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Monday, March 20, 2023

Wonder Food Trucks Bring Meals And Debates To Maplewood

During the pandemic last spring, the Wonder food truck idea supplied residents of multiple North Jersey communities with a fresh prepared dinner, but as the company grows, some have “wondered” about the benefits and drawbacks of having chefs cook meals in trucks on North Jersey’s residential streets.

Last year, the firm, which was founded by Marc Lore, the former CEO of Walmart eCommerce and the creator of Diapers.com, presented its first trucks in Westfield, a popular neighborhood. Residents in the neighborhood argued the results in the Patch comments section.

Some complained about the loud trucks, while others praised the cuisine.

In the comments section, a Patch reader said, “The taco meal for 4-5 people nourished us for days.” “And there’s the pepperoni thick-crust pizza, hot and fresh and crispy where you want it… This is, in my perspective, a triumph on so many levels.”

In response to the discussions, the firm stated that they had worked hard to form partnerships with town authorities and local eateries to ensure that the trucks are a benefit rather than a detriment in local areas.

The firm has opened in Maplewood (in February) and South Orange (in March) in the last two months (in March).

Livingston, Millburn/Short Hills, Westfield, Garwood, Mountainside, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Summit, Springfield Township (Union County), New Providence, Watchung, Berkeley Heights, Kenilworth, Union Township (Union County), Chatham Borough, Chatham, and Madison are among the towns where the trucks now operate.

Residents in Maplewood “wondered” if the lunches would remain inexpensive when the trucks came, but the pricing appear to be acceptable for the time being.

One user said, “The truck is out there for a good 15 minutes or more before the chef gets to your house.” “I could tell when I ordered a rib roast that it had just come out of the kitchen. As I previously stated, this is a step up from take-out… We were shocked by how reasonable the costs are.”

According to corporate executives, the strategy benefits local eateries rather than hurting them.

According to a spokesman, Wonder’s Envoy service allows clients to place an order for pickup or delivery with a participating restaurant and charges 15%, or half the rate of services like Doordash.

“Where we deliver meals from local restaurants, we are creating great connections with neighborhood business owners and helping them generate more money, while continuing to serve and expand their consumers,” said Andrew Gasper, the company’s chief governance officer.

He said, “We are committed to becoming great community partners, collaborating with local government and citizens… Our culinary equipment is now powered by all-electric fuel cell generators, with the intention of eventually transitioning to an all-electric fleet. Our culinary commissary is LEED certified, and we offset all of our carbon footprints for our mobile restaurants.”

He also stated that cooks, engineers, and drivers are hired from the local community.

While Westfield eateries were concerned about competition from Wonder last year, Bob Zuckerman, the director of Downtown Westfield, told the Asbury Park Press earlier this month that the firm has shown to be a “wonderful neighbor.”

The firm said at the end of last year that by the end of 2022, it wanted to expand from 60 vehicles to over 1,000.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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