Could a new mobile catering services trend sweeping the US education sector catch on in the UK?
That’s the question industry professionals will be asking after a rise in the number of colleges hiring equipment-laden food trucks to provide meals for students.
Rachel Warner, director of communications and marketing for the National Association of College & University Food Services, said on-campus food trucks are part of a growing trend across the country after the University of California, Riverside (UCR) became the latest institution to embrace the model.
Several other high profile colleges have also gone down the same route.
“It’s a trend that’s really taken off in the last year,” said Warner. “I expect to see it happen more and more as campus dining programs look for new and innovative ways to reach their customers.”
UCR will have a 32-foot food truck from The Culinary Chameleon providing its campus with a new gourmet dining option.
It is packed with catering equipment so that it can serve a variety of high-traffic areas throughout the day, compared to a regular restaurant.
The truck features high-performance commercial kitchen equipment that will permit it to conduct as many as 100 transactions an hour, keeping wait times and lines short.
Equipment includes a four-basket deep fryer, a four-foot griddle surface, a three-compartment sink, hand sink, three-door full-sized refrigerator, single-door freezer, a cold-prep table and a three-well steam table.
Additional features include a public address system, a stereo system, two security cameras on both the inside and the outside, a pair of air conditioning units and 500 watt halogen lighting around the perimeter of the truck.
The truck cost around $250,000 (£163,000), which The Culinary Chameleon insists is a “fraction£ of the estimated $1m to $2.5m (£650,000m to £1.6m) needed to build a typical restaurant.
David Henry, director of dining services at the company, admits that operating the truck does come with some challenges though.
“Even though it is a full kitchen to a large degree, it’s still a truck,” he said. “The limitations we have are storage and, during peak periods, maybe speed of service. And of course everything has to be sealed and closed down when we move — we don’t want things flying around inside.”