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101 Food Service Kiosk Name Ideas, and How to Find Yours

For many aspiring food kiosk owners, dreaming up the perfect name for your new business was probably one of the first things you did. After all, once you’ve established a concept for your new restaurant idea, picking out a name should come easy. Right? RIGHT?

But what if you’ve headed down the path toward opening day, secured some investment capital, roughed out a viable business plan that seems to hold together, and maybe even secured licensing, insurance, and a few vendors to get your started, and you STILL don’t have a name for your restaurant? What if you’re marching toward opening day, and you just can’t come up with a catchy name that will encompass all of your hard work and fresh ideas?

We’re here to help.

Picking out a name for your new food service kiosk can be incredibly difficult. After all, how do you communicate all of the things you need to for your new coffee shop or ice cream parlor, in just one or two words that will sum up your months (or years!) of sweat and toil? The type of food, coffee, or ice cream. The atmosphere of your location. The types of customers you’re hoping to attract. Your background, the style of cooking, the vibe of the location (shopping malls, corporate centers, college campuses)…these are all things that you must try to capture perfectly, when naming your food kiosk. How can you possibly get started?

Refuge Coffee Co. Truck: Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

Make a list. Then throw that list away, and make another list.

That’s right. Begin by scribbling down every single restaurant name idea that comes into your head, without being too harsh or judgmental about what could work, and what absolutely couldn’t work. Write everything down. Even the less-than-savory ideas may help jog your brain, and lead to other, more viable names for your business. After you’ve got 30 or 40 ideas down, run through them with a marker and cross half of them out. Copy the remaining names to a new list, and use those names to spin off new ideas. Keep going. Something should present itself.

Keep it short and sweet. Alternately, make it long and weird.

Shorter names are likelier to stay fresh in the minds of your customers, though it may be challenging to find a one or two word domain name for your restaurant’s website. If short and sweet isn’t your style, make it so long and weird that it stands out that way. For example, if you’re going to launch a restaurant specializing in chili (don’t do that, that’s my idea), you could call it either “Chili Bowl,” if you’re into the whole “brevity” thing, or alternately, “Mac’s Royal Chili Emporium and Medieval Toastery.” Both names are memorable, for their own reasons.

Don’t get too specific. Look, the needs of your business may change. You want the name of your business to be able to grow and change, as your concept grows and changes. If you name your restaurant, “Strictly Burgers,” what’s going to happen if nobody likes your burgers, and you need to change the focus of your menu to primarily vegan chilled soups? Pick a name that has room to change with you. Also, please don’t start a vegan chilled soup restaurant.

Similarly, while it may be tempting to incorporate the name of your geographic location into your restaurant name, remember: Things change in this business. You may find yourself having to find a new location when the popularity of your restaurant triples your rent, or you may find yourself opening additional locations in different towns or cities.

Do some market research. Don’t bother trying out your new name on your friends and family; they’re going to be so supportive of you and your new venture (bless them), that they’re likely to be super encouraging of any name you come up with. Instead, ask potential customers for their opinion on your new name; they’re likelier to be more forthcoming with criticism.

Crowdsource your new restaurant name. What if I told you that there was an interconnected network of networks, where millions of people with strong opinions and an underdeveloped sense of the rules of polite society, were just WAITING to help you with your restaurant idea? Try out a restaurant name generator… Sure, you may not get something usable magically handed to you, but these generators can help get your brain working in new directions and coming up with new ideas. Sign up for a few restaurant industry forums, as well…you’ll find plenty of people who are happy to brainstorm name ideas with you.

When all else fails, use one of these 101 restaurant names. Okay, fair warning: These ideas aren’t all winners. But our hope is that even if you don’t use one of the following ideas off-the-shelf, one may still get you thinking in a different direction and help you come up with a new idea you hadn’t previously considered. These are all cool ideas I came up with that you can modify for your own future restaurant. So, without further ado:

  1. The Spaghetti Pantry
  2. Shambles
  3. Brimstone
  4. Purity
  5. Embers
  6. The Hive
  7. The Lamb and Whistle
  8. The Honey Comb
  9. Harvest
  10. The Streetwise Morning
  11. The Fable Table
  12. Big City Catch
  13. Hand & Fork
  14. Bread
  15. Pulpo
  16. Good
  17. Town Hall Grill
  18. Sycamore House
  19. Fresco
  20. The Stone Cup
  21. City Bites
  22. Knead & Feed
  23. Plate
  24. Old Bay Steamer
  25. Crow Creek
  26. Breakers
  27. Viking Grill
  28. Zocalo
  29. The Crack Pot
  30. Dan’s Dumpling Dowry
  31. Falafel Therapy
  32. Early Girl
  33. Cake Walk
  34. The Frayed Knot
  35. Gusto
  36. Heart in Hand
  37. Salty’s
  38. Soggy’s
  39. Sassy’s
  40. Hold the Anchovies
  41. Tandoor
  42. The Kiln
  43. Bushwhacker’s
  44. Roaring Rock Restaurant
  45. Take It Away
  46. The Wolf
  47. Trattoria Bella
  48. Trattoria Bellisima
  49. Sweet Basil
  50. Butler
  51. Mucho Gusto
  52. Taste
  53. The Feasting Fox
  54. Aftertizer
  55. Banana Cabana
  56. Kettlepop
  57. Panache
  58. Pan Ash
  59. Peerless
  60. Pesto Quest
  61. Rippers
  62. South Mouth
  63. The Straight and Narrow
  64. Big Juicy
  65. Chew
  66. Chevre
  67. The Bloated Tick
  68. Curb Appeal
  69. Flying Horse
  70. Flying Noodle
  71. Thai Tanic
  72. Royal Crest
  73. Florante
  74. The Eatery
  75. The Golden Spoon
  76. The Tined Fork
  77. Tiffany’s
  78. The Burnt Biscuit
  79. Wallflower
  80. Allium
  81. Comfort
  82. Clementine
  83. Piehole
  84. Home
  85. Southern Skillet
  86. Frankly, My Dear
  87. The Foyer
  88. The Porch
  89. The Mud Room
  90. Easy Now
  91. Easy Does It
  92. EZ Duz It
  93. Okra
  94. Azalea
  95. Heirloom
  96. Magnolia
  97. The Red Clover
  98. Mandoline
  99. Sweet Home
  100. The Riverboat
  101. Roderigo “Salty” Sanchez’s Terrific Taco Take-Out Emporium and While-U-Wait Auto Detailing
container restaurant

