef inspired dishes. Thanks to Joseph, Kim, Felicia, Caleng, Linda, Phil and Robyn for your energy and tireless help!

The Royal Alberta Museum was also a new partner for us, and we are happy that they decided to approach us with this idea as a way of promoting Chop Suey on the Prairies. Thanks to Lauren and Linda for coordinating with us, especially in the days leading up to the event. The Museum told us they had more than 400 people take in the exhibit, which is wonderful news (not to mention the gift shop which had probably its busiest night ever). Congratulations to Michelle Oosterhuis, who won a copy of the Eat St. cookbook, and to Wade McKinley, who won a membership to the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society.

Kudos to Josh Classen at CTV for broadcasting live from the event, and to Virgin Radio who provided a soundtrack for the evening. A shout-out also to Alex and Linda, who let us borrow their sign boards so we could display the menus on the terrace, away from the truck lane.

Of course, you’re probably on the edge of your seat to learn who won the throwdown: The Lingnan Express was the victor with their traditional Szechuan beef. Congratulations!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown
The Lingnan Express

Thanks to everyone who came (and voted!). We hope to release the details soon for our next What the Truck?! event taking place in June. Stay tuned!

  • Marbles

    Perhaps another event can be held at Telus World of Science since there is a new exhibit there. Maybe a rib challenge? (I have strange ideas) 🙂

    • If you wanna get strange, how about a ‘Dead Meat Throwdown’? lol. There’s always a good reason to roll out the trucks and have a party!

  • Overall, it seemed like a great event. Two comments for improvement:
    1. Better parking / parking management — if there were no accidents in the lot tonight, that’s nothing short of a miracle
    2. While the intentional bottleneck was very much appreciated once we had our tickets, it was apparent that the trucks could have been pushing out the food much quicker if they had the patrons ready

    Other than that, it was some great food and a fun time!

  • Maybe to avoid the parking issues you might consider public transit in the future? There are a number of bus routes that connect directly with the RAM.

    • Peggy Doyle

      unless there is a park and ride, or something like that. Public transit is not always an option when you don’t live on a bus route (we’re in Morinville)

  • A Canadian Foodie

    Sounds like you had your work cut out for you. I am not surprised at the numbers as this is a favourite food of MANY! Did any trucks run out of samples? How many did you actually feed in the end? Congratulations on the success of your event…hind sight is always perfect.
    XO
    Valerie

  • what a great great nite!

    thanks sharon & mack & all the volunteers for organizing such a great event.

    and thanks lingnan, (congrats on the win!), the act, bully & smokehousebbq for a great dinner.

    i thought the ticket line system was brilliant! yes the line was long….but it really really made life easier once you got to the trucks….and selling of drinks elsewhere was also inspired – good thinkin!

    these are ‘events’. if i were worried about speed of service, or size of portion, or guarantee of item-i would go elsewhere.

    what i have come to expect from any whatthetruck event is a transit friendly location, the opportunity to meet new like minded people as i stand in line chatting with friends old and new, and the possibility of trying some new to me foods, and excitement at knowing that i am participating in a real unique edmonton event.

    thanks again guys
    REALLY GREAT JOB!

    ps – i love marbles suggestion – ribs/bodyworld exibit ha ha ha

    • CJ

      I will say this… the ticket line system was the one thing I didn’t like! I got there at 6:15, waited 1.5 hours, only to find out there was basically nothing left. I don’t mind waiting 30 mins or so to get to an individual truck… but waiting 1.5 hours for nothing was a waste of my night. I ran into many others at Original Joe’s who waited and left to go elsewhere for a bite to eat that night.

  • And

    What a wonderful event. I had a great time last night and I thought that your ticketing solution worked really well. After getting tickets, the rest was a breeze. I’ve noticed a few people complaining about the event because of the wait times. When people show up to a restaurant and see a lineup out the door, they don’t blame the restaurant. They go elsewhere and might think ‘I guess we should have come earlier’. Food truck events are not about getting a convenient meal fast. There are establishments for that. What the truck is about socializing and diverse food options. The vast majority of people appeared to have a great time last night (I was there for the whole thing). Hopefully a few constructive comments will help streamline these events but I think this was a far superior format.

  • Dave Colburn

    First What the Truck. Not the last. Great food and social connection. Any time we can celebrate people, food and spring/summer temps is a good thing. Thanks to the organizers for all the work this entailed.

  • Thanks for inviting me Mack, I very much enjoyed it. Who can say they went to a museum and experience it in all 5 senses? Great job!

    Also did a YEGventures video on this event. http://youtu.be/bykYQZmi07Y.

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