ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- As 11 a.m. approached on a day some time in the making, the small group that had gathered in the Main Auditorium parking lot quickly grew.
The sound of a nearby generator drowned out the sound of rumbling tummies as dozens of patrons lined up, awaiting their turn to try the wraps, nachos and sandwiches offered by the latest addition to Arnold Air Force Base.
The Crazy Daises food truck has been in operation at Arnold since Aug. 14, providing personnel with another lunch option and offering a convenient option to those who work on the other side of the base from Café 100 in the Administration & Engineering Building.
“We’ve had a lot of people thanking us for being here, saying ‘We’re glad you’re here,’ or ‘We’ve been waiting for something like this,” said Crazy Daisies owner Annette Watson.
Barbara Stewart, director of the Arnold AFB Services Office, said her involvement in the search for the type of service now offered by Crazy Daisies dates back to 2015, when she first began her current role.
Short lunch breaks and their locations on base often left some personnel with a difficult decision about what to do for lunch. A trip to Café 100 or traveling off-base came with the risk of not returning to the work station on time.
Senior leadership at Arnold was aware of the lunchtime dilemma many at Arnold faced and asked Stewart to find an option for workers on the “far side” of the base. She was also asked to try and locate an option for those working second shift.
“Services opening another area was not feasible based on cost and hiring difficulties,” Stewart said. “So, we started looking for a food truck option. We had reached out to several different individuals over the years, but none worked out.”
That would change at the beginning of this year, when members of the Junior Force Council at Arnold referred Services to the owners of the Manchester-based Crazy Daisies deli. The Services Office also received the name of another food truck from a different source. The office reached out to both businesses.
“When going through the requirements for being on base, Crazy Daisies accepted the conditions,” Stewart said. “The other food truck owner determined it was not a good option for them, however we have received the names of three other interested businesses, so we will be contacting them as well.”
Ensuring that as many as possible have access to an option located within the confines of the base was a primary reason for the move to contract with Crazy Daisies.
“We know only about 400 people per day use the Café, but there are over 1,400 people on base during any given duty day,” Stewart said. “Therefore, there are over 1,000 people who weren’t being serviced, most likely due to the inability to get to the Café, get food and get back to their duty location in their 30-minute lunch period.
“While Services has increased throughput at the Café with the addition of a second cashier, the hotline and salad bar to augment the grill and sandwich bar, there is still the travel time to Building 100 and the ability to access it. The access requirements to enter Building 100 presented a difficulty for some of those on base. So the food truck option allowed for flexibility.”
The food truck is located in the parking lot shared by the Main Auditorium and the Ascend Federal Credit Union branch at Arnold.
“We chose to keep it on the side of the base that is not being easily serviced by Café 100,” Stewart said. “We felt it was an area people knew, which had parking capabilities and an area to the side of the parking lot with trees where picnic tables could be set up in the event people wanted to eat there.”
The Crazy Daisies truck is open at Arnold from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and, until further notice, from 6:30-8 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Crazy Daisies is under contract with the Arnold Services Office for a period of one-year. At the end of that period, both Crazy Daisies and the Services Office will review the contract to determine if it will continue or if changes need to be made.
Per the contract, second shift operations are to continue for a three-month trial basis. If second shift business fails to be cost-effective during this period, Crazy Daisies will have the option of discontinuing second shift operations.
“If demand is there, the truck will continue to operate after the three-month test,” Stewart said. “We put the three-month test into the mix in order to not require them to continue operations if it is not profitable for them.”
There was a food truck on Arnold AFB in the early 2000s that was ran by the contractor who, at the time, operated the main cafeteria and café. The long-awaited return of such a service was a welcome sight for many at Arnold.
Thomas Bender, a turbine engine test analyst, was among those who visited the Crazy Daisies truck during its first day on base. He said there has been a high demand among personnel for such food options at Arnold, adding the truck is more convenient than other options due to its proximity to the Engine Test Facility.
“I would utilize this as much as possible,” he said.
Joseph Bedell, also turbine engine test analyst at ETF, also purchased lunch from Crazy Daisies on its first day at Arnold. Bedell also said personnel have clamored for another food option on base.
“Having a food truck on base was always something that we hoped for,” he said.
Like Bender, Bedell said lunch breaks often involve going to Café 100 or traveling off-base. The latter option, he said, often leaves employees pressed for time. He said the food truck provides greater convenience, as it is located just down the street from ETF.
“The food we had was pretty good for the money, so we will definitely be back,” he said.
Watson said lines remained long throughout the first week of operation, adding that the Crazy Daisies menu will change frequently to keep customers happy by regularly offering new choices.
“I want to offer them what they would like,” she said.
Watson said she attempted to set up an online store and text message service prior to the arrival of her business at Arnold in order to expedite customer orders. Cell service issues have limited the effectiveness of this effort but, once the issues are ironed out, information on how to pre-order lunches will be provided.
Prior to this new addition, Stewart said the Services Offices had taken other steps to improve the option already in place, mentioning the hotline added to Café 100 in May 2016 and salad bar added the following February. To further speed up the experience for customers, a second register was added.
“These allowed those who were further away from Building 100 to literally walk in and walk out with their meal,” Stewart said. “Prior to these additions, it usually took 10-20 minutes for customers to receive their meals, greatly reducing their ability to eat their lunch within their prescribed meal times.
“We are always looking for ways to increase our quality and provide outstanding service to our customers, but we know we are limited by the distance to Building 100 so that was another driving force behind finding a food truck. We want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get a meal when they need it, but with our limited resources we couldn’t do that in-house.”
For a menu for the Crazy Daisies food truck, visit https://squareup.com/store/crazy-daisies-express/.