Shipping container turned into a food service kiosk.

Remember, no one but you can name your food service kiosk (unless you’re investing in a franchise opportunity). Soliciting ideas from others may help get the creative juices flowing, but ultimately, it will be up to you to find the name and concept that works. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and taking the time to find the name that fits your dream perfectly is an important step, with no shortcuts. Be creative, speak from the heart, and let the ideas flow.

Note: Not all of these builds featured in this post were manufactured M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks. Some of the images used as included inside this post were built elsewhere and used for example purposes only.   

Top Four Most Profitable Food and Beverage Kiosks in Shopping Malls

Signing a long-term lease in a high-traffic shopping mall can be extremely expensive and risky if your food concept isn’t proven. According to this article on MarketWatch.com, you should expect to pay between $50 – $100 per square foot monthly for the most desirable retail spaces in America. In smaller shopping malls in mid-size metro you can expect to pay more $15 – $25 per square foot. Either way, the monthly dues are significant.

That means if you decide to lease a modest sized location, you can expect to pay $1,500 – $5,000 in rent minimum each month. This obligation is even more daunting considering many landlords require a multi-year lease commitment that can leave entrepreneurs on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in commitments. But if these expensive monthly rents don’t fit into your business plan, we have good news. There are more affordable options that still allow you to leverage the foot traffic of a shopping mall to reach customers.

The solution for your business could be to start a food or beverage kiosk in a food court or shopping mall kiosk instead of a storefront. The first advantage of this path is the cost. As you might expect, renting a kiosk location in a mall will be much more affordable than the alternative. In some locations you’ll be able to get started for $800 per month in rent.

In addition to the lower monthly rent, shorter lease terms are common with kiosks or carts. It’s not out of the ordinary for a mall kiosk to rent a space in only the most profitable months of the year from October – December. After the peak sales season is over, vendors leave and often don’t return until the holiday season next year.

The ability to structure a short-term lease agreement is much more advantageous for vendor’s. It’s been well documented that the American shopping mall and retail industry isn’t as vibrant as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. If you started a food kiosk in a shopping center and sales begin to dwindle, you can quickly adapt and easily move the business to a more profitable location. This isn’t an option for stores with a 5-year lease agreement in place.

If you’re in the market for a food service kiosk, you aren’t short on options. An almost unlimited menu of food items can be served from these versatile and mobile units including hot dogs, pretzels, corn dogs, pizza, coffee, smoothies, gourmet popcorn, and ice cream are the tip of the iceberg. They are even versatile enough to be used to vend indoors or at open air shopping centers.

All that being said, below is a list of highly profitable menu concepts that work well with a kiosk. These kiosks are often positioned in malls, but if you think outside the box can be profitably placed in other locations too like college campuses, casinos, hospitals, or large corporate offices.

Snow cone or Shaved Ice Kiosk

Below is an example of a snow cone kiosk recently built for a customer. This kiosk was designed to be taken to a mall or area events. Since mobility was important to this customer we used all aluminum material for the cart so that it would be light and transported easily.

As you’ll see in the video everything the vendor needs to operate their snow cone / shaved ice business is right here. There’s even room for storage available inside this mobile unit. Units like this start at around $9,000 making this a viable opportunity for anyone. Depending on the size of the cup, it can cost as little as $.20 cents per snow cone to the vendor (depending on size). This same snow cone can be sold for $3.00 in most locations making it extremely high-margin.

Mobile Coffee Kiosk

No doubt you’ve seen a coffee kiosk at a mall, airport, or even a grocery store. In fact, these little coffee kiosks are so profitable that publicly traded companies like Starbucks have jumped on the bandwagon. You can also take advantage of this too! As you may be aware, beverages are an extremely profitable category… especially coffee.

It goes without saying that you want to serve a high-quality product. According to this Investopedia article, you can get a premium pound of coffee for about $15.00. You should be able to serve about 23 cups of 12 oz. coffee conservatively per pound. This breaks down to around $0.65 cents per cup. Add on another $.35 cents for the cost of the cup, lid, napkin, complimentary sugar and cream. You could then charge $2.00 per cup for a basic premium roast and be profiting around $1.00 per cup. Naturally you would be charging more for foam, flavor pumps, Espressos and other drinks. Either way, it’s a highly profitable space to be in.

