Food trucks still rolling, thinking outside the box during the coronavirus outbreak

Jillian Lovelace, owner of the Scratch Mobile Kitchen, hands some food through the window to a customer during Food Truck Tuesdays last year at the Pioneers Museum. JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

No one’s venturiing far from their homes right now. But what if you still want grub from your favorite food truck?

That got Danielle Leftridge thinking: “Why can’t food trucks be like the ice cream truck?”

You know, why can’t food trucks roam around on your street instead of setting up somewhere you have to drive or walk to?

Leftridge took the thought to a Facebook group for Colorado Springs-area food trucks. “Okay, serious inquiry here,” she wrote. “What food trucks want to start driving through Cumberland Green neighborhood in Fountain like the ice cream truck?”

Responses from on-wheels vendors poured in. And so a (probably) first-of-its kind event was born: the Cumberland Green Virtual Social Distancing Block Party.

Food trucks plan to show up in Leftridge’s neighborhood almost daily through the end of March. But this block party has rules:

“Phone in your orders as a way to encourage social distancing.”

“Wave to your neighbors from 6 feet away.”

It’s not a normal neighborhood gathering. But it’s something.

It’s something for quarantined or isolated people who could use “a break from cooking every night since we are all confined to our homes,” Leftridge said.

As another person in the Facebook group wrote, “Any food trucks today? I need to get something besides frozen food.”

It’s also something for food trucks, which are continuing to roll after restaurants’ dine-in areas and bars in Colorado Springs were shut down March 16 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Food truck owners are happy to still be serving.

But staying open during times of the coronavirus is not without speed bumps, even for eateries to-go by design. Food trucks like Go Fish are having to rethink their model, says co-owner Christina Voreadis.

“It’s been a scramble,” she said. “We’re all having to think outside the box.”

Go Fish typically sets up at area breweries, which now are open only for takeout beers. But will people show up just for to-go food and beers? “We’re all kind of saying, ‘Hey, we’re still here,’” Voreadis said. “You can still come to us. You’re just going to have to take that food and beer and go home.”

Customers can call or text in orders at many food trucks. Operators will bring food out to your cars, too. They’re also being extra careful about cleaning.

“We want to keep people healthy and keep feeding their bellies,” Voreadis said.

Mark Soto, who runs the Slow Downz Texas Creole truck, says he’ll be set up at his normal locations for the foreseeable future.

“It’s a tough position to be in,” he said. “But at least we are mobile and can avoid big crowds.”

Soto spent a day last week smoking 120 pounds of beef and chicken to sell in bulk, along with gumbo, to-go style.

“We strive to keep going out to help the community and make sure there are food options for those that need it,” he said.

Things could change, though.

“We will continue to go out and set up until Colorado forces us to shut down,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t see that.”

The pandemic has for the most part shut down the mobile Colorado Cupcakes and Coffee, which primarily runs on booking events.

“My truck is just sitting there,” owner Jessica Sabo said. “Yes, it is impacting my business. But it will not destroy it.”

On a recent evening at Pikes Peak Brewing in Monument, people showed up for crowlers and for fish ‘n’ chips from Go Fish. And they went home to enjoy.

“It’s not a great time,” Voreadis said. “But everyone is embracing small businesses. They want us to be here standing ready to go when all of this over.”

She’s “hoping and praying” that’s before summer, the busy season for food trucks.

“I guess,” she said. “No one knows what’s going to happen.”

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