Calgary’s food trucks surviving a summer without usual events, festivals and rodeos

Jim, Owner of Il Forno Vagabondo Wood Fired Pizza, is seen preparing a fresh pizza as several vehicles line up in the Southcentre Mall parking lot for a food truck drive thru experience hosted by YYCFoodTrucks. Customers were served in their vehicles while practising physical distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was the first YYCFoodTruck event of 2020. Sunday, April 19, 2020. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

With the summer’s big events, festivals and rodeos cancelled due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary’s food truck owners had to seek alternative ways to reach customers hungry for their specialty fare.

For Jeremy and Jennifer Andrews, co-owners of

YYC Food Trucks

, finding new ways to deliver food truck classics wasn’t all about making up for lost revenue, but bringing some joy and normalcy to Calgarians.

“Our inboxes were full of cancellations early in the season and we didn’t see bookings through the season,” Jennifer said over the phone on Sunday.

“We know very early on that, pardon the pun, people were starving to get out and do something and they wanted to do it in a safe way. I feel like we were able to determine we were an essential service, people need to eat, how can we get them our food? People wanted to still have a little bit of levity, fun and sociality, even if it was from their own car with their cohort.”

Instead of waiting around for event bookings that wouldn’t come, YYC Food Trucks created drive-thru events that saw long lineups of cars waiting their turn at the food trucks’ windows. By parking a variety of trucks in an empty lot and getting all the necessary approvals from health authorities, they were able to safely serve Calgarians.

The opportunity to attend large events with crowds of hungry people is critical to food trucks, said Jeremy, so they had to find a way for their own trucks and fellow truck owners to financially survive.

“We’ve been trying to work within the confines of a pandemic, what a food truck can do within the regulations and common sense while still allowing for some fun,” he said.

“People have been excited about something different than sitting around, watching Netflix. People have been grateful and excited for the experience.”

Jennifer said some truck owners decided to stay closed or opened late in the season because of legitimate health and safety concerns, but others tried to keep their schedules full with community bookings, drive-thru events and drive-in movie nights.

She said food trucks have done somewhere between OK to pretty well this summer despite the significant setbacks. She’s grateful for the Calgary community that stepped up to support small businesses through this tough economic climate.

“It’s not business as usual but it is business. Financially, I think for those who got involved early on and went for it the whole time, I think it is comparable to other summers but it doesn’t feel normal,” said Jennifer.

“We’re surviving, but only because we found a way to make it work, like most businesses.”

YYC Food Trucks will be hosting the

Pride Through Drive-Thru food truck event

Aug. 28, 29, 30 and Sept. 4, 5 and 6 in the parking lot at the Grey Eagle Casino to celebrate Pride Week.

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