3 Ways To Kill It At SXSW (Food Truck Style!)
We blew up during SXSW in 2010 by 1) being at the right location, 2) using social media and 3) providing catering services to brand event / activation and events during the festival
- Location and Time – Our first year at SXSW was chaos. We weren’t sure where to be at what time. We took our food truck to East Austin during the day with little success after realizing everyone was hungover from the night before and wasn’t out exploring the city until later in the day. Our West 5th& Colorado location wasn’t ideal for lunch either. We realized dinner business was where we needed to target and planned our schedule to serve as many Kimchi Fries as we could during dinner and late nights. We also realized parking our food truck around the Austin Convention Center during lunchtime for foot traffic and the downtown bar district during dinner was the best way to maximize business.
Today, we strategically partner with SXSW, Austin Convention Center, event coordinators, and venues to park our food truck for large events, like Fader Fort.
2. Social Media – There are so many influencers involved with or attending SXSW and we love it. It’s a time when Austin’s food scene really shines so we focus heavily on our quality and service to set the standard for our city. We had everyone from start-ups like ROIKOI to a household brand name mention us on YouTube/retweet us all throughout SXSW. We probably gained over a couple thousand followers during SXSW that year. One of the reasons why we blew up during SXSW was from the social, influencer and media buzz around our Kimchi Fries. People talking about our signature dish led to national recognition.
We know it’s a full effort to connect with your customers during SXSW. One tweet from somebody can change the course of your sales for the day. Everyone’s here for the next big thing and everyone’s on their phones… so why not us too!
3. Catering – We had no idea what we were doing when we got our first catering gig during SXSW. I modeled our service off a chain restaurant program and created a last minute PowerPoint to present to our first client. It worked and we were so stoked about getting such a large deal — a $2,000 gig was large then!
It really started organically for us because venues wanted our food truck to cater, knowing we offered fresh, quality food. We lost some money due to our lack of experience as we would refund some to clients if we made mistakes, but that helped build our catering reputation for the long run in assuring clients they can trust us. If we did a great job, we knew they would come back. If we messed up, we did whatever we could to make it right to get a second chance and not make the same mistake again.
Today, our catering sales during SXSW make up more than 50% of our revenue over the duration of the 10-day festival. A successful SXSW for us requires a lot of planning and coordination with a team of over 100 people working multiple events simultaneously all over Central Austin. We work extremely hard to ensure things run as smoothly as possible, but know there are always unavoidable factors we must anticipate… like a sick team member, festival traffic, or a car accident on the side of the road somewhere. Knowing all this and understanding our clients want us to arrive early, we factor in an additional hour drive time to every event and equip all of our managers with hotspots to keep team communication open.
It’s an organized chaos, but we continue learning and getting better every year. With our team having gone through so many SXSW events together, we are prepared to execute our best SXSW events yet this year.
To have a successful SXSW in 2017, we start focusing on locations, social media engagements, and reaching out to catering clients.
We wish everyone the best in SXSW 2017!