The team behind Politico’s morning newsletter Playbook is serving coffee, egg and cheese sandwiches, and breakfast burritos from a food truck this week. It’s a gimmick, to be sure, designed to promote the publication’s new authors. But little do they realize the untapped market they’ve stumbled into.
That’s because there are no breakfast food trucks in DC, and the city desperately needs one.
If you happen to know of one, please comment below, but even DMV Food Truck Association executive director Najiba Hlemi says she isn’t aware of any District food trucks operating in the mornings. There are a couple of mobile vendors selling breakfasts foods—doughnuts, fried chicken and waffles—but they operate during lunch.
Hlemi points out that many food truck operators are already up in the early hours of the day just to be ready in time for lunch. “They’re waking up at 6, 7 in the morning, going to their shared kitchen space that’s usually miles away, prepping, loading the truck, which takes a few hours, and by the time they make it downtown to find their spot, there’s a lot of competition.” If they don’t have a designated zoned spot, it takes even more time to find parking.
Another issue: rush hour parking restrictions mean the most popular and busiest food truck spots—like Farragut Square and Metro Center—aren’t available in the mornings. And if you’re selling relatively low-dollar items, like breakfast sandwiches, you need to be in one of those high traffic areas so you can do a lot of volume, explains Red Hook Lobster Pound owner Doug Povich.
Plus, food truckers are creatures and habit, Povich says, and they don’t necessarily want to take a risk on breakfast when they know they can make money at lunch.
But this doesn’t totally explain DC’s dearth of breakfast trucks. Other cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles have them. Plus, DC regulations allow trucks to operate as early as 5 AM.
In 2014, chef Ed Hardy launched Bacon N’ Ed’s—a truck serving biscuit egg and bacon sandwiches, French toast egg rolls, and more—near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. But he stopped serving daily weekday breakfast after eight months.
“I couldn’t just make it on breakfast,” Hardy says. Thousands of people passing his truck, but they just weren’t making time for a biscuit sandwich. “Those were commuters already in commuter mode. They had already grabbed their granola bar or their banana.”
Now, Hardy only serves breakfast by request, usually from businesses or construction sites where he knows he’ll find a lot of customers who are looking to eat at its truck. He’s mostly focuses on private events, festivals, and breweries and vineyards.
“If you’ve got people that are drinking, then you’re going to do well,” he says. “And I don’t recall many people getting drunk before 10 AM.”
Still, Hlemi says it’s just a matter of time before breakfast food trucks emerge in DC.
While not a food truck specifically, Povich recently launched a Red Hook Lobster Pound sidewalk food cart in Arlington where he plans start selling breakfast, including lobster and egg scrambles as well as bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches in lobster roll buns, in about a month. He’s planning to open a similar cart in DC this fall too.
And even Hardy is interested in serving breakfast in the District someday—if he could find a reliable spot that made sense.
“I believe there is a perfect spot,” he says. “It’s just someone needs to help me find it.”