The concept of food trucks has been resonating strongly with Eurest Dining Services and its parent company, Compass Group. Eurest has leveraged the popularity of the trend in various ways in the last few years, from pop-up stations that mimic the façade and cuisine of a food truck and food carts that menu various ethnic cuisines, to a 16-foot trailer that can set up at corporate outdoor events and even an airstream trailer that travels to different sites to spread the Stop Food Waste message.
“The growing popularity of food trucks over the past decade has caused a shift in the food and beverage world,” says Leah Winchell, regional marketing manager for Compass Group. “Being a company that focuses on business and industry dining, we decided to bring the food trucks into the marketplace instead of losing customers who would go out to the streets for them.”
However, it’s a bit unrealistic to drive a food truck into the middle of a cafeteria, particularly one on the premises of a Fortune 500 company that is a typical Eurest client, just to gain the ambiance. So, in 2014, Eurest Chefs Carmen Marzocco and Jim Leberknight worked in conjunction with division marketing director Wendy Hammel to create a design to bring the look and feel of a food truck into the company portfolio without the disruption or the diesel fumes.
The first truck they created was the Crabby Shack, which featured a menu of delicious crab cakes. The truck façade was created to be lightweight, easily transported and durable enough to be on the road at least 200 days a year, while the menu was designed to allow a chef to prepare the selections and serve them through a window just as if it were a traditional food truck in the heart of a city.
As the Crabby Shack “truck” traveled to marketplaces big and small within the Eurest portfolio, its popularity and demand for its presence grew among both clients and customers. So Eurest deployed additional portable food truck concepts featuring menus based on cuisines such as lobster rolls, tacos and even a program of chefs who hand-rolled sushi.
The truck concepts also became more complex in décor and marketing, which in turn enhanced the guest experience. By 2017, the traveling chef program had grown to include three traveling trucks and two different traveling sushi programs, which collectively visited 126 accounts in four different regions and served some 176,000 portions.
Then last summer, the program took a significant step forward, moving from the indoor marketplace environment to outdoor venues. The initial platform for that was the Smok’d BBQ Pit Smoker, a 16-foot trailer that can bring barbecue to any corporate outdoor event or specialty day. The venture proved highly successful, increasing site sales by over 110 percent on the days it visited.
Not content to rest on those successes, Compass this year has extended the program to support its second annual Stop Food Waste Day among all sectors of the company by creating an airstream trailer as a special edition food truck.
Branded specifically for Stop Food Waste Day, the traveling chef concept is visiting 20 of the company’s largest accounts in four regions to create awareness about food waste. The menu features a beef and mushroom taco that saves seven gallons of water for each taco sold while the toppings and sides all utilize root-to-stem cooking to minimize food waste. So when Chef Jim Leberknight prepared food for 100 taco meals, it generated less than one quart of food waste.
Unlike any other traveling chef food truck, the Stop Food Waste Day trailer has a screen to promote #stopfoodwasteday by scrolling all Instagram postings using this hashtag. In its first two weeks on the road, the truck saved 32 pounds of food waste and 242 gallons of water.
Another area receiving the mobile eatery treatment from Compass/Eurest is ethnic cuisine.
“The food truck trend has evolved from a fascination of purchasing food from a moving restaurant in a truck to being able to try cuisine from different countries and cultures within a block of accessible trucks,” Winchell notes.
The first step into this area was a new arepa sandwich menu made with authentic Venezuelan flavors, but instead of serving it out of a food truck, the company created a cart platform designed to evoke a South American bazaar atmosphere. Working within the parameters of the original food truck concept, the arepa cart is durable, portable and creates a memorable experience. It premiered at the Kelly Anne Dolan Charity Fundraiser in March.
“In the past four years, the traveling chef program as a whole has transformed into a platform for customer engagement, increased profits and global awareness about important Earth saving initiatives,” Winchell says. “We are proud to feature this program in marketplaces large and small to ensure all guests we serve can experience being transported to a special place for lunch in the comfort of their own company marketplace.”