Food trucks take to the road to survive coronavirus outbreak

It’s business…not as usual.

Food trucks have become a ubiquitous sight on streets and in office parks across the D.C. region.

Yet since government stay-at-home orders have taken effect during the coronavirus outbreak, sales have all but dried up for most truck operators.

Zack Graybill, chairman of the DMV Food Truck Association, said normal operations are completely gone.

In one informal poll of association members conducted by Graybill, 39% of operators said two weeks ago, they had encountered three or more cancellations of regularly scheduled bookings of their trucks.

“Last week, the number jumped to 89%,” said Graybill, who is also co-owner of D.C. Slices, a pizza food truck.

He added that his company alone had 15 canceled locations in the past week, leading to 90% of its workers being furloughed as well as a drastic reduction of labor hours for those still working.

Graybill said he is pessimistic that the outbreak, and subsequent restrictions, will be resolved anytime soon.

“What I’ve been telling our members is to plan for all of April to not be open,” said Graybill.

For those trucks still on the streets, the situation has forced operators to become more creative in creating revenue.

Graybill said a number of trucks are now traveling to more residential areas, and other spots deemed “food deserts” that otherwise encounter difficulty with normal food delivery service.

Employees of those trucks are implementing stronger restrictions, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our employees are wearing multiple gloves, constantly wiping surfaces, using hand sanitizer, and other precautions merely as step No. 1,” said Graybill.

He has encouraged anyone who believes food trucks would be welcome in their neighborhood, to contact the DMV Food Truck Association for more information, or to directly contact individual operators.

Graybill said many truck operators are applying for disaster loan assistance through the federal government, or in D.C., small business recovery microgrants.

The Association is also looking to organize fundraising efforts for workers who are temporarily out of work. It has set-up a page where donations are accepted, to allow for trucks to operate for hospitals, National Guards and other first responders, with proceeds going to furloughed truck workers.

Graybill also noted an existing GoFundMe effort by TwentyTables that is working to accomplish the same goal.

“There’s a combination of great talent in the food truck industry, and then just really thoughtful food truck supporters, who’ve launched various initiatives on their own, to try things out,” said Graybill. “There’s still hope things will work out.”

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up