It was a sunny Monday morning on Greene Street. USC student Tristan Johnson waited patiently in line at The Belgian Waffle Truck. She extended her nearly-filled punch card through the small window, sharing a laugh with Yvette Ledent, one of the food truck’s owners, about her frequent waffle intake.
Johnson is one of many students who regularly dines at The Belgian Waffle Truck whenever it’s on campus. Yvette Ledent and her husband Jean-Louis Ledent have been running The Belgian Waffle Truck for nearly eight years.
“I think it’s also cool that (USC is) helping out small businesses like The Belgian Waffle Truck,” said Johnson, a first-year political science student. “I think it’s fantastic that they’re letting them get that amount of business that they’re getting on a college campus.”
Jean-Louis and Yvette began serving USC students in August 2021. Jean-Louis said they love to be in a university city, and the smiles they serve along with their waffles are proof enough.
“Every time we come here, we are happy to come here because you know, we like young people, we like life and we’ve met a bunch of really cool (people),”Jean-Louis said with a laugh. “But no, we really have a blast. It’s really fun. That's the best job we’ve ever had, actually.”
Jean-Louis and Yvette have owned multiple restaurants throughout their lives, but they wanted to try a new business venture when they moved to Columbia.
“It’s just basically my wife and I, so we are the ones taking care of business,” Jean-Louis said. “We are proud of sharing a little bit of our culture through our food truck, because, again, if you go in our hometown, when you go (to) every corner, you have a vendor with a Belgian waffle. I mean, it’s just a part of our culture.”
Jean-Louis and Yvette are from Belgium and moved to the United States in 1988 when Jean-Louis found a job as a chef in Champaign, Illinois. After years of owning restaurants and even teaching at the University of Illinois, the couple visited Columbia, South Carolina and decided to move South.
“Here, we really had the chance to make our niche,” Jean-Louis said. “Columbia is a really attractive city and (has) a lot of opportunity ... We were really lucky to be able to open a business here in this town.”
Food trucks are a relatively recent addition to USC's Columbia campus, and students have responded very well to the new meal option. Many students that are regulars at The Belgian Waffle Truck enjoy the warm hospitality that Jean-Louis and Yvette provide along with their food.
“They’re always so personable,” said Avery Apple, a first-year nursing student. “They know me by name now because I come so many times. They’re the sweetest.”
Yvette handles the front of house with customers, while Jean-Louis cooks the orders in the kitchen.
“All our lives we worked together,” Jean-Louis said. “We work really well, we are a good team, just the two of us ... she’s awesome with the customers … I mean, she’s got that personality that the people come to her, and she smiles, and it’s a big, big plus in the business … that’s why we work so well.”
Students also enjoy going to The Belgian Waffle Truck simply because of the great food. They said they like to give business to the truck to support them as a smaller business of Columbia.
“They’re so kind, and they’re always smiling,” said Molly Conway, a first-year biochemistry and molecular biology student. "Supporting small businesses is also a great thing to do, especially when you get good food out of it. So, it’s just a good thing to support them, especially since they’re such great people.”
Many students hope that The Belgian Waffle Truck will continue to offer on-campus dining. They also hope that this will bring in more small businesses like The Belgian Waffle Truck.
“This is definitely the best experience on-campus I’ve had with service,” said Rylee Mostiller, a first-year chemistry student. “It’s probably the best food you can get here right now … I definitely think that it should be kept up with for a long time, at least as long as I’m here, so I think it’s very important that we show interest in this food truck and keep it here.”