Food Truck Industry in the Fayetteville Area: What’s Next?
Although the total number remains about the same, about a quarter of the licensed food trucks that operated around Fayetteville last year no longer serve the area.
Some packed up and moved to other cities in North Carolina. A few of them closed their application windows without any explanation. Others said they could not run their operations.
At least one cited high food and supply costs.
An April post on The Grazing Buffalo Facebook page announced the closure of the food truck in Fayetteville.
“It was a big decision for us, but when it came down to it, we didn’t want to pay the increase in food, supplies, etc. to our customers,” the post read in part.
Mike Adams, who owns the Dogslingers hot dog stand with his wife, Jane, said the rising costs of food and supplies are “overwhelming” for many food truck owners.
Every sausage, hot dog and Italian beef sandwich the cart serves is wrapped in aluminum foil, the cost of which has doubled since 2020, Adams said.
Rising costs put operators in a difficult position, his wife said: Changing menu prices to accommodate rising costs often means reinvesting in flyers and menu boards and backlash from customers. She added that absorbing costs can sometimes mean stopping work.
Balancing costs and menu prices is a delicate dance that Sterling McGee, chef-owner of Mac’s Grill Aroma, knows well.
McGee, 56, serves burgers and fries to the lunch crowd at Fort Liberty. Prices for those goods have nearly doubled since he purchased the food truck in August 2020, he said.
“I did some shopping last week and I couldn’t believe the prices of the food,” he said. “It has increased tremendously.”
A box of 40 beef steaks, previously $25, is now $39. A 30-pound box of french fries was $16. And now it’s $29.
McGee doesn’t want to pass those prices on to his customers, who pay about $10 a meal.
As a result, his profits are much lower than when he started. If he had had the option of getting into the food truck business at today’s costs, he would have made a different decision.
“There’s no way I’m going to buy the truck now,” he said.
Despite the drop in prices, new food trucks are popping up in the Fayetteville area
While 17 have closed at least 20 new food trucks on Cumberland County streets since last year — bringing the total number of restaurants on wheels to about 75.
Among the new mobile caterers are Zoli Scherbinskas, 23, and her mother, Yenny Lopez, 40, who own and operate Rolling Tacos and Pupusas. Scherbinskas said they began serving dishes from their native El Salvador in June.
She said business has been good — between events, catering and serving at their usual places, the mother-daughter duo only had two days off last month — but keeping food and fuel costs down has been difficult.
List of Fayetteville area food trucks:From barbecue and burgers to beignets and bulgogi
Trips to the Depot Restaurant in Raleigh to buy cheaper items aren’t always worth the money spent on gas, not to mention the sleep lost, Scherbinskas said. Getting to the Triangle to get supplies before preparing, cooking and serving food meant waking up at 4 a.m., she said.
She hopes the soon-to-open US Foods CHEF’STORE at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, a 20,000-square-foot wholesale grocery and kitchen supplies store open to restaurateurs and business owners alike, will be a game-changer.
“I’m excited about the store,” she said.
The wholesaler is not the only upcoming company catering to food entrepreneurs.
What does the future hold for food trucks in the Fayetteville area?
There are a few projects underway designed to serve Cumberland County’s growing food truck industry.
A dedicated food truck, cart and caterer complex is scheduled to open in January at 813 Griffin Street in the Vander community of Cumberland County, just east of Fayetteville.
The 1.75-acre property is the site of a 4,000-square-foot building that was formerly used as an HVAC storage warehouse and at one time housed expired Frito-Lay products, she said.
The NC Food Commissary will provide private kitchen space, food storage, oil recycling, trash service, restaurant supplies and a retail storefront where customers can pick up orders, owner Chris Thiessen said.
Thiessen said there is already a waiting list of 20 or so customers that she expects to be able to accommodate when it opens.
Get the full story:The Fayetteville area could see a new food truck commissioner early next year
The Adamses also have a food truck commissary in the works at the former Blackstone pub on Raeford Road. Hefna Ali Martinez, a fruit gelato shop and dollar store owner, told the Observer in August that she plans to turn the space at 724 N. Reilly Road into a mall as well.
A new food truck location is expected to open to serve customers by the end of the year as well.
The Haymount Truck Stop at 100 Broadfoot Ave. Fayetteville has a full-service bar, patio and indoor space along with a selection of food trucks.
However, Adams said he’s not confident the Fayetteville area has the population, nor the traffic, to support the dozens of food trucks now in operation.
“The market is overwhelmed,” he added.
But with about 75 food trucks and counting, business shows no signs of slowing down.
Food, dining and culture reporter Taylor Shook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter, or Facebook. Want weekly food news delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Fayetteville Foodies newsletter.