‘It feels like a sauna:’ Food truck employees working through the heatwave

RICHLAND, Wash. — It’s triple-digit temperatures outside and for most people, their immediate reaction is to seek relief inside somewhere cool. But what happens if your job requirements mean you can’t? For employees working in a food truck, that’s their new reality during the heat wave.

Take Doggie Style Gourmet for example, which serves up delicious hot dogs, burgers, and mac n cheese. With that, comes “fryers, a griddle, [and] burners,” according to co-owner Andrew Chilton.

“When you get those going it gets really hot,” Chilton said.

Inside the silver truck, there are multiple air-conditioning units and a hood vent that helps to circulate air. But when you’re standing above the equipment mentioned for hours on end, it can still take a toll.

“We’re going to make sure our people are hydrated. We’ll make drink runs and everything,” Chilton said, noting that employees even rotate positions and shorten shifts to keep everyone cool. “If it’s getting to the point where they’re not feeling it, we’ll scratch it.”

That could mean shutting down the food truck, at least temporarily — something they had to do during last year’s heatwave.

“Prices on everything have gone up so people need to work,” Chilton said. “That’s what makes it tough.”

Employees working at The Corndog Company of Eastern Washington are facing similar scenarios.

“It feels like a sauna. It feels like just heat’s poking at you,” said Jaden Flores, who started at the truck in mid-June. “The good thing is that we have an AC unit which is saving our lives.”

Normally, the truck is open until 6:00 p.m. every day. But due to the heat, the company decided to close down at 3:30 p.m. for the health and safety of their employees.

“When customer flow is down low, then we’re standing under the AC unit. We’re all huddled up under it,” said Thomas Giese, another employee who started at the food truck this summer. “[But if] they don’t get off work until four or five, we’re not open for them to come get dinner.”

Flores added that the reduction of hours impacts not only his wages but the company’s overall earnings.

“It clearly affects the income we make on a daily basis,” Flores said.

That’s why both said customer support is crucial during these times so they can continue serving the community to the best of their abilities.

“We’ll take it to their car, we put a tent out here, we have misters, but ultimately people only want to stand outside so much in the high, high heat,” Chilton said.

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