Commercial property owners and managers have found a bold new way to attract, retain and impress tenants: forming partnerships with local food trucks to bring building occupants a variety of new culinary choices.
In suburban areas where few food options are available, offering new selections via food trucks can improve a building’s appeal. But even for commercial properties that already offer on-site dining or have food choices nearby, food truck partnerships can be a great way to create a whole new tenant experience. Out-of-the-ordinary cuisine served outdoors gives tenants a chance to get away from their desks and connect with each other; it also provides quick lunch options for those who only have a few minutes to spare. And, of course, it adds variety in a way that unchanging brick-and-mortar food options often cannot.
Establishing a Partnership
After visiting an office building where a food truck was set up for lunch, Luci Smith, former senior property manager with EastGroup Properties (now general manager at CBRE), saw how much the building occupants loved the amenity and came to expect it on a routine basis. “I thought, ‘This would go over great at Southridge Commerce Park,” she says. “We were an industrial park, but always tried to offer amenities to make it feel more like an office park.” Located in Orlando, Florida, the year-round warm weather, perfect for eating outdoors, also made the decision an obvious one.
Smith met with a food truck broker to discuss truck choices, numbers and frequency; she decided to bring three mobile eateries to Southridge every other week. After receiving insurance documentation from the broker, Smith selected a central location with great traffic visibility for the food trucks to park.
“We asked the tenant at that end of the building if we could use their parking lot once every other week, and they were more than happy to accommodate,” says Smith. Coordinating with other management teams at surrounding industrial parks, a food truck schedule was created to provide variety for all tenants in the area.
Balancing Trucks with Tenant Interests
Randal Froebelius, president and general manager at Equity ICI Real Estate Services in Toronto, manages a property with food trucks in the neighborhood. He says the food trucks have a positive impact on tenants – even though the trucks near his building aren’t there specifically to serve his property.
The 800,000-square-foot property has its own food court, but the food trucks have been welcomed with open arms. “We view it as another amenity for our tenants,” says Froebelius. “The food trucks aren’t permanent fixtures, and they aren’t there every day,” he explains. “Because of Toronto’s weather, food trucks are only feasible during certain times of the year. But, when spring arrives after a long winter, they can offer a nice balance to food court options.”
Although Froebelius hasn’t encountered issues with food trucks located adjacent to his building, he realizes that it could present a problem for other property managers who have food service tenants. “If a food truck pulls up, and food court sales suddenly go down, you want to help your tenants,” he emphasizes. “But you don’t want to make it look like you’ve taken an amenity away from other tenants by not working with a food truck.”
If problems like this were to arise, Froebelius says he would recommend approaching the food trucks and having an open, honest discussion about the issue. When everyone works together to come up with plans and schedules that bring value to all parties, everyone – including tenants – will benefit.
A Tenant’s Perspective
Jarret Green is Ricoh site manager for Edgewell Personal Care Brands, a tenant at Cushman & Wakefield-managed Timberlake Corporate Center III in Chesterfield, Missouri. His company offers Edgewell employees a Dining Micro Market through a food services company. Twice a week, he explains, that company also brings fresh food from its kitchen into the Edgewell offices.
After conducting a recent food service survey among employees, however, feedback indicated that employees wanted more variety and more frequent fresh food service. To meet these requests, the idea of bringing food trucks to the property was hatched.
The idea for the food trucks at Timberlake Corporate Center III did indeed come directly from the building occupants, says property manager Luke Hesse. “Tenants were interested in having new choices for lunch with the convenience of on-campus service,” he explains. Before bringing any food trucks to campus, however, Hesse ensured that the vendors maintained the right insurance coverage required by Cushman & Wakefield’s management agreement.
The result? “The feedback has been largely positive,” Hesse says. “The tenants are able to enjoy a variety of different lunch options within a short walk.” Food trucks offering everything from deep-dish pizza to burritos visit the property on a rotating basis. Hesse also makes it a point to ask tenants for feedback about the food trucks; if new types of food trucks are requested, he reaches out to arrange a potential visit and gauge interest.
Green also appreciates having easy access to food he loves. “The food trucks add much-needed variety to the office’s food service options,” he says. “It also helped us provide our employees an additional amenity at no extra expense to Edgewell.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:Leah Grout Garris (www.leah-writes.com) is a freelance writer based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.l.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 issue of BOMA Magazine.