Pandemic Brings Challenges for Mobile Food Vendors

Opening a mobile food service in Yakima seemed like a good idea in early 2020 for Tandem Unicycle, Soup R Dawgs and Milltown Wood Fired Pizza.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing a host of new challenges for those vendors and other similar businesses across the Yakima Valley. Demand for catering and food at various events and locations virtually disappeared overnight. When opportunities finally returned, they came with new costs and difficulties.

“To get through this period of time as a food truck or mobile food unit, it’s just pretty intimidating,” Tandem Unicycle owner Jacob Garland said. “You have to just look at the situation you’re in and kind of adapt.”

For him, that meant shutting down for five months after his St. Patrick’s Day catering plans were abruptly canceled.

Garland, who went public in January following some popups for family and friends, tried to take advantage of the lockdown by perfecting some recipes and learning how to best grow spices in his family’s garden.

On Feb. 10, Debra Holm finally realized a dream two years in the making when she opened Soup R Dawgs, an endeavor inspired by her boyfriend, Stanley Windsor. He got laid off early in the pandemic and stepped up to help Holm survive in a challenging environment.

“We lost quite a bit of money in events that we had planned and scheduled from COVID,” Holm said, noting they’d planned to be at the Yakima Speedway for the Fall Classic before the Yakima Health Department denied a permit. “We hung in there.”

Starr Yerton shut down Milltown Wood Fired Pizza for about a month when she moved back to Yakima from the west side for family reasons in early May. As the food truck slowly returned to doing business, Yerton estimates she earned about an eighth of her revenues during the same time in 2019.

That number has improved to about a quarter or perhaps even a third in recent weeks as local restrictions eased, Yerton said. She’s grown her customer base while catering occasional events, going to local breweries and establishing a regular presence at the Yakima Farmers’ Market in Union Gap.

But with the threat of COVID-19 still alive and well Yerton and other vendors continue to face additional costs and obstacles. She’s needed to buy plenty of extra hand sanitizer and wipes, both for herself and customers.

Originally posted here:  Yakima Herald

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