Like so many other local businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up Curbside Kitchen, forcing the food truck management service to rethink its customer appeal.
Before the pandemic, the Tysons-based company centered its mission around building lunchtime communities for office buildings and catering local events. Now as people shy away from social gatherings and are working remotely, Curbside Kitchen’s owner Amy Katz said her team has been working “around the clock” to rethink the company’s marketing and help people in need.
“When I first heard the lights went out on commercial business, I panicked,” Katz said, adding that the team quickly put together a plan of attack for its “new normal.”
Instead of food trucks as a place to gather and connect, Katz said she sees them as a way for people to safely get affordable, quick and filling food options.
“As we see restaurants go out of business, food trucks are going to become more and more critical,” Katz said. “But I think things are going to change and food trucks have a distinct advantage in the new way of doing business.”
In an effort to help people during the pandemic, Curbside Kitchen also began supporting several organizations to help at-risk community members and minority food truck owners, Katz said.
Called Curbside Cares, the effort helps marginalized groups across the D.C. region.
“It’s been so heartwarming and wonderful to see the food truck owners to get out there and serve the people who are in the most need right now,” Katz said. “It helps us to build our social impact program.”
Community partners include Fuel the Fight, which collects money through a GoFundMe to feed frontline workers; Nourish Now, which helps to feed families fighting food insecurity; and Shepherd’s Table, which cares for women who are homeless and people in harms way from domestic violence around the D.C. region.
Fairfax County also works with the company to feed people around the area working in public sanitation. “No one has thought about the waste management people,” Katz said.
To follow new health codes and best practices, Katz said Curbside Kitchen isn’t taking any risks so its customers can feel safe enjoying their favorite food-truck meals.
“The main priority for us was to make sure they were following very strict COVID-19 health requirements, making sure they were using mobile pay and using [contactless] delivery,” she said. “This isn’t something they were all familiar with having to do.”
Though Katz wants to get back to some type of normal, she also said the food truck industry isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Revenue is down without a doubt,” she said. The business is staying afloat through purchases from biomedical tech companies that still have workers on-site and people ordering multi-family meals.
With meat plants shutting down and the price of ingredients rising, food trucks as a whole face another challenge — food shortages.
Wholesalers around the area have started limiting quantity available to food truck drivers, instituting caps and significantly raising prices, according to Katz.
It isn’t clear yet how trucks will adapt, but Curbside Kitchen’s spokesperson Meghan Tidwell had a more optimistic mindset, saying that as chefs, food truck owners will adapt using any items available.
“They’re just changing up their menus,” Tidwell said. “They’re getting creative and creating menu items from what is out there.”
Photo courtesy Curbside Kitchen