Rising gas and food prices cause problems for food trucks in New Jersey slowed by COVID

A gallon of regular gasoline in New Jersey has stabilized in the $4.20 range after the recent surge, about 55 cents higher than it was about a month ago.

Diesel is even higher, well over $5 a gallon, according to AAA, and as the weather warms for Garden State food trucks that rely on fuel for both transportation and on-site generators, either can also be an ominous indicator.

But John Hepner, president of the New Jersey Food Truck Association and owner of both Verona’s food truck and restaurant, Aloi-D, Thai Elephant, said that while it’s a concern, gas is not the main expense of the food truck.

“About a year ago the price of beef skyrocketed and we used to charge the same price for beef and chicken, but we couldn’t do that anymore,” he said. “Overall, our costs are probably about 20% higher than he was a year ago.”

In addition to the higher prices that will inevitably be passed on to consumers, Hepner said the COVID-19 pandemic has not only put many New Jersey food trucks out of business, but has also put them out of business since the explosion of mobile restaurants. said it caused a paradigm shift in the standard operating procedures of It was popular ten years ago.

The idea of ​​“street selling,” like traditional trucks on the corners of New York and Los Angeles, is fading, at least in the Garden State.

Hepner says food truck owners are now smarter and book deals where they know they’ll make money.

“It was a much more catered place where I would bring my truck in. ‘I’ll pay you $X to put your truck in there and feed these people,'” he said. Drawing on personal experience, he said, “We don’t do as much street sales as we used to. We do catering.”

Hepner said the next trend may be a concentration of food trucks in multi-family homes and offices, but the problem is that many offices have been relatively empty since they were wiped out in March 2020. is.

In fact, his business was due to open a pop-up location in Jersey City in May of that year, and he said it went as far as building a kitchen, but never opened.

Hepner recognizes that one of the attractions of food trucks is the availability of high-quality food at affordable prices. He still believes New Jersey trucks can make it happen this spring and summer, whether it’s festivals, wedding receptions, or office parties.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. He can be reached at [email protected].

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