Warming weather means the RI food truck season swings into high gear. Major events drawing dozens of trucks have already started their schedules.
Both PVD Food Truck Events (PVD FTE) and Ocean State Food Truck Festivals (OSTF) host weekly events every Friday (and a smorgasbord of other events). PVD can be found at the Carousel Village at Roger Williams Park in Providence and OSTF is onsite at Mulligan’s Island in Cranston.
“We’re off and running,” said Eric Weiner, founder of PVD FTE, now in their ninth season at Carousel Village. “A lot of people’s favorite trucks are still on the road and there are a bunch of new trucks participating… We’re there every single Friday and the formula is always the same: We have a rotation of 16 to 20 different trucks with live music. We have a selection of over 25 different musicians that play our events throughout the season, and locally made beer and wine.” Friday night visitors to the Carousel Village may also experience all the park has to offer: carousel and train rides, the playground, and the expansive grassy, shady area to sit together and lounge with friends, new and old.
Joe Boisvert, who started OSFT in 2011, said the pandemic had massive but unexpected effects on the industry. “The pandemic definitely gave us a boost, especially when it came to the “Take It Outside” initiative. When things started opening back up, everybody wanted to be outside.” Boisvert created the Facebook group, “Meet Our 401 Food Trucks,” which allows anyone to connect with local food truck operators directly to hire them for private events or parties. Boisvert also owns the exclusively take-away Axelrod’s Fry Shack in Warwick and said, “If you would ask me in February of 2019, ‘What was the biggest setback at that restaurant?’ it would be that it didn’t have seating. But if you asked me two years later ‘What’s the biggest plus that business had?’ It’s that it didn’t have seating.”
Both Weiner and Boisvert are witnessing new expansions of product lines. “Every year there’s just more and more trucks,” said Boisvert. “Last year, I think we had one boba tea truck. Just this year, I’ve been contacted by, I think, four boba tea trucks. It’s like, wow, man, everybody’s coming out of the woodwork.”
“Boba is hot,” agreed Weiner. “Also seems that ice cream is hot. There’s a number of dessert trucks trending at the moment. People are bringing some new dessert trucks on the scene, and new boba trucks. There are trucks that are still trying to figure out what the market can bear in terms of gluten-free and vegan… Trucks are trying to become more aware and more able to accommodate dietary needs, which is also exciting.”
Boisvert said that TikTok is influencing new options in food trucks. “I don’t know what they call them, they almost look like cotton candy stuffed animals, and they make sculptures out of cotton candy. What’s really important if you’re interested in starting your own food truck is that you have a niche, you have to be something that everybody else isn’t.”
“A lot of the trucks are doing good [business]. I mean, it’s a hustle. I think the longer you’ve been in business doing this, the easier it is for you to figure it out. But there also are some people who come out of the gate and just pick it right up.” Boisvert said those interested in operating a food truck have to love to do it; they have to love the hustle. “My favorite part of my day is when I’m cooking on my truck and slammed and I have 20 tickets up, and I have a 60-foot line. If you’re not gonna like that, you’re never gonna like it. You have to enjoy doing what you do. I mean, if you’re in it for any other reason, if you think you’re gonna run a food truck like a vending machine and it’s gonna be fun and successful, it’s really not. It’s a hustle.”
Weiner said his favorite part of the food truck business is that moment of reflection. “At any of our events, at any of our locations, at some point, I’m able to sit down and sit back for just a few minutes and take a break and look out. We work really hard to build an environment where everybody is comfortable, and where everybody fits in, and where everybody can get along. In a time and place where so much of our society is fractured, we have a very simple formula of food and music and community. If you come out to any of our events, you see people from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of sexual orientations, with all kinds of economic backgrounds, and they are all finding a place where they can come and just be together and not even think about it and just feel good about the evening. That’s something we’d like to see more of in general everywhere. I feel like we’ve created that and we’re really proud of it. That’s what I probably enjoyed the most.”
Along with their weekly Friday presence at the Carousel Village, PVD FTE runs an event every Thursday now through Labor Day, in rotating locations throughout MA and RI including: Fall River, Richmond, Warwick, Cumberland, South Kingstown, Attleboro, Burrillville, Charlestown, East Providence, Johnston, Lincoln, Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Woonsocket, and Worcester. PVD FTE will also be at the municipal fireworks for Providence and Pawtucket, the annual RI Philharmonic Pops concert in Roger Williams Park, and at PVDFest. For more information on where to find PVD Food Truck Events visit foodtrucksin.com/pvd-food-truck-events.
In addition to their weekly food truck Friday at Mulligan’s Island, OSFT runs several monthly events: Saturday afternoons at Rocky Point in Warwick and Tuesday evenings at Deerfield Park in Smithfield. New this year is a monthly Wednesday evening event at Notte Park in North Providence. Plus, they’ll have food trucks at the municipal Independence Day fireworks celebration on July 1 in Smithfield and on July 3 in North Providence. For more information on where to find Ocean State Food Truck Festivals visit fb.com/OSFoodTruckFestivals.