Ryan Sebastian now knows that bacon is the third rail of the food industry. Touch it at your own risk. Sebastian’s food truck event company, Moveable Feast, brought over 12,000 people to the first annual San Jose Bacon Festival of America this past weekend—overwhelming vendors with about 5,000 more attendees than expected.
“We have fairly good data from previous festivals,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a while now, but the Bacon Festival was just way beyond that.”
Despite having no advertising beyond social media, so many people showed up that lines grew too long and trucks started running out of bacon. Eventually, festival organizers had to start turning people away.
“It was just insane,” Sebastian said. He also credited heavy local media coverage to the large turnout.
The event’s Facebook page is rife with angry festival-goers. Writes one: “I stood in one line for 40 minutes and 25 minutes in they announced they were out of a bacon dish… It was freakin’ 6:00 pm! Bacon Festival my ass! It was the worse [sic]! I knew something was wrong when the smell of bacon did not engulf the parking lot or festival! I would like a refund!”
Sebastian is well-aware of the criticism (valid and otherwise) and is currently working on responding to the flood of emails and posts he has received since event, in addition to granting refunds. Moveable Feast will also be pushing out a survey to festival-goers about their experience in order to better understand what people expected and their concerns were.
“We pride ourselves on doing excellent events. This was a definite black eye for our company,” Sebastian said.
When asked why he thought the festival had gotten so out of control, Sebastian couldn’t really say. Other bacon festivals around the country have experienced similar problems, he pointed out. Maybe there’s just something about bacon that gets people sizzling.
So what does that mean for the San Jose Bacon Festival of America 2014? “We have to decide whether we want do it again,” Sebastian said. “It’s one thing to turn a profit, but if it’s at the expense of what people think of our company, then it’s not worth it.”