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Three Essential Tips When Buying a Food Truck at Auction

Thinking about trying to save money on a food truck by attending an upcoming auction? Be sure to read our three essential tips before making your first bid. These tips will not only help save you money, but they will help you avoid investing in a vehicle that you won’t ever be able to use.

As a general rule of thumb, food trucks aren’t easy to find at auction sales either online or offline. Food trucks aren’t like cars, tractors, or antiques that have a niche audience of regulars that attend all the local events looking for deal. If you are able to find truck up for auction there will likely only be a single unit for sale at any given event. Most of the time there won’t be any mobile kitchens up for sale so be sure to check with the auctioneer in advance if possible to see if they have any coming up for sale.  Before we get into what to look for in a food truck at auction, let’s outline the different types of auction sales you’ll encounter on your quest.

There are four basic categories of auction sales: 

Public auction sales: These are open to the public and you may see them advertised online, in your community, or a local newspaper. Often public auction sales will fit a certain theme. Some focus on used farm equipment and attract farmers. Others primarily sell antiques and attract collectors. Your best bet to find a food truck at public auction is to find an event that is selling a wide variety of trucks / trailers or selling restaurant equipment. Although it’s unlikely, there could be a food truck that gets thrown into the mix. You may need to pay a small fee to attend these events, but other than that anyone is welcome. Don’t feel obligated to make a purchase just because you decide to attend an auction like this. In fact, it’s a great idea to attend and observe an auction sale to see how these events work if you’ve never been before.

Police auction sales: Vehicles you acquire at a police auction come as is and sales are usually final. If you discover later that something is broken, you’re out of luck and it’s your responsibility. Most police auctions will have preview inspection hours (PIH) at a certain time so be sure to take advantage of those to inspect inventory before making a bid. Police take property including cars and trucks under their control in situations where the car was owned by a drug dealer or other felon or a used police vehicle. There are hundreds of other reasons that these vehicles could be sold though. If your intent is to find a food truck this is not the best case to find one. You would need to get extremely lucky. Here is an example of the police auction website for Los Angeles. Google your city name + police auction to find opportunities near you.

Charity Actions: Sometimes charity auctions are held to help raise money for a certain cause or individual in need. With charity events you will typically see a list of items up for auction well in advance of the event. Feel free to steer clear of these events if acquiring a food truck is your goal.

Estate Sales: Estate sales are usually held when an individual passes and their family decides to sell the property for cash. Unless the individual family operated a food truck or concession business, you won’t find a vehicle here either. If the family owned a few restaurants it’s also possible they owned a food truck too and it could be worth attending in that instance.

bobo's que

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Food Truck at Auction

Come Prepared. Making an investment in a food truck is a major expense, even if it’s at an auction. You’ll want to make sure to take advantage of the auctions preview hours to inspect the vehicle before it goes up for sale. We recommend that you bring someone with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing experience to the event so that you can get their feedback on those aspects of the build. Just about anywhere you decide to operate within the United States will have strict build requirements so even if you get a “good deal” right away you may discover that you need to invest thousands in getting the vehicle up to health code requirements for your area.

It’s also recommended that you bring some basic gear like a flash light so that you can get underneath the vehicle and inspect everything and the inside cab of the vehicle. The lighting may not be the best at the auction location so bringing along a flash light can make things easier.

Understand The Lingo. There is a bit of specialized language that can be intimidating if you’ve never been to an auction before. Here is a great list of auction terminology that you should print off or save on your phone before the event to use as a reference. Remember that in most auctions all sales are final after the “sold” announcement is made. You are generally able to withdraw your bid at any time before this happens without penalty, however.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best of You. It can be easy to get caught up in the competitiveness and excitement of an auction only to discover a few short hours later that you have buyer’s remorse. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you make sure you establish limits on the maximum amount of money you plan to spend on a food truck. You also need to understand what your needs are with a food unit. If you plan to serve Italian coffee, purchasing a food truck that was used to sell burgers may not make sense.

If you’re in the market for a food truck, don’t hesitate to view some of our past builds at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks. Unlike an auction, we provide support after the sale and make sure you get a custom built vehicle designed to your exact specifications. Contact us for a no obligation quote. 

Can You Install an Awning on a Food Truck?

Can you install an awning on a food truck or concession trailer? Of course you can! Awnings are a functional way to differentiate your concession unit by providing some much needed shade to customers that are waiting for food on a hot day. Awnings can also be used to create a makeshift dining area for customers as well. Best of all, when it’s time to move to the next vending location these awnings can be retracted automatically by request making break down faster and easier.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we can install any type of custom awning you have in mind for a concession trailer. Here are some popular examples of use cases for this important piece of equipment:

Dining Area

You can make a nice makeshift dining area with addition of an awning. The example below is installed onto a shipping container, but the same functionality applies to a concession trailer as well. If you don’t want to haul around chairs and tables while you moving from location to location you can easily position a picnic table underneath or attractive folding chairs.

dining area

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com.

