Grease truck forced off campus after Rutgers fails to renew licensePhoto by Nikhilesh DeThe RU Hungry? grease truck has been a staple at Rutgers for nearly 40 years, but after the University declined to renew its operating license, it has been forced to leave school grounds.
When RU Hungry?’s license to park at the corner by Alexander Library expired at the end of 2016, the University declined to renew it.
The self-proclaimed “home of the original fat sandwich” was located at 159 College Ave. after being removed from Lot 8 nearly five years ago. When the franchise opened a physical store in The Yard @ College Ave, Rutgers officials told Ayman Elnaggar, the truck’s owner, that they would not allow the truck to remain there.
“There is no why, they told me that ‘your trailer is too big to accommodate on campus,’” he said. “I said ‘what if I get a smaller truck,’ they said they cannot promise me anything. Now, (they are) not going to renew the license.”
Elnaggar, who has owned and operated the truck since 1997, said he placed it into storage until he can find another location to run it.
He will try to find another location to put the truck by springtime but said it would have to be off campus, as he was told by the University that his new location cannot be school property.
“I can’t be on campus because Rutgers won’t allow me … I asked them to be on Busch or Cook or Douglass, they said no,” he said. “I tried to be anywhere — if you can help me be anywhere, I’ll bring it tomorrow.”
In an email obtained by The Daily Targum, Rutgers University’s Director of Real Estate Debra McNally told Elnaggar, “We cannot allow your truck to continue to operate on campus in the roving program. Your truck does not meet the qualifications of the food truck program and was given an accommodation that will be revoked at the end of this month since we will no longer have a dedicated food truck stall program on campus going forward.”
The truck’s last day was on Dec. 24 — Christmas Eve — Elnaggar said. The lease expired on New Year’s Eve a few days later.
The main justification Elnaggar was given was due to the new store that he now rents, not owns, from the school. In an attempt to make it feel like home, he has designed the interior to reflect the truck’s history.
“You’ve gotta live with what you get, I’m trying to focus on my store,” he said. “At least I have a beautiful store, I’ve tried to have a good connection between the store and the truck. I built up a (display) truck, I built a big fat sandwich, I have the original tables (and) some signs from the truck. I did the best I could.”
The store has an expanded menu, which now includes chicken shawarma, shakes, quesadillas, salads and wraps, he said.
While the store’s sales have been fine so far, Elnaggar hopes word will spread that RU Hungry? still exists at Rutgers. The new location, while bigger than the truck, is also located further away from parking facilities, making it more difficult to get to for many.
Sales have decreased a bit from what the truck used to receive.
“A lot of people think we left, but … we’re still here. I documented everything here, the (truck’s) history,” he said. “Let’s keep the grease truck tradition alive, it’s very important.”
New criteria were established to regulate food trucks after they were relocated from Lot 8, said University spokesperson Karen Smith. The new regulations limit trucks to being 26 feet or shorter. They also cannot be trailers or park on city streets.
"The RU Hungry truck was positioned on a trailer and it far exceeded 26 feet. We allowed the truck to be located on Senior Street as that spot was sufficient to accommodate the additional length. Once the Yard opened and new food offerings came to that area, we removed the Senior Street location for outside food trucks," she said.
Smith said Elnaggar had been informed at the beginning of the process, before the new store was opened.
“I felt very bad to lose the trailer but I couldn’t do any better, I tried the best I can, I almost begged them but they don’t want it,” Elnaggar said. “Please come to the store, support the store so we keep the tradition alive. We make the best food, we do the best we can … with your support, we’ll stay. If you don’t support us, we’ll vanish.”
Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.