If you watched the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” you know food trucks are a hot trend. Students in Brian Connors’ Food Service Management Operations class see them as a way to test their culinary creativity — and managerial chops.
Hottest Trend on WheelsStudents in the class run their own restaurant for one meal period as part of their final project. Most pop-ups take place in JWU’s own facilities, but David Gutierrez decided to do something different — and Fiesta Taco Truck was born.
Working out of a borrowed truck, David and his team, Daniel Felker, Chantal Hogg and Karina Alfaro, created a colorful menu of farm-fresh tacos like “The Fin,” a California-style fish taco with jalapenos and queso fresco, and “La Falda,” a skirt steak taco with chimichurri and grilled mango.
“You Have to Be Fast and Organized”Running a food truck — even for a day — brings a unique set of challenges, explains JWU alum and Nosh Truck owner Scott Sopher '99.
“You’re in an extremely cramped space, so you have to limit your ingredients to what you can sell in a typical night. You have to be fast, and you have to be extremely organized.”
How would the Fiesta crew pull it off? For starters, they kept overhead low and their food inventory light by limiting the menu to 7 items.
And they tightened up the coordination between the truck and the front-of-house servers, who took orders, wrote checks, prepared guacamole tableside — and kept service humming.
Test of Creativity, and Management If things had gone badly, Connors wouldn’t have interfered. “I’m the coach and I’m here to help them achieve their vision. But ultimately they’re in charge of what happens.”
Gutierrez’ group wasn’t the only one to stretch its conceptual creativity: other student-run pop-ups included Fizz’ Soda Shop, a retro burger joint, and Hogwarts Hall, a Harry Potter-themed English pub.
“This class is a test of their creativity as much as their managerial skills,” Connors says. “It also teaches them to move with or ahead of trends.”
At the end of the day, Gutierrez was pleased with his crew: “We know we can do this,” he says proudly.