If you do want to pull this off keep in mind that you’ll need an awning large enough to offer shade to at least one set of a least one table an chairs. About 42 inches wide and 82 inches extended is the smallest awning size you would want with this goal in mind.

You’ll also want to install a shade cover that is designed to withstand the rain or direct sunshine. A material made from PVC lined polyester is a good option for this. We also recommend you only install an awning that is both waterproof to ensure a longer-lasting product and offers UV protection.

Improved Customer Experience / Marketing

On hot summer days, a short break from the heat can be just what you need to get yourself energized. This ice cream truck from Ben and Jerry’s does just that offering shade to customers looking for a cool down. Not only is this awning functional, but it serves some important marketing purposes as well.

Photo Credit: www.benjerry.com

The ribbon flair at the end of the shade cover reminds you of a classic old-school ice cream shop. This helps promote the truck as well by letting people know there are “free scoops” of ice cream to be had. That’s a pretty strong call-to-action!

Considerations

Before you go out an get an awning installed on your own concession trailer, here are a couple of important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Marketing: What colors, images, or logo would make this awning match the rest of your vehicle? The goal is to make the awning look and operate like a natural part of your unit, not an after thought. In addition to coloring and logos consider adding text that let’s prospective customers know what to expect.
  • Size Options: As mentioned earlier, if you plan to install a dining cover area you’ll need a larger awning at least 42 inches wide and 82 inches extended. You may discover that a custom size is needed to fit your specific food truck or trailer and that is something we can help you determine for your vehicle.

Funnel Cake Concession Trailer Business Startup Report

funnel-cake

Classic Funnel Cake Concession Trailer.

If you’re looking for a concession business that performs well at state fairs, county fairs, or just about any summertime event, funnel cake is a proven treat that has been enjoyed by fair goers for almost a century. No doubt you’ve tasted this fried, crispy, and sweet dessert that is one of the most popular food items you can purchase at fairs across America.

Although it is considered a classic American dessert, the funnel cake first broke out on the scene at the Kutztown Folk Festival in 1950. This is a festival that promoted Dutch Culture in Pennsylvania and helped introduce the dessert to a larger audience and group of journalists that enjoyed the treat. Fast forward about 7 decades after this event and the funnel cake continues to be enjoyed across the United States.

tasty funnel cakeThe Business Side of Funnel Cake

There are a few key ingredients that make an attractive concession business. First you need a product that people desire. Check on that with funnel cake as folks have been enjoying it for over 7 decades.

Second, you need to have a product that can be produced quickly and in a small mobile space like a concession trailer. Funnel cake was created just for fairs. You can make the batter ahead of time if you would like, then just insert it into hot oil through a funnel so you get those beautiful, soft and crunchy curls.

Finally, you need a product that has good margins. Another way to put it is that you want to sell a food product that leaves you with some healthy take home profit after each sale. Fortunately, funnel cake can be produced extremely affordably. There are only seven ingredients total that you will need to make funnel cake aside from any extra toppings. Each of the ingredients like milk and eggs are affordable and can be acquired anywhere in the United States. We’ve included the list of ingredients below.

Funnel Cake Ingredients

  • Frying oil
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sifted Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt
  • Powdered Sugar

Extra Toppings

One of the other benefits of funnel cake concession trailer is that you can add in a lot of different creative toppings. By adding toppings to your funnel cake you can also charge an additional $1.00 – $2.00 because you’re offering a premium product. Having a variety of topping options is standard for most funnel cake vendors at this point and is highly recommended since it will also increase your average order value. Here are a few popular options for toppings:

  • Chocolate
  • Strawberry
  • Carmel
  • Butterscotch

Business Challenges

Although there is a lot to like about the funnel cake business there are challenges too. For one, most big fairs already have a funnel cake vendor that has likely worked an event for several years, maybe even decades. Typically, promoters don’t like to book two vendors that sell the exact same food since crowds like diversity and the opportunity to try a variety of foods at fairs.

Still if you are persistent there are ways to overcome this challenge. One way is to keep tabs on new events or festivals that are opening up in your area. Each year there are brand new events in your area that have never happened before. As a result there are no established vendors that have claimed their territory. These are the events you’ll need to attend early on. Many of these smaller fairs will not be fruitful and you will need to consider your participation a process of elimination until you can find a well attended event. The events that are well run, well attended, and profitable you can vend at the following year. The ones that don’t pan out, you can avoid for the next year.

If you’re struggling to find events, one excellent resource is FairsandFestivals.net. Here you can browse fairs and festivals across all 50 states. Everything from craft to art shows to rock concerts are published here and is an excellent resource when just starting out.

If you are thinking about starting a concession trailer or truck that serves funnel cake, we would love to help you out. Contact us here for a no obligation quote or call M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks directly at 904-397-0246.

