Things are sizzling in the back of this food truck as burgers are served with a side of bravado.
Mike Schuster and Dominic Maldonado have been in the food truck game for almost seven years, and in that time the industry has boomed.
“When we first hit the road, I think there were maybe 230 licensed food trucks in all of Denver. I think now it’s over 500,” said Schuster.
Doubled in Denver and nearly doubled across the US.
According to the US Census, in 2013 there were almost 3,300 food trucks in the US. That number grew to just under 6,000 in 2018. Sales have risen from $660 million in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2017.
“We’ve seen it, we’ve seen it in front of office buildings, we see it in the downtown core. And I’m not just talking because of COVID, I’m talking a natural business marker, alive and well within the hospitality and restaurant industry,” said Steve Chucri, the president of the Arizona Restaurant Association
He says food trucks are here to stay in his state as well.
“I think they’ll always have their place and their spot in the industry," Chucri said.
A unique opportunity that food trucks have, they are a to-go business and most social distance guidelines during the pandemic don’t hold them back in the same way they do sit down restaurants.
But that doesn’t mean the industry is not facing its own challenges.
“Back when April hit and everything shut down, it was about a month and a half straight for us of just wedding cancelations, graduation party cancelations, party after party everyday,” Schuster said.
“Food trucks depending on those office buildings to have people pouring out at 12 noon everyday and going to a food truck and buying. So, they’ve got to be hurting just like all of us are,” said Chucri.
But with challenges come opportunity so Maldonado and Schuster got to work and got creative.
“We started going after some of the business to serve some of the front line workers during the pandemic so we started serving some of the workers at King Soopers who were working their butts off through the whole thing. We fed some the Aurora 911 services, the ambulance services because they were working their butts off. We started doing hospital servings. We found a way to find where people were hungry, working still, needed to eat, and just didn’t have a lot of viable options,” said Schuster.
Getting creative to get by. Just like a lot of us over the last several months.
One thing that doesn’t change, wherever Maldonado and Schuster serve food, they serve it with heart.
“When people come back to the truck for seconds and thirds, because they just want to try every flavor of slider we have, even when they’re stuffed. Even just that, even when they don’t even say anything, you know that they love it and they see the smile on their face and it’s great,” said Schuster.