Smoothie Kiosk

The smoothie kiosk is another option that can be highly profitable and aligns well with the people’s goals to eat and drink healthy. The most popular smoothie options include flavors like strawberry or blueberry. But there are plenty of niche varieties that can be served to cater to a specific audience. For example, you could offer a line of organic smoothies. You could also serve smoothies designed to provide protein and build muscle or an extra Vitamin C boost to fight cold and flu season. The options here are almost limitless. A regular sized smoothie can retail for $6 – $8 a piece leaving the business owner plenty of profitability as well.

Ice Cream Kiosk

Finally, the ice cream kiosk is an extremely popular and beloved option in shopping malls. This kiosk can come in many different forms, including soft serve, frozen yogurt or scooped ice cream. No matter where you plan to conduct business this a highly profitable concept, no matter what variation you choose.

Let’s say for example you decide on an old-school ice cream shop concept with scoops. You should be able to get a premium tub of ice cream for around $30. You’ll get 55 four-once scoops of ice cream per tub working out to a grand total of $0.55 per scoop. As the business owner, you should build a buffer into these figures of course because everyone has waste and scoop size is not an exact science. You’d be hard pressed to find an gourmet ice cream place serving cones under $3.00 a piece… Leaving you the business owner with plenty of margin.

The next time you go to a mall, pay attention to the different types of food service kiosks that are in operation. You’ll likely stumble across other variations not covered in this piece like soft pretzels or kettle corn. There are literally hundreds of food business opportunities like this that can be started affordably and with less risk than investing in a traditional retail space. The combination of lower cost, increased mobility, and flexibility to offer a wide range of menus make these businesses attractive.

What is a Loncheras Food Truck?

A loncheras truck is a food truck serving Mexican faire like tacos and burritos. The rough translation of lonchera from Spanish into English is “lunch box.” These roaming vessels are often referred to as taco trucks as well.

If you live in Los Angeles or the surrounding area the sight of a loncheras truck is nothing new. They’ve been serving affordable meals decades before the gourmet food truck movement took ever hold in the United States.

Loncheras are small businesses owned by a Mexican or Mexican-American family and employing only members of the family. You can often spot these trucks serving families or workers in lower-income neighborhoods. In short, these are straight-forward small businesses that provide a basic income for the owners / operators.

Unlike their gourmet food truck counterparts, you won’t be able to find a website for a loncheras truck. Most aren’t active on social media either. These trucks have been serving the same communities for years and don’t do any forms of marketing aside from word of mouth and being at the right place at the right time positioning themselves where people are hungry.

The other difference between gourmet truck is that loncheras will often have a regular location that they vend every day. In this sense, they are highly similar to a brick-and-mortar restaurant with regular hours of operation and can be found in the same spot. This also reduces the need for social media since the location of the food doesn’t change.

Just like an old-school lunch truck, these businesses look for locations with demand and under-served food options like construction sites or residential areas without nearby food service.

Loncheras Menus

The menus of the loncheras haven’t changed much over the last few decades. Usually, you’ll find all the Mexican food you’re familiar with like street tacos or burritos. Street tacos are smaller, hand-held tacos that can include a variety of proteins like chicken, ground beef, or steak.

The advantage of operating a lonchera or any Mexican food business is that you can offer an extensive menu with only a few core ingredients. Tacos, burritos, tortas (a Mexican sandwich), and plates can be served with minor adaptations like a different shell or wrap.

Some lonchera operators offer menu items that go beyond the basics, however. This can include bacon wrapped hot dogs with grilled onions, a popular street food offering. Another popular adaptation is to put Carna Asada and melted cheese on top of tortilla chips or French fries as a creative spin on nachos.

Some of these vendors have adapted their menus to meet the dietary preferences of their customers as well. Potatoes for example is a filling and affordable replacement for meat items for vegetarians. Of course, there’s always been the option to enjoy a cheese enchilada or quesadilla.

Business Requirements of Loncheras Trucks

There’s a perception among some people that loncheras don’t need to adhere to the same health regulations of other businesses. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These businesses have the exact same requirements as food trucks and restaurants.

If you operate a loncheras truck in Los Angeles County, you will need to use a commissary. A commissary is a commercial kitchen that can be rented by caterers and other small food businesses to prep food in a safe area. The use of a commissary is a requirement for all mobile food vendors in many cities. These commissaries often charge between $800 – $1,500 monthly to rent a space and even park the truck overnight. Naturally, these businesses must pay their fair share of taxes and submit to routine health inspections if they would like to continue operating legally.

Similar to the fabled roach coach, the loncheras food trucks still carry a certain stigma among older customers that can recall eating from these questionably clean vehicles. Fortunately, the rise of the gourmet food truck has gone a long way to improving this perception, especially among younger customers. As a general rule of thumb, there’s no need to be concerned about the health and cleanliness of most of these trucks.

To learn more about the history of loncheras food trucks check out these informative pieces:

How Tamales and Tacos Launched a Billion Dollar Food Truck Industry: This is arguably the best article on the history of taco trucks online. This piece takes you back to the tamale wagons of the 1870s – 1940s all the way up to present day. It’s also an excellent piece on how the mobile food industry has continued to evolve.

Top 10 Taco Trucks of LA: Take a look at some of the top-rated loncheras taco trucks in operation within the confines of Los Angeles.

