why and how we’re operating a food truck during the COVID-19 crisis

The last few weeks have felt like jumping off a cliff and surviving the fall. Here we are, alive, with two broken legs, screaming for help but knowing that nobody can hear us. But we’re alive. We’re open.

We had a meeting this week that wasn’t all about doom and gloom. We talked about staff, upcoming events, specials, holidays, and finances. Entering the third week of shelter-in-place and looking at another month-long extension, we’re all re-learning how to operate in this completely new society. Coronavirus has touched every aspect of everything in American life. Home life, work life, public life. It’s all different now.

I’m loving the more time at home with my wife and toddler. We’re cooking meals together and I’m seeing them both more than ever. I haven’t been able to work out as much or go out for fun, but work and family obligations have kept me from going out much the past year anyway. I miss working big fun events where we’re serving barbecue to hundreds of people. I miss my friends and my parents. My parents miss my daughter a lot.

Work is obviously very difficult. Our food truck that was once in a populous beer garden is now a drive thru in an empty parking lot. Sales have been slashed and every single event for the absolutely crucial spring event season has been cancelled or moved. We had to change the entire service set up of the truck, plating of every dish, ordering procedures, scheduling, budgeting. Our purveyors schedules have been interrupted as well, making it even more difficult to source our food. Safety has become a primary concern. We’re changing our service structure in big ways to try to minimize contact between employees and guests. The situation is constantly changing so we have to constantly adapt to it. We must challenge ourselves to be cleaner and safer every day the virus gets worse.

Public life is weird. Nobody knows how to interact with anyone. Some people that come to the food truck want to walk right up to us, some want us to set the bag of food on the ground and walk away. Some people on the internet are playing 5-on-5 basketball, some won’t hug their spouse. When is the next time I’ll feel comfortable shaking someone’s hand? Or hugging a friend? Or attending a public event with thousands of people? We’re all anxiously awaiting the answers to these questions and feeling cooped up at the same time.

The outbreak in the US is the worst in the world. There is no leadership from the top of our government. The doctors have been hung out to dry. Some people who get this disease are not going to have the things they need to save their lives. The business relief will be too little too late for many. Half of the restaurants that closed last month will never re-open.

There are no apparent right answers right now. Everyone has to make their own best of this horrible situation, either at home or as an essential service. For the first time I feel lucky to have a small staff and a food truck. We haven’t had to let anyone go but we are definitely tightening up and our people are making sacrifices.

On the inside I’m scared, nervous, anxious, and questioning why I chose a career that was less secure, that deals directly with the public (I constantly ask myself the second part). On the outside I want to maintain positivity for my family, my work team, and every one else.

If we have survived this fall and no significant help is coming, we’re just going to have to help ourselves. We have to be flexible and be ready to adapt to this unprecedented circumstance.

Our choice is to continue to serve. For all the servers, brewers, dishwashers, cooks, bartenders, bar backs, runners, chefs, door guys, and anyone else who wants nothing more than to go back to work. We owe it to them to do our best to stay open, to continually raise the bar on safety and service, to be ready to offer good jobs when this is over. Before I was lucky enough to work for myself, now I’m just lucky enough to work. I’m more thankful than ever to go to work and I make it my daily mission to be there and be safe for everyone that can’t.

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