Bringing food trucks into the kitchen

food truck on campus

From WinCup.

When food trucks burst on the scene about a decade ago, exemplified by the Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck in Los Angeles, the food world learned how a new generation wanted to eat.

Simple, chef-driven, flavorful—yet affordable—dishes are still drawing crowds to food trucks on streets and college campuses across the country. All told, 18% of consumers in general, and 26% of millennials, buy food or beverages from a food truck at least once a month, according to the Technomic 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report. Food trucks are a top-20 concept trend in the National Restaurant Association What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast. And the type of fare that trucks have helped popularize—street food-inspired tempura, pupusas, kabobs and dumplings—is the forecast’s second-hottest food trend.

Operators of rolling eateries set a helpful example for foodservice directors in optimizing workspace efficiency and keeping up with flavor trends. In addition, they have proven the usefulness of social media platforms to connect with customers, using Twitter to ensure that a group of hungry followers will be waiting when the truck rolls up.

And as takeout-only businesses, food-truck operators have been quick to adopt innovations and improvements in eco-conscious food packaging. Like Vio® biodegradable* foam from WinCup™ – the first expandable polystyrene (EPS) foam cup and food container on the market that biodegrade*. When it comes to keeping hots hot and colds cold, foam can’t be beat. Pair with Vio’s biodegradable* lids and straws for a full suite of disposables that perform better - and send a confident biodegradable* eco-friendly message.

At University of Massachusetts, Amherst, launching the Baby Berk food truck five years ago meant figuring out the proper kitchen layout and ergonomics of a cramped workspace. “Just like a small galley kitchen of a busy urban restaurant, it is a very regimented atmosphere in a food truck,” says Van Sullivan, director of retail dining services at UMass.

Running a food truck in Los Angeles over the past decade has helped Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, chef-partners of the Border Grill Mexican restaurants in L.A. and Las Vegas, expand into new venues. Downsized Border Grill and Blue Window outlets operate at Los Angeles International Airport and at The Huntington, a library, museum and botanic garden in the area.

“We had never been in the quick-serve business before,” says Feniger. “[The truck] helped us think through small spaces and efficiency of storage and about how far in advance you can cook food and keep quality. It changes your mindset. It allows you to see what you can do out of a tiny space.”

Over the years, food trucks have helped operators in general understand the snacking phenomenon that has reshaped American eating behavior in the past few years. Small items with big flavors and low prices—think street tacos, sliders and skewers—are truck mainstays.

For Baby Berk, the signature item is a gourmet burger made with grass-fed beef; its four-year-old sibling, Baby Berk 2, is known for globally inspired quesadillas in flavors such as Korean spicy chicken. “We have people coming into our regular retail locations on campus who have enjoyed the food truck experience and are asking for the same kind of foods,” says Sullivan.

“A food truck dish is a one-punch fight,” Sullivan says. “It’s gotta be fast. It’s gotta be incredibly flavorful. It’s gotta knock you out with one punch.”

* Cups biodegrade 92% over 4 years, lids biodegrade 66.2% over 6.6 years, straws biodegrade 78.9% over 5.8 years. Tested under conditions that simulate both wetter and biologically active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. Wetter or biologically active landfills may not exist in your area. The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to decompose.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association has made public the 2018 recipients of its annual Silver Plate awards.

The nine winners—each of whom was given the top prize in their respective foodservice segment—include four well-known names in noncommercial:

Healthcare: Jim McGrody , director of culinary and nutrition services at UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C. C&U: Dennis Pierce , executive director of dining services at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. B&I: Michiel Bakker , director of global food services for Google K-12: Ken Yant,...
Industry News & Opinion

Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary in Brunswick, Maine, is hosting a mentorship program that brings in local community members to have lunch with second-graders twice a week, The Forecaster reports.

The program is aimed to foster conversation between the students and area adults, and staff say they are happy to have the extra adult supervision during lunch and recess.

Officials would like to find more volunteers to expand the program to the third, fourth and fifth grades in the future.

Read the full story via .

Ideas and Innovation
buying small

Here’s a stunner for noncommercial operators who work with one big supplier: Smith College buys food from more than 50 different suppliers. And only three of those suppliers sell Smith more than 3% of its food. “We know boutique,” says Andy Cox, director of Dining Services at the Northampton, Mass., school. “There are ways to make it work.”

Adding to Smith’s challenges: Dining Services has 12 kitchens and no central receiving, and works to ensure that 20% of its food is fair, local, humane and/or ecologically sound.

Teamwork between a food buyer and financial systems...

Industry News & Opinion

Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., is celebrating National Nutrition Month by offering free weekly samples of plant-based items , as well as hosting produce-centric events around campus, the Indiana Daily Student reports.

Every Wednesday this month, students will be able to sample such dishes as vegetable vindaloo, lemon-herb quinoa salad, and pistachio and apricot couscous. Some of the items featured have been offered previously on campus, while others are new recipes.

The university has also partnered with a culinary training organization to launch two plant-based...

FSD Resources