Lunch on Wheels: Food truck vendors could soon be a reality on campus

By Jill Bongiorni

News Correspondent

After a late night out, Akash Sharma and his friends only had one thing on their minds: food. They arrived at Cappy’s Pizza and Subs, one of the latest closing eateries near campus, at around 2:45 a.m. to find a dark store with a sign on the door that said “closed”. With all of Northeastern’s food services shut for the night, Sharma and his friends were out of luck and walked home with heads hung low and stomachs growling.

“It was the worst,” said Sharma, a freshman biology major who lives on St. Stephen Street. “Since I’m in a freshman dorm, I don’t even have a kitchen to make my own food, so I didn’t have any options left.”

The Boston City Council is drafting legislation for food trucks to come to Boston, and the Northeastern campus as well. The food trucks, which will be site specific and have different locations for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night, will provide freshly cooked meals for people on the go around areas without many other dining options.

“I think students would love this idea,” said Maureen Timmons, director of dining services at Northeastern. It doesn’t seem like there’s a downside to this one.”

In a Boston City Council meeting to discuss the trucks, Council President Michael Ross suggested the Northeastern campus more than once for the late night shift, which starts around  2 a.m., when dining services and most local eateries are closed.

Todd Saunders, chief executive of Food Truck Nation, a Boston company that designs and leases food trucks to chefs, said he would be interested in getting a food truck to Northeastern.

“We would certainly love to be at Northeastern. I think it would be a wonderful resource for the students on campus,” he said.

The company typically parks its trucks in areas with high pedestrian traffic and a high demand for snacks – business districts around lunch time, for instance.

While the company has no set plans, Saunders said he would like to talk to university officials about parking a company truck on campus, particularly on weekend nights.

“Mike [Ross] has talked about the desire to have the students, to draw them back to campus, particularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights rather than them searching the city for food and beverage late-night.”

The company’s Grilled Cheese Nation truck would likely be the first Saunders would push to get on campus if he gets approval from the city and the university, he said.

The truck sells seven savory grilled cheese sandwiches – from classic cheddar on organic white bread to In Gouda We Trust, which piles gouda cheese, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms on rye. Grilled Cheese Nation also sells a dessert sandwich with Nutella, Marshmallow Fluff and bananas.

The menu is simple, Saunders said. Sandwiches range from $4 to $6, and for $1 more three-ounce shot of tomato soup. Customers can also buy a shot of soup sans sandwich for $2, or a full eight-ounce cup for $4.

“There are a lot of students that are out around that time, so there would be a good profit made,” said sophomore and history major Laura Schumann,“It sounds really convenient and would appeal to a lot of kids with late–night hunger.”

Northeastern University Dining Services have also taken an interest in food trucks and has conducted research on the topic for years. However, Timmons said it is too early to say whether Northeastern will be involved with food trucks and that the university has not yet been approached about the topic.

“A mobile food truck would definitely be beneficial at athletic events, student events and late night services,” Timmons said. “There are no definite plans, but we’ve been doing research for a while.”

Some students said they hope Northeastern does get involved say starting food trucks on campus that would accept meal swipes would be a great idea.

“On this side of campus past 10 p.m. there’s nothing open,” said sophomore and business major Mae Steinberg, who lives on Columbus Avenue. “Food trucks are definitely a good idea because Outtakes is on the complete other side of campus, so it would provide more options.”