Gas Prices Putting the Squeeze on Food Trucks in South Florida: The Rolling Stove Talks Fuel and Food Costs

Troy Thomas sits in front of his not-quite-as-aerodynamic-as-he'd-hope food truck, the Rolling Stove.
Troy Thomas sits in front of his not-quite-as-aerodynamic-as-he'd-hope food truck, the Rolling Stove.

Word to the wise: You may soon be paying more for your fish tacos, meatball sandwiches, and other street-food favorites. The price increase at the gas pump that's got you mumbling expletives under your breath is, of course, having an immediate effect on a variety of businesses. One industry that's being hit hard and fast is food trucks. Online trade publication Mobile Cuisine Magazine posted a piece on Wednesday about current gas prices and how they directly impact the viability of food trucks.

Locally, Troy Thomas, owner and operator of the Rolling Stove, is taking a hit at the pump, and it's being felt in every aspect of his business.

"It's not only the gasoline; it's the price of food," Thomas said during a phone interview on Wednesday. "The price of meat and fish are going up too. We're small, so we have to go shopping all of the time, so the back and forth adds up too."

Thomas' truck -- which sells items like jerk pork sandwiches and fried green tomatoes -- is stationed in Miami, but all of the cooking is done in his licensed kitchen in West Palm Beach. Thomas, who lives in Delray Beach, said the extra running around required to get everything together only makes it pricier for him to operate.

"My truck gets about four or five miles to the gallon," he said. Though some of his regular stops are in Miami, he routinely brings the truck north to Broward and Palm Beach counties. In the next week alone, the truck will trek from Miami to Delray Beach and Boca Raton for public and private events. It also will be present at Monday night's weekly food-truck rally at the Arts Park in Hollywood where Thomas is a regular.

"That's another 40 or so miles each way," Thomas said of the Hollywood stint, adding that most trucks also have to use gas to power the generators used by most food trucks in the course of operating. "The hard part is keeping the prices down. It's not good for anyone... There is no fighting it -- it's going to be $5 a gallon by the summer."

Is there a greener model for food trucks? A possibility of a more fuel-efficient model? Thomas -- who doesn't sound bitter so much as pragmatic about the situation -- doubts it: at least for the short term.

"The trucks are so nonaerodynamic," he laughed, explaining that they typically can't even break 50 miles per hour on the highway. "It's basically a block driving down the road... It's the nature of the beast."

Any innovators out there have creative ideas on how food trucks can keep costs low for their customers without losing their wanderlust appeal altogether?

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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