BROOKLINE – Thirty inches of snow and whipping, freezing winds are not ideal weather conditions for running an open-air restaurant on wheels. Foot traffic halts and parking spaces become snow mounds, making the food truck business a tough one during the cold winter months in Massachusetts. However, the food trucks in Brookline aren’t ready to close their doors, or windows, just yet.
“Storms are typical here in Mass.,” said Bryan Peugh, owner of the Baja Taco Truck, “But we love our customers and love the business, so we stick it out.”
The Baja Taco Truck is one of the five trucks taking part in the Brookline Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program. Of the nine trucks that applied for the program, the Pennypacker’s Food Truck, the Paris Creperie, the Compliments Food Truck, Renula’s Greek Kitchen, and the Baja Taco Truck were chosen. The program, which began on April 27, 2012, was granted an extension on October 16, when the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to continue the pilot program for an additional six months. However, those six months are flying by for the owners who have seen drastically slowed sales during the winter months.
“Every day is different,” said Peugh, “On a typical winter day we maybe sell 60% of what we would in the fall or spring.”
The past few weeks in Brookline, however, have not been “typical winter days”. With a 24-hour driving ban and a four-day parking ban caused by a major snowstorm, the food trucks in Brookline were at a standstill.
“When its really cold or extremely stormy, sales are down upwards of 75%, occasionally reaching nearly 100%,” said Peugh, “Its really tricky, because at the beginning of each week we look at the forecast and try to plan orders based on what we see. If we are off in our predictions, though, we can suffer big losses.”
On top of the storms, a large sewer separation project on the corner of Commonwealth Ave. and St. Mary’s St. has forced the trucks that are normally permitted to park there to shut down their grills and close their doors. The project began in the beginning of January and is expected to continue through March.
“We were closed for seven weeks. Between truck problems, then BU’s break, then the road construction which was pushed back even more because of the storm,” said Peugh. “We lost two of our seven employees, but who can go seven weeks without a job? Not many.”
The Baja Taco Truck was able to reopen its doors on February 19 and is training new employees to help run the busy restaurant.
The Pennypacker’s Food truck, which also parks on St. Mary’s St., faced the same problem.
“The town basically told us sorry but you’re out of luck,” said Kevin McGuire, co-owner of the Pennypacker’s Truck sighing, “We were told two days before Christmas about the construction and we are still waiting for the second spot on the corner to be ready for our truck.”
Pennypacker’s, which also has a second truck that is located on Tide St. in South Boston, was able to open their doors a few days in various suburban towns in Massachusetts during the displacement. However, the revenue earned while open a few days a month is not comparable to the potential revenue of being open daily on the busy streets of the BU campus.
Many customers are also annoyed with the inability of the trucks to be at their usual spots around the BU campus. Gemma Vardy, a Boston University student who often stops at the trucks to grab a “quick lunch”, was unhappy to learn about the displacement of the St. Mary’s St. vendors.
“Food trucks are such easy, on-the-go lunch spots,” said Vardy walking through campus, “So it’s unfortunate they haven’t been around because of the construction. I’m hoping once the warmer weather comes around so do the rest of the trucks.”
The extension of the pilot food vendor program ends in April of this year, but the food trucks are not ready to give up yet.
“There certainly are some challenges that we continue to face everyday,” said Peugh,” But its an awesome adventure and we love running the truck.”