Instead of requiring members and guests to come to the food, some clubs and resorts now have tricked-out vehicles that can bring creative and top-quality cuisine to any spot on the property.
About a year and a half ago at Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va., the idea for a food truck was proposed as a short-term solution for how to serve meals while the club’s main dining room was under construction. But since it made its debut at the club’s July 4th celebration last year, the truck has proved its value as a permanent part of Farmington’s culinary program, reports Joe Krenn, the club’s Chief Operating Officer/General Manager.
At the July 4th party alone, the truck served between 1,500 and 1,700 people, Krenn notes. And the vehicle, which measures 16 feet in length with a 12-foot box for a kitchen, was well-equipped to meet the demand.
Summing It Up
• Food trucks can easily increase banquet revenues.
• Versatility makes trucks a fun extension of food programs.
• Creating signature dishes for food trucks adds to their appeal.
• Using all forms of social media and app-based tracking will help members and guests keep up with a food truck’s whereabouts and stay excited about the concept.
Equipment inside includes a four-burner stove with oven, deep fryer, flat top griddle, three-well steam table and a deli-style “lo-boy” refrigerator, and there are plans to add a standard “lo-boy” reach-in freezer. Wood cabinetry and a mahogany shelf for the service window were custom-made.
With the exception of a few modifications to meet the state of Virginia’s fire code, the truck was pretty much up to speed when the club bought it. Farmington also saved some money by having the graphics, including an elegant gold logo, wrapped, instead of painted, onto the truck.
During the dining-room construction, the truck would come to a central spot close to the golf course and tennis courts for breakfast and lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. By popular demand, it has now branched out to member events and holiday celebrations, says Michael Matarazzo, Farmington CC’s Executive Chef.
“It’s also an easy revenue uptick for parties and banquet packages,” notes Krenn.
Matarazzo likes to get creative with the truck’s menu, doing a different theme every week. Usually that means fun riffs on “familiar and approachable foods” such as burgers, hot dogs, house-cut fries, fried pickles, grilled cheese or paninis. A taco menu featured three different variations—fish, Mexican barbecue and pork belly.
For one recent winter event, the truck dispensed fried-on-the-spot doughnuts and hot chocolate. And for a wedding, sliders were served as a late-night snack.
“We can set up tables, chairs and even little fireplaces around the truck, and it becomes a social gathering spot,” Matarazzo says.
Taking Catering On the Road
Snowmass Resort in Snowmass Village, Colo., now uses its Sno-Cat-pulled food truck, “The Sled,” to bring some of the club’s cuisine to selected events in and around the city. The Sled was spotted downtown serving food in the VIP area when the X Games were held in Aspen, and is also used for community events, such as a recent concert series.
“The truck is not intended to be a revenue-producing source,” explains Jim Butchart, Snowmass Resort’s Culinary Director. “It’s a non-traditional offering that rounds out what we’re doing and tells a story about how our resort views food and beverage and that we’re uniquely foodie-driven.”
The truck made the rounds last year at Farmington until November, with a few special appearances during the winter holidays. This year, it is set to make an early-spring comeback on weekends, when it will be set up by the driving range. “Members have been asking when the truck will come back,” Matarazzo reports. “They’re really looking forward to it.”
Pulling Its Weight
It’s not just the members who like Farmington’s truck. For the club, it has been a money-saver for the setup and operation of remote food offerings throughout the property.
“Without the truck, we have to set up a tent, grill, chafing dishes, and have carts flying back and forth,” Matarazzo notes. “The truck allows us to save on labor, too, requiring only one or two people inside and one person outside, instead of the usual five or six people we need to do a remote service.”
The club’s banquet kitchen serves as the truck’s commissary, and most of the items are cooked to order on the truck.
Posts on Twitter let Farmington’s members know where the truck is going to be.
“At first, we didn’t know how the membership would respond—we were taking a gamble,” Krenn says. “But they have become totally engaged—it’s like the truck has taken on its own personality.”
Pretty much any club could do a food truck, Krenn believes, and he feels it can be particularly useful for clubs that are spread out over a large campus. “It’s not expensive and as long as you have a kitchen to support it, that’s all you need,” he says.
Taking “Street Food” to New Levels
Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla., introduced its own food truck last November, as part of a plan to expand the dining options—particularly for casual and family-friendly dining—to its vast membership of over 5,000. Phillippe Reynaud, Ocean Reef’s Senior Director Culinary Operations, reports that the club now uses the truck all over its property—including its beach, golf course, the main street of its boutique-filled “Fishing Village,” and its parking lots for events like Super Bowl tailgating.
