Can Food Trucks Survive the Pandemic?

The thing everyone remembers about my wedding is the food truck. After dinner and cake, the Wafels and Dinges truck pulled up to the venue, and everyone capped off the night with a warm liege waffle. In fact, my husband and I are pictured on the wedding section of their website. But are food trucks in danger of becoming extinct, or are they uniquely positioned to survive the pandemic?

Food trucks were deemed essential businesses during the shutdown and were allowed to continue to operate. While food trucks seem to have the ideal business model for the Covid quarantine, many struggled. Howard Jeon, Christopher Yu and Jeffrey Fan run the NYC based food truck Yumpling, which specializes in Taiwanese food. In an interview for CNBC, Howard said that as soon as the stay-at-home orders were put into place the truck went from serving up to 300 customers in a day to less than 50; streets that were once teeming with pedestrians were now vacant. This drastic dip resulted in food waste and, eventually, a pause in the truck’s operation. And a reduction in foot-traffic isn’t the only struggle. Food trucks also depend on catering gigs, and festivals for income, but with no large events taking place, those revenue streams have dried up.

But owning a business on wheels has its perks. Some trucks have capitalized on their mobility and started offering delivery, while others have exited the city and ventured into the suburbs, visiting apartment complexes and retail locations. Richie Holmes, owner of four Lickety Split trucks on Staten Island, NY believes that delivery is a great way to stay afloat. He’s been taking pre-orders and limiting employees to two per truck so that safe social-distancing can be maintained. Other food truck operators recommend calling local businesses and asking if they’d be interested in having the truck come around.

Another route some trucks have taken is to make themselves accessible to essential workers and those who don’t have easy access to food. The Mac Truck, along with the New York Food Truck Association has been feeding hospital workers during the pandemic. Through donations and a GoFundMe campaign, the #frontlinefoodtruck initiative has provided free meals for hospital staff, while supporting struggling food trucks. And instead of letting good food go to waste, Eddie Chavez and Lissette Rivas, owners of Crazy Cubans food truck, have been preparing and delivering meals, groceries, and supplies to seniors in their community of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

If you were considering adding a food truck as part of your business, now may be the time, as people are wary of dining indoors, but restrictions are being eased. The restaurant landscape is forever changed, and food trucks may prove to have weathered the storm.

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