Food Trucks Land Steady Gigs at Universities

Food trucks are seeing dollar signs at local campuses - OCR File photo


Food trucks are seeing dollar signs at local campuses - OCR File photo

When it comes to food trucks, location is everything. And, some trucks have scored the ultimate real estate coup: they’ve nabbed steady gigs catering to starving budget-strapped college students.

Spudrunners and Barcelona On the Go have found a permanent home at Cal State Fullerton. The mobile restaurants, which serve gourmet sandwiches and Spanish tapas, have inked deals to sell food on campus Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Over at UC Irvine, Barcelona, Kogi BBQ and Piaggio On Wheels  are part of a rotation of trucks that sell food on campus every Thursday night.

“There’s an endless supply of customers on college campuses,” said Spudrunners owner Bob Brown. “It’s really the opportunity of a lifetime for our truck.”

Brown said he’s been talking to CSUF food officials for months about setting up a permanent spot at the university. Campus dining director Tony Lynch was hesitant, at first, given the reputation old-school trucks have.

“We were looking for opportunities for them on campus, but there are certain guidelines we needed to follow,” Lynch said. “We’re not going to take any risks with product safety and food safety for our students.”

That’s where Spudrunners has the advantage. Impressed with the truck’s spotless record, Lynch was sold on Spudrunners.

“We’re trying to separate ourselves from the roach-coach category,” Brown said.

Barcelona on the Go owner Esteban Nocito joined Brown on campus when the school year started. Both are located a block away from Carl’s Jr., near the Juice it Up trailer.

So far, they’ve seen a steady business.

“It’s been picking up every week,” said Brown.

Nocito said:  “We’re learning how to cater to the student population—thinking about what 18-  to 22-year-olds want to eat.”

On a recent afternoon, Cal State Fullerton juniors Meghan Humphrey and Michelle Murphy grabbed a sandwich and french fries from Spudrunners.

The students said they normally eat at the college’s food court and new dining hall, The Gastronome. They said they welcome the change of pace that the food truck fare has to offer.

“I like potatoes a lot and Spudrunners’ fries were way better than The Gastronome’s,” Murphy said.

Linda Chavez, a senior at Cal State Fullerton, said she enjoys having food trucks as another dining option on campus.

“The food seems fresher and more flavorful,” Chavez said. “I would like to see even more trucks out here.”

In the meantime, demand for Spudrunners has been so good that Brown said he plans to add a second truck in Orange County. The new truck, outfitted with a 52-inch flat screen TV and a full commercial kitchen, will debut January 2012.  Brown plans to rotate the new truck at Cal State Fullerton.

“The new truck is going to be a lot bigger,” Brown said. “I want to stand out that much more.”