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To get the Take 5 lunch truck opened by 6 a.m., Gokhan Bati wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every weekday. He unloads supplies from a van and gets the grill ready by 6:15. At 6:40, the truck is fully open and the customers start coming.
“We get lots of regulars – some high school students and construction workers,” said Bati, the truck’s main cook. Take 5, located near the corner of Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue, is busiest between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m., although he keeps cooking until the truck closes at 6 p.m.
Take 5 keeps Bati busy on the weekends. He shops for supplies on Saturdays and cleans the truck and to prepare it for the week.
Bati also likes talking to his regular customers.
“You have to like the business to work here,” he said.
Long hours are common for lunch truck operators. Selim Zeka, works for the Sexy Green Truck parked outside the Student Center. The truck is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays, the Green Truck is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lunch truck operators also deal with busy spurts and large orders.
“Sometimes you can’t even walk through here,” said Evgjeni Goxha, as she takes orders at a truck on Montgomery Avenue while her husband Adritik cooks.
Bati said his staff is alert when dealing with customers.
“We’ve got to pay attention to complaints so nothing goes wrong. We’ve got to be accommodating,” said Bati, who advertises his phone number on the truck so customers can call ahead with their orders.
“When they get here, it’s ready,” he said.
For trucks to remain on the street throughout the school year, owners have to obtain a permit from the city.
Trucks are also required to be inspected by the Department of Public Health each year.
Cooks and cashiers working at the lunch trucks need to set up and take down their supplies every day.
Zeka starts the day by opening the truck, cutting, marinating and grilling fresh chicken, as well as preparing fresh vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and spinach are prepared every morning.
“Standing up all day sometimes gets to me,” he said, while leaning on the counter. “That’s all I can do. We have no chairs in here.”
Early mornings, while necessary, aren’t popular with lunch truck employees.
“Getting up early is the worst part,” Bati said. “You’ve got to dedicate yourself to the job.”
Zeka said the mornings are one of the things he does not like about his job, particularly in bad weather.
With customers placing orders, picking them up and paying for food, the owners try to keep everything running smoothly.
Goxha said both she and her husband need to pay attention all the time so that customers are served properly.
“The goal is to keep everyone satisfied,” Goxha said.
Despite the hardships, lunch truck workers seem to love their jobs.
“I like everything. I like seeing people where I work,” Goxha said.
Zeka, on the other hand, enjoys the atmosphere.
“I have no boss over my head,” he said, smiling. “I also like to cook.”
The lunch trucks are very much a part of Temple’s community. Dedicated owners and workers keep the trucks running smoothly and students satisfied. Bati said he works with several people who take customers’ orders, including several Temple students.
“I try to get students in here,” he said, “because I know it feels good when they make money.”
Jared Silfies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.