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Economy

Quality food on wheels

 

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
Four Central Michigan University resident hall directors take a lunch break to during the CMU Research Center's Friday Food Truck event.

The sound of conversation, utensils clanking, flat tops cooking and generators running, is the sound of a busy food truck. According to mobile-cuisine.com, the first food truck roamed the streets of East Los Angeles in 1974. This year, food trucks are estimated to be a $2.7 billion industry.

 

Background music plays to entertain visitors as the Central Michigan University Research Corporation host its weekly Food Truck Friday.

Erin Strang is President and CEO of the CMU-RC. She said the event has grown.

“When we started it five years ago, we started it to help one, in particular, food truck get started,” she said. “So it’s great to see the evolution five years later that we continue to be able to support the food trucks and the local businesses.”  

 

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
The overview perspective of the CMU-RC before their Friday event starts.

David May is a worker with the Grub Hubb. The truck sells their version of burritos and fried oreos. He said they have been in business for three years and Mount Pleasant is just one of many stops.

“We’re actually available all around the state. We go to Frankenmuth, we go to festivals, you name it.”

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
A view of the menu the Grub Hubb offers during their weekly visits at the event.

Local customers said they’re happy with the experience.

“The atmosphere, the options, and the people here just want to be here and they’re happy,” CMU senior Madison McNamara said.

“I got a regular hamburger but it was a really solid hamburger. I definitely want to come again,” CMU junior Jordan Cregger said.

 

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
Cregger's last bites of the burger he purchased at one of the food trucks.

McNamara is a food truck veteran while it was Cregger’s first visit at the Friday event.

140 miles to the north, the roar of portable kitchens can be heard in Petoskey. The Backlot opened a month ago. With an open area that currently hosts two food trucks and a bar inside a renovated warehouse.

Emily Grzesiak, works at the Cheese & Co truck. They make specialty grilled cheese sandwiches. Think, a pepperoni pizza grilled cheese with pesto. She said business has been going well since they’ve been here.

“Food trucks are on the rise of getting more popular. They’ve been a taboo kind of thing until recently. I think its been helpful in the festival community and things like that,” Grzesiak said. “More people are going to music festivals so food trucks have been a more mainstream type of thing so I think they’ll be on a rise for a while.”  

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
The pepperoni grilled cheese with pesto from Cheese and Co (left) and a super burrito from Happy's Taco Shop (right) at the Backlot in Petoskey, MI.

Kendra Allmacher is the line cook at Happy’s Taco Shop. She said some people expect food trucks to have inadequate cooking areas and subpar food, but she begs to differ.

“A lot of times, people expect our foods to be super greasy and fast-out type of stuff,” Allmacher said. “But, a lot of the food trucks I’ve seen these days have high quality food, really good, really fresh ingredients, and really diverse menus that you wouldn’t really see around restaurants around here.”

Natasha Dale is the general manager of The Backlot. She said although they’ve only been open a month, business has been steady.

“[Food trucks] have been getting more popular. In a conservative town like this, where it’s kind of hard to get things past city council, it’s pretty impressive that we got it done,” Dale said. “If it can thrive here, it can spread everywhere.”

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Credit Xavier Mendoza | WCMU
The Backlot compliments their food trucks with a full bar inside a renovated warehouse in Petoskey, MI.

One industry website says some food trucks bring in $200,000 in annual income for their owners. Helping to make food trucks a DRIVING force in food service around the U.S.