Food trucks are a true embodiment of entrepreneurship at work – a bold assertion of personal style on wheels. Small menus – ranging from refurbished staples for convenience to experimental cuisine that needs to be tested on a smaller scale – seem to be approached with a particularly pioneering spirit when served from a vehicle. In Denver, trucks were perhaps the foremost bastion of local street food – often they have settled in droves where people gathered. As assembly has become a public health risk and amassed crime, trucks have quickly reshaped their business models to survive. While the flexibility provided by the small size of most surgeries has made it easier to make far-reaching modifications, Truck owners have still faced unique challenges.
As with restaurants, this is The first concern of truck owners was to develop plans to minimize interaction and develop standards for safe sharing. “We are closed for the first week. I read up on the situation and the laws, watched what my colleagues were doing and started brainstorming, ”said Mark English from The Bamboo Skewer. While the specific approaches differed slightly, companies quickly implemented systems that protect both employees and customers. Joe Knoblich from Chuey Fu has decided to leave completely cashless – Using apps like Square and Truckster – to simplify transactions while keeping grocer and cashier separate. Happy Cone’s Mark “Hap” Cameron, who continues to use his regular POS system and payWave, is putting bleach disinfectant between all stores and setting up a jar without making any changes to cash transactions.
While the earlier spring and summer months were ripe with a navigable array of graduation ceremonies, festivals, crowded breweries, and private and business catering events, truck owners now face empty calendars. “One week in June (2019) we ran 14 events in one week,” said Cameron, who was used to running 80-hour weeks from May to September. Since March, individuals have been responsible for building their own business. Often HOAs or apartment houses are called to feed the people at home. “You can’t rely on all these other things, you have to go out and get your own events. You must be a fool, ”said Knoblich. “Smile and choose,” he continued. The Hollowells have done a good job empowering the community by leveraging both the Truckster platform and hundreds of personal calls to residential complexes to connect businesses with viable and receptive customer bases.
While it’s not a normal business, the built-in adaptability provided by small staff and ready-to-go menus has helped some trucks rebound faster than others. The Burger Bus’ said Jacob Ibarra Business collapsed 75 to 85 percent in the first week after Governor Polis’ first address and 50 percent in the following week, with normal winter sales nearly resuming until last week.
While Knoblich has been able to keep both his truck and its two stationary locations running, Cameron has so far consolidated its truck and recently opened it on its own in a single operation at the Edgewater Public Market. He’s serving up a heavily discounted “Pandemic Pint Promo” – four for $ 20 every Saturday from 10am to 4pm in the Edgewater parking lot – and hopes to be able to work at full capacity on the curb in May.
Some companies have added creative and timely specials to their standard repertoire – including the Rocky Mountain Slices takeaway pizza kit and Happy Cones Kia Kaha T-shirts, which take the strain off employees. More formal programs like Truckster’s #servetheindustry campaign, which offers a dual way to help troubled businesses and overworked key employees, have been an integral part of strengthening the frail industry.
Other trucks have decided to temporarily close their doors. After several harrowing attempts and a successful attempt to integrate an online system, the popular Yuan Wonton seemed to collapse under the weight of his own popularity.
“It was an absolute nightmare to switch our business model to a new ordering system,” said chef and owner Penelope Wong. “Although I think we may have figured out how we can continue operations with this new ordering system, I really had the feeling that our business model was no longer recognizable to me. I still got a lot of negative feedback from people who failed to place orders because inventory sold out too quickly, ”she continued.
With online inventory sold out in less than five minutes, people not sticking to their pick-up times, and large groups – albeit six feet apart – gathering outside the truck, Wong felt it was the only responsible person to be turned off. “With what we’re about to address, I really felt a need to close to promote social isolation and social distancing for the benefit of public safety as well as our own,” she concluded.
During the downtime, Wong and her husband and business partner Rob Jenks plan to continue their work Doctor’s Orders Initiative – a donation-based program where the duo deliver their popular items to hungry hospital workers. As with all Yuan things, the program was a great success. “The amount of donations received has by far exceeded our expectations. Due to the number of donations received, we are currently no longer accepting donations. We have enough money to cover the cost of about 400 meals – we have several hospitals in a row for the next few weeks. As soon as we have completed this first round of donations and the situation continues to appear necessary, we will rule out the option to donate again, ”said Wong.
As with other areas, the trucking community has come together and many owners are deeply optimistic about the concerns. Customer support helped keep morale up – Cameron occasionally cited extravagant tips and the gift of some homemade ice cream masks as some of the deliberate gestures. “Being able to go to a truck and order food makes people feel normal,” Knoblich said.
“Hats off to food trucks for turning around and being very resourceful,” said Molly Hollowell. “I love what I do. Times are tough right now, but they’re for everyone, not just us. We’re doing what we can to stay afloat and serve our customers safely until this is over and us Hopefully we can return to a better version of the normal, “said English.” We’re all in the same boat, “thought Knoblich.
While most trucks have adjusted or minimized their already random schedules, many are using the extra time to improve their social media presence or update their Truckster schedules.