Coronavirus response | Fernando’s food truck owner happy he went mobile

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CHAMPAIGN — Three years ago, Eric Leonor closed the doors of his restaurant, Fernando’s, in Champaign and took his business to the street. He set up a food truck, which parks in the lot of The News-Gazette building downtown.

More than ever, Leonor is happy he made the switch.

“I’m thankful right now because other restaurants are closed, and we still have the opportunity to serve food for everybody,” he said, referring to the restrictions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s an adjustment for everyone, but I think this is the best way to eradicate the situation, to stay home.”

Of course, with downtown bars closed, foot traffic is much lower in the evenings, when Fernando’s gets most of its business.

Luckily, Leonor made another decision a year ago that is proving fortuitous: signing up for online delivery services.

“Because the people aren’t going out, they’re ordering online,” Leonor said. “We’ve been doing it for more than a year, so people know they can order our food online. … It’s not the same as usual, but we’re still making business. Obviously, it’s not the same because the bars and the buyers are out, but we’re still on the road, you know?”

Leonor used to have 10 employees at his store. Now, he has three. He enjoys serving people outdoors and interacting with them on the street rather than worrying about a dining room.

“I used to be worried for a whole building of workers,” he said. “I really want to keep my food truck instead of a restaurant. It’s a good experience for me.”

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