The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 18, 2013

Auburn University students love food trucks

By Kristen Oliver
Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — While some people may be wary of eating food cooked and served out of a truck, the students at Auburn University definitely aren't.

In the last year, Auburn has acquired seven food trucks, all of which have become some of the most popular dining locations on campus. The mobile mania is now known as the Tiger Traxx campaign.

"It started out just as an idea and there was a demand among the students for several new variety options on campus. We found one of the best ways was food trucks," said Gina Wells, marketing specialist for Tiger Dining at Auburn University. "They are very flexible, we can move them around and they offer more variety for students."

Tiger Traxx has a Facebook page that updates students on the daily locations of the food trucks and their hours. Students' comments include requests for trucks closer to their personal classroom buildings or inquires about where their favorite trucks will be next.

Wells said several trucks approached Auburn when it was still a new idea. She said they've learned traffic patterns and how best to operate the trucks as a functioning unit on the campus.

The first trucks introduced to Auburn's campus a year ago were Domino's Mobile Pizza Kitchen and student-favorite Tex's Tacos.

"Tex's Tacos is amazing," said Daniel Musselwhite, senior in wildlife sciences. "That and Momma G's, it's some of the best food on campus. The lines, especially for the taco truck, can get pretty crazy, but it's worth it."

Wells said the success of Tex's Tacos is due only in part to its food.

"Mac Helms is the owner and co-founder of the taco truck, and he just has an outstanding personality," Wells said. "The students loved the product itself and his personality and customer service just created this great environment."

By the end of the spring semester 2012, Tex's Tacos was joined by Slider U, Kona Ice and Momma Goldberg's food trucks.

Wells said Auburn determines which trucks to bring to campus based on the product offered and the potential for success on the campus.

"It really depends on what kind of product the food truck offers and what kind of commitment they can make," Wells said. "We are open to any and all ideas, and they can come to campus and have a meeting with us."

Wells said a major factor is the truck owner's ability to commit to remaining local. She said many drivers wanted to split their time between Auburn and the popular food truck park in Atlanta, but that they have more success when they can remain in Auburn.

Several new food trucks have been spotted on campus this school year, including Munch Food Truck, Mighty Meatballs, Honeysuckle Gelato and Mac the Cheese.

Wells said the trucks move locations regularly to accommodate as many students as possible and create a balanced schedule and traffic pattern on the concourse. Some, like Kona Ice and Honeysuckle Gelato, make appearances seasonally or depending on the weather.

"I love Kona Ice," said Cheyenne Rudowski, a junior in art history. "And the gelato too; you just can't beat that when it's a hot Alabama day."

Wells said Auburn is open to bringing more food trucks in the near future.

"We don't have anything confirmed, but we are always looking for new ideas," she said. "If anyone has any, we are very open to hearing them out."

"I think the food trucks are here to stay," Rudowski said. "As long as that's where students can get the best food, that's where they'll go."