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Area food trucks adapt to survive

Although the area’s food trucks are built to overcome challenges, COVID-19 has introduced several new hurdles to the mobile chefs.

In typical years, the food trucks would be flocking to fairs, festivals and other events, but Bill Laney, owner of Taco Bill’s Taco Madness, said he has now gone back onto the streets.

“This is the first time we’ve been on the streets during the summer, but it’s been okay, definitely no complaints,” he said.

From observing the streets, people seem to have shifted from going to gatherings to staying local and enjoying themselves closer to home, he said.

“It’s a lot different because we’re so used to being at the fair,” he said. “It’s definitely a big change for us.”

Earlier in the pandemic, it was more difficult to get supplies at a reasonable price, but has since become easier.

Both Laney and Curiel Bame, owner of Real Taste Taqueria & Catering, said they’ve worked hard to keep the same prices for customers.

“I do not believe that my customer should bear the issues of what I’m going through,” said Bame. “I chose to make this happen for me and my family. I have not raised prices or lost one position.”

It hasn’t been the supply of fresh produce or meat that has gone down, but the number of people able to harvest or butcher. This has caused a price increase for much of the food service industry.

“There were many times where I wasn’t making any money, but I was still making it happen,” he said. “I made it work thanks to the people I do business with.”

Real Taste Taqueria uses only fresh, local produce and meats in its dishes. In knowing and communicating with his suppliers, Bame said he was able to find better prices.

It has, however, been “very, very hard,” he said.

In general, food trucks have been doing better than restaurants because they can drive to where people are and service them outside.

“The thing is that food trucks rely on groups of people — on foot traffic, just like any other brick and mortar establishment,” he said. “Even if you’re set up and people aren’t going places, their cash flow is going to be less.”

The Real Taste brick and mortar restaurant in Jersey Shore, at 909 Allegheny St., has taken “major” losses, said Bame.

Along with a supportive community, the restaurant’s emphasis of take-out and delivery has helped at times when the food trucks weren’t booked.

The key to surviving through the COVID-19 pandemic is creating and supporting different types of business under the company’s umbrella.

“You have to be diversified, you have to be able to adapt whatever is happening. The beauty of the food truck is that it can, it has wheels,” said Bame.

Those who have survived this far into the pandemic have a good chance of surviving for another three months or so, he said.

“I know I will because I built my business to adapt when it needs to — to bob and weave when it needs to,” said Bame. “I think the ones who can adapt and the ones willing to do it for the passion will make it, at the end of the day.”

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