Return to Campus Brings Customers Back to U Food Trucks


Julia Chuang

International food truck rally event held by the University of Utah Staff Council at University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Oct. 4, 2022. (Photo by Julia Chuang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jacob Freeman, News Writer


With COVID-19 restrictions loosening and more classes being held in person this semester than the last few, the University of Utah’s campus is fully packed with students and faculty once again. 

For a student body that has spent a large part of the pandemic eating food at home, many students have had to find a new daily lunch routine this semester. For the food trucks that call the U home, this semester has brought a much needed return to a large part of their business.

Nearly halfway through the semester, many students have decided on a favorite truck. Others still need to try them all before making that decision.

George West, a sophomore at the U, had only ever been to Kafé Mamai, an African-Caribbean fusion truck that frequently sits outside the Union building at lunchtime. He recently tried Chimichurri Grill for the first time, which serves Argentinian cuisine outside the Marriott Library.

West suspected Chimichurri Grill would become his new favorite while waiting for his food there.

“I really like lomitos, and these guys sell them,” West said.

Students aren’t the only ones who appreciate the food offerings outside the library. Michael Edwards, who teaches animation at the U, has so far tried Chimichurri Grill and Tandooria.

“I’m usually just too lazy to bring my own food or make my own,” Edwards said.

Regardless of their motivations, both food truck patrons preferred the trucks over other food options at the U.

“I like the type of food they sell,” West said. “I’m not going to be able to find anything like Argentinian food at the dining halls or in the Union. It’s different, and I like that.”

For Edwards, speed was more of a factor.

“It depends on when you go,” Edwards said. “During a rush, occasionally I have to wait in line, but it’s never too long.”

Whatever the reason, food truck owners have loved the return of the campus lunch rush after COVID-19 restrictions made it much harder for them to reach their customers during the pandemic.

Tokiko Yamazaki, owner of Bento Truck, said she relies almost exclusively on customers at the U for her business. She has been on campus selling Japanese comfort food since 2011.

“I rely on almost 99% here,” Yamazaki said. “We go to other locations, but we don’t sell as much as we sell here.”

She said it was challenging during the pandemic to find business and Bento Truck’s sales dropped by more than 80% when classes at the U went online. However, things are starting to look up for Yamazaki and other food truck owners.

“So far, it’s great,” Yamazaki said. “We’ve seen more students than any time last year. We’ve been busy.”

Yamazaki said sales have been coming back since students began returning to campus last year and the truck saw its best sales in the first two weeks of this semester. She attributed this to the student body’s increased size this year and the return to in-person classes.

“The U has been great, the students have been very wonderful, and we’re excited to stay,” Yamazaki said.


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