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Hungry Workers Find Food Can Travel


When your workplace is in the midst of a community, there are usually lots of places to go out for lunch. When your workplace is in the relative isolation of an office park, it's a less convenient proposition.

Most office-park workers carry their lunches and eat them in grassy outdoor areas. Offices routinely have microwave ovens so employees can warm food from home.

Mobile food vendors have stepped in to bridge the gap between brown-bagging and lunch in a restaurant.

Fiesta Catering has more than 60 canteen trucks bringing food to the famished.

"The trucks make anything that you could purchase in a well-run coffee shop. You can get anything, from a cup of coffee to a fried steak with mashed potatoes and corn with a salad, and a whole bunch of things in between," said Dave McCollam of Fiesta Catering.

The trucks have regularly scheduled routes and "typically you serve the same people every day at the same time," McCollam said.

Not all office parks depend on the trucks; a few have lunch spots of their own, operated by independent tenants. The Carlsbad Research Center has leased out three spaces to delis.

Linda Fiamengo, owner of California Cafe & Deli, has been in business for about a year.

"I have a bachelor's degree in industrial psychology, and in this business I think it helps," Fiamengo said.

One of her customers is Art Kohrmann, operations manager of Intelligent Medical Systems. "I come here when my boss is yelling at me," he said. "It's like having a great therapist or a great bartender."

Although smoked turkey is her No. 1 seller, Fiamengo said that food isn't the deli's only draw. "There aren't elevators or lobbies for people to meet each other out here, so a lot of times I have men ask me, 'What's her name?' or 'Who's that over there?' "

Like the canteen trucks, 9 to 5 Gourmet Office Snacks and Gifts has routes throughout North County. Its 10 trucks make regular stops, and its carts carry more than 100 items. In addition to snacks, the 9 to 5 carts carry several items suitable as gifts.

"When we walk into an office it's break time, it's fun time, and, after we leave everyone goes back to their routine, but now they're happy and content," said Edna Loeb, who founded the company eight years ago.

Freshly baked cookies, licorice sticks, peanut butter cups, sour balls and eight kinds of trail mix are among the treats offered.

"When I first started, I sold only health-food snacks. It did not fly," said Loeb. "People would rather go work out than not eat malted milk balls."

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