Sales are down, employees are sweaty, and the pressure is high for Austin-area food trucks operating through the excessive heat this summer.

Zooming in

Central Texas has seen triple-digit temperatures every day since July 8, causing Austin’s iconic food truck industry to face grueling setbacks.

“Literally every time we turn the stove on to prep something, it just turns into an oven. The whole trailer turns into an oven because of how hot it is,” said Kareem El-Ghayesh, owner of East Austin food truck KG BBQ.

El-Ghayesh opened his Egyptian-Texan barbecue spot in October and had seen booming sales until June, when they suddenly dropped.

“I feel bad for my customers,” he said. “We installed misters, and we have a lot of shade. We installed some big umbrellas for people that stand in line. But people are standing in line outside for 45 minutes or an hour in the heat, and I feel terrible for them.”

Derek Desko, owner of Rogues Over the Top Pierogi in Cedar Park, said while his core group of regulars have come to support his business in the heat, he’s noticed a roughly 70% decline in unique customers over the past few weeks.

Alex Rebollar of Taco Xpress said he has also seen a dip in sales—about 20%. The truck, which has been open since the late '90s, has had to close early due to high heat and running out of cold drinks and ice, Rebollar said.

Jon Lach, owner of Southern-style food truck Biscuits and Groovy, said they’ve had to replace the truck’s air conditioning unit several times as the units can’t keep up with the heat from baking biscuits throughout the day.

Many trucks, including Tejas Birria in South Austin, Buda and San Antonio, have started delivery service to make up for lost income from the lack of in-person diners. Tejas Birria also had to make some operational changes, owner Alex Hernandez said, such as not using the fryer in the Austin truck as temperatures inside the truck were 10-20 degrees hotter than outside.

Teal House Coffee & Bakery had to close its Dripping Springs trailer July 31 due to the high heat, owner Lance Phillips said.

“It's an outdoor concept like Cosmic in Dripping Springs, and we were doing not well,” he said.

What’s next

Desko said he is making it through the summer by diversifying his income streams. Outside the trailer, Rogues pierogies are also sold in frozen form at three Foxtrot locations, the Barton Creek Farmers Market and Tiny Grocer on South Congress Avenue.

Desko said last week his trailer only brought in 25% of his business's revenue, while retail, pop-ups and Rogue’s farmers market presence picked up the remaining 75%.

Doughnut shop Gourdough’s has also faced setbacks due to the heat, co-owner Paula Samford said, and is adapting by offering a “beat the heat” special that offers a free scoop of ice cream on top of a doughnut any time the temperature reaches triple digits. The shop also released a new line of Gourdough's Big Big Energy Drinks and iced coffees that have helped bring in more foot traffic, she said.

Previously, Community Impact has reported that food trucks are one of the more accessible ways for restauranteurs to start out in the Austin-area. Now, the heat wave is threatening their business.

All-vegan restaurant Counter Culture operated as a brick-and-mortar in East Austin for 11 years until it shuttered at the end of 2022. Owner Sue Davis revived the restaurant by opening in a food truck located behind Tweedy’s Bar in the West Campus neighborhood in May; however, the restaurant is struggling to find its footing in the heat.

“We have been extremely slow in this heat,” Davis said in an email. “We are looking forward to cooler weather and hope we can make it.”