The new lunch “crowd” will take some getting used to for the owner of the Lil Zeus Lunch Box food truck.
On Friday afternoon, only a few customers stopped by the truck for a bite. This despite the truck being parked on prime real estate, across from Radio City Music Hall and in the shadow of Rockefeller Center.
“It’s very, very quiet. We’re the only ones out here. Usually, the street is filled with carts and trucks, hundreds, maybe thousands of people walking around,” said Jerry Maravelakis, the owner of the Lil Zeus Lunch Box food truck.
Food trucks may be on wheels, but moving to another spot isn’t always helpful in drumming up new business.
Because of the coronavirus and a large-scale shift to working from home, far fewer people are out and about.
Industry officials added that some owners don’t have another place to go. Some have spent years building their following in a particular spot, and are reluctant to give it up.
“Since this started, we have trucks that have typically lived and breathed by doing lunches, and now, all of their lunches have dried up,” said Matt Geller, the president of the National Food Truck Association.
Even the most successful operations are getting burned. Josh Gatewood, the owner of Yankee Doodle Dandy’s food truck, told NY1 that the food truck industry took a hit early on.
He added that food truck owners stand to lose even more as summer approaches. That’s because some truck owners rely on working large gatherings like concerts and festivals to really turn a profit.
“Some trucks were very fortuitous in getting involved in coronavirus relief, but I would say by and large, it’s been a disaster,” said Gatewood.
Early on in this crisis, Najee Saunders, the owner of The Chop Shop Food truck, organized an effort to feed health care workers and first responders. It has enabled him to stay in operation, but that doesn’t mean he’s making money. He said the majority of public donations were spent buying the food used to make the meals.
“If you are coming into business to profit right away, you’re not going to be successful. As long as I can keep my lights on in my house, I’ll be ok,” Saunders said.
Owners tell NY1 that their fellow New Yorkers will be the key in helping the food truck industry stay afloat over the months to come.
On the National Food Truck Association website, food truck owners can sign up to be on a rotating list to serve specific neighborhoods and find catering opportunities to help pay the bills.