Evolution of the mobile eatery

Operators’ relationships with mobile eateries keep evolving.

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

uconn ice cream truck

The popularity of food trucks has gone from a trickle to a traffic jam in just a few short years. Noncommercial operators have made the investment in trucks and trailers, which provide great opportunities for flexibility, catering and flashy marketing.

But as diners’ tastes evolve, technology improves and mistakes are made, even the best food trucks have room for improvement. FoodService Director talked to mobile-dining veterans from across the country about how their trucks have evolved, their surprising features and whether they think food trucks are just a phase.

Geoff Holle

District manager for Aramark, Pflugerville Independent School District; Pflugerville, Texas

Food trailers: Talon Taco Co. and Connally Chow House

Why food trailers were right for the district: Projections during the summer of 2014 showed the Austin, Texas, suburb’s Hendrickson High School growing by 400 students that fall, Holle says. “The district needed a solution, because obviously time wouldn’t be friendly for construction, and we had already maxed out our service areas at the high school,” he says. “Food trailers just seemed like not only a viable solution, but also a logical one given the climate of food trucks in the Austin area.”

How the trailers have evolved: “One of the things we didn’t think of is, in May, it gets really hot in Texas, and you’ve got staff in a silver metal box,” Holle says. “We wanted to make sure we enhanced or enlarged our AC capacity.” He encourages employees to report back on menus at commercial restaurants to keep abreast of trends.

How they’ll be used in the future: While Talon Taco and Chow House currently are parked in a stationary location, once new dining facilities are completed, Holle plans to “take the trailers where the volume is.”

Whether food trucks have staying power: “I field a call once a week from someone in the country wanting to know what we’re doing with the food trailers,” he says. “Based on the flexibility and solutions a truck provides, I think they will remain popular.”

Dennis Pierce

Executive director of dining services, University of Connecticut; Storrs, Conn.

Food trucks: UConn Dairy Bar Ice Cream Truck and Food for Thought

Why food trucks were right for the university: After a failed food truck attempt near a campus construction site in the mid-’90s, UConn launched an ice cream truck, an extension of its campus dairy bar that’s popular at catering events, about two years ago, Pierce says. Food for Thought, which serves full meals, is regularly parked at the center of campus but also served as a supplemental dining location this spring when a dining hall was closed for expansion.

How the trucks have evolved: Instead of sticking with tried and true favorites, Food for Thought features a rotating themed menu: tacos one semester (including an infamous version featuring crickets as a topping), burgers the next. For the summer, two types of lobster rolls are on offer, as well as hot dogs, sandwiches and a beet and kale burger.

On the move versus single location: Before investing in the trucks, Pierce and his team imagined parking outside of popular bars at night or doing the rounds on campus and tweeting the trucks’ locations. But that plan was a major flop. “We found out that with the ice cream truck, you’re scheduling it because there’s an event going on,” he says. While students can follow @UCDairyBarTruck on Twitter for pop-up appearances, the truck is parked in a regular spot on Thursdays and Fridays.

Whether food trucks have staying power: Pierce cited the trucks’ mobility and flexible use as catering kitchens as reasons trucks will keep rolling 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spicy bibimbop

Bowls continue to trend as meal carriers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both operators and the guests they feed appreciate bowls for their convenience, customizability and creative combinations. Build-your-own stations are increasingly popular ways to offer bowls in college dining, corporate venues and school and hospital cafeterias. But building a satisfying bowl takes more planning than randomly tossing ingredients together in one vessel.

Playing with layering

“Texture is the secret ingredient for a successful bowl,” says Kevin Cecilio, senior director of culinary innovations...

Industry News & Opinion

Austin Independent School District in Texas is introducing new globally influenced menu items this school year, Spectrum News reports.

The offerings are meant to reflect the district’s diverse student body and will include yuca fries, Jamaican meat pies and plantains.

Read the full story via spectrumlocalnews.com .

Industry News & Opinion

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is introducing new plant-based menu items this school year, CBS Miami reports.

Vegan chili and cilantro-lime rice will be appearing on menus when students at the Miami district return to class later this month.

The new plant-based offerings join other new items such as French toast, turkey bacon and antibiotic-free chicken tenders and breast fillets. Students will also be able to enjoy a variety of salads and fresh fruit.

Read the full story via miami.cbslocal.com .

Ideas and Innovation
baby boomer eating

Millennials get a lot of attention from foodservice operators and chefs, but baby boomers make up a large and lucrative group of potential patrons that shouldn’t be ignored, finds Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report . As more senior-living communities cater to the baby boomer set , here’s a look at the factors that drive those customers’ dining choices.

1. Boomers are flavor-seekers

There’s a perception that because these consumers are older, they are stuck in their ways. But this generation is the most likely to say that they enjoy trying new flavors from time to...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code