BBQ Concession Trailers with Bathrooms Installed Onboard

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, one shift we’ve recognized over the past 15 years manufacturing concession trailers is more vendors are requesting a bathroom to be installed within their BBQ concession trailers. Sure, determining what kind of smoker and other cooking equipment should be equipped on the vehicle still takes the priority one among pit masters, but the toilet usually isn’t far behind!

And there are a lot of advantages to doing so that both from a personal comfort level operating the trailer and from a customer service perspective as well. In this post, we will outline some of the benefits of getting a bathroom installed onboard your trailers and address some of the things to consider so you can make the right choice for your situation. We’ll also show you some examples of trailers with bathrooms installed right onboard.

 

Bathroom Benefits

When you’re a BBQ road warrior traveling from event to event, it’s nice to have some of the creature comforts of home such as your own private toilet. Depending on the type of event you’re at the facilities can be a mixed bag. A porta potty isn’t always the most sanitary or comfortable place to spend your time and public bathrooms at fairs are often cleaned infrequently or have long lines during peak times.

In addition to personal comfort and convenience, there can be benefits to the perception of your customers as well. No customer wants to see the individual that served or cooked their food in the bathroom or leave a portable toilet without an option of immediately washing their hands. Not very appetizing is it! Having a bathroom installed onboard prevents this from being an issue.

Overall having a bathroom installed onboard your BBQ trailer is not a difficult enhancement. In fact, the process is nearly identical to putting one into an RV. But there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind that we will cover below.

Things to Consider

Before you install the most immaculate thrown inside your trailer, there is one important factor to keep in mind. How much space are you willing to dedicate to having a bathroom installed onboard? This is extremely important when operating within a limited space on a trailer. In the past, we’ve installed bathrooms on Ford Transit vans because it worked with the menu and food concept of the vendor, but it wouldn’t work for everyone. If you plan to install a bathroom, make sure you remain satisfied with the amount of space you have available onboard for prep and can install the refrigerator, cabinets, and other equipment you need to operate.

Unlike in this RV, you may want to conserve space on your concession trailer for cooking space.

Unlike in this RV, you may want to conserve space on your concession trailer for cooking space.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we create custom blue-prints of food trucks and trailers prior to any build so you can view exactly how much space each piece of equipment will consume and provide our feedback on whether or not that’s enough space.

Ultimately the decision is yours how much space is sufficient and much of this will depend on your preferences and situation. If you’re under 6 feet tall and have a smaller frame, then you might be comfortable with less open space in the trailer than a larger person.

Although it can be hard to imagine when you’re still in the draft process of a BBQ trailer, you should also try to imagine yourself spending a lot of hours inside the truck. When you’re vending at special events it won’t be uncommon for you to be inside the vehicle for eight hours or more per day for a period of many months or years. That’s a significant chunk of a time! Many people can take working in a cramped location for a little while, but it can become a real pain point after a few months. You will want to be comfortable while you do your work, which is why we harp on this point.

Finally, in addition to making sure you have enough open space and cooking equipment space, you will want to make sure the bathroom is an acceptable size. Again, you don’t want to install a full-size bathroom like the one in your home because that would take up too much space, but you also want to make sure you can get inside of it comfortably. We’ve seen bathrooms installed in trailers that are only about 2 feet wide, which leaves a bit to be desired in terms of comfort.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, installing a bathroom on a BBQ trailer is nearly identical to having one on an RV. If you’re still trying to figure out what size or type of bathroom you would like installed, we recommend reading this post titled “Bathroom Features to Look For In Your Next RV.” Although this piece was written with the serious RV’er in mind, many of the same concerns apply to you on a BBQ trailer.

At the end of the day our goal at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks is to build the concession trailer of your dreams. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly to discuss your next build. 

How-to Determine Electrical Power Needs of a Food Truck

You will almost certainly need electrical energy for your truck, unless you plan on vending from a hot dog cart. Even then, if you want to do anything cool you’ll want to upgrade so you have power. How much power exactly will you need for your truck? That is tricky and depends entirely on the Wattage of your equipment. Let’s do a quick introduction to the physics of electricity so you understand the terminology. When we start the build process, we work with customers to determine how much power they’ll need to operate they’re specific type of business.

Understanding Watts and Volts

electric sparkWatts (W for short) are a measure of electrical power. Electrical energy is measured in units of Volts (V for short) and electrical current is measured in Amps (A for short). Electrons carry electrical charge. So current, is a gauge of the flow of electrons. Voltage is basically a measure of the electrical energy between two points. So a AA battery has 1.5 V of energy between the two poles (the top and the bottom of the battery). Your standard household outlet has 120 V between the two poles (the plug holes, bonus points if you can quote the line from Seinfeld).

Electrical power (symbolized by P) is defined as:

P=VI

You’ll notice a major discrepancy in your electrical equipment. Your generator’s maximum output is measured in Watts, but your fridge may only list the required voltage and current (or amperage) for operation. Here’s another post from the folks a New Electric that explains this topic even further. 

