Coronavirus has shaken up nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we entertain ourselves and even how we get our food. Back in 2019, the average American ate out 5.9 times per week, spending between $2,000 to $3,500 per year. Jump forward to 2020, and we are questioning whether any meal outside of the home is safe at all. As restaurants have had to adapt quickly, you are also probably wondering about food truck safety during COVID-19. Is it safe to eat from a food truck during the coronavirus pandemic? This article is meant to answer your questions.
Basics About COVID-19
First things first, it’s important to understand the key facts about COVID-19. Knowing these basics will help you understand the food truck facts we share later and how they relate to the realities of the coronavirus.
How Is COVID-19 Spread?
According to the CDC, coronavirus is a person-to-person disease that is typically spread through respiratory ‘droplets.’ These droplets are produced when a person with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. If they land near the mouth or nose of an uninfected person or are inhaled into their lungs, that person may catch the virus too. Six feet seems to be the safe distance to avoid these droplets spread by other people.
Further, the CDC states that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by food. Of course, we should take precautions, such as washing hands before preparing or eating foods. However, we should understand that COVID-19 is spread via droplets that come from people in close proximity to one another.
How to Prevent the Spread COVID-19
The CDC has offered guidelines on how you may lower your risk of getting coronavirus. These include:
- Washing hands often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before specific activities (e.g., eating and preparing food, coughing/sneezing, using a restroom, leaving a public place).
- Avoiding close contact with other sick people in your home and keeping a 6+ feet distance from people outside of the home.
- Using a mask when you are around others, in an effort to cover your mouth and nose, which may give off droplets or allow droplets from others to enter your body.
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched often.
- Monitoring your health by watching out for symptoms and taking your temperature if symptoms occur.
6 Facts About Food Truck Safety During COVID-19
Now that we have covered the basics of coronavirus, you will see how that information relates to how food trucks operate and how those operations can impact you. These facts about food truck safety during COVID-19 should reassure you that – while ANY contact with others increases your chance of getting the virus – ordering from food trucks is as safe or even safer than any other form of dining out during the pandemic.
1. Food trucks are among the safest dine-out options by design.
The CDC has a specific page about the safety of dining in restaurants or bars. That page categorizes the risk of COVID-19 spread in a range from lowest to highest. The lowest risk category includes “food service limited to drive-thru, delivery, take-out, or curbside pickup.” This includes food trucks, which, by design, do not offer on-site dining. If you want food from the food truck, you must order, pick up your food, and take it somewhere else to eat.
2. Food trucks are safer because they operate in the outdoor space.
Another fact about coronavirus is that it is spread much more quickly and easily in indoor spaces. This is because there is more space for people to separate from others, and there is also natural airflow, unlike indoor spaces where people are boxed in together, and the air is recirculated. The CDC specifically states that “Activities are safer if…they are held in outdoor spaces.” You can also read more about why outdoors is safer in this article.
3. Food trucks are safer than other restaurants because there is less contact with workers.
This important fact about food truck safety during COVID-19 relates to what we talked about in #1 above. Food services that are limited to drive-through/delivery/take-out/pickup minimize your contact with other people. The general premise is that it is safer when unrelated diners are not eating in close proximity to one another (such as what you encounter in restaurants that offer indoor, on-premise dining).
However, food trucks offer even more benefits in this regard:
- Limited Staff: Food trucks often operate with only 2-4 people inside the truck who take your order, prepare, and serve your food. They are also typically relatives or close contacts. Contrast this to other restaurants with large wait staff and cooks. Direct and vicarious contact is less frequent when ordering from a food truck.
- No Delivery Person: Food trucks tend to be ‘pickup’ establishments. Your food will be prepared and served to you by the limited number of people in the truck with no outside/extra people to interact with in the way of a delivery person.
4. Food trucks have changed procedures to make the experience safer.
In addition to the points listed above, food trucks (like other restaurants) have taken many steps to make the process of ordering and picking up food safer. These include:
- When possible, marking off 6-foot safe zones to avoid crowding in lines.
- Adding online ordering options so that you may place your order safely online and choose an exact time to pick up your food.
- The use of masks, gloves, and increased handwashing procedures.
- Removing ‘general use’ condiments (ketchup bottles, etc.) and using individual packets instead.
- Frequent disinfection of often-touched surfaces such as order and pickup counters.
- Monitoring employee health.
5. The procedures of food trucks are visible and on-display.
Regarding the points made above, food trucks differ from restaurants in that you can really see what is going on. Any restaurant may claim that its staff wears masks, gloves, follows hand washing and disinfecting procedures, etc. But do you really know what is going on in the kitchen?
At a food truck, you can visibly see what procedures are being followed and which are not. You are also easily able to speak to a manager inside, or even the owner himself/herself.
6. Food trucks are safe because they are held to the same standards as restaurants.
A final fact about food truck safety during COVID-19 is something that is true of any time, but you might not be aware of it. Food trucks are held to the same standards as restaurants. In fact, did you know that a routine inspection could happen ANY day? There are also follow-up inspections and inspections if customers make complaints.
Further, here at Rotating Chefs, we always vet our food trucks before we allow them to join our network. This means making sure that the truck offers quality food and good service, but also confirming that they have all the proper permits and certificates of insurance as required by local, state, and federal laws.
We started out with facts about coronavirus so you could directly see the relationship to food truck safety during COVID-19. Food truck owners take into account the recommendations of the CDC and set up procedures that will allow them to operate and to keep YOU safe.
There is also something unique about the design of food trucks – operating in the open air with limited staff and fewer contact opportunities – that make food trucks a safe option if you do want to dine out.
We must stress that you have a chance of contracting COVID-19 anywhere you go when you are interacting with other people—even if you are following CDC guidelines to a T, your risk of getting the virus is never zero.
However, the information provided here should boost your confidence in food truck safety during COVID-19 and beyond.