Instead of stumbling into Burger King on Dillo Day, students have another option to soak up the alcohol in their system: food trucks. All afternoon, food trucks will be selling treats, fusion foods and more to ravenous customers – that is, if students can make their way to the Lakefill.
“For a lot of food trucks, it’s a good way to bring exposure to Evanston if they don’t already have it, and we like to bring a bit of Chicago to Dillo Day,” said Bri Hightower, Communication senior and Mayfest promotions co-chair.
Mayfest started bringing in food trucks on Dillo Day in 2012, the same school year when food trucks started coming to Northwestern. Since then, other groups and events such as ASG, Thank a Donor Week and NU World Cup have also brought food trucks to campus.
“It takes a real chef to cook in this kitchen,” Alexander Aguilar, executive chair of Gino’s Steaks food truck, said. “It’s a smaller environment and different people. Every day it’s different people and a different task.”
IBIS World reported that the street vendor and food truck industry revenue has grown 3.9 percent annually from 2008 to 2013. According to the National Restaurant Association, 40 percent of consumers have purchased food from a food truck before.
“The food truck business [in Chicago] is starting to take off because of Chicago’s rich culture of food and culinary arts,” said Max Lupo, co-owner of Soups in the Loop food truck.
According to Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at the food industry research firm Technomic, food trucks are most popular in urban areas, especially business centers. But they are also popular in tourist spots, and more food trucks have started to invest in specialty, ethnic and fusion foods.
In downtown Chicago during the lunch rush on any given weekday, one can see brightly-colored food trucks lined up on street corners, as people queue at the trucks to grab a bite before going back to work.
“It’s a way to establish brand and show something new or test something you might not be able to test in a restaurant,” Chapman said. “On the other hand, because it’s a much lower investment cost, there are entrepreneurs who say, have a passion for this type of food and feeding.”
Food trucks have spread in popularity due to word of mouth and social media, according to Ryan Carlin, director of communications at Roaming Hunger, a company that tracks street food vendors. Food truck owners tell followers where and when the truck will be parked that day by tweeting their street locations or updating their Facebook status.
Websites such as Roaming Hunger also have maps that show where food trucks currently are, so if people to try something different than the local fast food restaurant for lunch, they can simply look on these food truck maps or check their Twitter feeds.
“I think that a couple of years ago, when food trucks started coming out, people thought it was just a fad, but they have a staying power,” Carlin said. “The idea of finding food trucks became a social media scavenger hunt. Now you see them everywhere: Coachella, outside your office, on campuses.”
Lately, more food trucks have been coming to Evanston, and more student groups have been bringing Chicago food trucks to Northwestern, often to promote events. As the weather becomes warmer, food trucks may circle the cul de sac of University Place, bringing a taste of Chicago to students.
However, in Evanston, mobile food vehicles must apply for a mobile food vehicle vendor license, and they must be owned and operated by the owner or agent of a licensed food establishment in the city. In addition, they must be affiliated with that establishment.
For days such as Dillo Day, food trucks that are not operated by brick and mortar restaurants in the city can apply for temporary permits.
“It’s kind of a rarity for students to interact with food trucks, so it kind of adds fun to Dillo Day,” Hightower said.
Check out the full list of food trucks that will be at Dillo Day here.