First, what is ROAM?
ROAM is the only mobile food vending industry conference. The conference gives an opportunity for those involved in the industry to gather to discuss issues, trends, and strengthen the business behind the mobile food vendor.
The event is held on two days with general sessions spanning a day and a half. There were also a few a pre-sessions that discussed regulation and marketing for mobile food businesses. Matthew Geller of SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Asssociation and the National Mobile Food Vendors Association gave a great industry overview, why there are regulations (or what are good ones), and ways to improve regional markets. Barbara Upchurch followed up with discussions Marketing. This session was very interactive where she engaged participants to define their business and put them to action through defining statements and a brief marketing plan. I particularly liked how she told owners to engage with bloggers. What can I say, I had selfish interests in that statement (another selfish plug: please engage with me).
In between all this, we also had opportunities to talk with other attendees. Many were other owners, which gave us all an opportunity to see how things worked elsewhere. Later that day, the conference followed up with the first general session that kicked off the day. While Christie Blake, Prseident and Owner of ROAM, Sameer Siddiqui, San Antonio Food Truck Association and Rickshaw Stop, and Matthew Geller had great and enteraining speeches, Che Ruddel-Tabisola, DMV Food Truck Association, has the speech that won the day. He filled the room with raw emotion that I worked to keep a professional facade.
That day wrapped up with different activities, where I decide to head to one of the food truck parks in San Antonio. It was great because the conference arranged for a van to transport attendees between the host hotel, Embassy Suites Riverfront, and the Alamo Street Eat Bar.
The true full day provided breakout sessions, where attendees could attend sessions geared toward different subjects. These sessions usually had one geared toward current owners looking to improve business and the other geared toward new owners looking to start a mobie food truck business. I attended many geared for current owners, which I found beneficial to shift the food truck business into a new business gear. This included expanding the business outside of selling on the streets, strengthen owners in their current environment, and other ways to reach out to guests.
Another value of ROAM was the exhibitor area. While the mobile food industry relies on electronic communication, I enjoy and prefer the human interaction. The ability to speak face-to-face with vendors gave me opportunities to ask follow-up questions and see solutions firsthand. While some vendors were located in the San Antonio area, the vendors offered their services outside of the market.
New Owner track
I attended a few sessions geared toward new owners, as well as, spoke with prospective owners. As did I, they felt ROAM gave valuable infromation. For instance, being a non-owner, I don’t have strength in regulatory and health inspection experience. So I found the Health Inspection session very informative and very practical. Brenda Elrod, from Northeast Texas Public Health District, also brought some humor to the session. I especially enjoyed her example with the car with palettes strapped to the car’s roof and asked the group, are you using the appropriate equipment for your business.
I also spoke with a prospective owner weary on operating a food truck. He had a concept, but wanted to know how to operate his idea into a business model. The investment into coming to ROAM probably paid off by speaking to other owners, learning some of the pitfalls outside of what owners are going through, and really the full disclosure of just signing the dotted line on the truck purchase.
I’m already psyched for next year’s location in Orlando. The activities and the host hotel have not been announced, but the expectations are this will be bigger and better. Also, the event is moved from a Saturday and Sunday event to a Sunday and Monday event. Plus, Orlando is over 8 hours from the Triangle!
Overall, if you are someone who takes full advantage of trade shows, industry conferences, and networking, this is something for you.
See you in Orlando!