How Much Power Will You Need?

You’ll need to figure out how much total power you’ll need on your truck/cart. And here is how you do it:

To calculate the required wattage of any appliance, multiply its required voltage by its required current. The current should always be listed somewhere on the equipment itself (near a serial number perhaps). If your equipment is plugged into a normal household outlet you can assume it uses 120V. Otherwise, it may list the required voltage on a label or in the manual. Plugs generally only have certain voltages: 120, 125, 240, or 250 V.

Just multiply the voltage and the amps together and you get Watts. For instance, a refrigerator may plug into a 120V outlet and need 10 Amps of current. Doing the math, you should get 1200 W of power needed to operate your fridge. So you now know that you need at least a 1200 W generator. To get the total max output needed, just add up all the wattages of all the equipment on board.

Homework: Let’s say your hot water heater needs 15 amps and plugs into a normal outlet. You also have a 3000 W fridge, and an air conditioner that needs 250 V and 10 Amps. What is the total wattage of the equipment on board your truck?

When considering how much power you’ll need, you will also need to take any other removable equipment into consideration. In this case, I am talking about stuff like mixers, electric tabletop deep fryers, portable griddles, etc.

When planning your power needs definitely overshoot. A lot of food trucks could operate at 6500 W to power our onboard equipment. Still understanding that heating equipment (like tabletop fryers) eat a lot of power and that you may want to expand your menu offerings later, investing in a 10,000 W generator early on can safe a lot of money and hassle in the long run.
Pro Tip: No matter what your wattage requirement, the most current you’ll be able to draw is 50 Amps. Make sure that your main power line is rated for 50 A. You do not want it to be rated for less because the heat produced if you accidentally draw more than your power cable is capable will melt your cord and your connections.

Now you may be asking what is the cost of buying a generator? You have some options.

Solar panel generators are an option, although they do become cost prohibitive for many. Generally these systems are on the order of $1500 per kW-h (generally electrical usage is measured by watts used in an hour, here kW means 1000 W).

You can also opt to purchase quiet generators which are roughly triple the price of a standard generator. They are basically packed with tons of insulation, and the parts are rated for a higher heat tolerance, since that sound insulation also makes the engine get hotter.

Finally there are your standard outdoor portable generators. They are fairly inexpensive (depending on brand) and definitely do the job. One example of a work horse is the Generac 10kW generator. These often come with a one year warranty to replace any broken parts.

Where you buy your generator/power supply depends on the type of power supply needed. Most portable generators can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon or any hardware store. Amazon.com is another option to save a lot of money on cost of shipping and taxes. The heavier duty generators and the quiet ones will most likely need to be bought from specialized dealers in your local area. You can also check out RV dealerships and supply stores to see what options are available to you.

In fact, I highly recommend looking in the RV section of any store, or an RV supply store. Many of the products developed for RVs are perfect for food trucks because those items are built to maximize space and utility. Exactly what you’ll need to be efficient in your food truck operation.

lightOutlet Adapters

The final thing I’d like to mention regarding power is this: make sure you have different outlet adapters. I have encountered all different types of outlets. If you know there is going to be power available at any location, make sure you visit the location ahead of time and look at what is available.

I’ve had to make adapters that fit 2, 3, and 4 prong plugs that draw 15, 20, 30, and 50 A. There are so many variations, it gets downright frustrating. But there are a few standard outlets that you can count on:

  • Most generators will have a 4-prong, 50 A receptacle. It is a 14-50R type outlet, so you will need the male end (the side with the prongs) to plug in. You will also find these outlets on walls for industrial purposes. Forward thinking breweries and events will have these outlets as well.
  • Another common generator connector are the twist locking 20 and 30 A outlets. They come in 2 varieties: 3 and 4 prong. The technical standards are NEMA L14-30 and L14-20 (the 30 and 20 refer to the amperage capacity of the connector) for the 4-prong plugs which I’ve needed far more than the 3-prongs.

Most of these outlet types you can find at Home Depot. Make sure you identify if you need a male or female component, and the component type (which is always written right on the plug/receptacle face).

Always consult an electrician or professional like M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks about your power needs. Powering a food truck is no joke, and mistakes can be costly. You could start a fire or cause serious physical harm to yourself.

Please be careful!

Trending Now: Fresh Produce Food Trucks

 

frt1As we’ve all seen by now, the food truck movement has done wonders to launch the inspiration for many a mobile venture. The success of packaging your product inside an attractive large van to peddle in city streets and events has lead to the creation of mobile Fashion Businesses, Barber Shops, and of course even more food trucks. Once more this yields not just a fun and interesting new concept in the world of food delivery, but something pivotal within the health of a community.

