Commitee reconsiders grease trucks tradition
Since when was the “Fat Darrell” a big fat problem?
When the University last November created an ad-hoc committee to evaluate the status of the grease trucks’ operation in Lot 8 on the College Avenue campus, it left many in the University community — including alumni — scratching their heads.
Websites, Facebook groups and T-shirts proclaiming “Save the Grease Trucks” started cropping up when The Daily Targum wrote about a meeting where a committee of students and administrators discussed putting the lot out to bid for a slew of health, safety and financial reasons.
The grease truck owners were not invited to the meeting.
Filing a request for proposal (RFP) process would ensure compliance with best business principles and health codes, said Jack Molenaar, director of the Department of Transportation Services.
His records show that the University subsidizes the grease trucks substantially — around $93,000 last year.
Though the trucks, which have been parked permanently in Lot 8 on the College Avenue campus for several years, pay a month-to-month lease that totals $62,400 annually, the University does not cut the other costs involved with maintaining their presence, such as cleaning, security and electricity.
The University also contends that the trucks do not follow certain environmental and food code standards — such as proper waste disposal and cleanup — but the truck owners deny these claims vehemently. Middlesex County inspects the trucks annually to ensure the trucks are up to code, the truck owners said.
About two years ago, the University first began to consider putting the location up to bid to outside mobile food vendors who were approaching the University, interested in the prime spot that sees heavy faculty, staff and student traffic.
Owner of RU Hungry? Ayman Elnaggar, who owns two of the five grease trucks, one of which is the $250,000 trailer The Scarlet Shack, told the Targum that he and the other owners are aware of the environmental, maintenance and financial concerns the University holds.
They work on them constantly, he said, and want to stay in the location. Six families are involved with operating the trucks, which have been in the lot since 1996 when the University put them there off the street.
Since he and the other owners have been there for so long — and have a worldwide reputation and strong connection with the University community — he believes they should have a say in the process.
The owners maintained back in November that they were willing to do whatever the University asked — even competing with other companies — to stay in the lot. Elnaggar said they know what students want, and therefore have an edge over other companies.
But Molenaar, who maintained that he and the University are not doing this to “kick out” the trucks, continued the search for what should best happen with the lot across from Scott Hall.
The committee sought student input during the beginning of the spring semester through an online survey and was otherwise largely silent the rest of the year, until March.
After reviewing the results of 1,812 community members, 71 percent of which were students, the committee announced that they will draft a policy that will apply to future mobile food vendors to solve health, safety and financial issues, and also that both Lot 8 and a mobile food vendor license would be put up for public bid. The application can be found on the DOTS website.
The results showed that 67 percent of the participants ate at the trucks less than once a month, and 37 percent would still eat there if they offered different foods.
The committee also plans to create a smaller evaluation committee, which will include student representatives, to evaluate the vendors based on a point system.
Elnaggar said he and the owners again were left out of the process, and believes that they should be more involved. The owners told the Targum that they love pleasing the University community and continually work to offer a variety of foods — from fat sandwiches to breakfast wraps to salads.
But for now, as the academic year winds down, the grease trucks issue has left many students’ and alumni minds as the RFP process takes its course.
It looks like the University community will have to wait until next fall term to see whether one of New Brunswick’s favorite late-night food joints will have some fresh faces.