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Aug 30, 2014

Starting Your Own Mobile Food Truck Business

Posted: Apr 29, 2010

There has been interest building with mobile food trucks over the past few years as dedicated chefs and inspired gourmet cooks seek new avenues in which to bring their favorite recipes to market. Many of these new entrepreneurs cite the lower operating costs of mobile food trucks as a means to enter the foodservice business, as well as the truck's ability to connect and serve food directly to their customers. Increased popularity in social media has created a free and effective conduit for marketing and advertising these unique mobile businesses. In previous years the food truck was considered to be limited in terms of food quality and choice (aka "roach coach") but today many are being infused with a fresh approach to modern creative cuisine.

The mobile food truck resurgence started in Southern California with the humble taco truck. Taco trucks have been a fixture of the vibrant food scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco for many years. A hybrid of these trucks known as Kogi BBQ set off the current splash of interest and enthusiasm for innovative street food. Kogi BBQ is known for its Korean/Mexican fusion tacos but created waves with their use of Twitter to post their truck's location onto the web. Within a relatively short time they managed to garner quite a large following of eager fans looking for the truck's next location.

Getting Started

Conventional wisdom points to acquiring a suitable vehicle. Most taco trucks are step vans with at least a sixteen-foot storage area behind the drivers seat. Less room will limit the ability to install needed equipment and sinks. Generally the shorter step vans work well as ice cream trucks or vehicles that would be solely selling pre-made food products.

Just remember that when you sell food to the public, you will need a Foodservice permit, which can be obtained from your local county health department in the city where you live. Generally, you can make food wherever you want as long as you are preparing it in accordance with established health code standards and in sanitary facilities. The health department will more than likely require you to have a dedicated hand washing sink, and often a three compartment sink with ample drain boards.

The sink will also need to be large enough to submerge your largest cooking utensil. They will also require you to have a water heater with the ability to supply 140F water at all times. Work surfaces will need to be non-porous, and refrigeration will need to be up to health codes. In addition, it would be wise to check to see if food trucks are even permitted in your city before you decide to purchase anything.

All of the same health and safety regulations that are required in a traditional brick and mortar commercial kitchen also apply to a mobile food truck. If ovens, fryers, or grills are to be used, an adequate fire safety system must be installed. These measures usually require a ventilated grease hood with a fire suppression system, but check your local fire codes to be sure on the specs that you are required to follow.

Food Preparation

With regards to food preparation, while there usually is a final prep area in the truck, it is often also a requirement to also maintain an inspected brick and mortar commercial kitchen to serve as a staging area for your mobile unit. Fortunately, there are kitchens that you can rent by the hour and also maintain rental space for ingredients. These places are not inexpensive and you do need to know exactly how long it will take you to prepare what you need so you can plan your budget accordingly.

Equipment Overview

Today's mobile food trucks can range from simple affairs stocked with basic equipment to vend foods such as ice cream, nachos, and hot dogs to being a fully functional commercial kitchen on wheels complete with ovens, deep fat fryers, griddles, coolers, and reach-in freezers.

The list to transform your everyday run-of-the-mill step van into a mobile kitchen on wheels will be as extensive as your menu. Considerations must be made with regards to a power source and adequate fuel for the equipment. Most trucks utilize a portable generator to provide power for the coolers, freezers, lighting, and exhaust hood. LP gas canisters are often mounted at the rear of the vehicle to provide gas for the grills and deep fryers. Both freshwater and graywater tanks to supply and store water for the sinks need to be installed. A hot water heater is essential to provide water for warewashing.

Once your truck is outfitted with the cooking, cleaning and serving equipment for your menu, and you have been issued correct permits, you will be ready to hit the streets and enjoy the benefits that only running your own mobile foodservice truck can provide. ACityDiscount can help you navigate the often confusing waters of equipment purchasing by providing a wide range of foodservice equipment to complement your mobile food service business.


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