How Do St. Louis Food Trucks Survive the Winter?

Collars up at Shell's Coastal Cuisine | Jennifer Silverberg
Collars up at Shell's Coastal Cuisine | Jennifer Silverberg

Tonight the final Food Truck Friday of the season takes place at Tower Grove Park and to fete/mourn the occasion, trucks are arriving a little early. At 4 p.m. beloved food trucks like Completely Sauced, the Sweet Divine and Lulu's Local Eatery will dispense their portable eats. At 7:30 p.m., they'll pack it in for summer 2013.

Which got us to wondering -- what happens to the food trucks once the last petal drops off summer's flower? Do they, like snowbirds, flee to warmer climes? Do they gorge themselves on berries and nuts before retiring to a secluded garage to hibernate?

We called up a couple fan favorites to find out how they plan to spend their winter.

See also: Ten Best Food Events in St. Louis This Weekend: October 4 to 6

Judging from our (admittedly) small sampling, most trucks will keep on rolling through the winter months showing up on street corners and in business parks. But it's hardly the same as the spring and summer boom times.

"Last year was our first winter, and business did drop off," says Bob Komanetsky, owner of Completely Sauced. "People in St. Louis don't want to go outside when it's cold. I don't blame them."

Komanetsky says last year he tried to offer ordering by e-mail and text, cutting the chilly wait time from three minutes down to one, but the thing that will really see them through the winter lull is catering gigs and special events. And just because the truck is still getting business doesn't mean working in cold weather is a treat.

"The truck is a tin can," he says. "Your feet fall sleep within five minutes of being in there. It's still very cold."

Cha Cha Chow at the curb | Jennifer Silverberg
Cha Cha Chow at the curb | Jennifer Silverberg

The operators of Seoul Taco, Baked & Loaded, and Cha Cha Chow also agree that they'll continue curbside service unless actual snow drifts prevent them from getting the trucks out.

"I think everyone kind of looks at what's going on that particular week for weather and makes a decision," says Cha Cha Chow owner Kandace Davis. "Our approach is just to do well enough in the warm season that when it gets to January and February we have enough cash flow to kind of take days off that we need to take off."

Only Holy Crepe owner Sheila Korte tells Gut Check she may fly the coop for the first time ever this winter.

"In January through March, I would like to park bus and fly to France," she writes in an e-mail. "I am not sure if that will be possible...yet. So, I may stay around town and go out on nice days and knit mitts on bad days!!"

Lori Megdall, owner and chef on Baked & Loaded, is approaching her very first winter season and says she's gotten some good advice from other operators on how to survive the dry spell.

"Keep going out to the locations. You might have a good day, you might have a bad day. If you tell folks you're going to be out there on Thursday, be sure you're tweeting and Facebooking," she says. "Try to keep your clients your customers happy and aware you're out there selling...that's the key to surviving through the winter."

Follow Jessica Lussenhop on Twitter at @Lussenpop. E-mail the author at [email protected].

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