Truck not required

San Jose State offers gourmet food truck fare without the truck.

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

If you judge by the news—this magazine included—food trucks have become the hot accessory for college and university dining departments. However, at San Jose State University, in California, a food truck just didn’t make financial sense for the 30,000-student campus. So Mark Stickler, concessions manager, decided he could still offer gourmet food truck fare minus the truck by opening pop-up tents in underserved areas of campus.

“It’s kind of tough to reach everyone on campus,” Stickler says. “So we thought it would be cool if we could bring the food to other parts of campus in a cost-effective way. There is no space for a food truck to set up, but we figured we could do a pop-up tent with a grill really easily.”

The department did consider a food truck, but the cost and space restraints were just too prohibitive. “Not long ago I went to my boss and was like, ‘there’s a food truck on sale for $250,000,’ and he just laughed,” Stickler says. “It’s not even worth it when we can spend maybe $1,500 on a grill and like $500 to $700 on a really nice pop-up tent with graphics. So our start-up costs are within $2,500 and we’re still serving great food.”

There are currently two tents. The Street Eats tent offers food that is often served on food trucks. Stickler says that tent offers a rotating menu, which usually focuses on a different area of the world’s street food.

“For example, this week we’re doing Latin America and offering a Cuban sandwich,” Stickler says. “We’ve also done things like a Cajun shrimp, spicy Thai chicken tacos, a chicken tikka masala burrito and a pita with Mediterranean chicken. To kick the concept off we did Maine lobster roll sandwiches. We first started playing with the tent almost two years ago, but we’ve really gone all in with marketing it this year.”

The other tent is used to help campus groups raise money. Stickler says the food offered at that tent is a little simpler, with items like hamburgers and tacos.

For food inspiration, the team works closely with the chefs at the dining commons to create the street food menus. Food served at the tents is prepped in the dining commons, with some easy finishing done in front of customers. Each tent has two tables, one for the cashier and a prep table. The grill is at the front of the tent so the cook can interact with the customers.

“Right now we’ll probably sell 50 entrees on a slow day and 80 to 100 on a busy day,” Stickler says. “We try to move the tent around as much as possible to reach those areas of campus that aren’t serviced. At the moment, we have a lot of construction going on so that limits where we can go but we try and be as mobile as possible.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources