Metro

Drive-in: More food trucks hit College Hill streets

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Providence Coffee Roasters co-owner Jevon Chan set up shop on campus two weeks ago. The truck offers fair trade and organic coffee and pastries.

Students tired of eating dinner at the Sharpe Refectory or in need a late-night snack are more likely than ever to find a food truck nearby to fill their stomachs. In addition to staples such as Mama Kim’s, the campus now hosts a number of new trucks whose options are not limited to food.

Mijos, which serves Mexican food, began frequenting campus around five weeks ago, said owner Pete Gobin. Gobin, who grew up in Pawtucket, was an executive chef in Los Angeles, Calif., where he “got acquainted with tacos and fell in love with Mexican food.” When he returned to Providence, he found a gap in the market he thought he could fill.

“I thought maybe there would be a lot of students from California who might miss real tacos,” he said.

Gobin said business has been fantastic. “It’s getting better every week,” he added.

Providence Coffee Roasters provides students with another on-wheels option. The truck, which serves fair trade and organic coffee and pastries, is an expansion of Providence Coffee Roasters Cafe in Riverside.

“We decided to go mobile due to the whole food truck craze,” said Jevon Chan, one of the owners of the business. “Brown is our first hit, and it’s been fun.”

Business in the truck’s first two weeks has been “just under expectations,” he said. But he “would love to expand further” and add a “graveyard shift,” he said, for students studying late at night.

Ian Gray ’12 called the coffee truck his “favorite food truck addition” because of its convenience.

Chan said he and his co-owner “scoped out Brown for a while” before deciding to expand. “There’s good coffee on Thayer,” he said, but noted the lack of mobile options.

As the number of trucks expand, their owners are finding that they complement — rather than compete with — one another.

“Mama Kim’s and I get along really well,” Gobin said. He cited a study by Technomic that suggested that food trucks parking closer together receive more business. Seventy-five percent of consumers who come across multiple food trucks parked together will purchase items from two or more of the trucks, according to a July 18 press release by Technomic.

The popular Korean food truck plans to expand to meet increased demand — what co-owner Hyun Kim ’01 called a “crescendo of up to 1,000 customers a day.”

Over the summer, Mama Kim’s began frequenting downtown Providence. After realizing business there was just as good as on campus, the owners decided to order a second “mobile kitchen,” Kim said.

The owners are also aiming to establish a restaurant by the end of the year. “The idea stays the same — affordable gourmet food,” Kim said.

Mama Kim’s success has turned it into a role model not only for other food trucks, but also for students.

“Mijos reached out to me and asked for advice,” Kim said. Brown students have also emailed him to discuss food truck ideas, such as a fresh vegetable truck and an Indian food truck. “I try to provide all advice possible,” he said. “I support student initiatives.”

Raaj Parekh ’13 is working on creating an iPhone application to map the locations of local food trucks. “All of them have Twitter,” Parekh said, and his app would gather the information provided by updates and locate them on a map.