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

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Managing Your Business
hand chip card

Between menu planning, budgets and the other myriad concerns FSDs face, it’s easy to overlook the simple ID and/or cash cards issued to diners. But making the choice to upgrade technology can unlock the potential of these once-humble cards: They can be room keys, event tickets and, perhaps most importantly, a needed additional layer of security.

That’s the future of student IDs at the University of Notre Dame, which will switch from magnetic strip cards to chip-based ones in August 2017. “Traditionally, the ID cards have been used as point-of-entry access for dining operations,”...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

Menu Development
jackfruit

It emerged as a top food trend on Pinterest’s 2017 predictions, is “the latest miracle food” according to Epicurious, and was called “a nutritional bonanza” by NPR. Jackfruit is the latest superfood garnering buzz, and Even Stevens Sandwiches has gone after the vegetarian-friendly option for a recently launched torta. Here, Culinary Director Brandon Price shares three lessons learned from adding jackfruit to the menu.

Finding the best form

Using fresh jackfruit wasn’t the answer for the chain. It has to be sourced internationally, and breaking it down cuts into labor costs. But...

FSD Resources