Food Trucks Rolling onto College and University Campuses

Foodservice is among the many selling features that colleges and universities use to attract students to their schools. The sophisticated and demanding palates of college students have led colleges and universities to incorporate many of today’s hot restaurant trends into their foodservice offerings, such as:

  • Customizability—Made to order, ability to select ingredients, personalized, etc.
  • Social Responsibility—Sustainable, humanely raised, local ingredients, etc.
  • Health Halo—Vegan, gluten-free, organic, calorie-conscious, etc.
  • Global Flavors and Unique Cuisines—Indian, sushi, street food, etc.

More recently, the food truck trend started appearing on college and university campuses. Many independent operators of food trucks have already deemed college campuses a great parking spot for their businesses, but now school foodservice operators are realizing they can be great additions to their programs. Food trucks not only have the same restaurant offerings that college students crave, but they also provide the convenience of moving operations around campus and accepting school dining plans.

Below are examples of colleges and universities that have begun adding food trucks to their dining programs:

  • California State University, Fullerton operates food trucks that sell food on campus on weekdays. The Spudrunners truck serves gourmet sandwiches and the Barcelona On the Go truck menus Spanish tapas.
  • Michigan State University dining services operates The Eat at State On-The-Go food truck, which serves burgers, sandwiches, salads, snacks and drinks year-round. The truck’s menu items are made using local ingredients, such as greens grown at the MSU Student Organic Farm, beef raised on campus, cheese from the MSU Dairy Store, desserts from the MSU Bakers and bread baked at Breadsmith Artisan Bread Bakery of Okemos, MI. Some seasonal menu items for fall include salad wraps, a smoked cheddar cheeseburger, a chicken sandwich, a smashed chickpea sandwich and a specialty sandwich. The food truck accepts cash, credit cards, dining plans and Spartan Cash for payment. It is currently located outside of Shaw Dining Hall while the dining hall is under construction. But starting in spring 2013, the truck will be changing locations throughout the campus.
  • The University of California, Davis became home to the Star Ginger Asian Grill & Noodle Bar food truck in 2011, the first-ever standalone Southeast Asian retail platform from foodservice operator Sodexo.
  • The University of Central Florida operates the YUM YUM Cupcake Truck that serves classic cupcakes around campus.
  • The University of Washington offers a number of university food trucks around campus that serve anything from hot dogs and barbecue sandwiches to street tacos and Korean cuisine. UW Street Food is a collection of food trucks that operate around campus, providing students with a quick bite on the go. Trucks include Hot Dawgs, serving hot dogs and sausages; Motosurf, known for Hawaiian, Korean and Pacific island street food; Red Square BBQ, offering house-smoked meats and other barbecue favorites; Siganos, known for street tacos, burritos and fresh salsa; and Curbside 8, offering new American and global comfort foods.

Source: 2012 Leading Colleges & Universities Foodservice Report; Technomic’s Digital Resource Library.


Naomi Van Til

Naomi Van Til is a Senior Global Data Manager at Technomic Inc. She manages the firm’s Industry Reports, a global series that identifies major players and marketplace dynamics, keeping foodservice professionals smart about performance and trends. In addition, she is responsible for the tracking of chain restaurant and non-commercial financial data that makes up a large part of Technomic’s custom database, The Digital Resource Library, and is utilized within many other company products, such as Market Intelligence Research reports, Consumer Trend reports, custom studies, newsletters and conference presentations.

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  1. We agree Food Trucks are one of the greatest new trends but we ask how do they address loyalty. With the consistant location change and the speed of a QSR how do they capture their customers and reward them? There is little time for email sign ups or punchcards. But there is a waiting line and the truck itself is the greatest advertising space for the wait. We think Front Flip mobile loyalty app can help solve this problem. The simple scan of a QR code on the side of their truck gives diners a chance to win prizes and discounts making them feel special and valued. That customer is immediately captured in the Food Trucks’ command center. This will allow them to send that diner a special gift to invite them back in the future. We anticipate huge growth in the Food Truck segment and look forward to seeing how they evolve to keep up with customer loyalty in an on-the-go industry!

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