Four of the Best Tasting Pho Food Trucks on the Planet

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup. With the popularity of foreign food increasing each year, it is not surprising that Pho is gaining a lot of attention. There are even Pho food trucks now that serve this savory dish. Here are the four best Pho food trucks that you can find anywhere.

What Is That Pho?

Before we visit the top Pho food trucks out there, we need to talk a little about the food they serve. As mentioned earlier, Pho came from Vietnam. While Vietnamese cuisine may not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese, it is gaining many followers recently.

It certainly helped a lot when former President Obama ate with Anthony Bourdain at a small Vietnamese restaurant when he visited the country.

Pho is a kind of soup, made with rice noodles, meat, broth, and herbs. It is a common street food in Vietnam, so it is not surprising that food trucks are serving it now in the States.

At first, the food was popularized in other countries by the flood of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the war in their country, but now, with the help of the internet, more and more people are willing to try it out.

The Best Pho Food Trucks

Here are four of the best Pho food trucks that are around today:

Pho Real, Reno

In the video, Elijah Brhel, the owner, speaks for a Pho Real food truck that operates around the Reno area. Elijah says that he tries to source all their ingredients locally.

Elijah gave some explanation as to why the soup is so popular. He believes one of the reasons is because it is so homey and simple. At the same time, it can also be made spicier and more ingredients can be added to it.

They make their own broth and they added their own twist to it. Instead of making the traditional Pho broth, they are making a veggie broth. Except for the buns and the noodles, they make everything else that they serve.

The most popular variation they have is their Fried Brussels Sprouts. They have Facebook Page and a website where customers can find where they will be located for a day.

Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck, North Carolina

Food Network fans might be familiar with this next entry. Sophia Woo and Sunny Lin of Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck were winners of the Food Network’s “The Great American Food Truck Race”.

They explained that the food they serve is more like nature and nurture. They also said that they are kind of playful with the food they serve, which means that they don’t stay in one realm. The only thing that kind of remains constant with their food is that it stays Asian.

Of course, they serve Pho on the truck but they have other options as well. For example, they have dumplings and even Taiwanese spaghetti. One of their favorites is their version of the Bulgogi, which is a traditional Korean barbecue.

The pair said that without the support of the community, they could not have attained the success that they have reached so far. They mentioned friends who helped in building the food truck and the Kickstarter campaign that they started which helped raise the funds for the project.

They have plans on opening up a brick and mortar restaurant but they won’t be giving up the truck which has made a name for them. Also, they are giving out to the community by accepting donations for Haven House.

Pho King Awesome Food Truck, Long Beach

It seems obligatory for food trucks to be named with puns and this next entry is no exception. Pho King Awesome Food Truck, is a family owned business based in Long Beach area. It is gaining quite a following in the area. No doubt the name alone turns many heads.

Their most popular dish is, of course, their Pho King noodle. After all, it is what they named their business after. They have ox tail, beef brisket, and other variations of the broth.

For the video, they prepared an ox tail based Pho and they also served the crew their own taco version, which is kind of sweet and spicy.

Nhu Lan Vietnamese Food, Tucson

Owned by Nghia Tran, from Saigon who has been living in the States for several years now, the Nhu Lan Vietnamese Food Truck serves traditional Vietnamese style food like Pho, Vietnamese meatballs, and also Chinese food.

They use different kinds of pork for their Vietnamese style sandwich. They serve their Pho noodles in two packages. One is for the broth and the noodles, while the other one is for most of the meats.

These are just four of the leading Pho food trucks in the country. Because Pho and other similar street foods are  gaining popularity today, you can expect more of these kinds of food trucks to become more common in the future.

Important Note: None of these food trucks listed in the videos above were built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

The Best Food Truck Refrigerators: Installation Tips & Buyers Guide

Rotolo’s Food Truck.

No matter what your food concept is going to be, you’ll probably need at least one refrigerator installed on your food truck or concession trailer. Whether you’re making sandwiches and need to keep meats and cheeses cool or plan to serve summer-time beverages you’ll need a cooling system that’s both reliable and large enough to store everything necessary to execute your menu.

Finding the right refrigerator for a food truck is different than if you’re starting a restaurant. If you’re looking for commercial-grade restaurant refrigerators you’ll have an abundance of quality options. Refrigerators designed to withstand the tough demands of a food truck business are harder to come by, however. You don’t just want to install any old refrigerator as it likely will not serve your needs.

In today’s post, we will layout the considerations you need to think about before installing a refrigerator into your concession unit. We’ll also share the brand that works best for mobile food units and why. At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we’ve been in the custom food truck manufacturing space for over 15 years and understand the pitfalls that can occur when any piece of equipment is installed incorrectly. If you have questions about a concession truck or trailer build don’t hesitate to reach out to us here with questions.

Our Recommend for Food Truck Refrigerators

While we’ve installed other brands of refrigeration units, but we always recommend the T-19 from True Manufacturing. You can find the T-19 available on many popular restaurant supply websites like Katom. Expect to pay around $1,800 for a brand new unit. The first reason we recommend the T-19 is due to the high-quality of the the product and the way these units fit into most food trucks. When you install a refrigerator into a food truck, height limits are an important consideration and this model is the appropriate height for standard food truck sizes.

The other benefit to True Manufacturing equipment is their rock solid warranty. There are many commercial food equipment companies whose warranties do not apply to food trucks. This is due to the increased wear and tear of cooking equipment in a mobile setting. At the time of writing, the manufacturers warranty remains valid even when installed on a food truck. This piece is critical to keep in mind during the evaluation process for added piece of mind!