For once we don’t have to specifically get all our amazingly fresh, local farmed produce specifically from farmer’s markets and decent co-ops. Fresh Produce Food Trucks are now popping up in various cities, parking in city streets and outside businesses to offer bunches of fresh fruit, veggies, herbs, or whatever produce is on hand. Some even come with chefs and menus to offer delicious lunch/dinner options created from these offerings, a complete double-threat! But these trucks do more than just excite us with their almost hipster-esque concepts and good food, quite a few now and many in the future are being developed and researched to deal with one of the bigger social issues that we’ve more recently discovered has been plaguing cities throughout the country, what are being called “Food Deserts.”

For those not yet aware of this phenomena, it basically refers to the many urban cities that contain absolutely nothing in terms of Supermarkets, Co-ops, Farmers Markets, or any source of business where they can acquire produce, meats, frozen food, canned food, really any kind of proper food source within a LARGE radius, keeping residents away from affordable and healthy food options. Often the only way they can get food without having to embark on more intense travel means is through gas stations/convenience stores filled with junk and restaurants, or which really just ends up meaning fast food. They are poor, horrible communities that have lead to bad living conditions and even worse health and nutrition issues for people who would probably kill to get a decent chance at acquiring real food every now and then.

But with the rising trends and popularity in food trucks, the idea and ability to create ones focusing on being a mobile marketplace is now feasible. These veggies-on-wheels startups can now drive straight into these communities to give them what they need, majorly helping to deal with this crisis and inspiring others throughout the country to research it themselves.

With baskets filled of fresh options and wonderful employees looking to make a difference, these trucks are rolling out to the delights and benefits of many. Here’s just a few examples of those helping to drive this movement.

Mill Village Mobile Market

A full farm-to-trailer in Fort Worth rather dedicated to the Food Desert issue, also setting up at local farm fresh events.


Real Food Farm

frtAn interesting operation, the Real Food Farm grows its own produce on a six-acre plot and ships it out as a mobile market in multiple trucks, its Baltimore business has slowly grown in the past seven years, and even hosts field trips for area youths to the farms.

Fresh Truck

Boston’s market-in-a-bus, customers can actually walk in and through it where everything is on display for the benefit of the populace.

frt2FoodShare’s Mobile Good Food Market

Another fleet of mobile market trucks, these ones tackling the food deserts that have popped up in Toronto, Canada.

It’ll take some time to see the effects, but we definitely hope that this trend is one that STAYS and grows to as big a movement as the original food trucks were. And with some of these places having been going strong for a few years, it doesn’t seem that unlikely. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next person in line to change your community and make a living with a vegetable van. Don’t forget to save some extra carrots for us!

If you’re considering a build for a mobile grocery truck, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 904-397-0246 with questions. 

Food Truck Exterior Lighting Options

Keeping a light on in a food truck means more than just being able to see what you’re cutting, in fact it can majorly impact your business in both garnering profits and making sure they’re not lost. Inner illumination doesn’t really apply of course, it’s a given that one is going to have it and enough of it to do their jobs. What we’re talking about today is EXTERIOR illumination; the things that kick on at night because, let’s face it, as a food truck you’re going to be spending a lot of business hours when it’s dark out.

lt5Being able to light the outside of your truck, and light it RIGHT, will make sure of a couple important things. Obviously the first is letting people know that you’re THERE and open, drawing their attention from elsewhere. Once the attention is drawn, it needs to be kept; thus the lighting should be done in an attractive way, or in a way to make sure the attractive parts of your truck are shown. Of course this also means making sure the MENU is visible too, the final part in ensuring customers are likely to come up, be entranced, and make an order seamlessly.

Not to mention the intense need to prevent theft at night; as we’ve covered in a Previous Article, if you’re unable to find a locked an enclosed space for the truck to part between shifts, it’s imperative that you at least keep it well illuminated. Though to be fair that can be accomplished by the lighting in that area, but truck illumination could help or, in the worst case scenario, provide that effect if little to no ulterior source of brightness is available. It sounds rather weak, but time and time again it’s been proved that attempts on theft are made at un-illuminated targets at a higher percentage than otherwise.

So since we know we need it, now it’s just figuring out HOW one wants to add that brightness to the outside of their vehicle. There are a few interesting options to pick between.

lt1

Fixed LED

The simplest and most versatile option on the table, this is all the easy-to-attach covered lights that shine bright. LED provides good illumination at the voltage and wattage that work well with truck electricity sources. What’s nice is that they come in various formats: dome/license plate lights, spotlights, ‘swivel’ [those long light poles that are great for hanging horizontally above a menu, covered], multi-light strips, even some interesting fold-up styles. All of which can be found big or small. These provide fixed, bright illumination over their intended areas, but otherwise aren’t adding in anything else particularly interesting or exciting.

lt6Rope and String Lights

Great for a bit of old-school flair, we’re all familiar with these kinds of lights, attached to the side of houses during the holidays and decorating the booths of many a carnival/fair vendor. The ropes are extremely flexible, being able to easily attach and wrap all around the truck to frame, highlight, or just design however you wish. The string lights are just that… lights on strings, and can also be tightly fastened into place or hung in lazy curves for rustic feel. They don’t have as MUCH illumination power as LEDs, so will need more of it to provide the same level of light as needed, but visually can be distinctly striking.

