Campus food trucks: Time sure does fly!
By The Auxiliary Services Team
This June marks a major anniversary in the dining program here at the University of Houston:
That’ll be the five-year milestone of when the first food trucks parked on campus and started serving students, faculty and staff.
A lot has happened with the program since then. It has grown by leaps and bounds, not only in the number of trucks that participate, but also the number of different locations on campus where they operate.
Nobody really could envision the program exploding and becoming the popular success that it has become over these last five years. In fact, it was only supposed to be a temporary stop-gap measure to help feed the UH community when the Student Center and its busy food court were closed for renovations. Ideas were tossed around, and the concept of having food trucks set up shop outside the building seemed logical.
That very first site
The very first pad on campus opened on the southwest corner of the Student Center (pictured in the photo to the right). If you were not around campus then, it’s roughly in the area where a large number of bicycle racks now sit. Three food trucks operated during the week from that location. Those pioneers of the program were Bernie’s Burger Bus, the Waffle Bus, and Bare Bowls.
The large number of customers who flocked to them was a pleasant surprise. We listened to the positive feedback from students and responded by keeping and growing the program. This video provides an interesting trip down memory lane!
A few short months later, just in time for the start of the fall 2012 semester, a second food truck pad opened on campus near Cemo Hall. It was large enough to house two trucks at a time. It was the first location on campus to utilize a rotation system, with different food trucks operating there each week. The Cemo Hall location was moved slightly to the south in 2014 as construction work began on the nearby Multidisciplinary Research and Engineering Building.
When the Student Center renovations were completed, that first food truck pad adjacent to the building was closed permanently. In the spring of 2014, another pad opened along Entrance 14 behind the Science Building.
Late-night, ERP options added
Since then, three smaller pad locations were added to serve students who live on campus who are up late at night studying. The first to open is located near Cougar Village II, behind the Student Services Center Building. The next to open is across from Cougar Place. That was later followed by a location at the Bayou Oaks apartments. All three are open Monday through Thursday from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. The Cougar Village II location is also open Sunday nights during the same hours.
In addition, a food truck services the Energy Research Park every Wednesday during lunch. The Law Center also has a pad that accommodates one truck five days a week.
The current lineup
The number of trucks currently in the program now is 20. The Waffle Bus is still one of them. A list of the rest can be found on the food truck’s website, along with links to their menus and a daily schedule of who will be serving campus on any particular day. Of those, several are owned and operated by UH alumni, including Friohana, Tu-Go Kitchen and Bowl'd Up.
The food truck rotation is always changing. New trucks get added. To request a food truck be added, operators can fill out a form online.
What the future holds
As the food truck program continues to grow and develop, Auxiliary Services will be looking at developing a master plan to guide it. Also, as more trucks join the lineup, we will also be seeing what new concepts can be added, which will increase the variety of cuisines and dishes the campus community has to choose from.
Changes are inevitable. At some point, the popular pad behind the Science Building will have to be relocated as renovation projects get underway in the adjacent areas. New sites are always being studied. Just this past academic year alone, pilot sites were launched for a limited time near Calhoun Lofts and the Valenti School of Communication.
What do you think?
We’d love to hear from you regarding how well you like the food truck program. What is your favorite truck? What’s the best food you’ve eaten at a campus food truck? Anything you would do to improve the program? Let us know by posting a comment below. Or, if you would rather, you can email us at Auxiliary Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2017