CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Some Corpus Christi food truck operators haven’t been happy with the outcome of some food truck festivals.
"He almost put me out of business, for my first year," said Charity Benson, a food truck owner.
John Garcia runs JAG Downtown Festival and Events. He’s gotten city permits to put on a few food truck festivals a year. To take part in his events, Garcia charges a registration fee.
Benson is the owner of Fatty’s ThirdCoast food truck. She started her food truck a couple of years ago as a side hustle, but it's now become her main source of income.
She took part in a couple of Garcia’s events in 2021. She said the first one went great, but then she started noticing problems that caused her to lose money.
“We paid 300, 400, $500 fees to get into these events and he did not advertise as promised and we all lost money,” she said.
Benson added that lack of variety and truck placement have impacted the ability to make money at events too. She cited an event at the Packery Channel. Benson didn't take part and checked it out.
"It just looked like a nightmare, it was a cluster," said Benson. "I talked to the "out-of-towners" that were there and they're like we're not making money."
Benson claims Garcia invites food truck owners from outside the area and will charge them different registration fees.
"All of these "out-of-towners" who get made all these promises and all of these new food truckers get made all of these promises, he burns them and they never come back," Benson said.
She wasn’t the only one who has taken issue.
Sandi Clark of 'Sandi’s Diner' told Benson the lack of advertising may have contributed to her losing money at an event. On top of that, Clark said she entered a trailer design contest for the holidays one year. After coming in third at Garcia's event, she said she has yet to receive her prize money.
“He (Garcia) sent me an audio recording of an advertisement that he said he was going to put on the radio," Benson said. "We never heard it on the radio. We never heard it anywhere. The only promoting he did was the food truck festival's page which he controls."
Aaron Barrios also had an issue a few years ago. Barrios has operated a food truck since 2014. Like Benson, the first event of Garcia’s he attended went well.
Barrios said Garcia did deliver on that first event. But there was an issue when the next event was canceled and Barrios asked for a refund of his registration fee.
“Then we ended up chasing him down for almost nine months to get that money back until he completely blocked my calls," said Barrios, owner of Gordo's Good Eats food trucks. "My wife had to call him on her own number, then he answered.”
Barrios eventually did get his money back.
Benson said it costs a lot of time and money to just get up and running for an event.
For the average food truck festival in Corpus Christi, she estimates needs at least $1,000 worth of product. Then there's the registration fee cost and the cost of gas for the truck and generator.
What these food truck vendors want to see happen is the creation of some regulation by the city.
“I want a food truck committee to run, to have that food trucker for food truckers so that nobody gets burned again,” said Benson.
“If one man is running the entire event, nobody knows how it’s being coordinated or how it’s being functioned,” Barrios said.
Garcia declined an interview, but he denies all the allegations.
Garcia did provide a statement that said:
"Makes me unhappy to see that people can be so evil in this world. This disgruntled food truck vendor has NOT been in any of my 2022 festivals. Our food truck festivals have been overwhelming with attendance and successful for 2022. Thank you to all the citizens of Corpus Christi who support small businesses. Looking forward for our biggest food truck festivals ever in 2023! I wish this food truck vendor nothing but prosperity for the coming new year."
Benson and Barrios said they haven't taken part in Garcia's events this year because of the complaints they've cited.
Benson is already looking to make changes in the city.
Beginning Dec. 10, a food truck festival will be held outside First United Methodist Church downtown. It'll take place every second Saturday of the month. For food truck owners to partake, they'll pay 20 percent of their total revenue from that day. Some of that money will go towards the church and some will go towards putting the event on.