Some owners say mobility is key in the food truck business. That’s why several trucks, including Undrgrnd Donuts and The Tot Cart, make Main Campus a stop on their weekly route, not a permanent location.
Julie Crist and Jessica Orso, owners of The Tot Cart, travel to other Philadelphia campuses such as Drexel, University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Sciences on a weekly basis. The decision to make their truck mobile rather than a permanent fixture at Temple helped create a larger customer base and helped Crist and Orso find their stride, they said.
“A lot of college campuses are becoming way too overcrowded with food trucks – the competition grows on a regular basis,” Crist said. “It’s hard to do business when there are so many trucks in one place. The University of the Sciences is a really great spot because there aren’t many food trucks there, so we’re becoming fairly well-known.”
Crist and Orso have encountered trouble with finding a parking spot at Temple that works for them due to the nature of their traveling business. While most trucks on Main Campus have claimed their location, traveling trucks have to search for a new parking spot each time they arrive. The Tot Cart was told to move from its original spot on 13th Street because it was blocking the Fox School of Business sign.
“We don’t have a consistent schedule, so people don’t get used to seeing us at a certain spot over and over again,” Crist said. “It’s not profitable enough for us to only stay at Temple because there are just so many trucks on campus.”
Even with the challenges, Crist and Orso have enough faith in their business to keep bringing tater tots to multiple Philadelphia neighborhoods.
“Tater tots are awesome,” Crist said. “Everyone loves them, and we’re the only truck on the East Coast that specializes in them.”
The Tot Cart offers “gourmet” tater tots with a variety of toppings. Specials at The Tot Cart have included the “Bacon, Egg and Drunk Cheese” tots, cheesesteak tots and even the holiday “Turkey Tots,” topped with turkey, stuffing and gravy.
The truck was purchased in 2011 and had its grand opening last March on Main Campus. Crist, a former Owl, chose the location due to her undergraduate ties to the university.
“I love Temple,” Crist said. “I worked here for five years before starting this business. I started here and I’ll continue to come here because it’s my alma mater.”
Other trucks, such as Pitruco Pizza, chose to discontinue their trips to Main Campus this semester. The pizza truck, which started business in October 2011, operates largely out of Center City since they have found it most profitable, according to their blog.
The ability to succeed, according to Crist and Orso, is that they don’t only serve college students. The two have toted their tots to the Philadelphia Night Market, the Manayunk Food Festival and shows at the Mann Center.
“We love going to places where there’s always a lot of foot traffic passing by,” Crist said. “Even though we move around during the week, Facebook and Twitter will let you know where we’ll be.”
The Tot Cart has been well-received by customers. Commenters on Yelp showed enthusiasm for the truck’s tots.
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.