Food trucks fill in for Union food court

Lauren Keskett, worker at the Tasty Traveler food truck, talks to Chris Lericos, senior in graphic design, as she hands him his food on Jan. 19, 2016. Tasty Traveler is one of several different food trucks that will be coming to campus this semester while the K-State Union remains under construction. (George Walker | The Collegian)

The food court in the K-State Student Union closed Friday to make space for changes brought about by phase two of the Union renovation. In the temporary absence of the food court, which was home to many dining options, Bosco Student Plaza will house a variety of food trucks.

According to Bill Smriga, executive director of the Union, a team from the Union advertised openings on campus for food trucks and visiting food festivals over the summer to attract applications to serve at K-State during the Union’s renovation period. Seven food trucks were chosen after the applications were reviewed. Smriga said each food truck is paying a “small commission” to serve its food on campus.

“This is a downtime for food trucks, being wintertime, so we’re giving them the opportunity to be in business and make a little bit of money, and the benefit to the university is that we can still offer more than we would otherwise when the food court’s shut down,” Smriga said. “We hope that it’s going to be a win-win for everybody.”

According to Audrey Taggart-Kagdis, director of marketing for the Union, bringing in the food trucks is a way to offer students the same variety of dining options that was available while the Union food court was operational, as well as the same variety that will be available when it reopens in 2017.

“It (bringing in the food trucks) is to continue to provide food service to the students on campus because that is our main goal, and that is part of our mission statement to provide services, programs and opportunities to students,” Taggart-Kagdis said. “We need to be able to provide a food source for the campus.”

Smriga said the food trucks are scheduled to rotate regularly, and they all offer different types of cuisine to help ensure that a variety of food options is offered.

“There was no guarantee we would have variety, but what we were looking for was items that would be complementary – not all hamburgers, not all Mexican food, not all barbecue,” Smriga said. “I think for the most part, we’ve accomplished that and given the campus a number of choices.”

According to the Union’s website, the featured food trucks will include a rotation of three Manhattan vendors: Mr. K’s Cafe and Bar, Tasty Traveler and Vista, and four vendors from surrounding towns: Dry Creek Buffalo Chuckwagon, Roll-n-Smoke, Los Toritos and Big Boyz BBQ.

Some of these trucks are tied to local restaurants and restaurants of surrounding areas, and others are their own entities, Smriga said.

Katie VanVleet, owner of Tasty Traveler, said she believes the opportunity to offer food service to the students of K-State will provide a fresh perspective and new ideas about different types of food to serve.

“I think just being exposed to the student market — which we really haven’t been exposed to yet — I think that’ll be fun,” VanVleet said. “It’ll be a whole new audience and crowd, and we can kind of see how they like our food and how we can adjust and work things in that’ll fit their tastes.”

The food trucks will provide service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, Smriga said, and all will accept Cat Cash, Union gift cards and conference cards.

In addition to the food trucks, Subway, located in the Union Bowling Center, will remain open during the renovation, and Radina’s Coffeehouse and Roastery will operate in the Union’s coffee shop location, which previously housed Caribou Coffee.

“We’re hoping that this experiment pays off and it helps meet the needs of the campus while the union is under renovation,” Smriga said.

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.