Food Truck Wars Comes to USC

photo - Renee Cohn | Daily Trojan

By Sophia Lee | Daily Trojan

photo - Renee Cohn | Daily Trojan

‘Food Truck Wars,’ the name of the event coming to The Row tomorrow, is a misnomer; in this war, everybody is a winner. The only conflict will be debating which food truck to visit first.

Friday from 3 to 9 p.m., 10 food trucks (including bacon-daredevil Lardon and fries-aficionado Frysmith) will be serving up their signature dishes all along The Row. Each truck will also offer a special “secret menu” featuring a USC theme.

The Food Truck Wars, organized by The Dish Dash team, the USC Interfraternity Council and the USC Panhellenic Council, is a six-hour philanthropic feast-a-thon.

Word about Food Truck Wars started spreading mid-February when The Dish Dash asked on its Twitter page: “What is USC’s #foodtruckwars?”

“That was when we started getting a lot of buzz,” said Tracy Lawrence, a senior majoring in business administration and founder of The Dish Dash Los Angeles, a downtown dining deal guide for USC students. “We immediately got tons of tweets from people asking us what the Food Truck Wars was.”

Chip Clement, a sophomore majoring in business administration and vice president of Philanthropy for IFC, worked on the charitable side of the event.

“I’ve always had a passion for philanthropy and been heavily involved in charity,” Clement said.

Lawrence’s organizations The Dish Dash, targets the Greek community. Looking back on past philanthropic events, Lawrence felt it would be a good idea to host a large-scale event. She reached out to Clement for help with connecting to charities and the Greek community.

Clement first selected six downtown-based non-profit organizations, and then let students vote on the two charities that will receive 20 percent of that night’s proceeds.

The two winners were Paws/LA, a group that provides help for disenfranchised pet owners, and The Union Rescue Mission, a Christian organization that serves the homeless.

The trucks will be divided into two sides of the street. The east will represent Paws/LA and the west will represent The Union Rescue Mission.

Clement said The Union Rescue Mission will be setting up a booth by The Row on Friday to talk to students. Negotiations are still under way with Paws/LA to bring some of the dogs to the event.

Lawrence said she hopes the Food Truck Wars is will benefit  the charities, the food truck vendors, The Dish Dash and the students.

A born-and-raised Angeleno who is proud of her city’s cuisine, Lawrence said she is always thinking of creative and modern ways to encourage students to appreciate the gastronomical experiences right at their doorstep.

“I’m excited about getting students enthusiastic about L.A. cuisine Downtown,” Lawrence said. “Students will drive out to Hollywood and Santa Monica, but they won’t even explore their own backyard.”

But The Dish Dash will unlock the richness of downtown to students, Lawrence said. Since its launch in August 2010, The Dish Dash has increased from seven partner restaurants to 13. Users have also doubled from 800 to 1600, and subscribers to its weekly online newsletter has grown to 2,500.

But Lawrence has bigger plans in the works. This month, The Dish Dash went mobile. And what better way to showcase its mobility than the food trucks, which made their names by engaging the community through social media like Twitter and Facebook?

For students to order off the “secret menu” Friday, they first have to sign up for The Dish Dash online and “add a Dash” to their phone. It is all part of a marketing strategy to get students used to The Dish Dash functions.

Like The Dish Dash, the food trucks are also eager to build relationships with the USC community.

Clement said he is expecting the event to draw a good-sized crowd. He anticipates Food Truck Wars will become an annual event.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re all really excited about it,” he said. “If we sell out before 9 p.m., I’ll consider that a huge success.”

Let the feasting battle begin.