Ocean Reef’s food truck is 26 feet long from bumper to bumper, with an 18-foot kitchen area equipped with two burners, a 48-inch griddle, two fryers, a work table, a three-compartment sink, a reach-in freezer, a refrigerator and a steam table. The space can accommodate up to three cooks, and the graphics that wrap the truck were created by the graphic designer in Ocean Reef’s communications department.
An attendant is stationed outside the food truck to allow members to place their orders and get their food without getting out of their golf carts. The food can either be consumed on location or taken to-go.
While the truck required a serious investment, Reynaud says it has more than earned its keep. Over a 10-day period spanning the winter holidays, the truck did 1,400 lunch/dinner covers. At the beach alone, it averaged 90 covers for lunch and 50 for dinner at the Fishing Village.
Food For a Lift
Pork tacos are a favorite selection of guests from “The Sled,” the food truck operated by Snowmass Resort in Snowmass Village, Colo. They are also a favorite of the resort’s Culinary Director, Jim Butchart, because they are almost as easy to make as they are to eat.
After seasoning a pork shoulder with salt, pepper and oregano, Butchart says, it is slowly roasted in the oven at 250 degrees, until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees. Depending on the size of the shoulder, this should take between six and eight hours.
“What you are looking for is pork that falls off the bone,” Butchart notes.
The pork can be cooked a couple of days in advance to save time on the day of service, he adds.
“We typically like to dress the taco with a simple mixture of shredded cabbage, thinly-sliced red onion, raw jalapeno, salsa verde and a squeeze of fresh lime,” he says. “Queso fresco also makes for a nice addition.”
Reynaud tries to keep the price of the truck food somewhere between $10 and $12. For private catering, there is a minimum charge of $1,600.
“Gastro pub meets street food” is how Reynaud describes the style of the truck fare. “If I’m making a simple burger, it is with the best beef patty, artisan cheese, smoked bacon and our own housemade burger sauce,” he says. “If it’s a Vietnamese banh mi, we make the pork paté terrine, pickle the carrots and onions, and freshly bake the baguettes.”
Menus are saved on a USB jump drive to be displayed on the truck’s 42-inch TV screen. Most menus are themed; barbecue, for example, features hot smoked beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches.
Each menu also usually includes a vegetarian and gluten-free item. And signature “Truck Fries,” spiced up with Parmesan cheese and herbs, are always available.
Other signature dishes that Reynaud says have been developed for Ocean Reef’s food truck and have proved to be popular on colder days include cheddar grits, with toppings that can vary from blackened shrimp to pork belly, and pulled beef brisket. Lobster rolls (see recipe at right) are a favorite for lunch at the beach.
Like Farmington CC, Ocean Reef uses its banquet kitchen for its truck’s commissary. Members follow the truck on Twitter and also on the club’s mobile app. “We keep an iPhone on in the truck when it is in operation,” Reynaud explains. “The club app locks onto its GPS location, allowing our members to find the truck.”
A Truck on the Trail
Even a mountain of snow can’t keep Snowmass Resort in Snowmass Village, Colo., from delivering food to skiers and boarders—not since the winter of 2015, when “The Sled,” a 21-foot food trailer pulled by a Sno-Cat that’s usually used to groom the trails, appeared for a trial run.
“We bought the trailer used and just painted our own graphics on it,” reports Jim Butchart, the resort’s Culinary Director.
Butchart and Executive Chef Andrew Helsley like to use The Sled to feature ethnic foods, such as taqueria-style tacos with different salsas, or an Asian feast of Korean barbecue on a stick, ramen bowls, banh mi, and a hot dog with house-made kimchi. On some winter nights, The Sled has dispensed hot chocolate and s’mores.
The Snowmass truck usually offers two or three items, and prices are usually capped at around $6.
Staffing is also simple, Butchart reports. “One guy cooks to order from ingredients prepped in our resort kitchen, and another guy runs the cash register,” he says.
The Sled came already equipped for foodservice with eight burners, a flat top, a small oven, a three-compartment sink and a reach-in refrigerator. All the resort needed to do, Butchart says, was equip it with “beefier” tires to provide better traction in the snow.
Usually, Butchart notes, The Sled stays in one location for two weeks—and when it moves, members can follow it over Instagram.