Food trucks to be added as meal plan option

Madison Hines and Lauren Keever (right) pick up their order from The Groovy Gus Donut Bus at Jackson’s Orchard and Nursery on Saturday, Oct. 3. 2020. Cindi Roehm (left), owner of the truck, said business has picked back up since she had to stop operation in the spring due to COVID-19. “We came to a complete halt in April,” Roehm said. “Now, it’s kind of back to normal.”

Debra Murray

Food trucks are in the process of being added to the meal plan system to provide students with outdoor food options.

Due to COVID-19, food trucks have been starting to visit campus so that students have other places to get food instead of the busy food courts. The Groovy Gus Donut Bus is one of many different food trucks that has been visit- ing campus to sell food to students, but due to lack of advertisement, business has been very slow on campus. The other food vendors approved to sell on campus include Pelican’s Snowballs, Lost River Pizza Company, Chaney’s Dairy Barn, Empanadas BG and the Taste of Europe.

Cindi Roehm and Steve Garden, owners of the Groovy Gus Donut Bus, explained how being part of this new program would help their small business.

“We got a call from Aramark to see if we could come help with food on campus, they are working on the point of sale machine so we can take Big Red dollars and meal plan dollars,” Garden said. “[POS system] will really help us on campus because we’ve had a lot of students come up but can’t get anything because they can’t swipe.”

Aramark contacted Roehm and Garden to serve food on campus to avoid students piling up in food courts. Each truck serving on campus is supposed to receive the point-of-service system, which will allow them to take meal plan dollars and Big Red dollars by scanning students’ WKU IDs.WKU Restaurant Group has been working with WKU and the operating system used by WKU ID center for meal plans to get these systems to the food trucks.

In section 15.2 of the contract be- tween Aramark and WKU, it states, “Aramark agrees to prepare and serve meals to WKU for WKU to resell to its students, faculty, or staff participating in Board Plans and Meal Plans.”

Roehm has been waiting for the POS system for weeks, but due to an increase in demand, they haven’t been able to get the business that was expected.

“I’m in business, I have to make money, so I can’t afford to lose $500 a day,” Roehm said. “Being on campus and not being in a good spot or not having the swipes, I’m a small business. I can’t do that long term.”

“So I would imagine that a lot of campuses are trying to get food trucks on campus, so they are trying to get the swipe systems and there is a backlog, so we’re hoping to get it in the next couple weeks.”

The Chaney’s Dairy Barn trailer has also made an appearance on campus throughout the past few weeks. They are also awaiting the POS system from Aramark to be able to accept meal plan and flex dollars. Joanna Porter works at Chaney’s Dairy Barn and is responsible for setting up the trailers for the company.

“We signed a contract with Aramark, [but] we haven’t received equipment yet to be able to accept meal plan or flex dollars,” Porter said.

Since the trucks have yet to receive the POS system, they haven’t had substantial business from students.

“Right now on campus, we’re doing 10% of what we would do if we were off-campus,” Garden said. “It’s that slow without awareness and without equipment. It’s just hard for us to do business.”

Once the POS systems are in place, business at these food trucks on campus is expected to increase.

“Once those are in place I think we would be as well on campus as we would anywhere else, if not better,” Roehm said. “It’s all-new. We’ve been talking to Aramark, and it was thrown at them like they have to get more food options on campus because all the kids can’t be in the buildings. So they got food trucks, but there’s a whole system that has to be put in place.”

Local business took a hit during the pandemic, and the Groovy Gus Donut Bus was no exception to losing revenue because of COVID-19.

“I was closed down for a month and a half,” Roehm said. “I lost all that revenue, so to be on campus and make a tenth of what I could make at the farmer’s market, I can’t do that because I’m still building back up after COVID-19 shutdown.”

Both places are large supporters of WKU, so getting to serve their food on campus is something they are looking forward to.

“We have always enjoyed serving ice cream on Western’s campus,”Porter said. The owners of the Groovy Gus Donut Bus are also excited to serve hungry students on campus.

“We’re excited to be on campus, we love Western,” Garden said. “I’m sick to death with how much I love it there. The opportunity to have a good day is always there.”

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.