AMHERST, Mass. – Baby Berk, the mobile eatery operated by Dining Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has won top honors in the 2012 Loyal E. Horton Awards given by the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS).
The presentation will be made in July during the association’s national conference in Boston.
The popular food truck, which made its debut last September, was the gold medalist in the “retail sale-single concept” category for large schools. It is the first national award for Dining Services’ retail operations, according to Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst.
Named after the campus’s award-winning Berkshire Dining Commons, Baby Berk features signature burgers and tacos and operates seven days a week from 7 a.m. until the early morning hours, says Toong. “Students love the great food, the convenience and the portability of the food as Baby Berk roams throughout the campus.”
During its first two semesters, more than 50,000 customers flocked to Baby Berk at all hours of the day and night – although, according to director of retail dining services David Eichstaedt, the busiest hours have been between midnight and 4 a.m. on weekends.
“During peak times at major events, we averaged about 160 customers an hour, which is truly amazing when you consider that we are doing this out of a 18-foot-by-8-foot kitchen,” said Eichstaedt.
Eichstaedt, who designed the truck after realizing that the demand for good, local food knows no regular hours and that the operation could provide convenience at the same time it boosted revenues, adds that Baby Berk has served over 10,000 pounds of Northeast Family Farms all-natural beef in the form of its popular Gourmet Burger.
Due to the popularity of the food truck, UMass is considering purchasing another vehicle, according to Toong.