Under restrictions, Net Appetit returns to campus with its future unclear

Net Appetit, the food truck that was asked to leave campus earlier this quarter under the University’s new mobile food vendor policy, has returned to Stanford, albeit operating as a delivery truck that can only take orders ahead of time.

The terms of Net Appetit’s return, according to an email from Assistant Vice President for Business Development Susan Weinstein ’72 MBA ’79, stipulate that Chon Vo, Net Appetit’s founder and operator, must take orders and payment off campus, prepare and package food off campus and deliver each meal individually to each customer in dorms or offices. If those conditions are not met, Net Appetit will be removed from campus again.

Courtesy of Philip Spiegel, Palo Alto Patch

Courtesy of Philip Spiegel, Palo Alto Patch

The University’s revised policy for Net Appetit may be more stringent than its approach to other vendors. Delivery services like Domino’s Pizza are paid in cash on campus, while delivery companies often cater large events without delivering food individually to each customer.

Vo said he was unable to reach Weinstein about operating Net Appetit as a delivery service, but ASSU Senator Viraj Bindra ’15 acted as a liaison between Vo – along with concerned students – and Weinstein

Bindra said that when he corresponded with Weinstein about rebranding Net Appetit as a delivery service, she seemed receptive to communication but inflexible about the policy.

“I don’t think she was fully able to appreciate the sense of community that Vo had built,” Bindra said. “[She didn’t believe] that it would merit at least some sort of exception.”

Under the University’s new terms, Vo can continue to serve food in his original location on Santa Teresa Street. Now, however, customers have to place their orders before coming to the truck. In the last week, campus police have visited three times to check that all food is being pre-ordered either by email or text message.

Vo emphasized that he acknowledges the need for regulation through a mobile food vendor policy, but he framed some of the delivery requirements sent to Bindra from Weinstein as unreasonable. However, he expressed general satisfaction with his accomplishments to date.

“[Net Appetit] lasted 10 times longer than I expected, so if it goes away now, personally, I will be totally satisfied because I have done my job,” Vo said.

Vo identified his primary reasons for fighting to stay on campus as his customers and the charity that receives Net Appetit’s profits, Aid to Children Without Parents, an organization in Vietnam that feeds orphans.

“I have a four-year old, and I would never worry about her being hungry in this country, but I worry about her not having the right guidance in her education,” Vo said about the University’s moves to remove him from campus.

A petition in support of Net Appetit and other displaced mobile food vendors, such as Mia’s Catering, has meanwhile continued to gain signatures.

Bindra said that he signed the petition because he disagreed with the manner in which Net Appetit’s removal was handled, despite understanding both the University’s position on the matter and Vo’s perspective.

“I’m slightly pessimistic about [the petition] having any actual impact, but I do agree with the spirit of it,” he said. “I do agree that the University shouldn’t be taking super staunch policies on things that negatively impact the community at Stanford.”

Amidst the ongoing uncertainty involving food trucks on campus, the Stanford Federalist Society hosted a talk about food trucks and economic liberty on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Stanford Law School. Lawyers and representatives of various food vendor associations spoke about food truck owners’ economic rights to sell food and earn a living.

However, Matt Geller, head of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, noted that food trucks “basically have zero rights” on a university campus.

“Stanford has the right and the power to manage its own campus, but beyond that, it should definitely listen to what students have to say,” said Bert Gall, director of the Institute for Justice’s National Street Vending Initiative. “It sounds like there’s been some real backlash, and people are going to miss the trucks that can’t be here anymore, and Stanford probably should have thought about that before contracting out to Off the Grid for the exclusive rights.”

Dan Hugo, head of the Bay Area Mobile Food Vendors’ Association, said that the Stanford community needs to work together to change University policy.

“People are not dissatisfied actively enough in large enough numbers,” he said. “Maybe there’s a unifying force behind Net Appetit.”

Despite that apparent lack of popular dissatisfaction, Vo is back on campus and looking forward to serving his regulars.

“More than anybody, I want this to end in a happy way,” Vo said.

