Yorktown Heights grilled cheese truck owner creates 'gouda' way to help pandemic-impacted customers
A grilled cheese food truck owner in Yorktown Heights came up with an innovative way to help customers who may be struggling through the pandemic.
Lyle Puente has created specialty grilled cheese sandwiches out of his food truck, Put Some Meat On Your Bones, for about eight years.
"I didn't have very much money, and one semester the local A&P had white bread and American cheese on sale. So I bought as much as I had enough for, put it in the freezer and every day had one grilled cheese sandwich," Puente says.
The experience also pivoted a new payment motto when the pandemic hit: Pay what the customer wants.
"They would say, 'How much?' and I'd say, 'It's whatever you want. Do whatever you please,'" he says.
At first, it was just on Tuesdays.
"They would just burst into tears, and I was just like, I didn't expect it to be that emotional of a response, but I expected people would like it," Puente recalls.
Then it turned into every day.
"You know, sometimes they'll be like, 'Oh, wouldn't that be nice!' and I'm like, 'No, I'm serious,'" he says.
Letting people pay what they want means he's bound to lose on returns on what he would earn if he had a fixed menu, but he says he's OK with it.
"It's OK. I don't think about it, as long as I can pay my bills," Puente says.
The response has been a positive one from customers.
"A lot of people can't and they will pay what they can. I think it definitely makes a difference for people," says Linda Senk Altman.
"I just think that's just such a humble way to do your business," says Alyssa Galletto.
Puente says making his customers happy is his reward.
"I did my part, this is what I can do and I feel good about that," he says.
Put Some Meat On Your Bones can be found Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday until 6 p.m. at the Jefferson Valley Mall in Yorktown Heights.