LA’s struggling meals vehicles can now promote to truckers in close by counties
- Los Angeles’s 800-plus truck population faces a decline in profits during the coronavirus pandemic that threatens the livelihoods of dozens of vendors.
- Trucks, many of which are family owned, lose up to 60% to 70% of their business.
- The breakup of the Los Angeles food truck scene is creating ripple effects as truck owners, employees and commissioners face financial problems.
- California recently allowed food trucks to get a permit to sell at rest stops, giving sellers the ability to sell to truckers outside of LA proper.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
The Los Angeles food truck scene, with over 800 trucks in operation, is facing a difficult time as business essentially grinds to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic.
Often run as small family businesses, food trucks cost an average of $ 29,000 in LA, according to a report by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce. But as the elixir of life for food trucks – pedestrian traffic, social gatherings and events – disappears after the coronavirus, families and small businesses suffer.
“Food trucks rely on people to congregate. That model went away pretty quickly,” Ross Resnick, founder of food truck booking firm Roaming Hunger, told the Orange County Register in March. “Pre-Corona, it’s events, it’s jobs, it’s nighttime gatherings in markets. When you close your eyes and imagine a food truck, you imagine a group of people.”
There are different types of food trucks, but one of the main differences between vendors is the gourmet food trucks and the taco trucks, according to the Orange Country Register report. Taco trucks often stay in one place to build a following of customers.
In March, according to the Orange County Register, nearly 80% of gourmet trucks stopped driving, but 90% of taco trucks still ran out. However, most of the trucks that are still selling their groceries reported a decline in business.
For some trucks, like Primos Tacos on Breed Street and Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla, business fell by around 20%, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. For other trucks like Pablitos Tacos and Asadero Chikali, the decline in business was as much as 60 to 70%, according to the Los Angeles Times and Eater.
Asadero Chikali owner Jose Pérez decided that turning off your truck was a better option than working at such a high loss or relying on delivery apps.
“The problem with the delivery apps is that their reach is limited and my customers come from all over the place. Plus, I can’t trust them to deliver my food the way I want it. Plus, they take 30%,” said Perez eater.
Food trucks are allowed to continue driving during the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles as long as they follow social distancing protocols for customers waiting to order and collect food, according to the city’s website.
However, a recent report by Eater found that the city is trying to crack down on trucks that do not have a permit during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Los Angles Times, there is a threat of crackdown by shutter trucks that failed to meet the city’s new permit requirements, which went into effect Jan. 1.
Before the city’s health department passed the motion to ban trucks without a permit, owners had a grace period that lasted until the end of June.
Only 29 trucks had city approval when the application was accepted.
Food trucks reopen to truckers outside of LA
While new obstacles plague sellers in Los Angeles, a new California mandate signed by Governor Gavin Newsom could ease some of their burdens.
The California Department of Transportation now allows food trucks to sell at public rest areas across the state to increase sales and provide more hot meal options for California’s large trucker population, Eater says.
While there are no rest stops in Los Angeles, according to Eater, there are several in the surrounding counties.
The mandate runs until June 15 and sellers must obtain approval to sell at rest areas.
The Los Angeles Times reported that food trucks are seeing a decrease in pedestrian traffic across California due to home-stay orders. But it is also their customers who could be the salvation for some providers who rely on the loyalty of their regular followers to keep them afloat.
“We have a unique product and customers to support us,” said Raul Ortega, who heads Mariscos Jalisco, the Los Angeles Times.
Other trucks like Vcho’s, a Salvadoran doll’s pram, also rely on the stream of regulars to take orders and wait in their cars to pick up food, Eater reported.
However, the overall loss of revenue affects more than the truck owners and their families.
The restaurant industry has been hard hit by the wave of layoffs that crashed during the coronavirus pandemic, and food trucks are no exception.
Trucks hiring employees have struggled to keep their workers busy, but in some cases, like Danny Rodriguez of Pablitos Tacos, employees have had to be laid off, according to the Los Angeles Times report.
A good number of food truck workers are undocumented immigrants, and that means unemployment benefits are not an option if their business closes, Spectrum News reports.
As pedestrian traffic decreases and major events cease to exist, some food truck owners worry about creeping debt, especially as trucks pay the rent to park their vehicles and prepare their groceries. According to the report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these fees can exceed $ 1,250 per month.
“This may seem like a small business and it is a small business, but its reach reaches several people. You must be my pest control provider, it affects him,” said Rodolfo Barrientos, owner of Gracias Señor Spectrum News taco truck. “The person who does the cleanliness of the truck is affected. All of our suppliers are affected and multiply this by the hundredths of the existing trucks.”
The deterioration in food truck markets inspired Ross Resnick, founder of Roaming Hunger, a company that books food trucks for events, to match food trucks with those in need of meals most urgently today – the homeless, first responders, healthcare workers and others elderly.
According to LA Weekly, three of the trucks on Roaming Hunger’s network are working with a nonprofit called The Dream Center to distribute meals while an anonymous corporate donor finances the meals.
While efforts are filling a void for some of Los Angeles’ food trucks, hundreds face an uncertain future during the coronavirus pandemic.
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