lt2Blue Lights and similar

Not the best in CLEAR illumination, but the effects can be distinct and brilliant. I know a certain coffee trailer that doesn’t have any exterior lights [that I’m away,] but packed their inside with various hidden colored LEDs so that when darkness come they just create this hip, cool effect that I still can’t wait to see in person. Now, for best effect, these colored lights should likely be used alongside regular to make sure menu and truck name can be clearly read, but at the end of the day the final desired effect is up to you.

lt4
Flood or other Standing lights

They’re tall and bulky and may be a pain to transport and set-up in different locations, but darn if they’re not great at creating an ‘area’ and ‘atmosphere’ to draw focus to your operation. Not to mention they illuminate EVERYTHING completely, even if there’s no fun design aspects to them. And if you NEED so, probably the best option for full overnight storage lighting should your area of parking be insufficient. Though I imagine they take up quite a bit of power compared to the truck-attached-options.

Windowslt3

It’s weird to say, but if your truck has a lot of windows and large, open service space/s to take advantage of natural light during the day, the bright lights from inside which one turns on at night might actually be able to extend outside enough to provide all that one needs to make sure the truck is visible [while also acting as a distinct drawing point]. Of course this will never be AS effective as any of the other options on its own, so the strategy only really works if one often parks outside an already well-lit area, like various taproom patios.

The owner of a "Food truck" poses on November 9, 2012 in Paris. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Signage

Or we could take a cue from brick-and-mortar businesses and just get a sign, or multiple signs/placards, that light up themselves. Maybe even the kind that’s made up of multiple little lights, you know like Broadway! This idea definitely hits the top of attractive/distinctive style, though rarely light up much of the area around them.

No matter what one chooses, whether it be focusing on a single light sort or a combination of a few, so long as the final result is true to your business [and stays within budget] then you are golden. Feel free to explore even further beyond the options listed here; if there are other ideas out there that appeal to you, pursue it! And always remember to talk to your Truck Builder/source about this; a good builder will likely deal with not only installation but have some fantastic ideas of themselves to offer and source so that you don’t even have to deal with the annoyance and time wasting of researching every single thing yourself just to get a few light bulbs on the outside of the truck.

Luck be to you in this aspect of your new venture, stay illuminated! And if you need help manufacturing your next food truck, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks at 904-397-0246.

 

How Much Does a Food Truck Weigh?

Let’s face it, food trucks and vending carts/trailers weigh a lot. They’re big, tricked out behemoths designed to stand out and be durable, so on their own the things get quite heavy. THEN we load them up with all manner of ranges, coolers, equipment, and food; damn if that doesn’t add some tonnage. It becomes a factor in operation, you can be sure about that. Now, is this something that you need to know and will affect our every day? Not majorly. Should you know how much your vehicle weighs in general and have it listed in a place to easily check when needed? Oh yeah.

The Importance of Knowing Weight

And why do we need to care about weight? Well, for a few reasons, but mostly for towing. Every cart and trailer needs to be hitched and towed, and even some full trucks may need towing every now and then [I won’t ask your vehicle and that other one collided, that’s your business]. But sad to say, not just everything can get towed. Whatever Truck, Van, etc that’s towing you can only handle so much; of course many can pull the heavier loads with ease, but they aren’t the only factor, as the Hitch rig that connects to your mobile op can only handle so much weight to stay stable. And whatever that’s listed at [for your specific truck and hitch combo], you don’t even want to get CLOSE to it, because that’s when risk begins. So know that, and then figure out what you can tow; or vice versa, find the weight of your truck and get the proper pull equipment.

And then there’s road weight limits, new terrain, city regulations, and who knows what random situation no one has thought up yet that may come up. Either way, it’s safe to say that you should look into it. Which, if you already have a tricked out vehicle, shouldn’t be too hard at ALL; just take a look at vehicle stats/report and the same on the truck and cooking equipment you bought. For those who have yet to buy one, and want to have an idea now or start planning on a particular ideal weight range for your needs, here are some figures to consider.

Note: These figures which we researched are considering that each of these trucks are FULLY LOADED with standard equipment. The weight on its own should be somewhere around 30-50% of what is listed.

Hot Dog Cart: 400lb… okay, this one is probably barely different before and after food and other ‘equipment’ is applied!

Standing-room Food ‘Cart’ Trailer/Coffee Cart: somewhere between 3,000-5,000lbs depending

8’x16’-ish Trailer: around 5,500lbs

8’x22’-ish Trailers: the bigger guy, these can get at least 8,000lbs

“Classic” Food Truck: the models most often seen and attributed to the idea of what ‘food trucks’ are, these come in around 16,000lbs, 12,000 on the lower end, give or take a half ton [okay I’m just guessing that] depending on exact dimensions/style.

