Food truck owners say coronavirus crippling their business by leading to the cancellation of large events

Posted at 9:25 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 23:29:18-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Social distancing means many large events have been canceled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That also means food truck operators are finding it nearly impossible to do business, as many primarily cater to large gatherings.

Food truck owners say while brick and mortar restaurants have had to close completely, restaurants have the option to do curbside pickup to keep some money coming in.

But, with restaurants, bars, and breweries closing, food truck owners say they do not have much to fall back on.

Bryan Bellamy, who goes by ‘Red’, owns the Red's Kitchen food truck.

For years, his business has been steady. He started noticing the hit to business around St. Patrick’s Day when the City of Port St. Lucie had to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

So did Jim Gilman, who owns Dune Buggy Dogs and More.

“We went out and bought a ton of food. We started preparing it and then it was canceled on us,” Gilman said.

That’s also when Stacy Gregorich, owner of Custom Creations Food, started to realize the loss of business.

“I’ve just been trying to figure it out one day at a time. It’s so scary because when that’s your sole income and you rely on events and they’re all canceled for I don’t know, maybe at least two months, you’re like ‘okay’…” Gregorich said.

“Just started getting emails. Canceled, canceled, canceled, canceled, canceled,” Gilman said.

Weddings being postponed. Two catering events that following week- gone,” Red said.

Gilman said he’s already looking at a 5-figure loss. “I had some other very big events, I’m looking at probably $27,000,” Gilman said.

“Probably about $30,000,” Red said.

“Our profit margins are so small, I know for myself it’s hard to save for rainy days like this,” Gregorich said.

This is all despite being able to frequently sanitize and socially distance their customers.

“We’ve got a handwashing sink readily available,” Gregorich said.

“Everything’s already single-use,” Red said. “We’ve got it in a way where we can have one person come up, pay for their food, get their food and walk away before another person is even standing next to them.”

Now, these food truck owners are trying to be creative. Gilman is trying to reach out to businesses that are open, such as grocery stores, to try to set up in their parking lots.

“We have to be invited somewhere, and that’s the hard part when everybody’s shut down,” Gregorich explained.

They are also driving people to their social media pages, willing to make pre-order meals. Customers can buy gift cards to help the food truck operators stay out of crippling debt. Gregorich says she has been delivering food for Publix to have something to do while her business is impacted.

Red said he is applying for a small business loan.

Gregorich is confident they will all be able to keep their businesses afloat if they keep community support.

“Once everything gets back and going I’m sure they’re going to be around to support us.”