The university’s high dividend requests and red tape are keeping some food trucks off campus, according to Jake Sessums, owner of YoknapaTaco.
Sessums asked about bringing his business onto campus the summer of 2016 and said there is “a lot of red tape that goes along with it.”
Aramark, a food production service, currently holds the rights to run all the student food services on campus, like the Union and Rebel Market. Centerplate runs all food services for sporting events.
Sessums said when he approached Amarak to sell food, the company never mentioned a specific portion of required revenue, but the highest he could afford to agree to was 12 to 15 percent.
“I’m not a big food chain like Chick-Fil-a; I can’t dish out that kind of cash,” Sessums said.
Sessums said he would love to work with the university and Aramark but it does not make financial sense for his business.
He does, however, believe that there is a niche for food trucks on campus and said a large portion of his customers are students, especially during the late-night service on the Square.
“I totally understand where they are coming from,” Sessums said. “But for us to actually get on campus regularly, they would have to see it as a community outreach project and not a business transaction.”
Sessums said certain institutions on campus are allowed to have the food truck for special events.
Amy Greenwood, marketing coordinator for Ole Miss Dining Services, said the university would be interested in this food option but the criteria are extensive.
“As more food truck options become available to the Oxford area, we would certainly consider bringing them to campus,” Greenwood said. “However, in order to serve a student population this large, vendors would be required to demonstrate the capacity to provide meals for 19,000 people per day, meet the food safety standards set forth by the university/Ole Miss Dining and possess the technology to integrate into campus payment methods.”
Dining Services said any food service vendor on campus must be under contract with the university; obtaining this university contract, however, is not simple.
“In order to bring new dining options to campus, we complete an extensive vetting process,” Greenwood said.
The university’s criteria for a contract include brand performance in other campus environments, brand recognition, healthy menu options for students/faculty with dietary constraints, any potential green initiatives and menu price point.
Dining Services maintains a contract with the university that allows it to serve all primary food locations on campus.
Senior hospitality management major Grace Richards said she believes more dining options, like YoknapaTaco, would appeal to students.
“Now that the Union is closed, I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to it,” Richards said. “The options are more limited on campus, for sure.”