CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— A food truck that focuses on sustainable and season-centric fare recently made its debut as part of 10,000-student Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s food truck fleet. Called the Clover Food Lab, the truck was the brainchild of MIT alum and chef Ayr Muir. The locally focused menu is a great addition to the campus’ other food trucks, says Richard Berlin, director of dining services.
“MIT has four independent food truck operators that are contracted with Campus Dining,” Berlin says. “The trucks have been part of the MIT foodservice landscape since the '70s. Each truck concept is selected to add diversity among our truck offerings and to MIT Campus Dining generally. These choices now include Chinese, Mexican, Middle Eastern and now Clover.”
Berlin says Muir approached him with the idea for Clover Food Lab as a sustainable dining concept.
“We both agreed that this could be an exciting platform for his concept because food trucks were already a well established foodservice avenue for students,” Berlin says. “Also, we thought it would be unique, perhaps even counterintuitive, for a food truck to be focused on sustainability using locally sourced ingredients, good tasting healthy seasonal menus and a fresh culinary creativity not usually associated with food trucks.”
Muir says the food truck was a way to kick his foodservice business off before opening some fast food restaurants this spring, according to his Web site, cloverfoodlab.com.
“I've always loved the food trucks at MIT,” Muir says. “When I decided to get into foodservice it was a natural place to start. We're cooking up vegetarian food for non-vegetarians.”
Berlin says the truck is off to a great start and is already very popular.
“Most students look to the food trucks for very inexpensive, ethnic foods,” Berlin says. “What we are seeing with Clover is that even though its not the least expensive, the concept is building a following quickly. Ayr crafted a good business plan and built a truck that embraces sustainability to match his menu. His truck is big, bight and open with large windows. It’s not just where his food comes from that is transparent. The Clover truck itself allows customers to see what's going on with their food orders.”
Although Muir admits there are challenges to actually running a food truck such as licensing and coordinating deliveries, Berlin says the trucks are still a good option for operators looking to add another option to their program.
“They key is to develop the trucks as if they weren't mobile at all,” Berlin says. “The school should apply the same parameters of customer service, food quality and sanitation that they would for any foodservice. In limited quantity, and in the right geographic location, food trucks can be a low-cost addition to a campus dining program. Put them in the wrong location, or in too great a number, and you've created your own competitor with really low overhead costs and resulting prices to boot. We generally operates on a competitive basis, but in fairness to all service providers at MIT, I would not locate a food truck near one of my other operations.”