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Halal carts have returned to the streets of Philadelphia in force this fall, but as winter approaches, many homeowners and workers are still struggling.
The salespeople who run the tiny mobile kitchens are mostly excited to serve customers again, they told Billy Penn. However, with many downtown offices still empty and a tight supply chain driving up prices, the rebound from the pandemic has not been easy.
The disruption of global supply chains has affected prices – with the cost of wholesale ingredients and service materials skyrocketing.
“Everything has gone up in terms of the price,” said a worker who said he has been looking after a hotplate on a cart near town hall for the past 8 years. He requested anonymity in order to speak freely, as he does not own the business. “The chicken box we bought cost $ 32. [At] at the most it would hit $ 40 or $ 45 a box, ”he said, explaining that the same box now costs $ 90 or more. Even polystyrene serving trays have become more expensive.
For this reason, customers in Philly will find that a typical dish of lamb or chicken on rice now costs $ 7 or $ 8 in most Halal carts, instead of the $ 6 it cost for the past two years.
It’s only a little more expensive, however, and the price remains attractive to many.
“I think the value is really really good in halal carts,” said Amay Tripathi, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s just a lot of food. It’s good enough to last you a few meals.
Halal cart workers, especially in University City, are aware that people like Tripathi constitute a large part of their clientele. Knowledge plays a role in pricing. Despite the doubling of wholesale prices, the price of trays only increased by 25%.
“We think of students, this is not a businessman’s point of view,” said Aamir Khan, who works in a brightly colored green truck at the corner of 33rd and Market streets. “We want to give you good food, but at a low price. “
Many halal cart workers do not own the carts they operate in every day, but are paid by the hour by those who do. When items are stolen, they must make up the difference.
“Everything is counted,” said the town hall employee. When soda cans are snatched from the front cooler, he said the cost came directly from his paycheck. “Usually the people above you don’t care.”
If you see a tip jar on the cart counter, maybe give some money. Tips are reserved for the carters themselves, not their bosses. But they don’t fill up quickly.
“Once in the street, there is less respect,” said the town hall employee. He considered registering the cart with an online delivery service, like DoorDash, to generate more business.
The lingering effects of the pandemic on downtown clientele mean the money is even less likely to flow. “Food truck businesses depend on these buildings,” he said, pointing to the towers that line Dilworth Park. “Now most people don’t come to the offices here anymore. “
One day he hopes to open his own restaurant, but for now he works under continuous-scrolling neon lights, confined to a steel cart.
For the carts showing up at University City, things are closer to normal, with students from Penn and Drexel all back on campus, though some workers say they regularly take 1-hour shifts.
“Now we hope that things are going well because the students [have] come back, ”Khan said in 33rd place and in Market, grinning a tired smile. “We’re happy. The bad days are gone. Now it’s the good days.