Hours of Operation. Hours of Frustration.

Food Carts Portland

I’ve tried to visit this cart but they are never open!  The hours posted on your website are wrong! I drove all the way from Scappoose and all the other carts were open, but this cart was closed!

Cart diners: What do you think? Is this a big issue for you when dining at carts and what do you think carts can do to be better about it?

Business owners: How important is keeping regular business hours and how do you let people know when you are going to be closed, or when you change your business hours? What challenges do you face in keeping and communicating your schedules?

We’ve been running Food Carts Portland since 2007, and have just about seen and heard every question, comment, compliment and complaint out there about the carts. But the number one gripe we continue to receive from readers to our website, Facebook page and Twitter? Food Carts’ Hours of Operation.

There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to visit a specific cart and making the haul out there only to find out their posted hours on our website have changed or for some unknown reason they are closed.  Or, assuming a cart keeps hours similar to other carts, or for some carts even keep regular open hours (a few very much do not). Trust us, it’s our frustration as well. This is especially true when a cart contacts us to give them a write up, we ask when they are open, and then go out there only to find a big old CLOSED sign up. We know of more than a few carts that have lost fans and customers – permanently – because of this issue.

On the flipside, we understand and respect the cart owners’ issues and limited resources. More than any other businesses we know of, food carts follow supply and demand quickly and accordingly. If it’s a rainy, cold Sunday in June and only one person has stopped by, a cart will decide Sundays are no longer feasible. Heck, some of them just close up that day if there aren’t any customers. Makes sense. Why waste valuable time and money? And yes, hours do change depending on the seasons, locations, and amount of resources a cart owner has. Some are solo operations – if an owner gets ill, that’s it, there is no backup. Or, if something in the cart breaks and they can’t operate until a special piece of equipment is fixed and the parts for it are available. Or, a worker flakes, suddenly quits, or otherwise can’t be there and the owner runs another cart or has a catering gig or something, well, we are out of luck again. Of course, Food Carts Portland tries, but we can’t be at all 450 plus food carts to get updated hours on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. We rely on cart owners and cart eaters to let us know and even then, it is a challenge.

Yes, some carts are more professional than others, keeping everyone abreast of their hours on their websites, twitter updates and even email lists. And others? Well, let’s just be kind and call these “starter businesses”. They are still learning the fundamentals of marketing, business communications, and what it takes on a daily basis to run a business and are stretched thin in time, money and other resources. Some don’t speak English, have smart phones, or know how to use social media, and this makes communications a challenge. Some simply don’t have the money to hire more workers, and some are just starting out and have mechanical and other problems. But yes, some carts are simply flakey.

Business owners: If your hours change, simply drop us a line at FoodCartsPorland@gmail.com. We won’t publish last minute schedule changes or closures; that’s when social media can help you. Get a Facebook page and Twitter account. Get a website that’s easy to update and keep it updated. Try, try, try to keep regular hours. It’s important for your reputation, in gaining and keeping loyal customers, and your livelihood overall.

Our advice to diners? If you are really, really craving a certain cart CALL AHEAD right before you visit. Or, just take it in stride and look at it as an adventure. Have a back up cart plan. And do let us know when a cart changes posted hours by email us here. It really helps us keep this site updated and correct.

Happy Carting,

The Food Carts Portland Team.

Comments

  1. I live in Cornelius, a good 40-45 minute drive to any of the carts, and sporadic hours can be very frustrating as I only make it to Portland every so often. I understand cart owners need to do what is best for their business and I would never stop going to ones i like because of it.

    I think cart owners should use twitter and Facebook as much as they can and as early as they can in the day to keep people apprised of changes.

  2. The unreliable business hours of the carts at the D-Street Noshery has pretty much made me stop going there. And I’m only three blocks away from it. I’ve been burned too many times. There are too many brick & mortar restaurants nearby that keep reliable hours.

  3. I would love it if each pod had its own webpage or facebook page or something that they had to check in with everyday so that we the supporters of their businesses could support them. I live on the far side of Gresham and am very willing to drive to the 50th and Division pod IF the carts that I want to support are there and open when I want to go. With how bad this is getting, I think there needs to be, if there is not already, some sort of a pod manager or monitor that keeps track of the days the carts miss without advance notice, outside of emergency situations, and if necessary penalizes the carts. Come on people your supposed to be doing this because you love it and want to get paid for doing what you love! Show up so we can support you or go back to work for someone else!