The next consideration is power needs. Reducing your power needs is hugely beneficial in a food truck where you have a limited power source. This becomes even more critical if you have a menu that requires multiple refrigerators, blenders, or a Espresso maker as is often needed in a coffee or smoothie trailer. These menu concepts have above average power needs.

The other benefit of the True Manufacturing T-19 is that there are simple ways to adapt the unit to use less power. True Manufacturing has a new HC line where power needs can be dropped from 8 amps to 1 amp. This is a big deal on a food truck. Another benefit of the T-19 mentioned earlier is that it will fit into standard size food trucks.

Refrigerators and freezers consume a lot of power. When planning to build a commercial kitchen power needs and equipment are an important consideration. You’ve got to make sure you have sufficient electrical power in place is critical before getting started.

 

Refrigerator installed on a food truck.

Installation Tips

Before you buy any refrigeration unit for a food truck, you need to understand how much space you’ve got to work with. Many areas limits the height of a refrigeration unit that can be installed. Of course, you’ll also need to think about how many employees will be operating a food truck and how much space you’ll need to work comfortably within the unit. An massive commercial-grade refrigeration unit that can store everything you need can be tempting to purchase ahead of time, but make sure your equipment doesn’t impede on your work area.

Aside from determining your space requirements and electrical needs, you need to install the refrigerator in a way where the unit isn’t being knocked around. We recommend not using straps to secure the refrigerator. Often these straps will not hold. We understand the goal of some vendors in using straps is so they can more easily move units inside and outside of their trucks.

For optimal support on the road, you need to install angle brackets into the refrigerator.  Care needs to be taken when installing angle brackets into a refrigerator because you could hit the freon lines of the unit. These angle brackets must be tightly screwed into the top and bottom of the refrigeration unit to ensure it remains firmly in place while crossing rail-road tracks or bumps in the road.

As a general rule of thumb, the installation tips for freezers are the same as refrigerators. You need to consider the amount of space there is to install a freezer unit and it’s power requirements on the concession unit. You also need to ensure it’s strapped in an installed correctly to ensure you get long lifetime value from the unit.

We hope you’ve found this post helpful in understanding the best refrigerators for food trucks. If you’re currently iin the research phase of evaluating other equipment for concession businesses check out our previous post about propane tanks.

 

Food Truck Concession Doors: What You Need To Know

In our on-going series about food truck equipment, we’ve come to one of the more basic build-out topics: concession doors. As you might imagine this is a more straight-forward consideration compared to other areas like plumbing, electrical, or the kitchen layout. Still there are some common-sense guidelines we can offer on the topic if you plan to install a door in the future to ensure the project is done right the first time.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, we’ve been manufacturing food trucks and concession trailers for over 15 years. In our decade and a half of experience we’ve learned a thing or two about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to mobile food units. The series your ready right now is designed to help pass on some of those hard-won pieces of knowledge.

clam chowder van

Tony’s Clam Chowder – Concession Doors installed on a Van.

What’s the best size for a concession door?

When it comes to concession doors you want something that’s large enough so customers can peer into the inside of the mobile kitchen. Customers want to be able to see the cleanliness of your kitchen and food being prepared. It’s incredible how a wide concession window can make a unit appear infinitely more inviting.

It benefits you as the vendor to have an adequately sized door too. It can be difficult to pass food through a window that’s too small. It can also be hard to work through a line and communicate if you’re speaking through a small hole. Overall, larger sized concession doors make for a more friendly, appealing and functional food truck too!

Different sized food trucks and trailers will require different sized concession doors to be installed. With that being said two separate windows, one 3’ x 5’ and the second 3’ x 6’ are a good size for most food units.

The first windows you will take orders from. The second window you will serve food out of. This helps a lot with the flow of the line as well since customers won’t be heading to the same door to place and order and pickup. We also recommend adding clear instructions to your customers like “Order Here” and “Pickup Food Here” to keep your operations moving in an orderly fashion.

When installing concession doors, we also recommend having the doors lift-up instead of opening to the left or right. By lifting the doors up you can create an awning and bit of shade for customers. This is the way you’ll find 95%+ of the operating food trucks have their doors installed.

Finally, we always install locks on concession doors. If someone were to break into your mobile kitchen overnight they could cost your business a lot of money due to vandalism or theft. By building in a locking system you add an extra layer of protection.

Other Tidbits of Advice

Although not directly related to concession windows, another feature we always install is a fold-down counter top directly below the concession windows. This is the ideal area to place condiments like ketchup and mustard or plastic knives and forks. We’ve also seen some vendors place signage with their daily specials or menu items here. We make it so that you can quickly fold-down these counters when you’re commuting.

A clear cab highlights the mobile kitchen interior of Triple J’s Pizzeria.

Our motto is if you can dream it, we can build it. With that in mind we can accomplish the installation of concession doors that are far outside the standard build out as well. Case and point would be a build out for a pizza truck above for Triple Jay’s Pizzeria.

One this unit installed a clear cab so customers can see their pizza being made from start to finish. This creates a truly unique customer experience that can help your business gain attention and traction.

Where Should Propane Tanks Be Installed on a Food Truck?