LARGE Food Trucks and Bus-turned-Catering Vehicle: for those operations that want the size on their side, like certain pizza trucks, though it’s not often that they’re also using a proportionally larger amount of equipment as well. Final weight can vary depending, but expect a range of 19-30,000-ish lbs.

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Originally, we WERE hoping to attach a section discussing equipment weights, but considering the even HIGHER range of different, well, ranges and other things one may be loading their vending operation with, the task requirements are endless and truly depends on what you’re getting. We detail a lot of the main equipments, and links to their stat pages, Here, feel free to peruse that for further details on the matter.

Whether this all ends up helping you in the long term, we can’t say. But with luck this information will provide a little extra basis for you to refine your choices in weight and proper towing equipment, or at least gives a good reminder to check your weight, and avoids at least one annoying incident. As usual, good luck with your coming or running business!

One More Helpful Link

Food Truck Towing Basics – in depth analysis on the steps and considerations to actually towing your truck/trailer

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How Much Gas Does a Food Truck Use?

One of the main operation requirements unique to the Food Truck business, as we all can figure, is the need to travel EVERY day. A mobile operation means going from point A, the main commissary kitchen or other food prep area and truck storage lot, to point B [potentially even C, D, etc] for service day in and out. With this particular everyday action, of course, comes a daily expense we’ve all been tortured by: Gas. That most imposing of costs, hovering high in the sky above us as we drive past the station; we try to ignore it, but we can’t, needing to see what it’s changed to now in the hope that the numbers are going down when we get close to an empty tank instead of up. As a truck owner, this becomes an even more important part of your daily costs, its shiftings in amount having become some of the biggest banes to many an owner’s week. If you’re getting into the business, at some point you are likely to start figuring out what this cost might be for your needs. Towards this end, here are a few things you may want to know.

First and foremost, as we are ALL aware, the price of gasoline is ever changing on a constant basis, week to week and year to year it shifts, so putting an estimated ‘price’ on what one should expect to shell out for this is highly unlikely. Thus we are going to be thinking more in GALLONS, so that one can convert the estimates at this time towards whatever the price of fuel is when so needed.

Relying on Estimates?

If one is relying on the estimates online concerning ‘food start-up’ costs and the like, they would likely be lead to believe, through figure calculation, that they’d end up burning at least a 10-gallon tank’s worth of gas every day. Give or take. Perhaps if one was also calculating fuel used via generator [which shall be mentioned in a bit], that could be possible; I on the other hand cannot imagine that to be even close to reality unless in the notably disadvantaged position of having to drive HEAVILY long distances every day towards your parking destinations; a-la those food trucks who will drive to whole different cities if not across a nearby state border. Even with the added gas requirements that larger vehicles such as buses, hummers, and food trucks may incur, the average business which SHOULD have their food truck set up at a somewhat reasonably close[ish] location to their selling area should not be using that much fuel purely on driving every single day. Then again, there are notes that many of the BIGGER trucks are of that kind that can only get 4-5 miles to the gallon… so there is THAT.

That said, most regular food trucks will run on a rate of 10 miles to the gallon at the very WORST. And if you’re a smaller operation based out of a van or a cart being pulled by a truck, then much more regular mileage rates will of course be applied. As for distance, truly there’s no average even close to that, especially when considering just the random extra events, special seasonal locations, and other spots which a truck has to go to during the year that don’t apply towards their daily routine.

What HAS been heard, here and there, are a few average truck owners, working 25 days a month, mentioning that they’re 20 gallon tank, on average, only needs refilling once per week. Assuming the not-so-friendly-but-maybe-average scenario of a 10-miles-per-gallon tank, that’s to say an average truck stationed at a commissary somewhat ‘close’ to ‘downtown,’ or wherever, is likely driving somewhere between 30-40 miles a day, give or take. From here one can take their own situation; tank size, gas mileage, location, etc, and adjust their expected situation as it occurs.

Not too detailed I know, but that’s gas, as we know. But there ARE a few other considerations to be aware of on the subject to help reduce and calculate the costs.

Gas vs Diesel

gas3The first real factor in narrowing down what your gas costs will end up being is whether or not you do, or have, decided to choose gas or diesel as your main source. Diesel WILL be more expensive per gallon, as well as the repairs on it, HOWEVER it’s usually proven to be much more efficient and good for the vehicle and end up requiring LESS need of repairs/upkeep in the long run. Not to mention it has some nicer environmental benefits, re-using and biodynamic and all that jazz. Gas on the other hand is highly more affordable for itself, but more issues arise. Thus the question ultimately becomes whether one is willing to raise their daily and start-up cost on fuel to hopefully reduce the long-term expenses on repairs, or if they want to play it safe and greatly reduce initial costs[it’s a vital decision, as changing from one to the other after a few years can be VERY costly; the only time that’s suggested is if one started with a gas truck, found success, and expanded a food truck lineup and made THOSE diesel now that the chances of long-run success are more notable].

