I remember biting into the The Honey Truck’s chicken avocado wrap last spring and tasting the sweet Thai chile sauce, crunchy panko fried chicken and fresh avocado, all hugged together perfectly by the wrap. Thinking about their extra crispy, double battered fries makes me salivate while writing this.
This was the last meal I had on Main Campus before I moved home during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a year later, I wonder if I will ever get to try that wrap again.
Temple University’s food trucks suffered during the pandemic, losing a significant flow of traffic and having to close at earlier hours because of slow business, The Temple News reported.
With Temple holding primarily in-person classes next semester, vendors and economists are predicting a rebound. But, we must support food trucks during the summer, the slowest time of the year.
Because fewer students are on campus during the summer, food trucks lose their main source of income, said Penelope Kyriazis, the co-owner of the Crepe Truck Philly on 13th and Norris streets. While she plans on staying open most of the summer for students with summer classes, she does not have high hopes at all, she said.
“We’re usually slow every other summer, and this summer I feel like we’ll be ten times worse,” Kyriazis said. “But I really am hopeful for next semester. I’m hoping that everything will be back to normal and we’ll be busy as we were because students will want to eat at food trucks again because they haven’t done it in so long.”
Salvador Zamudio, the owner of the Mexican Grill Stand on 13th and Montgomery streets, is also optimistic that the fall semester will bring in more business, but he prioritizes public health more than business, he said.
“Everything is going to go back to normal, step by step,” Zamudio said. “From students, I want them to stay safe. We miss them, but we prefer everyone to follow the restrictions.”
Temple saw a decline in enrollment in the Spring 2021 semester, which was consistent with the national average, The Temple News reported.
If enrollment continues to drop next semester, this will negatively impact the food trucks that do decide to open into the summer and fall, said Bill Hart, the associate director of Temple’s Office of Community Relations.
“The food trucks are the fabric of our campus, but they rely on our students. There’s a symbiotic relationship between Temple and the food trucks,” Hart said.
Business analysts predict that takeout and mobile app usage will flourish in 2021, as 40 percent of Americans used takeout during the pandemic and two-thirds of that number report they will continue using it afterward, Forbes reported.
Subodha Kumar, a marketing and supply chain management professor and director of the Center for Business Analytics and Disruptive Technologies, works with TruckBux, an app that allows users to order ahead from food trucks. He does not predict business to improve until the fall, but he encourages students who are here in the summer to support them more than they usually would.
“Fall is expected to have a strong come back because all of the schools are looking at mostly in-person classes, so that’s going to be a good sign,” Kumar said. “Students need to start coming back to them and buying from them because that’s the only way we can see what we did earlier. Otherwise, most of them will go out of business.”
Based on the data he analyzed, the number of people ordering from food trucks is increasing, but it is still considerably less than last spring, he said.
The high demand for carry out and off-premises dining may be a beacon of hope for the Temple food trucks that choose to stay open this summer.
But many vendors don’t have time to wait until fall or the means to offer online ordering. Summer may be make-or-break for food vendors on campus.
“There’s not a ton of trucks on campus because they can’t afford to open,” Kyriazis added. “I’ve talked to a few truckers that haven’t opened and it’s because they can’t afford to be here.”
Students should fuel themselves during study days and treat themselves after finals with meals from food trucks. Stop at a food truck before in-person summer classes, or make a trip to Main Campus, even if it’s out of the way.