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Rolling restaurants rack up the miles to fuel their business

Rolling restaurants rack up the miles to fuel their business
Posted at 11:01 AM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 23:19:12-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Food trucks and trailers are a popular option for a quick lunch, but if you are the operator, imagine the impact of gas prices when you have to tow your restaurant with you.

It’s a beautiful time of year to have a restaurant roll up near work, and offer food you can eat outdoors or in the office.

A group of food trucks, or in this case trailers, come Tuesdays and Thursdays to the Library Plaza in Tucson’s downtown. On the day KGUN visited, the featured food includes Grillin' and Chillin' and Romero's Sonoran Dogs.

But these rolling restaurants do not just drive a short distance and then park for the day. They go to special events all over the state.

Elizabeth Smith of Grillin’ and Chillin’ says the trucks’ business model depends on a lot of travel.

“So, we're driving everywhere from Dove Mountain to do events and this weekend we're in Sonoita to do a wine festival. Our truck as you can see is diesel in order to pull this trailer has to be big enough and strong enough," Smith explained. "Our generator also runs on gas, gasoline. So we don't have an option. You know, we have to use gasoline. It's crazy. It's crazy how expensive it's gotten.”

Elizabeth Smith and her husband run two rolling restaurants. They’re trying to keep higher gas prices from forcing them into higher food prices.

Donna DiConcini from Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank coordinates food truck gatherings. In return, the trucks and trailers help support the animal food bank.

She says food trucks need to constantly bring their food to new locations, but high gas costs have food truck operators trying to stay more local.

“Which makes competition only higher here on the streets in Tucson, but we'll see what happens in another month to hopefully the gas prices will come down," DiConcini said. "And then those that have planned to go away for the summer and go into cooler climates and have a routine that they go during the summer. We'll see if they're really going to be able to do that or not.”

DiConcini mentions driving the trucks to cooler areas because the food truck business really drops in Tucson once the heat rolls in and the snowbirds go home. But making that move will be terribly costly unless gas prices fall.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.