Sylvia Ndreu is shutting her food truck down. With no students on campus, there’s no point to keep it open, she said.
“Two weeks, anybody can handle,” said Ndreu, owner of Foot Long Truck on 12th Street near Norris. “But we’re talking eight weeks now.”
As Temple University transitions to online learning and students leave campus for the remainder of the spring semester, food businesses on and around campus are facing immediate, unexpected customer and staff challenges to continue operating.
On March 11, the university announced it would suspend in-person teaching beginning March 16 over concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak. It also announced all students in university housing had to leave by March 21 and recommended students living off campus return home over concerns, The Temple News reported.
But Saroun Nop, owner of Fruit Salad truck on Montgomery Avenue near Broad Street, said he started seeing business decline two days before the university’s announcement. He’ll continue to keep his truck open during normal hours, but his business will be affected greatly, Nop said.
“Very bad for business, but what can we do?” Nop added.
Sexy Green Truck on Montgomery Avenue near 13th Street will also stay on campus with normal business hours, said owner Emina Zeka. She hopes when classes transition to online, students will know her truck’s still open.
“We’re OK with it, we understand the process and everything,” Zeka said. “I guess better be safe than sorry. But hopefully it won’t affect us so much, but it probably will.”
Other on campus businesses, like food vendors at The Wall on 12th Street, are battling operational difficulties with the university.
Temple University’s Office of Business Services called vendors at The Wall on March 12 to let them know the university still expects them to pay for their rental space while classes are online, said Jim Amzovski, co-owner of Fame’s Famous Pizza.
With no customers, making enough profits to pay business bills will be difficult, as he has no other source of income outside of Fame’s, he said.
“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to pay my own bills,” Amzovski added.
A university spokesman could not be reached comment.
Their business will try to stay open for the rest of the semester but will likely start closing earlier, said Feim Amzovski, co-owner at Fame’s.
“We’re just screwed,” Feim Amzovski added.
Joni Thai, owner of Orient Express at The Wall, said having to still pay rent during online classes “isn’t fair.” He plans to keep his business open as long as he can but is concerned about his employees when classes transition to online.
“I have people working for me,” Thai said. “If I shut down, they have no work.”
With students having to leave campus, businesses are also seeing employees who are students being forced to quit their jobs.
At Saxbys on Liacouras Walk, about half of the staff are leaving their jobs, said Hayley Retter, a junior public relations major and team lead at the coffee shop. Their shop will open an hour later and close two hours earlier for the rest of the semester, she added.
“Our success is based on classes, most of our rushes and most of our business are when people are going to classes in the morning, so I think we are going to be a lot slower,” Retter said.
Other businesses on Liacouras Walk, like Maxi’s Pizza, Subs & Bar, will also remain open next week when classes transition online, according to the bar’s Instagram.
Off campus, Brad Cheatham, manager at Lee’s Hoagie House on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th Street, said he’s had three students quit their jobs at the sandwich shop.
He refuses to shut down but will likely start closing the shop at 8pm instead of 12am, start offering special items and lower prices, Cheatham said.
“We’re gonna lose a lot of money here,” he added.
Konstantinos Haralambou, general manager at City View Pizza and Grill on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th Street, said the pizza shop has no plan to change operations yet, but the university’s transition will act like an “early summer” on his business. In the summer, revenue typically drops 20 to 25 percent, he estimated.
“Instead of starting in May, it’s starting from now in March,” Haralambou added.
Pub Webb, a bar on Cecil B. Moore near 16th Street, will also operate as usual, said Sam Webb, its owner. The only difference is the bar will start closing on Sundays because of many sports cancellations, he said.
“We’re just gonna run as normal schedule, normal prices, normal hours and cross each bridge as we come to it,” Webb said.