There’s an age old debate that continues with food truck build outs: Where’s the best place to install propane tanks? Some builders advocate for propane tanks to be installed horizontally in a protected compartment underneath your food truck. Others recommend that propane tanks should be installed vertically at the rear of the vehicle. As you may already be aware there are food trucks that actively operate with tanks in both locations. But what’s the optimal way to install these units during the build-out process?

In this article, we share our insights learned over 15+ years in the concession industry. Over this time period, we had the pleasure of working on over 100 mobile food units and deeply understand the manufacturing process. In this post, we want to give you our perspective based on years of manufacturing experience to help you make the right decision for your unit.

Horizontally Installed Propane Tanks

Horizontally installed propane tanks located underneath the food truck are considered safer by some builders. The justification most frequently cited is that by having a tank installed in a protective compartment underneath the unit is protects the unit from being hit in the event of a vehicle accident.

Placement of the propane tank underneath the food truck is not without risks, however. By positioning the tank underneath the food truck it’s more susceptible to hitting debris on the road. Even something as simple as a large speed bump in a parking lot has created problems for vendors.

There are other safety concerns beyond debris to be considered as well. When your propane tank is positioned underneath a food unit, it’s less visible and harder to check for leaks. Vertically installed tanks, on the other hand, are fully visible and can be more easily inspected.  Finally… as with any build, confirm local guidelines in your area before having a propane tank installed as there are cities you won’t pass code with this setup.

Vertically Installed Propane Tanks

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, our standard build process is to vertically install tanks at the rear of the food truck. Of course, we are able to accomplish both for our customers. We install tanks this way for the reasons already described like being more visible for inspection and less likely to be hit due to road debris while traveling to events. But there are other benefits as well.

As your business grows and you get busier, you’ll find that you’ll need to refill your tanks with propane frequently. It’s not at all uncommon for a food truck to need to replenish their tanks every 2 – 4 days. By installing the propane tanks vertically, it will be easier and faster to swap out or quick fill the tanks. This can be a major benefit to busy trucks that regularly need to refill their tanks.

Vertically installed tanks are also more affordable. A 100 pound tank will cost about $100. Horizontal tanks on the other hand will cost $250 – $300 per unit on average. We install two propane units per vehicle to ensure you’ve got plenty of available fuel.

But what about the safety standpoint? No food truck vendor wants to be at risk of other drivers on the road and having your propane tanks hit. We protect raising the propane tanks above the bumper level and extending the bumper at least six beyond propane tanks. This reduces the risk an automobile will hit your propane tanks in the event of an accident.

Concession Trailer Build from M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Related Items That Should Be Considered

Here are a few related items related to propane tanks and gas lines we believe are important to share in this piece. If you have any additional question about the installation of propane tanks on a mobile food unit or other food truck equipment installation tips, don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone at 904-397-0246. We’re happy to answer questions no matter how specific. We look forward to speaking with you and learning more about your desired build.

  • The most common sized propane tank we install on food trucks is two 100 pound tanks. We find this size works well for most food truck vendors, but you should always consult your manufacturer to see if they have a different recommendation based on your menu or goals.
  • Tank Lines – Metal lines from inside the truck to outside. You’ve got to have high pressure lines from tank to regulator. Run metal lines, braided flexible lines rated for pressure on the tank. These are rated for increased temperature from the tank to regulator. Regulator to truck is hard metal piping. This a national requirement.
  • We always install a tank ring with a rubber gasket so that it does not hit metal. This comes standard with M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks builds, but not standard standard for all manufacturers. Metal on metal is never a good situation longterm on a food truck.
  • We install a gauge inside all trucks to quickly check if you’ve lost pressure or have leaks from inside of the vehicle. This is a standard build feature that others don’t have.
  • Every piece of cooking appliance has it’s own individual shut off valve. This is a national requirement. Fire Suppression system needs to have it where it cuts the gas off at the gauge.
  • Our propane lines are certified by an independent third-party before being delivered to our customers to ensure the job was done right the first time.

The Typical Day in the Life of a Crepe Truck

Part of the appeal of food trucks is that they bring a wider variety of specialty foods to people.

While restaurants do offer exotic and foreign foods, food trucks make them more accessible. Crepes would be a good example of this. Crepes are thin pastries that are kind of like really thin pancakes. While most people in the United States have heard of crepes, establishments that offer them are not that common. At least not as common as hamburger stands and that is why mobile trucks that serve crepes are very interesting.

From a business standpoint, crepes are highly profitable items to sell as well. According to Pancake World, you can expect to net $2.43 per portion sold assuming you sell each crepe for $4.10. While this profit margin does not factor in employee wages or fee’s associated with vending at select events, having a food cost of around 50% is fantastic for a food business.

In many parts of the United States, it’s not  uncommon for customers to pay between $5.00 – $8.00 per crepe. This level of pricing elasticity gives you a lot of options as a business owner to get creative with business opportunities since there’s money after all your expenses to share with groups that want to fund raise.

If you’re wondering what it would be like to operate a crepe business yourself, here are two short videos about crepe food trucks that should give you a few ideas on what an average day is really like.

Holy Crepe Food Truck

Holy Crepes food truck operates in the Bethesda, Maryland area. It is owned and run by Boris Lambrev and his wife. They opened up in March 2016. Boris has experience in the crepe business before, but it was not a food truck and he was working for someone else as an employee. Eventually he decided that it would be better if he would strike out on his own to build a mobile food business.

