“The idea literally came to me in a dream,” said co-owner of WesWings Ed Thorndike ‘89. “I woke up at four in the morning with a dream that WesWings had catering trucks around campus—I lay in bed thinking about it for an hour.”
His dream will soon become a reality, thanks to Thorndike and his wife Karen Kaffen’s plans to launch an eco-friendly food truck next fall that will run on used fryer oil from WesWings. The idea is in the planning stages, but there will be a meeting sometime next week to get student input on the truck’s menu, as well as how to convert the truck from diesel-powered engine to one run on grease. They also would like to have students decorate and paint the truck.
Although they had not considered expanding the WesWings brand before, the idea made sense to the owners.
“At UConn, where I went, there were food trucks everywhere,” Kaffen said. “When he brought it up, I thought it was something we could do here.”
Soon after, the owners realized that the oil their restaurant uses to fry their beloved wings could be recycled as a fuel source for the truck. Cooking oil is a bio-fuel that’s sustainable and renewable, which is why many students are in favor of the idea.
“I think being sustainable is a good idea,” said Liz Holden ’11. “I’ve always wondered what they do with the waste. WesWings has a small seating area, so if there were new ways to expand, it would be great. I don’t go to WesWings that often since I live on Foss, so if they had a truck I would probably go more.”
After speaking with some other business owners, Kaffen and Thorndike learned that converting a diesel engine to running on restaurant grease would not be difficult. The owners plan to buy the truck over the summer and then make the conversion.
The two were already taking steps to be more environmentally friendly at WesWings and Red and Black Café by reducing packaging waste and encouraging recycling, but this will be the first time they use biofuels. They hope to use the truck as an educational tool, with possibly plans to include local produce and add solar panels.
Although the details have not been determined yet, the owners’ vision is for the truck to reach underserved locations on campus, such as athletic events near Long Lane Farm or Andrus Field, and areas on the Center for the Arts side of campus. The truck’s hours and route are still up for debate, but according to Thorndike, it will also include trips into Middletown. For many students, these details are important.
“I would probably eat from it more if it was running at night because I like WesWings food better than Usdan late night,” said Vivian Foung ’12.
The truck, which they plan to have up and running in time for Homecoming weekend next year, will accept cash, credit and possibly Middletown Cash—the owners have not spoken to the University yet about accepting points. They are looking to employ students and are open to student input on the truck’s menu, which will offer some of the most popular items from WesWings, as well as brand-new options.
Kaffen and Thorndike already have a tentative name picked out for the venture in the grand campus tradition of “Wes” prefaced monikers: WesWheels. As a convenient stop for students with an eco-friendly mission, the truck has the potential to become a popular option for the legions of Middletown’s hungry, yet un-served streetside diners.