At Off the Grid, we’re always looking for talented new chefs, creators and culinarians who are as excited about building shared food experiences as we are. If you’ve ever wondered whether you’ve got what it takes to succeed as mobile food entrepreneur, now’s the time to find out — applications for our 2019 markets are officially open.

Whether you’re a part-time dabbler ready to bring your homemade recipe to the big leagues, or an established restaurateur looking to test the market with a new concept, we strongly encourage you to apply to join the Off the Grid creator family in 2019 (but act quickly, because we’re only accepting applications until January 25)!

Our creators are chosen based on creativity, quality, and presentation — among a few intangibles such as grit, passion and raw talent. Could this be the year you take the leap? Read on for a few candid tips from the Off the Grid team.

1. Speed of Service Matters

We’ve seen as many as 10,000 guests in a single week during our market season (March to October) – and while they do come for the atmosphere, live music and social scene, you can bet they show up hungry, too. Making sure that your menu is scalable and quick-service friendly is key to keeping your line moving and mouths being fed efficiently.

Even creators with the most loyal following are sure to miss out on business if guests face a lengthy wait to get fed — especially since the competition is just a few steps away. That being said, many of our guests are (unabashedly) food snobs, so make sure you’re not sacrificing quality for speed. 

2. Be Ready to Put in the Work

It’s no secret that working in the food and beverage industry is a grind. And with mobile food comes another unique set of challenges that must be addressed. We’ll be upfront with you – not every creator ends up making the cut. But, the ones who do can truly thrive. Rookie creators face a learning curve during their first season with Off the Grid, but being responsive to feedback and having a willingness to make changes is key.

And it’s not all glam. More than a few of our creators commit their Friday evenings and/or Sunday afternoons to the markets in addition to full-time jobs, or busy private catering schedules. Each one of them shares a passion for creating unique experiences around food and community. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like contributing to the urban fabric of San Francisco while building your very own mobile food empire.

3. With Grit Comes Growth

We’ve seen it time after time: Creators that bring their “A-Game” each and every week can leverage the resources and reach that Off the Grid provides into scaling their business exponentially. In fact, a whopping 93% of existing creators acknowledged that teaming up with Off the Grid has allowed them to grow their business in the Bay Area (and beyond). Some of our creators have even graduated into successful brick and mortar establishments.

Keep in mind that this level of success won’t be achieved overnight. The secret recipe for success in the mobile food industry is a combination of hard work, determination and skill. But when done the right way, the eventual payoff can be enormous for your business and brand.

4. Show Off Your Personality

Our guests love to connect with the stories behind the food and the people who cook it. We encourage you to take pride in (and show off!) what makes you unique. Whether you’re a proud minority-owned business, specialize in a rare fusion of two cuisines, or simply have an unusual story of how you ended up in the business, our guests want to hear about it.

Take from the team behind southern barbecue extraordinaire (and Off the Grid veteran) Capelo’s. Owner John Capelo can often be found standing at the front of his truck consulting and engaging with customers about their meal, while sharing his story. In fact, according to a recent survey, over 60% of existing Off the Grid creators incorporate their personal background into their business’ storytelling – and our guests quite literally eat it up.

5. Presentation Makes a Difference

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that guests come to our events looking to feed both their bellies and their Instagram feeds. That’s why the most successful creators at Off the Grid serve items that are not just shareable and unique, but also photo-friendly. Offering a menu of unusual items or serving your dish in a clever manner are surefire ways to gain attention – and everyone knows that San Franciscans will line up in droves for something with buzz, and the substance to match.

There’s simply no better place than Off the Grid to develop your brand and grow a loyal following of fans. In fact, in our survey, 40% of our current creators stated that Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center was the most important place to cement their brand with Bay Area food and experience seekers on a regular basis. So beyond the food, make sure your brand (which includes your truck or tent, displays, menus, and everything else visible to potential customers) is tied up neatly with a bow, too.

Ready to take the next step? Applications for 2019 destination markets at Fort Mason Center and the Presidio are open! Limited spots for tented and food truck businesses will be filled on a first-come, first served basis, with applications closing Friday, January 25, 2019.