The University of California at Riverside is rolling out a 32-ft. food truck called the Culinary Chameleon on January 16. It is the latest in a trend that has seen trucks appear on campuses from Massachusetts to California, says UC-Riverside's Executive Director of Dining Services, Cheryl Garner.
“Food trucks allow us to lower our overall investment and maximize our versatility and location by going where the customer is, when they are there. We hope to service portions of our campus which are currently under-penetrated with restaurants.”
Initially, the Culinary Chameleon’s menu will feature some familiar items from Taco Fresco, a popular eatery that was closed earlier this year due to construction on the Stat-Comp Building. But the menu will evolve over time based upon customer input, and the truck’s name and branding reflects the planned menu versatility.
“We wanted our truck to have an identity that wouldn’t change, even when the menu changed," says Garner. "We landed on the chameleon with input from students and staff because a chameleon changes it colors depending on where it lives—much the same as we will change our menu based on seasons, trends, times and customer feedback.”
The truck features high-performance, high-productivity commercial kitchen equipment that will permit it to conduct up to a hundred transactions an hour. It includes a four-basket deep fryer, a four-foot griddle surface, a three-compartment sink, hand sink, three-door full-sized refrigerator, single-door freezer, a cold-prep table and a three-well steam table. There is also a public address system, a stereo system, security cameras on both the inside and the outside, a pair of air conditioning units and 500 watt halogen lighting around the perimeter of the truck. The total cost was about $250,000.
It will have a Facebook page and Twitter account, allowing customers to learn about specials, promotions and locations. They will be able to pay with credit and debit cards, Bear Bucks and cash.
Garner said an added reason for purchasing the truck was that it could serve as a mobile kitchen in the event of a campus-wide emergency. “The truck can run off of a generator and much of the equipment uses propane gas, so we will be able to serve a hot meal or hold product in our freezers during an emergency,” she says. “This provides us with a method to service our student population in an emergency where the availability of electricity and hot water are disrupted.”