Food truck festival brings catering trend to VCU

Photo Shayla Bailey.
Photo Shayla Bailey.

Food trucks are filling a geographical gap where brick-and-mortar restaurants can’t meet demand, changing the way catering is done and serving food at events like the VCU Dining Services Food Truck Festival on April 10.

“In general, I think food trucks are a complement,” said manager of The Dog Wagon food truck, Roger Stout. “You always hear rumors about food trucks not being near restaurants, that they’ll take away business but I disagree because when we as food trucks go to an event, it would be the same as someone catering the event.”

Stout, whose food truck was one of six in attendance at the festival, said traditional catering is “more of a process,” requiring extensive setup. Food trucks on the other hand only have to drive to the location.

Richmond’s food trucks also serve what Stout describes as a “niche” population of brewery-goers via invitation from the business. This is what makes food trucks like The Dog Wagon different from food carts stationed around the city, Stout said.

“We don’t just go set up and hope that somebody will walk up to the truck,” Stout said. “We go to places where the restaurants aren’t. If you go to an industrial park or an office park, there are no restaurants.”

Parking restrictions faced by food trucks have forced the growing industry to be more creative and seek out private lots to sell their products, Stout said.

“What we pride ourselves in is trying to interact with the customers and get them involved,” Stout said. “It creates a more friendly atmosphere. You’re having fun, they’re having fun, the food’s good. It’s a win-win.”

Dining Services Business Manager Lauren Hay said the festival was a way to bring students and community members together, being that food trucks are an important part of a city environment.

“For us, we think of those first year students who come in and aren’t aware of things in an urban setting,” Hay said.

Photo by Shayla Bailey.

Sophomore kinetic imaging student Alexis Hilliard-Worth was exposed to food trucks for the first time at the festival. She and other students with dining plans obtained two free tickets to exchange for food from the vendors.

“I wasn’t aware that they’re a big thing around here, so I definitely want to go out and look for them now,” Hilliard-Worth said.

She said she enjoyed being able to get a quick and “wholesome” meal from The Dog Wagon.

“I think it’s cool to bring everyone together because it’s such a nice day,” Hilliard-Worth said. “Finally, spring is here, winter is thawed and we’re just all coming together having a good time.”

Stout said when he started The Dog Wagon in 2012 there were fewer food trucks in the Richmond area. As a result, there were less trucks to meet a high demand.

“All of us were quite busy at that time. I had never done anything like this, I’m a white-collar worker so to do this was something completely out of my realm,” Stout said. “I think it’s going to be around for a while.”

Georgia Geen Spectrum Editor 

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