On Monday, Seattle magazine reported that Skillet Street Food had just posted a new notice on its website: Owner Joshua Henderson was dropping his trucks' weekly schedule of appearances during the winter, and would instead appear only on request. I just got off the phone with Henderson, who talked about why he made the change and what that means for Skillet regulars -- and street-food fans as a whole:
We're not shutting down, just consolidating. Winter is a difficult time of year, especially in this town. Seattle doesn't have the density per block of New York City that we need on rainy days to guarantee we hit the break-even point. People don't walk that far, even in the summertime -- a half-mile is probably the farthest they'll walk -- and in the rain, forget it.
Does the rain really affect business that much?
Over the course of a rainy season -- going through late March -- the financial numbers just don't pencil out to hit every location for the sake of consistency. In fact, it would be better for us to shut our doors and absorb our fixed costs than to open. I'd say our sales see a decrease of 50 percent. I have to lay off some staff, people who have been with us for a while, but for the long term it makes sense.
Have you thought about building tents like many of the taco trucks?
Yeah, but I don't think that helps. Tents blow away, and look a little janky.
I've been talking to Maximus/Minimus and some of the other street-food vendors. One of the things we're tossing around is to band together in one spot. From my perspective, after 2-3 years of doing this, it would be in everyone's best interests to band together, at least in winter, for marketing, consistency, and having fun. We did that initially at the Mobile Chowdown.
For now, I think we're going to be appearing a maximum of three days a week in the wintertime [probably Wednesday, Thursday, Friday], and at a minimum it'll be one day a week. But we'll still be somewhere every week -- very possibly, a fixed location where we can guarantee the sales will be there.
Have any locations in mind?
Honestly, I'm hoping we can make this happen. Ideally, we're shooting at getting 5-6 vendors up in the Maximus/Minimus spot at Second and Pike. Bellevue's also a strong contender for the best sales. They definitely bring it every week.
What about this Skillet on Request program? [The Skillet website now has a link to request a truck appearance at a specific location]
The place -- say, an office park -- has to submit a request and have the location solidified, set aside and OK with the building manager. And if they could say, we've got 20 people who want this to happen, and those 20 people could each tell someone, having 40-50 people come out to lunch makes it worth it.
From here on out, your best bet is to check Skillet's Twitter feed, twitter.com/skilletstfood. Upcoming appearances:
This Friday: The Henry Art Gallery
Next Friday: Washington Dental Service, 9706 Fourth Avenue NE, 11-2pm