  4. I can attest to the frustration from both sides. As a patron, if I go to a cart twice during posted hours and it’s closed, I’m not going back. I’m hungry, dammit. Now that I’m running a cart, I can attest that the original post was pretty thorough in covering all of the possible reasons for closing abruptly. I also don’t believe its justified to close early just because the day started slow. You gain customers by being open. Just because someone didn’t show up for lunch, doesn’t mean they won’t be there for dinner. There’s also little excuse for not using social media to update your customers, especially if you are going to be closed. It’s unfair, and I feel slightly pompous to expect your customers to call you to see if you are available to serve them. Fellow PDX cart owners, let’s face it, we get off easy on the social media front. In other cities where the street food scene is complely mobile, those trucks have to tweet every location they go to throughout the day. It’s not too much to ask to post hours and closures.

  5. hungry hungry hippos says:

    This has happened many times to us at Mississippi. Even carts with Facebook pages that we check beforehand for updates have failed to post when they are closed during their regular hours. Why bother posting your hours if you do not plan to keep them? They’re your own rules. If you don’t keep regular hours, state that; at least I won’t have any expectations, but you’ll definitely get less business for having a non-professional business ‘plan’ and showing lack of commitment. I’ve been a small business owner for over 20 years and stick to my hours religiously. Otherwise, you’re just an unreliable flake.

    Also, it makes no sense to run out of critical items on your menu. Make sandwiches? Have bread. Always. Order more than you need. You’ll lose less money by having to freeze or donate food at the end of the day then closing early and losing business and pissing off potential or repeat customers. Stop with the crappy excuses and run it like you mean it.

  6. Mike Stanislawski says:

    There “WAS” a BBQ cart at 102nd and Stark for a while. I think it was called Jim’s or something like that. I heard the brisket was really good. But, that is as close as I ever got to tasting it. We tried 4 times to visit during his posted hours. After that, I didn’t much care if I walked by and saw he was open, I was refusing to stop. We also drive from Gresham to North Portland expecting carts to be open during their posted hours. If they are not, we won’t ever go back.

  7. Courtney says:

    As a food cart owner, I always keep to my hours of operation, but for the past months, I’ve been having personal issues that I’d rather not have to explain in detailed to all of my customers because it is very personal (my mother went to the hospital for an illness and she’s still there.) There are many times when the doctor calls and we have to close early to go see her, which is why we can’t always let our customers know ahead of time every time. So this is something I hope my regular customers will understand.

    I do have a website for my food cart with all our information but I do not use twitter or facebook because I’m not a computer savvy kind of person. I also don’t want my customers to have these high expectations of me that I should and always keep them up to date on everything about the cart because I don’t think I can live up to those expectations. (Plus, unlike many people nowadays, I don’t have an Iphone where I am connected to the internet 24/7. I can’t afford to have one so I think it’s unfair that customers expect us to be accessible to the internet all the time.) I’m grateful to my customers who actually reads our hour of operations unlike many who still calls us up at 9 PM asking if we’re still serving (another frustration from food cart owners that many customers doesn’t know.)

    But personally, I really like it when people call ahead and ask if we’ll be open, I hope it’s not too much to ask from a food cart owner.

  8. I have a few favorite carts that i am good friends with the owners, they for the most part stick to there posted hours and i do call on them occasionally to find out if they will be there (the owners) since they are the ones that got me hooked on there food, as for the social media side one of my friends is the twitter guru which i still have not mastered Bo has though and does a bang up job at it as for the others they struggle with there websites and other social media sites but they get along well with what they do, they stick to there posted hours and the chicks follow the hen like a broom to a broom closet hmm imagine that stick to your hours and they will come.

  9. Eddie Dean says:

    Some carts are very difficult to contact. I had questions for a cart, and tried to get the phone number. Their website was dated, no phone number, no social media. I drove to the cart when I was nearby, the owner was rude when I got there. I will not eat there no matter how good the food is supposed to be. I work to hard for my money to support that type of attitude.

  10. Saranwrap8 says:

    Agree with other sentiment: carts at the D-Street Noshery are by far the most unreliable.

  11. We’re coming in from out of town and have given up even trying to find out when certain pods are active much less finding a particular cart. We don’t know if some pods are lunch / dinner times and/or weekdays or weekends or what.

    Since we now strictly limit the time sink of planning vacations the food carts sadly are in the background and we’ll check them out only if we stumble upon them. Our loss I’m sure, but we’re not spending hours upon hours trying to figure this stuff out and then spending more time staring into a mobile device while we’re there. Such is life.

  12. Bertha Pearl says:

    @tew..the downtown carts are always open for luch…that is when they do the most biz, and Cartopia, SE Hawthorne & 12th are open for dinner and late nite..Good Food Here and D st Noshery have dinner hours….don’t miss the carts…

  13. #1 rule of customer service: You have one chance to make a first impression.

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