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New Food Truck to Add to UCR's Culinary Options

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Part of a growing trend at colleges and universities across the country, the Culinary Chameleon will make its debut in mid-January

RIVERSIDE – The Culinary Chameleon is coming to the University of California, Riverside, and the 32-foot food truck will provide the campus with a new gourmet dining option. It will make its debut the week of January 16, 2012.

UCR Executive Director of Dining Services Cheryl Garner said that on-campus food trucks are part of a growing trend across the country. The trucks are valued for their ability to serve a variety of high-traffic areas throughout the day, compared to a regular restaurant.

“A few campuses have launched into this new type food venue,” she said, citing the University of Massachusetts, Rhode Island School of Design and Ferrum College as examples. “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.”

While some area schools have contracted with independent food trucks to cater to their campus, UC Riverside is believed to be one of the first Southern California institutions to have its own truck.

“It’s a trend that’s really taken off in the last year,” said Rachel Warner, director of communications and marketing for the National Association of College & University Food Services. “I expect to see it happen more and more as campus dining programs look for new and innovative ways to reach their customers.”

The truck features high-performance, high-productivity commercial kitchen equipment that will permit it to conduct 95-100 transactions an hour, keeping wait times and lines short. Equipment 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.

Additional features include a public address system, a stereo system, two 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 truck cost about $250,000, a fraction of the estimated $1 to $2.5 million needed to build a typical restaurant.

Garner said another 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 said.

“This provides us with a method to service our student population in an emergency where the availability of electricity and hot water are disrupted.”

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