Breweries and food trucks have become ubiquitous over the last decade. Trucks serve as the house canteen for brewery customers (most don’t have kitchens). Food truck owner Lana Thomas says the clientele is typically the same, so the relationship between breweries and food trucks has always been symbiotic.
However, it’s also fraught with tension, a precariously teetering Jenga tower.
Jaime Gonzales, owner of Minneapolis-based Flagsmash, the food truck-turned-small-format kitchen in La Dona Cerveceria brewery and Graze food hall, says those tensions are coming to the fore. It started with Von Hanson’s pretzels. Gonzales says patrons buy a snack sold by the bartender rather than going outside to the food truck. But taproom managers insist the snacks aren’t a threat.
“[For dinner], people will always choose an actual meal versus three cases of pretzels,” says Minneapolis Lakes & Legends Brewery taproom manager Marge Pearson.
Another issue is that some breweries—e.g. Inbound BrewCo, according to Thomas—sometimes require trucks to pay an event participation fee to help cover event costs. Thomas says that’s unfair because breweries sell more product at events than trucks do. But Katelyn Regenscheid, marketing manager of Minneapolis-based Inbound, says the fees are necessary for events with public fees, and food trucks always make a significant return on investment.
A third tension point: Truckers feel that taproom managers have come down hard on last-minute truck cancellations, even after extreme weather, which is both a safety and functionality issue. Alec Duncan, owner of Minneapolis-based Potter’s Pasties, a staple brewery food truck, says he contractually reserves the right to make emergency cancellations. Not all truckers do, though, and they can wind up facing brewery hostility.
Duncan says better communication across the board could solve a lot of brewery-food truck problems. A potential obstacle: the perception one side needs the other more.
Thomas says many trucks have pulled back from breweries due to strained relationships and that, at least in Outlaw’s case, there are other types of businesses at which food trucks can operate.
Conversely, Duncan says, “I understand there are a lot of disgruntled food truckers, but we would have nowhere to sell at night without these breweries. We are very lucky to have the relationship we have with breweries, and we should be grateful.”