Generator Factor

gas2Sad to say driving isn’t the only thing that may be guzzling your fuel reserves. As a food truck, having a generator is a must to keep lights, various equipment, and other machinery running for service. Some of these function off propane, but many of you are likely to use a generator that runs on your gas or diesel.

Ultimately, there are many different models to choose from which perform differently, and the wattage required can vary heavily dependent on your truck, so it again varies. Some trucks will even just run the generator on and off for the ability to build charge. But it’s safe to say that every hour one is parked equates to anywhere between ½ – 1½ gallons of fuel [lower average for diesel, higher for gas], give or take a bit depending on situation.

Another point to be made about the diesel vs gas argument here, there have been many complaints that the diesel generators often have more of a ‘smell’ to them, but again are still more efficient than gas.

Fuel-Saving TIPS

As we’ve said, this issue is clearly quite fluctuating, but that’s not to say we can’t offer some advice on making sure YOUR situation shifts more towards the lower end of things.

First off, as with anything, MAINTENANCE. Keep your Wheel Alignment straight and make sure everything is always up-to-date; an even slightly under-performing vehicle can make it expend more effort and gas to travel. Similarly, ensure that your Tires are always inflated to the ideal level for their style.

Avoid high speeds as much as possible; 55mph at the most, it HAS been proven that anything over will start slowly reducing your fuel efficiency. Also, while driving, attempt to reduce Braking and Revving instances as much as possible; the change in speed also taking a bit more fuel. Try to use Cruise Control as much as possible to combat this on the highway.

Now, this next one is going to be difficult, especially in the summer months, but using Air Conditioning less WILL save on gas [and may be what’s contributing to the 10+ gallons of fuel a day many trucks seem to be using]. So always looks for times where you feel you really DON’T need it; open that back door and windows wide.

There are various websites like Gas Buddy which will assist in shopping around for the cheapest gas prices in your area on that day. Do certainly check these to ensure you’re always getting the best deal; almost no fuel station will continuously be better than those around, they switch for position constantly.

Finally, and yes it’s obvious, but always PLAN your route for the SHORTEST and most efficient possible.

And that’s about all that can really be said in any definite way; until you as an owner makes the final decisions on vehicle, parts, how far and how often you have to drive during your business, only general assumptions can be made. Hopefully though, this has helped center your thoughts to easier focus on what’s important when calculations come into play. For a final gift, here are a couple Article Links that may also come in handy.

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Carolina Villar pumps gas on February 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Reports indicate that gas pump prices are at their highest level on record for this period of the year and may be an indication that the year ahead may see even higher records. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Those Finicky Gas Prices – a little run down on gas calculations and other important considerations given by Small Food Business.

How Much Fuel do You Need to Run a Generator? – A little breakdown on some average estimates for the main generator types by Consumer Reports.

Choosing a Food Truck Generator – getting into the Wattage, Amps, and other information to be considered when buying the generator which will be contributing to your gas useage. Supplied by Food-on-a-Truck

RAM Sprinter Style Van Food Truck with Low-Profile Hood

Recently there has been a trend towards smaller, even more mobile food trucks. These smaller sprinter-style vehicles can have a few advantages to the business owner: 1.) They are easier to navigate and can be parked in smaller spaces. 2.) If you need to drive frequently for either catering gigs or deliveries, the savings in fuel cost could be in the thousands of dollars per year.

This recent build is one such example of a RAM Sprinter Style van food truck with a low-profile hood. As you can see in the video below, the concession window and shelf is built into the right-hand rear side of the vehicle. From the outside, you may not expect this vehicle to look all that different than any other van. But just wait until you see the inside!

As we move to the interior, you start to see the type of equipment and cooking capabilities that are available inside this van. As we open the sliding doors, you can see the broiler and hood system that will be used for cooking.  As we move into and closer to the rear of the van you see the refrigerator, fire suppression system, propane water heater and of course the 3-bay sink, which is a health-code requirement to operate legally in most locations.

Is This the Right Size For You?

As you can see in the video, a sprinter van can be efficiently converted into a mobile food unit and have everything you need to refrigerate and cook your food product. Due to the efficient design and equipment layout, two people can work inside of this van comfortably, but there are a couple things you’ll want to consider before selecting this type of vehicle.

Equipment: If you have an extensive menu that requires a lot of different cooking equipment to execute, you will want to invest a more traditional sized food truck that has more space. You also won’t be able to store as much inventory on the sprinter, meaning you may not be able to maximize profits during busier days or popular events.

Concepts that Work: There are certain mobile food businesses that work well with a sprinter van. Coffee vans, for example, can be ideal. You can easily build a coffee and espresso maker into this type of vehicle and still have plenty of space to serve pastries, donuts, cookies and other foods that help maximize profit without creating a lot of extra work for the operator. Also, if you have a hyper-focused menu with just a couple core items this can also work well.

If you want to learn more about our custom builds, including sprint style vans, give M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks a call at 904-397-0246. 

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