Many college and university foodservice departments are looking to food trucks as a new source of retail revenue. At Princeton University in New Jersey, however, the food truck that will debut this fall will actually solve a problem for Dining Services—by giving them a portable catering option.
Stu Orefice, director of dining services, explains that the as-yet unnamed truck will be used primarily as an outlet at athletic events for what he calls “lower-tier” sports such as lacrosse. The truck will replace a food trailer that had to be hauled back and forth by a pickup truck.
“When [university administrators] were redoing the lacrosse stadium, they were looking at some different options to replace the trailer,” says Orefice, who adds that the athletic department even offered to build Dining Services a concessions stand—but without a hood. “We looked at the costs and realized that for $30,000 to $40,000 more we could get something much more mobile. So we decided to do that and asked the athletic department to just build us storage space at the stadium.”
The truck will build its menu from the five options in the Food Gallery at Frist, a retail unit in the Frist Center. “We’ll be doing more carnival-type food and our All-American burgers,” Orefice says. And when it’s not needed for sporting events, the truck will be converted to a mobile kitchen for high-end catered events that are outdoors or in venues without a kitchen.
“We didn’t view this as a big moneymaker but as a solution to a problem,” he explains. “A food truck doesn’t make sense for us because we have a living wage here that is fairly high, so in order to break even we’d have to have high prices and need a lot of foot traffic. But it’s very hard to put a price on being able to have a kitchen at [an outdoor] high-end catered event.”