Iowa City food truck owners encounter difficulty amid inflation

Many food trucks in Iowa City have been impacted by rising prices this year. Food truck owners struggle to maintain sales during the recession.

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Kate Murphy, News Reporter


Local food truck businesses are struggling to maintain a profit in Iowa City as gas, food, and prices of plastic continue to rise during the recession.

Food and gas prices have seen some of the highest increases, with food costs at 10.4 percent nationally. Gasoline prices have increased to 59.9 percent nationally as of June 2022. These increased prices have made it more difficult for food trucks to afford necessities they need.

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Nick Fitzgerald, owner of Smiley’s food truck, said most of their ingredients have risen 10 to 15 percent in the last year.

“We held off on raising prices as long as we could, but once gas went above $4 per gallon, we broke and increased our prices about 10 percent to cover the expenses,” Fitzgerald said.

The price for gas per gallon as of July 18 in Johnson County is $4.438, according to AAA gas prices.

Fitzgerald said he’s had to find new sources to keep costs down and even removed a popular item from the truck’s menu because it was no longer profitable.

Fitzgerald has also struggled to find necessary ingredients for the truck’s menu items, including various protein options.

Moy’s food truck has also experienced difficulty finding certain ingredients, such as chicken, for reasonable prices. Owner Moy Yescas said they haven’t lost too many customers.

“We had to increase all our menu items by one dollar in order to keep up with the inflation,” Yescas said. “Fortunately, our customers are so understanding about us raising prices.”

Yescas hopes for prices to go down soon so they can start getting the ingredients they need.

Joslyn Hawkins, owner of Bloom, started her açai bowl and fruit smoothie truck earlier this year.  She said she was warned not to, because of the rising food prices caused by inflation.

“Watching inflation rise was so scary while trying to open up our food truck,” Hawkins said. “I left my 9-to-5 job teaching because with [COVID-19], it made it so draining to be a teacher. People told me it was a terrible idea.”

Hawkins opened Bloom because she fell in love with açai bowls when living in Hawaii for a few months a year prior, and wanted to share the food — made with natural ingredients — with small Iowa towns.

With the increased cost of food, however, it has been hard for Hawkins, along with her co-owner and sister-in-law, Rachel Hawkins, to afford foods without any preservatives or artificial flavors.

Despite the hardships, including prices and the labor shortage, the sisters are grateful for community members in their hometown of Williamsburg, Iowa, who are willing to help the business.

“Family has been our biggest supporters when it comes to helping out,” Joslyn Hawkins said. “It’s been really hard, but this town cares about our dreams and they made it possible.”

Along with food and gas prices, plastic and container costs have also impacted food truck businesses.

Mark Paterno, owner of Marco’s Grilled Cheese, said plastic prices have been the most difficult part of maintaining his business.

“Every container, every piece of plastic is so expensive,” Paterno said. “With these kinds of prices, it’s almost impossible to make a profit.”

 

 

Like the other food truck businesses, Paterno was forced to raise prices on his menu and was worried about losing customers.

“The recession has been hitting everyone hard,” Paterno said.

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