Food trucks are having a resurgence thanks to the outdoor dining pivot courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. But for use on a college campus, traditional food trucks have limitations. “They’re big and can be somewhat expensive to deploy and they can’t go everywhere on a modern campus with smaller and blocked-off roads,” says Wayne Wisniewski, Sodexo GM at New Mexico State University, where a mobile electric food cart started powering up at the start of this school year.
“What I love about it is that it’s compact,” Wisniewski says, adding that the electric food cart—named The Stache—can squeeze into underserved locations on campus “and allow us as operators to economize and help enhance our retail operations.”
There’s been no cannibalization of sales since The Stache is reaching new customers and areas. The grab-and-go setup can be changed out as time goes on. A find-the-food-truck app, Find the Stache, keeps students updated on where to find the cart, which goes out for breakfast and again at lunch, with about five to seven stops per route.
The Stache has hot and cold capabilities, but food can’t be prepared on board, so it’s grab and go only. Students can grab breakfast burritos, salads, hummus plates and sandwiches, along with agua fresca, a favorite beverage on campus.
Bringing a bit of fun to an otherwise unfamiliar school year is another added benefit of the cart, says Ophelia Watkins, interim executive director, housing and residential life at NMSU.
“More online classes means we have fewer people hanging out on campus,” Watkins says. “We try really hard to give them interesting things to do that are COVID-safe, but it’s pretty challenging. For first-year students, this is their first year in college; returning students are used to a whole different way of living on campus, so it’s been tough.”
The Stache is a bright spot, Watkins says, “just the cutest little truck and it can work for outdoor events like drive-in movies on campus, the ‘Stache comes and does popcorn and food. It’s adorable and the students just love it, and we have stickers that everyone is after.”
Watkins hopes that “once we get further past COVID,” the cart will be able to come to tailgates and catered events on and off campus.
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