'It's worth it.' Food truck owners anticipate strong summer despite gas prices, inflation

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Harvey Griffin officially began his food truck's stop at NC State's Centennial Campus Tuesday morning, a line quickly formed.

"This is the busy time. So now's the time you want to book as many events as you can," said Griffin, owner of The Flat Drum, which specializes in chicken.

July marks one year in business.

"It's hard work, but it's worth it," Griffin explained.

The summer is key for many food truck operators, who capitalize on large-scale events and festivals, and customers looking to eat outside.

"It's very important, very vital to get out, more people socializing and it helps your business to grow," added Joseph Perry, owner of The Tasty Turkey-Que.

"Starting in March through maybe October if the weather's nice, we're out (traveling)," said Hildreth Jones, owner of Jones Lemonade Slushy.

Like Griffin, Perry's food truck is less than a year old; he and his wife started in February.

"The three or four months have been great. It's steadily picking up," said Perry.

With feels-like temperatures topping 100 degrees this week, Griffin and Perry are taking precautions to try and stay safe.

"It's usually about 100-something degrees in there because of the fryers and stuff. But the fan and the ventilation system it kind of keeps it from getting too hot," Griffin explained.

"We have plenty of water. We also take a wet towel, lay it around our neck, keep the body cool. And when we're not busy, sometimes we'll cut the lights off in the trailer to keep the heat under control. And as you can see, we'll keep the windows open and have the fans on," added Perry.

Early Monday afternoon, Jones set up her food truck next to the splash pad at Chavis Park, as temperatures began to cool down.

"We have our A/C of course, try(ing) to stay cool," said Jones, who put up a tent for customers to wait under.

Buoy Bowls owner Derek Sharpe added they're closing an hour early this week due to the heat, though there were plenty of customers Tuesday afternoon who found a shaded area to sit during their stop on Creedmoor Road.

"We're ramping back up, and I believe it's going to be another great summer for sure," said Sharpe.

Since launching in 2016, they've had plenty of success, and are preparing to branch into franchising.

"We've added a truck every year, and we're going to continue to keep pushing," Sharpe said.

Despite that, they haven't been immune to rising costs.

"Our granola's gone up $10 a box, our cases and bowls have gone up $30 a box and then you have gas which is almost double what we were paying last summer. So for sure, we're seeing it but again it's part of doing business," said Sharpe.

"What you have to do is you do have to adjust the prices some, you can't go too high, but consumers understand with inflation, we have to adjust our prices so we can stay afloat. And then you want to cut back on your menu items. Sometimes if you have too much stuff on your menu, it can throw it off so you want to slim down your menu. Buy things in bulk so you can get a better price, and shop for the best price. You may have honey at one place for $20, but at another for $15. And that stuff adds up," Griffin explained.

While some food trucks have a set location, most travel daily, and during the busier months, will try to make multiple stops - one during lunch, another during dinner. Tuesday, The Tasty Turkey-Que was set up on Atlantic Avenue for lunch, before heading to Sanford for dinner.

"(We) try to schedule things local or not too far apart in distance, and that helps out tremendously," Perry said.

"We've done our best to try and balance them to maybe choosing not to go out as much during the week and maybe keeping it to the weekend so we won't have to pull up to the gas (station) as much," Jones added.

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