Fox News dubbed the recent furloughing of approximately 800,000 federal employees a “slimdown”. Try telling that to D.C. area small business who have been negatively affected by actions of the Congress sitting on Capitol Hill.
Food trucks operators were an affiliate business especially affected by the Federal government shutdown. The owners/operators of food trucks rely heavily on foot traffic—specifically the thousands of government employees who grab a bite as navigate throughout the District. The constant flow from government employees, tourists and residents makes the District of Columbia an ideal city for food trucks to thrive.
The government being shut down reduced the number of government employees and tourists walking those streets, putting their lives and livelihood into jeopardy.
“Initially not much of a drop off in business but as time passes, the impact has been greater,” said Doug Povich, co-owner of DC-based food truck “Red Hook Lobster Pound.” Povich and his trucks saw roughly a 10-20% drop off of business since the shutdown began.
Suffering from the shutdown was acerbated by heavy rains and dropping temperatures.
Rodney Goh, owner of “Fire & Rice”, encountered one of his worst weeks of business so far this year.
“There’s no way I came even close to breaking even this week, and actually lost quite a bit of money,” said Goh. “Again, a huge function of that is the rain, although I’m sure the government shutdown only added to the lack of sales, and also could be a significant reason for Wednesday’s lack of sales, given there was no rain.”
The shutdown has also closed the numerous monuments and museums found throughout the District that are normally frequented by thousands of tourists hoping to explore D.C and try the local flavor.
This lack of potential customers has lead to a highly competitive market these past two weeks. Most trucks have been avoiding locations that are known for their mainly government employee based foot traffic and sought out more promising locations. In consequence, this has created a drastic increase in the competition for good parking spots and prospective customers.
Areas such as L’Enfant Plaza, a normally bustling area full of government employees grabbing a bite to eat from various trucks, have been especially slow. Many of the food truck owners throughout the city have emphasized the lack of business in L’Enfant and have attempted to sell elsewhere.
“In general, the trucks are avoiding going to L’Enfant Plaza” said Goh. “This has been our very best location as of late, and we’ve also had to give up going there.”
According to Forbes the food truck industry in the United States raked in around $1.2 billion in 2009 and has grown roughly 8.4% annually each year subsequent. This steady growth has lead to an influx of new trucks throughout not only D.C., but also the entire country. Several area trucks and other local businesses that rely heavily on the foot-traffic of government employees have seen a significant drop in business since the shutdown begun over a week ago.
Are these not the very small-businesses that politicians focus on in pre-election speeches? This situation highlights how out of touch Congress and the administration are with many small business owners, particularly food truck operators as they attempt to deal with the “slimdown” of their profits and try to stay afloat.
This hits close to home for many of us from the greater metropolitan area. If you have ever visited the Nation’s Capital you have more than likely seen one of the many food trucks that not only use the District for business, but also call it home. Many of these local trucks have survived both a recession and sequestration, and now are working their way to recover from the government shutdown.
Several operators have had to reduce staff on many of their trucks and some have had to cease operations all together. One can only imagine how much time it will take for them to recovery and become fully staffed again.