The Actual Reason Festival Food Truck Menu Items Are So Expensive

Who doesn't love a festival? The music and activities are certainly fun, but we all know it's really the food we flock in to feast upon. There may be timeless treats like cotton candy, caramel apples, and funnel cake, and plenty of savory offerings too.

When else is it totally acceptable to walk around eating a pickle on a stick or a giant roast turkey leg? In what other place can you chase deep-fried Oreos with fresh squeezed lemonade (not that we advise that)?

All this fun is made possible by food trucks – vendors who travel to carnivals, festivals, and fairs and sling awesome food all day to hungry attendees. But you might have noticed something about all the items you brave the lines for: they're expensive. Why is that?

These are uncomplicated dishes, made with affordable ingredients: Kettle corn. Corn dogs. Corn on the cob (wow, there's a lot of corn). French fries. But there's a valid reason why these festival favorites are so marked up.

Serving festival food isn't cheap

At a glance, it may seem like food trucks are raking it in. And they often do — up to $500,000 per year, per restaurant industry solutions company Toast. However, the fact of the matter is that the vendors don't get to keep all the money they make.

According to The Takeout, the event organizers often get a percentage of all your profits. Inc. reports that huge events like Bonnaroo can take up to a 30% cut. It's often hard for vendors to find sufficient staff to suit their needs, explains Inc., and food sellers interviewed in their article reported that though they often earned good money, the labor involved in prep and setup can be grueling.

An article by Profitable Venture explains that festival food truck profitability depends on the size of the festival and demand for the product, with so-called "gourmet" food trucks at large events — such as popular music festivals – bringing in the most revenue. The article further mentions that factors like weather, attendance, competition, and setup location must also be considered, along with expenses like stall fees and staffing.

Why to consider eating at festivals

But these obstacles haven't stopped fair food from continuing to delight eaters of all ages. Food Network points out that chowing down at festivals can mean supporting local businesses and celebrating state and regional specialties. Alongside the fried-and-true staples are proud offerings like California wine slushies, Vermont maple syrup soft serves, and Texas meatballs you inject with BBQ sauce yourself, Food Network reports.

According to Linchpin, the food truck industry is growing: its momentum is shaped by increased partnerships between food trucks and venues, and an uptick in restaurants trying out mobile dining operations. In fact, Linchpin reports that opening a food truck is considered by some to be a safer business bet than opening a restaurant.

So if you can afford it and feel so inclined, don't think twice about swapping your hard-earned dough for that glorious plate of fried dough — it keeps the good times rolling for you and the food vendors alike. There's a labor of love behind your jumbo pretzel, and it's worth the price.