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New food options on base

Keeping food options hot on Joint Base Lewis-McChord

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It used to be that when you thought of food on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you thought about Burger King. And while it's true that this fast food monarch still dominates in feeding troops (with the Lewis Main location ranking number one worldwide in sales for the chain), more dining options keep popping up to keep hungry foodies happy.

The recently opened Popeyes, Arby's, Jimmy Johns, and QDoba Mexican Grill - all opened just this year - are showing their popularity with strong numbers.  According to Aafes General Manager Patrick McGhee, who heads up all retail and food operations, the restaurants "are meeting all projected financial expectations."

In addition to the four new restaurants on Lewis Main, diners can expect to also see the opening of the beer-themed Sam Adams Restaurant and Brew House.  This is projected to happen before the summer, although news of that opening is not forthcoming.  And another project further down the pipeline (2017) promises to expand the Lewis Main PX and also bring in a major cinema and four new sit-down restaurants to include a Chili's.

Food trucks could potentially be the opposite side of the dining spectrum of sit-down dining.  Don't take these mobile dining facilities lightly, however: they've taken the hipster dining scene by storm one city at a time (Austin and Portland being notable in spreading this love).  And they've long been dining fixtures on JBLM-Main, though they've evolved from the "Gut Truck" days of selling nachos, cigarettes and candy bars.  McGhee joked, "at Aafes we were in the food truck business before people knew about food trucks.  In some ways we were the forerunners for this thing (the food truck trend)."

But it's a trend done differently on JBLM: here, the 15 food truck, tent and trailer operators need to adhere to stringent food safety standards, certifying with the ServSafe food safety program and maintaining that certification.  McGhee mused, of the program, "of all the tests I've taken, this is tougher than a college course."  Operators are subject to frequent health inspections.  And this is not a food-truck-specific thing.  Recently, all food operations at the McChord BX were closed as a proactive response to a potential threat; of the incident, McGhee said, "we put food safety over financial."  He also said, "we're opening concepts one at a time."

An interesting lesson from the recent food court closure was food-truck oriented: as McChord Field is a smaller than Lewis-Main, with 3,500-4,000 individuals, McGhee said, "I never thought McChord Field could support food trucks."  But the Filipino and Grilled Cheese trucks, and the BBQ trailer have been popular draws.  Another interesting phenomenon was that of individuals crossing bases to get to different trucks.  "People drive from McChord to Lewis-Main for Turkish food," noted McGhee.

"Rolling out new food trucks" is a priority to McGhee, who would like to "add food trucks, add variety."  But it's not a task to be taken on lightly.  "The first couple of months on base are tough.  We have to find somebody willing to take the risk."  And there are the hoops to jump through for starting up, not the least of which is the cost of buying a food truck (around $80,000), brand certification (if brand affiliations are needed), and food certification.  McGhee speaks encouragingly to potential operators, pointing to General (ret.) Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, founder of The Grilled Cheese Truck, as one source of inspiration.

If you're interested in adding "food truck operator" to your resumé and aren't afraid of taking those risks, McGhee encourages you to contact him directly at 253.964.5955 or email  And even if you don't have what it takes to set up a truck, you can always eat at one on JBLM.

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