Many employees at outlying buildings at Centra Health in Virginia don't have access to on-site food venues. The nutrition services department sends a food truck to their locations. The mobile cafe resides at Virginia Baptist Hospital, two miles away from the "mother ship" hospital Lynchburg General. Virginia Baptist's campus provides a designated place to park, clean and stock the truck.
The truck travels to outlying facilities including Centra Urgent Care, Centra Medical Group office buildings, and Centra long-term care facilities, all of which are 50 to 70 miles outside the Lynchburg area, for regular foodservice and to support special events. "Wherever the need is, we go," says Timothy W. Schoonmaker, CDM, CFPP, director of nutrition services for Centra. He estimates the food truck, now in its third year of operation, brings in about $50,000 in annual revenue.
Food Truck Operations
The food truck stops at 1 satellite building each day and normally operates from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekdays.
"The times of operation vary because we often do breakfast as well as lunch, depending on the facility and the time the building's staff works," Schoonmaker says. "For example, at an outpatient building, the staff may work 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., so we offer breakfast and lunch to allow them to take advantage of having an on-site meal service option for more than 1 meal."
The truck also supports Centra Catering. "We'll take the truck and use it as a mobile kitchen for open houses, barbecues and Centra-sponsored events," Schoonmaker says.
Centra also uses its food truck to assist with community outreach. "The mobile cafe provides food for community events on weekends," says Wren Roberts, managing director, support services.
The truck's equipment package includes a fryer, flattop grill, a cook-and-hold oven, a three-compartment sink, a single door reach-in freezer, a single door reach-in refrigerator, a fully operational hood system with fire suppression, a prep table, POS hardware, a hand sink, two rooftop marine-grade air conditioning units and fluorescent lighting.
"Since Centra covers 9,000 square miles through central Virginia, we often target our menu depending on where the truck goes," Schoonmaker says. "We always post our location and menu on our Facebook page as well."
Breakfast includes omelets and eggs to order, a sandwich option, pancakes and French toast. The lunch menu varies from a salad, to burgers and fries, paninis, flatbreads, grilled chicken,
stir-fry and in-season specials.
"We cook most of the food on the truck itself," Schoonmaker says. "If we do a special catering event, we cook the bulk of the items out of the main kitchen. For example, for a catering event we smoked beef brisket and cooked mac and cheese in the main kitchen and held it warm in a food warmer on the truck. We try to produce menus that are as authentic as possible, as well as fresh, to provide a high quality, affordable food truck dining experience."
Schoonmaker manages the food truck operation, sets up special events and manages the Facebook page. A full-time coordinator manages the food truck. Four certified dietary managers and a certified executive chef provide support for the truck when necessary.