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How to Choose the Right Food Truck Equipment

How to choose the right food service equipment for your food truck restaurant

Decide on food truck menu before designing commercial kitchen

Created a food truck menu? Check. Finished writing a business plan? Done! Researched local food truck laws? Yes... Now it's time to figure out the type of equipment you need inside your commercial kitchen on wheels. Introducing ACityDiscount's Ultimate Food Truck Equipment Checklist.

Some of this food truck equipment can be found on every food truck, regardless of the menu - three-compartment sinks, hand sinks, refrigeration, cabinet storage, hot/cold water installation, flooring, prep/work tables, etc.

From there, the rest of the equipment will depend on your menu. Surely you didn't expect a BBQ food truck to be outfitted the same as a mobile yogurt business!

Ask An Expert:

Larry Rodriguez

"When I think about food truck equipment... cooking space is a premium. Do not make the mistake of buying smaller or economic equipment for the sake of saving money. All you are really doing is limiting you ability to make profit."

- Larry Rodriguez, ACityDiscount sales

Kori Peterson, above, shows off one of Inglewood Custom and Service's food truck designs from its new facility in Eastman, Ga.
Kori Peterson, above, shows off one of Inglewood Custom and Service's food truck designs from its new facility in Eastman, Ga.

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

The good news? The relatively low cost of starting a food truck business annually attracts thousands of eager entrepreneurs to the foodservice industry. The average food truck equipment budget? Depends on the complexity of the menu and the design (custom-build versus ready-made), said Kori Peterson, co-owner of Inglewood Custom and Service, an Eastman, Ga.-based company which in 2017 built about 300 food trucks.

On the low end, expect to pay about $30,000 for a new food truck. On the other end of the budget spectrum, super premium units have included a price tag of nearly six figures. 

"I always say, 'Let's price it out,' then you take that to your lending institution (or other source of investment capital)," says Kori Peterson, co-owner of Inglewood Custom and ServiceSorry, veteran restaurateurs. "If the food truck equipment price is too high, we’ll go back to the list and figure out what are the necessities, what do you need to have to execute the menu."

Ask An Expert:

Rudy Herring

"There's no set way to design a food truck's commercial kitchen except build around what you're going to serve. If you have a hot dog sausage food truck, you may want some type of steamer, or a roller griddle, or flat top; you may not even have a deep fryer on your food truck. Space is a premium."

- Rudy Herring, ACityDiscount sales

SHORT ON SPACE

Remember, in a food truck, every inch counts (granted, food trailers are more spacious than food trucks, but still tighter commercial kitchens than found in restaurants). After all, the width of your food truck walk space is a little smaller than the average door frame, and not much bigger in a food trailer. You're serving French fries, right? Are you expecting the fries to be:

  1. A low-volume menu item
  2. A popular appetizer
  3. An entrée?
Three different answers lead to three different deep fryers - and three different interior designs. A countertop fryer is perfect if you're expecting four to five orders an hour... Anything more than that, aim for a 35 lbs. deep fryer... Or, if you're planning to live in fry heaven, consider a larger deep fryer like a 50, 60 or 75-lbs. (or two of the same unit). Do you need a four-foot hood suppression system, or is a 12-foot system a better fit for your fried fish plans? "'What are you wanting to cook?' That's typically the first thing we want to know. From there, that determines your type of equipment... The equipment determines the size of the food truck or food trailer. From there, we start creating a layout."

In 2017, Inglewood Custom and Service built about 300 food trucks and food trailers. Co-owners Shannon and Kori Peterson hope to double that number in 2018.
In 2017, Inglewood Custom and Service built about 300 food trucks and food trailers. Co-owners Shannon and Kori Peterson hope to double that number in 2018.

Designing a food truck's interior is even more important than creating plans for brick-and-mortar locations. Remember we said in a food truck, every... inch... counts... Try squeezing three or four staffers in the food truck. Tight, we know! Kitchen flow is super important. Remember those French fries? Make sure you don't have to move past three employees to drop the fries under the food warmer. The ice cream cups should be near... the ice cream machine. You get our point. Buy New or Used?  "Used appliances, sure, are going to be cheaper. But, you don't always know what you're buying, or how long it's going to last. And when you’re dealing with food trucks, it's best to buy new… but when you have a budget, you may have to buy used. If you do buy used, make sure you purchase a mixture of new and used from a reputable foodservice equipment company like ACityDiscount, which examines equipment before re-selling it."
– Shannon Peterson, co-owner of Inglewood Custom and Service

You want a design that allows food to travel from food prep to cooking to holding to plating (hopefully, hundreds of times a day) with precesion... from coffee food trucks to mobile burgers businesses. What type of design works for you? Check out ACityDiscount’s Ultimate Food Truck Equipment Checklist on the top right of your screen, our collection of the most popular items built on these mobile kitchens.  

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Gary Estwick writes about the foodservice industry and the equipment that keeps it running smooth – from deep fryers to pizza ovens. He’s a fan of chargrilled oysters, Nashville-style hot chicken, cool jazz, paintball and the TV show Quantum Leap (1989-93) – in that order... He’s written for the Miami Herald, New Orleans Advocate, Austin American-Stateman, Men’s Fitness and other publications. Gary is a native of New Orleans, and lives in Atlanta. Check out his ACityDiscount articles and videos. E-mail story ideas to gestwick@acitydiscount.com. And click here to join ACityDiscount's mailing list for more food stories, tips, tricks and foodservice equipment specials!

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