America is hungry for food trucks. The proof is in the pudding -- and pizza, tacos, donuts and dumplings, to name just a few of the many delectable treats that chefs across the country are elevating from inside their mobile kitchens.
Food trucks have become so popular, in fact, that they now are a $2.7 billion business, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which last year published Food Truck Nation, the most comprehensive study to date of the industry. In it, the U.S. Chamber reports that there are now food trucks active in more than 300 U.S. cities, and that their collective revenue has increased by 300 percent in the last three years.
It’s not just the eating public that craves food truck fare, however. It’s also meeting planners, who in food trucks have found a group food-and-beverage option that’s just as delicious as traditional catering, but more fun, more creative and -- ultimately -- more affordable.
Think about it: With a traditional banquet, you have to pay not only for the food itself, but also for table settings and wait staff. Because they’re so casual, food trucks don’t require fine china or attentive servers. Window service, paper goods and picnic tables suffice just fine. In fact, they’re preferred. It’s all part of the experience, which is not only more social than the typical banquet, but also more “share-able.” And when attendees post about events on Twitter or Instagram, which can drive future attendance, meeting planners who choose food trucks don’t just save money; they also make money.
Although planners can always hire external food trucks to visit their meetings, the return on investment typically is greater if they meet at venues with their own mobile kitchens. Here are five properties whose on-site food trucks promise to satiate attendees’ appetite for food that’s fun instead of fancy.
The Gates Hotel (Key West, Fla.)
Opened in 2015, the Gates Hotel in Key West has a lot to offer, including 100 breezy, beach-y guest rooms; a retro, mid-20th-century modern aesthetic; a pristine pool and pool deck; a chic cigar lounge; a lively bar; and a lush 12,000-square-foot event lawn for outdoor groups of up to 1,200 people. One thing it doesn’t have, however, is a restaurant. At least, not a conventional one. Instead, the property’s food program is based entirely out of the Blind Pig, its signature food truck. Offerings include the “Goats Guard," a breakfast item consisting of an herb omelet with goat cheese and roasted tomato confit; fish tacos, made with a lightly blackened local catch of the day, fire-roasted vegetables, house-made Baja-rémoulade, lime and flour tortillas; Spanish paprika fries, and pork belly sliders made with bourbon-glazed pork belly and cucumber slaw. And for dessert? Sushi-shaped cupcakes.
Montage Palmetto Bluff (Bluffton, S.C.)
South Carolina’s Lowcountry gets the luxury treatment at Montage Hotels & Resorts’ Montage Palmetto Bluff, which offers 20,000 acres of Southern scenery. Along with 200 guest rooms, there’s a 13,000-square-foot spa with a full-length lap pool, multiple fitness centers, and a yoga and movement studio; a resort pool; five retail boutiques; a library; more than a dozen bars and restaurants; an 18-hole golf course; a racquet club; a shooting club; horse stables, and over 16,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. There also are expansive areas for outdoor events, planners of which can take advantage of three mobile food offerings that the resort introduced in 2017. The first, known as Big Carol, is a food truck whose fully functional kitchen is capable of preparing a variety of menus for themed meetings and events. Joining Big Carol are two smaller venues: the Little Brown Wagon and the S’mores Cart. An old-school teardrop camper made out of bourbon barrels and converted into a portable bar, the former features two taps for craft beer and is an ideal centerpiece for group bourbon tastings. The latter is a modern bakfiet -- Dutch for “box bike” -- that’s set up for s’mores with a buffet of marshmallows, graham crackers and house-made chocolates.
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (Lake Geneva, Wis.)
Wisconsin is famous for its supper clubs -- down-home independent restaurants whose boisterous dining rooms serve huge portions of simple steak-house fare alongside strong, inexpensive drinks. But the Badger State still has plenty of room in its heart -- and stomach -- for new food traditions. This is especially true at Lake Geneva’s Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. Along with 355 guest rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, two golf courses, a full-service spa and salon, a ski hill, five bars and restaurants, and 62,000 square feet of meeting and event space, it flaunts its own food truck. Called the Grand Grille, the vehicle is available for both indoor and outdoor events and can serve up a variety of different menus. Popular choices include a tacos menu with Mexican-inspired proteins, salsas, fresh toppings, sides of Mexican-style street corn and nachos; the Wisconsin menu includes bratwurst, butter burgers or pierogis served with German potato salad, sweet onions and mustard; and the BBQ menu features smoked beef brisket sandwiches and thick-cut pork belly skewers paired with Carolina slaw, pickles, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, try the “French Toast Sundae” menu, which features cereal-encrusted brioche French toast served with vanilla ice cream and an assortment of sundae toppings.
Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui (Wailea, Hawaii)
When meeting attendees visit Hawaii, they want to taste the Hawaiian Islands as much as they want to experience them. Fortunately, groups can do both at Wailea Beach Resort - Marriott, Maui. Encompassing 491 recently revamped guest rooms and 29,880 square feet of meeting space, the beachfront resort offers spectacular ocean views from Wailea and Ulua beaches, three 18-hole championship-level golf courses, a full-service spa, five pools, Hawaii’s longest resort waterslide, private floating cabanas and a luau show. As for food, there are several restaurants and bars, including Humble Market Kitchin by Roy Yamaguchi, the resort's signature restaurant serving Hawaiian-inspired cuisine, and Mo Bettah Food Truck, serving local favorites like garlic shrimp, shaved ice and poke bowls.
Plaza Hotel & Casino (Las Vegas)
Groups can find whatever their heart desires on the Las Vegas Strip -- except for an authentic urban experience. For that, they should trade in the Strip for historic Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. There, the Palm Springs-esque Plaza Hotel & Casino has been a fixture since 1971. It reopened in 2011 following a $35 million renovation and now offers nearly 1,000 guest rooms and suites, a classic Vegas showroom, downtown’s only bingo hall and 30,000 square feet of refurbished meeting space, not to mention an 80,000-square-foot casino, four restaurants and a quick-service food court with five more eateries. The hotel’s highlight, however, is its renovated rooftop pool and recreation deck, which debuted in 2017 with private cabanas, a hot tub, a tennis court, Pickleball courts and a poolside food truck serving pub fare like burgers, fries and street tacos.