He first learned making crepes when he was in Cyprus then he moved to Greece, where he continued making crepes. They offer all kinds of crepes, from sweet to savory ones.

One of the problems that Boris cited in connection with running a food truck business is that the space is quite limited. He even jokingly said that the lack of space can lead to silly fights between him and his wife.

Things you can get from this short video:

  • A glimpse of what it’s like inside a small food truck.
  • Possible food truck ideas.
  • A short description of how a food truck business started, which can be inspiring.

If you live around the Bethesda area, you might happen to see the Holy Crepe truck going around. Be sure to taste their crepes which has that authentic taste to it.

Crepe Company Food Truck

Orlando is a very diverse city. That means there is no shortage there when it comes to the food options that are available. It is also home to many unique food trucks. The Orlando Food Truck Guide is a video series that aims to explore the diverse food truck scene in the city. For its first episode, the series features the Crepe Company Food Truck.

Crepe Company is the idea of Lisa “Crepe Lady” Fareed. She said that she got the idea for selling crepes when she went to France and she fell in love with the pastry. She was amazed with how the vendors would make the crepe right in front of her. She wanted to bring that whole experience to the States.

Crepe Types

When it comes to the kinds of crepes that they offer, Lisa says that they aim towards having more American-style options. They still have French-style crepes though for those who want a more authentic feel.

Unlike many of those who run a food truck business, Lisa does not have a background in the restaurant or food service industry. She has a degree in finance, but she says that she’s a foodie, which is what drove her to dare to start her own food truck business.

How She Got Started

Lisa started her business back in 2009. She purchased her food truck back in 2011. One amazing thing about the business is the truck itself. It’s not a modern food truck but a converted 1971 Olson Kurbmaster Junior. Lisa bought the vehicle off Craiglist and had it converted so it would have all the features needed for serving crepes.

Despite the upgrade, the truck has an unmistakable vintage feel to it which makes it even more interesting. It’s also running on battery power and Lisa has plans to have to outfitted for solar power, which would become completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy.

Making the Crepes

Lisa says that it takes about a minute and a half for a customer to order and then to get his crepe. That’s quite fast and that is why Lisa makes them fresh to order.

Lisa showed how she made an American-style crepe. It has bacon, turkey, cheddar, tomato, and other ingredients. She also made a Monte Cristo, which she says is one of the more popular types that they have. It has cheddar, mozzarella, raspberry sauce, ham, and turkey. She also made one with Nutella hazelnut spread with banana. Lisa added that the Crepe Company is now open for franchising if this is an opportunity that piques your interest.

Learn from a food truck owner how she got started: In the early days of starting the business Lisa didn’t own a food truck. In fact, Lisa operated Crepe Company as a “pop-up” business for the first two years before investing in a mobile food unit. This is an important lesson for entrepreneurs starting out.

So many times first time business owners believe they need to wait for something to happen before opening for business. For example, not starting the business until they have a food truck. Or not starting a business until they own a restaurant. The key takeaway from this story is you shouldn’t wait until everything is perfect to get started. You can begin testing out your recipes, making sales, and building a brand much earlier than that.

If you are interested in crepes, then these videos should give you a good glimpse of how your business might look like. Hopefully, there are a few ideas here that you can use if you are going to get your own food truck business running.

Reader Note: M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks did not build the trucks shown in the YouTube videos above.

What’s Financial Expert Dave Ramsey’s Opinion on the Food Truck Industry?

In a recent episode of The Dave Ramsey Show, the financial expert of the same name took a call from a prospective food truck business owner. True to form, Ramsey offered candid advice on the next steps the caller Isabelle in Houston should take to improve her personal finances and operate the food truck business profitably. Click the play button below to listen to the full 8-minute segment of the show.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey’s program, listeners call-in seeking advice on a variety of personal finance topics. Many of the callers to Dave’s program are looking for ways to get out of debt by reducing monthly expenses. Others folks call in with questions about retirement planning to dealing with finances in a relationship.

What’s Financial Expert Dave Ramsey’s Opinion on the Food Truck Industry?

Isabelle opens up the call by providing some details about her business planning process to give Dave some insight into the venture. Break even point is in 3 – 4 months after opening. This is the point where the business will begin covering all of it’s expenses. For a concession trailer this usually includes transportation, inventory (food), labor, permits, and other expenses. Once the business is up and running, Isabelle has estimated that she will have a take home or net profit of $70,000 annually for operating the business.

It should be mentioned that Dave Ramsey does not have experience operating a food truck business. That being said Dave is extremely knowledgeable about what it takes to operate a profitable business and understands the numbers. Dave begins by complimenting the caller on the initial forecasting of the business, but asks how Isabelle came to her conclusions for revenue estimates.

Isabelle shares that she surveyed what other food trucks where making in the area to estimate daily revenue. Based on Isabelle’s survey of local food trucks in her area she estimated that she could expect to generate $600 – $900 in daily sales.

Related Reading: What is the Average Food Truck Owner’s Annual Salary?

After learning that Isabelle had taken a logical approach to estimating her daily sales numbers, Dave inquired about the biggest recurring expense in the operations plan… Hiring an employee. Not only was Isabelle planning to hire an employee, but she had also planned to pay for some training and certifications.

As Dave points out in the program, hiring can quickly become the biggest recurring expense for a food business. And while it might make sense to hire in the future, if Isabella was able to operate the food truck on her own initially it would make getting in the black much easier. Isabella agrees she can operate the coffee truck business solo initially.

