ENDANGERED SPECIES: Food Trucks

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[Photo by AARON STELLA]

DAILY NEWS: Food-cart operators around the city say that they are struggling to make ends meet. They’re caught in a situation where they’re facing higher food prices, lower turnout and an inability to raise prices for fear of losing even more business, they say. “Customers are [coming] sometimes more, or sometimes less,” Aurang Zeb Khan, who runs Zeb’s Lunch, at 7th and Market streets, said last week as he slid grilled chicken onto his griddle, then shredded it. “But because of the ingredients, even if people are [coming] the same, our profits are lower.”Khan, 19, has served standard lunch fare – hot dogs, pretzels, egg sandwiches and the like, plus a mean grilled-chicken pita – from his cart for two years, and he said he’s now in a bind. “If you raise prices too much, you lose a lot of business because people don’t come,” he said. Khan lives in South Philadelphia with his parents, his wife, Salma, and his daughter, Lubaba, and works at Zeb’s with his brother during the week. On the weekend, he works at his father’s truck, Nick’s Lunch, at 19th and Walnut Streets.”The job is nice if you have your own [cart],” he said. “Besides having to wake up early, the work is light – it’s not too heavy.” But it has gotten a little leaner. Khan, who came here from Pakistan with his parents in the late ’90s, said that over the last two years, some of his food costs have skyrocketed. “The hot dogs we used to buy for $10 are now $27-$30,” he said. MORE

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