“BabyBerk” Food Truck Debuts at UMass

Retail truck travels across this busy campus at all hours to bring another retail concept to students and staff.

By Paul King, Editorial Director

The BabyBerk food truck at the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst.

AMHERST, Mass. —BabyBerk, the new food truck at the University of Massachusetts, has quickly gained a following during its first month of business. Dave Eichstaedt, assistant director for retail dining, says BabyBerk has hit $9,000 in revenue in its best week, adding that $10,000 per week “is not unrealistic.”

“We are trying different areas of the campus, finding places where we’re not competing with the dining halls,” says Eichstaedt. The food truck does not accept student meal plan credits. “The Graduate Research Towers has been a good area, and the first home football game was our best day yet. We did $3,000 that day.”

BabyBerk made its debut Sept. 6 in what Eichstaedt says was a “soft” opening. The truck kicked off service at noon at Haigis Mall, near the Fine Arts Center and several academic buildings.

Even though the day was cool and drizzly, it didn’t take long before curious students and faculty began to wander over to the orange and yellow truck. Within 30 minutes the truck had served a dozen students and attracted several more curious students and faculty. One librarian stopped by to pick up a menu that she says she’d take back to her office to let her coworkers know about BabyBerk.

The truck, custom designed for UMass Dining Services by a New Jersey manufacturer, is fitted with an 18-foot kitchen that includes a gas oven, gas griddle, steamtable, cold table, two fryers, a refrigerator and freezer space. The menu currently features burgers, fries, onion rings, snacks and sodas. There are five specialty burgers on the menu, each named after a different dining area on campus. For example, the Hampshireburger features sharp cheddar cheese, a fried egg, applewood smoked bacon and garlic aïoli. The Worcesterburger is a teriyaki-glazed burger topped with kimchee. In keeping with UMass’s recent tradition of supporting local farmers, the beef comes from a cooperative called the Northeast Family Farms.

There is even an offering for vegetarians. The Franklinburger is a Ratner veggie burger topped with goat cheese, baby spinach, roasted tomatoes, red onion and sundried tomato aïoli.
Eichstaedt says the BabyBerkburger and the Hampshireburger have been the top two sellers.
Ken Toong, executive director for Auxiliary Services and the former head of dining services, says the goal of the truck is to provide fast, affordable food.

“We want to keep the food simple, make sure it’s good, make sure we provide fast service and also provide good value,” says Toong. “It’s just another piece in the dining experience for the campus community.”

Marketing for BabyBerk has consisted primarily of distributing menus to various campus buildings and tweeting upcoming locations of the truck. Eichstaedt says BabyBerk currently has 330 followers on Twitter.

“We’re going to be trying something new with scheduling,” he adds. “We have been going to different areas and staying for an hour or an hour and a half. But we’ve noticed that when we pull up we get hit with this crowd, and then the volume kind of staggers off. So we’re going to try half-hour slots at each location to see if we can maximize the use of the truck.”
Eichstaedt also notes that dining services is looking into setting up at the Mullins Center for basketball games, concerts and other events. And even though students can’t use their meal plans to purchase items, the truck does well in the Southwest residential area of campus between midnight and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, when the dining halls are closed.