food truck

5 things higher ed can learn from the food truck phenomenon

Food trucks are becoming popular for a reason. Can colleges and universities learn from them by harnessing simplicity and specialization?

Unless you have been hiding out in the remote hills of the Appalachians, you have probably noticed the onslaught and popularity of food trucks over the last several years. Although street food is anything but new, almost every suburban and metropolitan area now has a plethora of food trucks serving everything from fusion to comfort food.

In my own town, we have several special events based on food trucks, as well as several new bars or pubs that allow food trucks to serve as their mobile kitchen. And even though they are using a familiar idea, why have food trucks become so popular? And better yet, what could institutions and educators learn from the phenomenon?

1. Simplicity: Since food trucks are not large, they tend to simplify their menus. They can’t be like (too many) restaurants that try to prepare, sell and offer an unending list of seemingly unrelated foods. They have a handful of menu items people flock to, specifically because their simple menu often leads to the achievement of quality. Institutions are now suffering from trying to do-or offer-too many things. Most colleges and universities have dozens and dozens of programs, initiatives and plans all trying to address hundreds of standards, needs and goals. If institutions could focus (or simplify), they might find their schools more successful.

2. Specialization: Along the lines of simplification, there is specialization. Food vendors, and schools, cannot be good at everything. What is attractive about charter schools is that they tend to have a focus or specialization–they don’t do everything, but get very good at something.

(Next page: More school tips from the food truck phenomenon)

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