As food trucks compete for a spot on campus, members of the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee gathered Monday to discuss methods for getting student input on the issue.
In response to the growing number of food trucks interested in rotating on campus, DUSDAC is planning on receiving student feedback about preferred vendors. They will send out a short survey near the end of spring break.
“Getting this survey out to the students will help give us some context,” said Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey. “I think having this survey will be important in voicing everyone’s opinions.”
Becky Jo Cascio, owner of Pie Pushers food truck, is a vendor interested in starting a food truck rotation on campus and spoke to members of DUSDAC briefly about her business. Pie Pusher, a pizza company founded in Durham, serves specialty pizzas made from local farmers’ ingredients. Cascio said their menu contains a vegan pizza option as well as gluten-free wings. Students could also call in orders for pizza to pick up at the truck.
“We’re on the faster side of things because it’s pizza, and we don’t let you customize each slice,” Cascio said. “But we do offer whole pizzas if people want to wait for them.”
DUSDAC members who received samples agreed the pizzas tasted good, but were concerned about introducing competition for The Loop Pizza Grill and the Merchants on Points program. Other members did not think competition would be an issue, but that other truck options would add greater variety. Overall, the committee agreed that a combination of student feedback from the upcoming survey would factor into decisions about accepting additional trucks.
Following Cascio’s presentation, DUSDAC co-Chair Chris Taylor, a senior, pitched several ideas about potential formats for the survey. A maximum of seven food trucks can rotate on campus during the year, and students must choose from the 14 trucks interested.
“We will give [students] a chance to say, ‘This is the food truck I like,’ and that can supplement our numbers for how they do on hourly sales,” Taylor said. “We’ve never had as many food trucks on campus as we do right now… it’s such a new thing relative to the population size on campus.”
Taylor added that having the data to support discussions about student preferences would help them make more informed decisions.
“The final decision may rest not only on the popularity of the food truck, but also on the logistics of how the business would stay afloat and contribute to dining variety on campus,” he said.
DUSDAC will not have time to hold an event for the new food trucks to showcase their menus before selecting the food trucks for the upcoming year, but that may be an option for future years.