Finally, Isabelle asks if she should take a loan out to start the business. Dave explains that he never recommends taking out a loan to start a business in any situation. (Cutting up your credit cards and not having any debt is sort of Dave’s thing.) That being said, Dave suggests getting a sales job and living off beans and rice to cut expenses until she is able to purchase the trailer in full.

Overall Dave’s analysis of the food truck business is fascinating and after the hearing about the business model is noticeably excited for Isabelle. Dave even invites the Isabelle to return to the show after her business is launched. It’s great to see that with the appropriate business planning, research, and work ethic that a financial power house like Dave Ramsey sees the business opportunity that exist in mobile food vending.

Everything You Need to Know About Food Truck Water Tanks

One of the items that can be overlooked by first-time food truck vendors is figuring out the size and type of water tanks needed to install in a concession trailer. Not only will you need fresh and gray water tanks to operate efficiently, but you’ll need these to meet the specific permitting requirements of the city and state you plan to operate. In this post, we outline all the things you need to take into consideration before installing water tanks inside your food truck. Take notes on this one because this post can take you a lot of time, money, and frustration in the event you discover you don’t have the right water tanks to pass a local health inspection.

Find Out What’s Required in Your Area

Before you start looking into specific types of water tanks, you’ll need to find out what you need to operate legally in your area as step one. The minimum size requirements for food trucks are regulated by the city or county you plan to operate. Before thinking about your personal water system needs, find out what the local requirement.

As an example Los Angeles County does an excellent job of outlining their requirements for a water system of a mobile food cart in their plan check guidelines PDF here. You read about the water tank requirement specifically by scrolling down to page 6 and looking for the Plumbing Layout System heading.

Below are important details you would need to take into account before getting a food truck or concession trailer built in our example area Los Angeles County:

  • Minimum 5-gallons of water for hand washing is required.
  • Minimum 15-gallons of water for ware washing.
  • Stainless steel and aluminum potable water tanks are not allowed in Los Angeles County.
  • Water tank cannot be installed inside of the enclosure (inside the mobile kitchen), above cooking equipment, or under plumbing lines.
  • The water tank must be fully insulated.
  • Waste water tanks must have 50% more capacity than potable water tanks.
  • Minimum of 3-gallons of water must be heated to 120 degrees F. Must be able to dispense heated water into one of the 3-compartment sinks within 10 seconds.

There are other requirements outlined in the plan check guidelines too, but at this point you get the gist. There are numerous considerations and details that must be considered when selecting a water tank for a food truck. One item to keep in mind is that some cities have much more detailed requirements than others. Where you plan to operate may not have a requirement as many requirements as listed here.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we’ve built hundreds of food trucks that operate throughout the United States and the world in our 15+ years in the industry. Part of our build process is to work with health departments to determine the laws and regulations to build a concession unit that meet the city or county requirements where you plan to operate. In short, we do all the work compiling the requirements in your area and submit build plans directly to health department so you can focus on other aspects of running your business.

What is a Potable Water System?

As you’re reading the build requirement documents from various counties for mobile food vendors, you may notice the phrase potable water system or simply potable water tank being referenced frequently inside these documents. Both refer to the tank that supplies the clean or fresh water for cooking needs. The explanation really is that simple, but the wording can cause confusion if you’re not familiar with the vernacular of these documents.

Related Reading: How to Legally Dispose of Gray Water for a Food Truck

Standard Water Tank Specs

Assuming you’re in the market for a water tank, we recommend going with a standard plastic tank to ensure approval from your health department. If you’re searching for these tanks online in specific sizes you can look up RV water tanks or recreational vehicle water tanks. The water tanks used in food trucks are the same as those installed in RVs, campers, and tiny houses. The only difference is you may have a specific size requirement based on your operational needs, permitting requirements, and vehicle requirements.

Two great online sources for high-quality water tanks is National Tank Outlet and Plastic-Mart. Both provide a long list of sizes that you can browse online. In most situations, you’ll be able to find a tank that meets your permitting needs and can be installed on your food truck or concession trailer.

Each of the example water tank specifications below are measured by length, width, and height. 

10 Gallon – 17″ x 14″ x 10″

16 Gallon – 24″ x 15″ x 10″

21 Gallon – 39″ x 16″ x 8″

30 Gallon – 34″ x 18″ x 12″

42 Gallon – 39″ x 18″ x 14″

65 Gallon – 37″ x 30″ x 15″

70 Gallon – 34″ x 23″ x 23″

The prices of these water tanks are determined mainly on size and shape of the equipment and are reasonable. For a 20 – 40 gallon tank you can expect to pay between $200 – $500. If you plan to operate something small like a hot dog stand or push cart, a small 7-gallon tank that you can purchase for under $100 might be all you need.

As a final point, while you don’t want to go too small with a water tank, make sure you don’t go too big either. For every gallon of water, you’ll be adding an extra 8.34 pounds of weight to your vehicle.  This water weight can add up fast as 5 gallons of water would be approximately 41.7 pounds. That’s a lot of weight sloshing around for smaller concession units, specifically. While there are always exceptions in custom manufacturing, for this reason we do not recommend installing 150 gallon and higher water tanks on mobile food units. Many food trucks operate just fine with nothing more than a 30-gallon fresh water tank installed.

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