  • Dexter

    This sounds like Weinstein signed a contract with Off The Grid and this is some crazy workaround. At least I hope that’s the case…otherwise this is the stupidest solution ever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/viraj.s.bindra Viraj Bindra

    Major kudos to Robbie & Will too in helping bridge the gaps between students, Mr. Vo and the administration. Exec & Senate tried our best to reach some sort of fair common ground.

  • James Honsa

    How is this worthy of kudos? A food truck that needs to accept preorders and pre-payment, prepare food in advance, and directly deliver food makes ZERO sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/viraj.s.bindra Viraj Bindra

    The delivery model was actually Mr. Vo’s idea initially, and at the point when we started to talk to Ms. Weinstein, he told me he preferred it to a result where he would even go back to his operational status last quarter. It is more restrictive than we had hoped for, but NetAppetit’s food has anyways always been prepared in advance at a remote location, and, as stated before, Mr. Vo preferred the pre-order/delivery system. The idea of delivering to each individual student is in my opinion, entirely infeasible, though.

  • Ben Laufer

    It’s all about the money–welcome to a changing Stanford University.

  • Bob

    I don’t get it, why are food trucks banned in the first place? Also there have been late night food trucks coming to the houses behind Flomo over the Weekend, so why are those allowed?

  • Oh Really?

    Isn’t this Robbie and Will’s fault in the first place and they are just trying to fix the mess they made? They advocated for more food truck (whoopie!) and look what they came up with.

  • Seth Pile

    The office of business affair has to make hard business choices, not
    humanitarian ones. Disenfranchising a large block of students and alumni is a
    terrible business move.

  • bonobo

    This makes absolutely no sense. The “Thai truck” was a buffet! This cannot be replicated as a delivery service.

  • Chon

    Viraj, Rob and Will helped us the most. The new food truck arrangement does bring more food diversity to campus.

  • Chon

    Stanford has 100% control in the food truck arena. In the
    delivery arena, consumers have laws and regulations that protect their right to
    place and receive orders. NetAppetit started out as an online order and
    delivery service of prepared food, hence the name. Now we revert back to our
    root of a delivery service to survive. The choices are: permanently close by the end of this month
    because we’ll be out of money or the delivery service. We require pre-order by
    text or email but not pre-payment. It’s not inconvenient because you can email one
    standing order for the semester, i.e. “order
    lunch for Monday and Wednesday at 12:30 pm for the quarter”. There is no
    penalty for missing the pick-up.

  • Chon

    The intention was great. The collateral damage was not expected. It’s much better than ZERO food truck on campus

  • Chon

    We deliver buffet catering to Stanford at least three time a week. The concept of “crowd ordering’ is as new as “crowd funding” but it’s definitely a new reality made possible by new technology.

  • Daily Editor
  • Robert Gulotty
  • Anon E Mous ’11

    can you give us the email address and or text phone number to order?

  • chon

    text to 408-707-6507 or email standing order for the quarter at chowbow2@gmail.com
    chow=eat bow=buffet on wheels

  • Chon

    please sign the petition to help Mia

  • bittergradguy

    There were already several food trucks on campus, many of them have been forced to change their routes. I fail to see you point since the new food truck policy hasn’t resulted in any new food trucks for grad students.

  • anon

    There are new Off-The-Grid food trucks coming to Lomita Mall weekday lunchtimes. Different truck each day of the week. It’s all listed on foodtrucks.stanford.edu .

  • anon

    This is not Robbie and Will’s fault. Robbie posted on the Facebook group “Stanford Campus Food Trucks” (in comment to Chintan Hossain’s post): “Hi
    everyone, we’re with you – we like Net Appetit, too. Unfortunately, the
    ASSU had nothing to do with their removal from campus; rather, the
    University was already in the process of reviewing its food truck policy
    when Will and I started to work on bringing food trucks to campus
    during late-night hours. We have no jurisdiction over lunch, nor have we
    ever done anything to see them no longer welcomed on campus.” (I am NOT related to ASSU, just wanting to get the facts straight)

  • Chon

    Without Will and Rob effort there would be no food truck on campus, old or new, by now

  • LameO

    Why would a Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association talk about a Northern California university policy?