It’s nearly one o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday and Rhonda Belford is hungry. Like most days, she’s faced with the decision to either leave her desk at Computer Aid, Inc., on Creek View Road and drive to a fast food joint, or walk next door to Timothy’s for a bite to eat, but both options can get old after awhile.
Luckily, Belford doesn’t have to go very far at all. It turns out the I Don’t Give a Fork! food truck is parked right outside CAI’s doors and owner Leigh Ann Tona is ready to take her order. A few short minutes in line and Belford is on her way, chicken fingers and fries in tow, which is much more convenient than leaving work.
“You lose your parking spot if you leave. It’s prime parking here,” she said, laughing. “When I get to work in the morning I park up close, but if I leave, I come back and I’m stuck all the way back there.”
Kelly Martinez, human resources assistant at CAI, said the company reached out to Tona and other food truck owners a few years ago, looking for a more convenient and social way for their 200 employees to buy lunch. The Newark branch of the global IT services firm doesn’t have a cafeteria for workers to gather.
“We try to get them to engage and interact with each other,” she said.
She said the IDGAF! food truck brings people outside and gets them talking while they wait in line for one of Tona’s grab-and-go sandwiches. It also promotes camaraderie and is great for morale, she said.
Martinez helps promote the truck by spreading the word and sending employees the menu so they get excited come lunch hour.
“They’ll say to each other, ‘What are you going to get,’ or, ‘What did you get and is it good?’ So it gets them talking,” she said.
Belford said many of her coworkers look forward to IDGAF! and try to make sure they don’t miss it.
“Forget hump day—Wednesdays are I Don’t Give a Fork day,” she said.
DeAnna Robinson, also a CAI employee, said having a food truck parked right outside her workplace means one less thing to worry about.
“If this wasn’t here, I’d probably be in my car driving somewhere or ordering, which costs more money because they deliver,” she said.
For Tona, going straight to her customers is better for business, but it’s also a science. She said it’s important to choose a company with enough employees who want to eat her food, or else it’s not worth it. Her success also depends on the company’s enthusiasm and willingness to promote her menu as well as the weather and the employees’ daily work schedule.
Greg Vogeley owns The Brunch Box food truck and echoed Tona’s comments. He said he relies heavily on companies alerting their employees that he’s coming. He provides a menu, but it’s up to the business to send it out.
“If they don’t turn around and send it to their employees then I’m a sitting duck,” he said.
Vogeley, who also runs Drip Cafe in Hockessin, usually parks The Brunch Box in industrial parks and businesses parks, or areas where there is more than one tenant and lots of foot traffic. He goes to CAI a few times a month as well as Hosting.com, a data center company in Pencader Corporate Center off Route 896. Beginning next week, The Brunch Box will be at Bookateria on Cleveland Avenue.
He started the truck in May and said so far, he’s learned “less is more.” He tries not to stretch himself too thin and only hits a few places a week that he knows are worth his time.
“At the end of the day, I’m not in the business of losing money,” Vogeley said. “I’m not about to put a truck out on the road that’s going to cost my brick-and-mortar more money.”
Tona said Barclay’s off Chestnut Hill Road is her most successful location, even though the employees have a cafeteria.
“I guess it’s just typical cafeteria food, so they like to come out and see something new,” she said.
Griselda Lauprasert, who runs KOI on the go with her husband, Paul, said they also park their Asian-fusion food truck at Barclay’s. She said partnering with companies for business is a “win-win situation” because it gives employees more lunch options and, in turn, the trucks get to grow their customer base.
“A lot of people have told us they put it in their calendar so they don’t miss the food truck,” she said. “That’s exciting for us to have loyal customers.”
Food trucks have been popping up at businesses all over Newark lately, including at Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate on South College Avenue, where Crave Eatery calls home twice a week.
Chris Cashman, a sales manager at Patterson-Schwartz, said Crave owner Brian Williams used to be an agent in the Newark office until he left the real estate business to pursue the food truck. Williams reached out to the office to ask if he could park his 38-foot-long mobile eatery there and now his former employees are able to walk right outside to enjoy fries and a burger.
“It’s convenient, and their food is very good,” Cashman said, adding that he’s also seen employees from nearby Bloom Energy stop by the truck.
For workers who are sick of the vending machine down the hall or need an extra jolt of coffee before the afternoon meeting, Karla Fleshman sells coffee, tea, chai, lattes, espresso, hot chocolate and Italian soda out of her Java Puppy truck.
She said there’s added value in employees staying onsite for food and drink—they aren’t late getting back to work and they don’t run the risk of skipping lunch because they don’t have enough time. Food trucks are always quick and convenient, she said.
“So people don’t get hangry at the two o’clock meeting,” Fleshman said, referring to the state of being so hungry that the lack of food causes a person to become angry. “You don’t want ‘hangry’ employees.”
If You Go
What: Rolling Revolution Newark Night Market
Who: Kapow Food Truck, Java Puppy, KOI on the go, The Brunch Box, Mojo Loco, I Don’t Give a Fork!, Cajun-Sno, Angelo’s Curbside Cafe, Wildwich, The Plum Pit, MAMA MIA, Passionista Fashion Truck
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 21
Where: Newark Arts Alliance, Market East Plaza, 276 E. Main St.
There will be art activities for children and face painting as well as music provided by Audio Works. Beer and wine will be available for purchase with proceeds benefiting the NAA.