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Sergeant Bluff-Luton high school students get inside scoop on food industry

Sergeant Bluff-Luton high school students get inside scoop on food industry

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Pop Up Bros

Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School students Brenden Hanner and Chandler Belcher present their concept for a food truck called The Pop Up Bro's, during a ProStart Restaurant Concept competition held at the school on Thursday. Area judges chose a concept, based upon cuisine, marketing, floor plan and design, that will advance to a state competition. State winners will then be eligible for the National ProStart Invitational held in Washington, D.C., in May. 

SERGEANT BLUFF -- Don't be surprised if you see a Pop Up Bro's food truck popping up on a campus near you.

At least that's the hope of Chandler Belcher and Brenden Hanner, who are both Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School students in a ProStart class taught by family consumer science teacher Andrea Kuhl.

Belcher and Hanner were pitching an idea for a mobile restaurant that specializes in snack foods like crepes, doughnuts, deep-fried Oreos and "extreme"-flavored soda pops, to a panel of industry insiders at a restaurant concept competition held Thursday at the school.

The Pop Up Bro's was one of the eight ideas proposed by students in Kuhl's ProStart 1 class.

[Read more: Bryant Elementary kids learn about nutrition, one veggie at a time.]

Established to develop the best and brightest in tomorrow's restaurant and hospitality leaders, ProStart is a national program for high school students created by the National Restaurant Association and implemented in Iowa by the Iowa Restaurant Association.

"Working in groups, my students had two weeks to develop a concept, a floor plan and a decor for either a freestanding or mobile restaurant," Kuhl explained. "Each plan is evaluated by our local judges and the winning concept will advance to the statewide contest in Des Moines on Feb. 26."

State winners will then advance to the National ProStart Invitational May 8-10 in Washington, D.C.

With attention placed on everything from cuisine, target marketing and realistic kitchen design, the restaurant concept competition combines elements of such TV shows as "Chopped," "Shark Tank" and even "Kitchen Nightmares."

Thankfully, the judges -- Cathy Bishop, owner of Aggie's in Sergeant Bluff; Deni Winter, director of marketing for Lunchtime Solutions of North Sioux City; Karrie King, career and industry recruitment specialist for Western Iowa Tech Community College; and senior ProStart students Sophia Yudka and Kia Brenden -- were much more diplomatic than Gordon Ramsay of "Kitchen Nightmares."

Still, judges peppered Belcher and Hanner on the business viability on a food truck specializing in snacks as opposed to meals.

Similarly, Brunch Munch -- a breakfast and lunch truck concept created by Brock Belcher and Ashton Foister -- underwent scrutiny from Aggie's Bishop.

"You said your food truck will be on college campuses and you'll give a discount on customers wearing school clothing," she said. "Well, I went to Texas A&M University, where students wore Aggie colors all the time.

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"You'd end up giving food away if you're not careful," Bishop warned.

Similarly, WITCC's King uncovered a flaw in the marketing plan for Hector Hermosillo's The Usual Mex food truck.

"It sounds like you're not taking advantage of social media platforms like Facebook when it comes to advertising or promoting your specials," she said. "Facebook gives you more bang for your buck."

Overall, the judges were impressed by the concepts laid out by Kuhl's students.

That was especially true for Bishop, who appreciated the exacting nature of the restaurant concept from food to marketing to function.

"I wish there had been competitions like this when I started Aggie's 25 years ago," she said. "It really forces you to think and rethink what you want from your business."

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