Food trucks are returning to campus this month, nearly two years after UM’s own food truck suspended regular service.
The trucks’ arrival comes in response to student requests and conversations with the Associated Students of the University of Montana, according to Byron Drake, interim director of Campus Dining. He said three outside vendors — Sonny’s Original, Two Chicks’ Scratch and Great Ape Crepes — will start serving food in February.
“Students have asked for the opportunity to have some late night food truck options,” Drake said. “We’ll probably have more as the weather warms up.”
The food trucks are set to operate from 6 p.m. to midnight in the parking lot behind the Lommasson Center, Drake said. The Corner Store, a convenience store in the Lommasson Center, has also extended its hours this spring to 10 p.m., rather than 8:30 p.m.
Two Chicks’ Scratch plans to operate on Thursdays. It serves Mexican food as well as cheeseburgers and BLT sandwiches, according to owner and operator Sheri Martinez.
The Great Ape Crepes owner and operator James Mabius said the truck plans to operate on Fridays. It serves sweet and savory crepes.
Sonny’s primarily serves cheesesteaks and fries and plans to operate on Wednesdays, according to owner and operator Daniel DiMezza. He said Sonny’s might consider expanding to weekends or lunch hours if there is enough demand. Martinez and Mabius said their food trucks probably won’t consider this option.
“Typically, there is not enough business for them during lunch hours on campus,” Drake said. “Saturday and Sunday night I don’t think would be great for them. But, if one of them wanted to try it, I wouldn’t say no to that.”
The University’s Galloping Griz food truck enjoyed rising profits from 2014 to 2016 until its loss of $33,000 impacted UM Dining in the second half of 2017 amid menu changes, the Kaimin previously reported. It cut back from daily service to special events the following spring. Savannah Willison is a student supervisor at the UC Food Court who worked at the Galloping Griz from the fall of 2017 until it closed.
“It’s a bummer that the Galloping Griz got shut down,” Willison said. “That was usually a good option for people who either missed the Food Zoo or wanted a good study snack.”
Drake said Campus Dining put the Galloping Griz up for sale around the end of fall semester. It has not yet received a firm offer.
The food trucks do not accept meal plans, according to Drake, since that would increase the University’s costs without increasing money coming in. He said the vendors will pay a 10% cut of revenue to Campus Dining, which is less of a financial risk.
Drake said Campus Dining would consider the Lewis and Clark student apartments as another potential site for food trucks, though the department has no plans to do so yet. He said the trucks could also park by Aber Hall for a night, which is located on the other side of campus.
“There’s kind of a risk on their part because that gets them away from the main traffic,” Drake said regarding food trucks going to the residence hall. “But there might be enough interest from the Aber folks to go, ‘We’ll go to a food truck, bring it out here.’”
Brian Fulton, a student senator and manager at the UC Market, said he thinks the return of food trucks is a great idea. He said he hopes the vendors will focus on what students want, taking into consideration dietary restrictions.
Sonny’s offers veggie sandwiches that can be vegetarian or vegan, and Great Ape Crepes has vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, according to their owners. Martinez said Two Chicks’ Scratch can provide vegetarian and vegan food on request.
All three food trucks will be on campus by Feb. 12-14, according to Drake. Big Dipper ice cream truck may also join them starting in mid-April, according to an email from Bryan Hickey, Big Dipper chief financial and operating officer.