UConn gets on the food truck bandwagon

Students waiting in a food truck line on Fairfield Way during Spring Weekend. University-run food trucks have been popping up at college campuses across the nation. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Dining Services department’s is taking on a long-awaited project that is anticipated to create quite a stir on campus – university food trucks.

Dining Services Executive Director Dennis Pierce said the idea has been in discussion for the past three years, and everything is finally in order to move forward with the process.

University-run food trucks have been popping up at college campuses across the nation.

“We’re probably one of the last major schools without a vending truck,” Pierce said.

Two food trucks will be introduced, employed with student labor; the first one serving just ice cream, as an extension of the Blue Cow shop located in the Student Union. All ice cream served will be products of UConn’s own Dairy Bar. Pierce anticipates the truck to have different routes for day and night, depending on the season. 

“The ice cream truck was specifically an idea that came from President Herbst,” Pierce said.
The location of The Dairy Bar is also a long hike for many students, so Pierce hopes the ice cream truck will make up for the limited access.

The second truck will just serve meals, and the menu is sure to be anything but ordinary.

“A food truck is literally a kitchen on wheels,” Pierce said. “It will first start off as a taco truck, but not Mexican food… more like off-the-wall tacos.”

Dining staff recently sat down to taste test about 14 different kinds of tacos, with a variety of meat, vegetable, vegetarian and gluten free options, Pierce said.

Many of the menu options will change with popularity and with the time of year. Dining Services plans to utilize UConn’s Spring Valley Student Farm in order to incorporate locally grown in-season produce in the recipes. There’s even talk of “meals in a field,” a spinoff of Dining Services annual Pop-Up Dinners, where the trucks would park in a field and set up tables for students.

We’re probably one of the last major schools without a vending truck.
— UConn Dining Services Director Dennis Pierce on the rise in university-run food trucks around the country

There are questions about where the food truck will make regular stops. Dining Services is looking at different schedules, as well as a possible permanent lunch location on Fairfield Way, but Pierce said that would include some type of construction.

“The questions that cannot be answered right now are ‘where’ and ‘when.’ But I see both trucks having multi-schedules,” Pierce said.

There’s no telling where the best location and when the best time will be as far as scheduling the trucks, so that part will take a bit of experimentation. Dining Services plans to use various social media to promote the schedules, and will decide upon the best scheduling option based on popularity.

Pierce said he anticipates that the trucks will be in high demand, and expects a positive turnout. Dining Services is also planning to book the trucks for events around campus, possibly including events such as Family Weekend and Spring Weekend. As far as off campus events go, though, Dining Services is making UConn’s students and staff its main priority.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were asked to do off campus,” Pierce said. “But first and foremost we want to serve the university community.”

Both trucks should be up and running by the time the upcoming school year begins. The trucks are currently being setup with wireless transaction systems, so that they are able to take credit and debit cards. Neither truck will take UConn meal plan points.

While Pierce said he understands the inconvenience of not being able to use points, the value of one point is not equal to the value of one dollar. After reviewing the expenses, Dining Services just wouldn’t be able to pay the trucks back on points.

“I know it’s not going to go over well, but this is a business,” Pierce said.

If the trucks go over well and it becomes financially feasible, Pierce said the university would consider introducing more food trucks, though he noted that he wanted to be careful in competing with different eating options around campus.

“We’re really excited about it; it’s definitely going to be a learning experience for us,” Pierce said.


Molly Stadnicki is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu. She tweets @molly_stadnicki.