By Nick Hom
Photos by author
Off the Grid is an organization that gathers local food trucks into one area, so the public can socialize and eat good food. For the past year, I have observed the business flow at the Burlingame venue location has diminished. The event used to be flooded with trucks, each with 20 person-long lines. Lately, there are nowhere near as many customers. Curious, I paid them a visit to find out what was going on.
Darren (who declined to give his last name), from “Mozzeria,” expressed how he believes the two biggest causes of the downturn in business are location and weather. Workers from other food trucks, such as “Big Ed’s Buzzard BBQ,” also agreed that the winter weather had a huge effect on their success. Because food trucks have no in-house seating, customers find themselves sitting outside. The brutal rainfall and cold weather this past winter has handicapped Off the Grid’s ability to draw families and friends out of their homes to enjoy an outdoor event. “I wish there were heaters. Lately it has been really cold to sit outside,” says frequent customer Erik, who also declined to give his last name.
Willie Moore, the Burlingame Off the Grid venue manager, explained how other venues had live music, which helped draw a crowd. He believes that the live music really enhances the overall Off the Grid experience. However, with the Burlingame location being so close to the train station, Moore claims that the train noise overpowers the sound of the performers. “With no live music, there isn’t as much of an attraction,” he says. Standing there when the trains passed by, I could understand how that would be a turnoff for both customers and performers.
The combination of bad weather and location has caused the number of attending food trucks to decrease. Moore said that because of these two major turnoffs, he was struggling to get more trucks to show up. Former chemistry teacher here at d.tech, Rachel Iufer, was attending Off the Grid for the first time upon a recent visit. She described her first impression as overall positive, and surprisingly, she actually liked the sound of the passing trains. She said it was good entertainment for her 17 month old son, Oliver Iufer. Her only complaint was that she wished there were healthier options – a problem that could potentially be solved with more food truck options. That day, the trucks she had to choose from was ice cream, pizza, barbecue, and Mexican food.
It seems that Off the Grid is a seasonal event, and heavily depends on the location. Food trucks aren’t necessarily a dead trend. Moore assured me that at all his other venues, the crowds have not died down. We will just have to see what is in store for both trucks and customers during the upcoming summer season at Off the Grid in Burlingame.