Find out how a food trucker handled customers who refused to wear masks during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A note: he has not withdrawn.
This month marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 in the US, and while vaccination efforts are well advanced, that doesn’t mean the pandemic is no longer a challenge for food truck operators.
In fact, a Seattle-based food truck, Swine and Steel, is addressing the same issue that millions of retailers across the country have been grappling with since the coronavirus began to spread – the fact that quite a few consumers fail to wear masks despite communal issues, demands and the fact that nearly half a million US residents have died as a result of the coronavirus.
The owner of Swine and Steel, who reached out to Evan to protect his privacy, believes masks are necessary to keep everyone safe and sends this message straight to customers. His goal, he told Food Truck Operator in an email interview, is to protect him, his family, his employees and his customers.
His first attempt was a small sign telling customers to wear masks while they ordered and waited for his truck’s pork specialties. It was a simple sign: “No mask, no friendliness, no service,” and another sign told guests to wear masks properly (over the nose and mouth).
When that failed – and he had to turn away maskless guests – some who did not respond well to not being served put up a much larger sign.
These six pages of white paper are glued together and are intended to inform customers why so-called “reasons” for not wearing a mask are not legitimate.
The first line on the sign indicates how masks must go over the mouth and nose. “It’s been a year and I could train a dog faster.”
In response to guests who claim “they forgot a mask”, the sign instructs them to “get it”.
For those customers who say, “You won’t be able to hear me”, the sign says “get louder”.
And for customers who claim that they cannot breathe with a mask on, the sign gets to the point: “Growing up”.
So it’s not surprising that Swine and Steel’s efforts on the second character went viral extremely quickly.
Shortly after being stuck on the food truck, messages about the sign were tweeted more than 55,000 times and now have 255,000 likes and those stats keep climbing.
But there were backlashes too – nasty voicemails and anonymous threatening emails and messages, which is why Evan requested not to use his last name in media coverage of his strict mask-wearing policy.
But he didn’t remove the sign. In fact, he responded with a note on the website of his food truck:
“We picked a bad time to become famous on the internet … but please visit us anyway. We’re a small company struggling through these troubled times of COVID and would love to sell you a grill.”
His website also features a unique “Pig Lighted” haiku:
My name is evan
I want to cook you pork
Seattle Food Truck.
Evan launched Swine and Steel just months before the 2020 COVID hit to share his love of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with “Seattle flair”. The menu includes pork specialties, from sandwiches and sauces to side dishes like cheesy jalapeno potatoes (gluten-free and vegetarian) and BBQ beans.
“In 2018, I hadn’t had a desk job for the past 16 years and decided it would be a good move for me to share my grill with Seattle,” he said in an email interview. “For over a year I worked perfecting recipes, learning to cook for hundreds of people at once, and submitting what felt like endless paperwork . October finally our grand opening, 2019. “
Then, just six months later, COVID-19 hit and he decided to take a stand to enforce a mask wearing policy that affected his family and customers. He put up the sign after realizing it was a constant prompting customers to put on a mask or pull it over their nose.
“It’s really rare for customers to scold me or accuse me of taking my liberty away like I’m the President of the United States making laws rather than just a food truck cook with a policy for my business,” he said .
“But after 480,000 deaths and in the US alone, a lot of anti-mask sentiment is too much. Anyone who still wears their mask under their nose as if their nose is not connected to their lungs must do their part to reach the end. ” this scourge, “he added.
Shortly after his second mask sign went viral, his truck had to be taken off the road because of collapsing walls. Evan embarked on a GoFundMe quest aiming to raise $ 8,450 for the necessary repairs. Almost $ 3,000 of the target has been raised to date – and an important reason is clear in the donor messages. Many supporters praise him for his mask policy and for not giving in to non-maskers.
Here are just two donor notes:
Rakhee Parekh: Hopefully when you go viral you get what you need. Thank you for advocating science and human decency. Consideration is currently greatly underestimated.
AMY RICHARDSON: I’m not in Seattle, but I want to thank you for your point on the masking! Hope that helps. I wish I lived closer because I was buying your truck for all of my COVID outpatient health workers. Sending love from Kentucky
After Swine and Steel fixes his walls he’s back on the streets and as the calendar bookings on the website prove,The truck is more popular than ever.
Evan and his staff also launched a clothing line based on feedback on his mask policy and the ongoing need for masks.
While downplaying the viral sensation his characters generated, he said he has learned some lessons on how to tackle such a unique business challenge.
“There are far more people who believe in science than they don’t. There are far more people who appreciate your commitment to their (and your) health than you don’t. There are far more people who take part in wearing it thinking A mask is an act of kindness and decency to protect everyone around you when there are selfish people who just can’t be molested, “he said.
“Take a stand, be brave, and know that any customer who hates it will appreciate it. And if you lose an occasional customer who wants you to risk COVID infection, you are safer, and that is still better for your business. “