By Chris Blasinsky
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on convenience retail operations, especially in the foodservice arena. Now, as more states are reopening or planning to reopen more businesses, food trucks are getting back into communities—like Larry Jackson, operator of the Bullhead Pit Beef food truck in the Baltimore, Maryland, area.
Jackson initially closed the truck until the local hospitalizations in the Baltimore area began to trend down. “Knowing how crowds form in front of the truck, we felt it was not in our community’s best interest to create an environment that encouraged people to gather in groups,” he said.
In the NACS Ideas 2 Go segment, “Food Truck Future,” Jackson shares that working on a food truck takes teamwork to the next level: Having the right attitude, people and culture matters—especially in a small space—to solve problems quickly, adjust and serve customers. A food truck is also the ultimate eating on the go and immediate consumption method of food delivery.
Small spaces like food trucks present challenges in a pandemic climate, like employee and customer safety. “Inside the truck is a tough place to keep distance between our staff. We keep the number of employees to a minimum and try to keep employees who work together on the same shift to cut down on the number of people to which our staff is exposed. The cleaning is pretty much the same. We wipe the front service area of the truck more frequently, but inside the truck was already constantly being cleaned,” said Jackson.
During the winter months, Jackson switched to a new register system but had yet to test it prior to the COVID-19 national lockdown in March. The system includes an online ordering feature, and during the shutdown he tested and ultimately implemented another system that is more consistent and reliable.
“We encourage our customers to purchase online, which has reduced the crowd in front of the truck and makes it easier for customers to keep a safe social distance,” said Jackson.
Throughout the summer season, all large food-truck events have been cancelled, like the event that the Ideas 2 Go team filmed Jackson and his team in action last year. The Bullhead Pit Beef food truck will only participate in single-truck events, of which Jackson says people appreciate.
“People seem to just be happy that they have an option that is quick and easy that gives them an excuse to leave their house,” he said. “It’s been nice to see customers and neighbors, even for a brief moment, as they come by to pick up their orders.”
In addition to the food truck, Jackson has been working on two fixed locations that are nearing the end of construction. The projects have been put on hold until the health department signs off on the locations to open.
Jackson enjoys how food trucks require a sense of flexibility and adaptability, which has prepared him for the COVID0-19 pandemic climate. “It’s interesting how planning and making decisions has changed. Kind of just taking everything day by day and hoping for the best,” he said.
The NACS Ideas 2 Go program captures insights from retailers who are creating innovative consumer experiences by staying ahead of the everchanging retail landscape. See more on how Jackson’s Bullhead Pit Beef food truck is serving a local Baltimore favorite to local communities, and read more about c-store food trucks in “Four Wheeling” in the September 2019 issue of NACS Magazine.
Chris Blasinsky is the NACS content communications strategist; she can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter and LinkedIn.