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New England's food trucks face the higher costs of doing business on the road

Seaside Creamery Food Truck
Melody Rivera
/
New England News Collaborative
Seaside Creamery is one of many food trucks invited to festivals throughout New England. Here, the truck is at a Juneteenth event in New Britain, Conn., on June 18, 2022.

Justin Amevor wanted to start a food business for years and got his opportunity during the pandemic. He launched DoughBoyz in Worcester, Massachusetts, with a plan to start out in catering and eventually have a food truck called the DoughCart. His dream of founding a food company focused on addressing and solving food insecurity became a reality in 2021. But now inflation is making things difficult for both Amevor and his customers.

“Everyone’s hurting, you know,” he said. “The costs are rising and wages aren’t matching it, so it’s just been challenging for our customers, and we just do the best we can to try to keep our prices down and give them the best food that they need.”

Amevor has had to cut back on some of his menu items due to the increase in food prices, like his Japanese souffle-inspired DoughCakes, but he says that allows him to keep other popular options priced low.

Food truck owners in New England and across the country are facing layered challenges this summer, including changes in food prices and product availability, and the high price of gas, which many food trucks use for travel and in some cases refrigeration and food preparation.

Corrie Goldthwaite is the district manager of The Smoothie Bus, based in New Hampshire. The company has three storefront locations and two buses that travel throughout the state and to Massachusetts, selling drinks like their Tropical Twist and Peanut Butter Power smoothies. Goldthwaite says total food costs for the company are up 18% to 20%, and some important ingredients, like yogurt, have been hard to find.

“Currently, Yoplait vanilla yogurt, we can’t find that anywhere, like it’s nonexistent in our community,” she said.

Smoothie Bus Food Truck
Cori Princell
/
New England News Collaborative
The Smoothie Bus has two buses operating in New Hampshire. The third one won’t be up and running until gas prices go down. Here, the truck is at Market Days in Concord, N.H., on June 24, 2022.

The Smoothie Bus has a third bus that it’s keeping out of operation until gas prices go down. Goldthwaite said the cost of filling up the trucks’ generators is almost three times what it used to be, and that’s not including the cost of gas to drive the truck from place to place.

Seaside Creamery, an ice cream truck based in Connecticut, is used to driving to festivals and beaches all summer long.

Brandon Folignio, an employee of the family-owned business, said they’ve had to raise prices 50 cents this year.

“Mostly because of the gas prices, we had to just to make sure we have a little gap for gas, you know?” he said. “Just in case we’re having a slow day, we’re able to get gas without digging through our savings.”

As she prepares for this summer’s Great New England BBQ & Food Truck Festival in Milford, New Hampshire in August, host Jody Donohue says she’s hearing a lot about the cost of gas.

She says some vendors travel long distances to the festival, from Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and many have asked if they can arrive right before the event begins to minimize the amount of time they need to run their generators. Donohue also said demand has been high for the limited electricity at her venue.

“I will tell you, many trucks would rather be plugged into electric than run their propane or their generators, and I understand, it’s expensive and there were several trucks that did not participate because I could not promise them those hookups,” she said.

DoughBoyz Food Truck Justin Amevor
Denzel Amevor
/
Courtesy
Justin Amevor in front of his DoughCart, based in Worcester, Mass. The electric food truck was originally planned to launch in the spring, but it needs a few final adjustments before it will be ready.

Amevor, of DoughBoyz, says his food truck is almost finished and will be ready to start heading out later this year. His DoughCart won’t run on gas; it will be electric-fueled. Amevor says the reasoning for this goes beyond the high gas prices.

“We’re trying to cut down on any sort of fossil fuel emissions because we are trying to be a very sustainable company,” Amevor said.

Melody Rivera is the 2022 Nick Donofrio summer intern at Connecticut Public. She reports for the New England News Collaborative.