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Do Food Trucks Need to Pay Taxes in the United States?

The 2018 deadline for submitting your business or personal income taxes in the United States is nearly upon us. In 2018, the deadline for submitting these taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is April, 17th. This date is even labeled as Tax Day on most calendars. Depending on your situation this date is something you dread or is just another day because you filed your taxes in advance over a month ago.

No matter what end of this spectrum you find yourself at, as Tax Day moves closer people have questions about the tax code and law. One frequently asked question we’ve seen is whether or not food trucks really need to pay taxes? We aren’t sure how this rumor came to be, but it’s not true. Food trucks are obligated to pay taxes just like any other registered business.

Believe it or not there is no food truck loophole in the tax code that we could find. If your goal is to somehow avoid taxes by starting a food truck it won’t work in any territory within the United States. You’ll be obligated to pay Uncle Sam his fair share just like everyone else.

It’s unclear how the rumor that food trucks don’t need to pay taxes came to be. It could be an idea that goes back to the old roach coaches of years past that would serve questionable food without a business liscense. It could also be yet another misunderstanding about the food truck industry. Either way, food trucks, concession trailers and other vendors are required to pay their fair share of taxes to the government.

clam chowder van

Tony’s Clam Chowder built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

While you can’t avoid paying taxes by starting a food truck there are some basics you can do to reduce your tax burden at the end of the year:

State Taxes: Where you live makes a big different in how much you pay in taxes each year with a food truck. States like Nevada and Florida have no state income tax at the time of writing. On the other hand states like Minnesota and California have an income tax of well over 6%, which can really eat into profit for a small business.

Business Expenses: Many of the costs associated with operating a food truck business can be written off as legitimate business expenses. Some common examples of expenses will include mileage to travel to different vending locations. Also any wages paid to employees or investments made into new cooking equipment can be listed here. The simplest way to track your business expenses is to have an account or credit card that is only used for business purposes. This will make it easier to download the charges you made in the previous business year from your bank’s website. Make sure to keep as many receipts as possible as a record of purchases.

One thing to keep in mind is that we are not tax professionals so don’t take this a legal tax advise. You should always consult a certified professional that can provide guidance based on your situation and goals. With that being said the above tips are all smart ideas to bring up to your tax professional to see how they apply to your business.

Video Tour: Smoothie King ProMaster Van Conversion

When Smoothie King needed a fully-mobile Smoothie bar, they turned to M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks to execute their vision. In today’s video tour, Bob Pierson, co-founder of M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks provides an exterior and interior walkthrough of the completed and wrapped unit. Click the video below to start the 5 minute tour now!

About Smoothie King

Smoothie King founder Steve Kuhnau started the business in 1973. In 1989, Smoothie King opened the first U.S. juice bar franchise. Fast forward to 2018, the company now has over 800 locations globally and continues to grow.

Although the juice bar company has experienced continued growth over the past few decades, the companies mission remains the same:  To serve a nutritious Smoothies with a Purpose. Each Smoothie continues to be blended with healthy fruits, veggies, high-quality proteins and vitamins.

Smoothie King: Dodge ProMaster Food Truck Tour

As you tour the exterior of the vehicle you’ll immediate recognize the Smoothie King logo and branding that wraps the unit. As you see the front cab is standard with a back wall to separate the kitchen from driving areas. The concession counter and serving window are built into the door to the kitchen. As you can see the door slides open allowing for easy entrance into the vehicle.

As you enter the back of the van, you can see the equipment that’s been installed for serving a variety of Smoothie flavors. Inside you’ll see a sink with spray nozzle and a 3-compartment sink for hand washing. There is also a custom built counter system inside the unit that can be quickly setup once inside the vehicle to maximize working space inside the mobile juice bar. This extra space is critical inside of a compact mobile unit like this.

As we enter the kitchen, you’ll notice a refrigeration system located on the counter to cool product. There’s also an ice bin installed to make ice on demand. There’s also space for blenders to be plugged in an operated. These blenders can installed directly into a countertop or stored in a shelf unit depending on your preference. The power box is also located near the rear of the vehicle and features one-click button to start the generator.

Although this unit is compact, Smoothie and juice trucks actually require a lot of power to be able to operate blenders and other equipment at a high-frequency. As a result, we needed to install a larger, high-power Oned Cummings 10Kw generator on this unit to be able to keep up with the demands of this business. Fast forward to the 3 minute and 15 second point of the video to see how this generator was conveniently installed.

Five Popular Food Truck Alternatives to Start a Mobile Food Business

Do you love the idea of starting a mobile food business, but are looking for options beyond a basic food truck? In that case, we’ve got you covered with some of the most popular alternatives available!

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks we’ve had the privilege of custom building all kind of food units to meet our client’s vision. What we’ve learned in our 15+ years in the industry is that every business has different goals and unique needs that require outside-the-box planning to accomplish.

Some of our customers are on strict budgets and need to a unit that will allow them to bootstrap their new food business. Other vendors must be able to navigate their food units in large cities and operated in tight spaces. While there is another segment of our clientele that requires fully tricked-out units with bathrooms, full-sized commercial kitchens, and space for five or more employees to work comfortably inside.

If you know you want to start a mobile food business, but are looking for alternatives to a food truck, here are some of the most popular options we’ve delivered for our customers:


Concession Trailer –
The most common alternative to a truck is the concession trailer. Concession trailers have been around for years and you’ve no doubt seen them at fairs, festivals, open field concerts and other special events.

The biggest difference between with a trailer doesn’t have a built-in engine like a food truck does. As a result, you need to have another vehicle one hand with enough horse power to tow it. There are advantages to this type of unit though. First off, food trucks inevitably break down just like any other vehicle. If you have a trailer, you can easily rent a truck to use for the day and get to a lucrative event. If you operate a food truck, you could end up out of service at worst possible time.

The second advantage that people like is the cost. Since there’s no engine on-board, the a trailer will always cost less than a comparable food truck. If you want to get into mobile food vending this is closest thing to a food truck.

Food Van – Food vans come in a variety of vehicle models like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, RAM ProMaster Cargo Van, or the Ford Transit. Each of these models can be converted into smaller sized mobile food units or catering service vehicles.

We’ve had tremendous success building custom-made coffee, ice cream, shaved ice, and Hawaiian food vans for entrepreneurs. The important rule of thumb to remember with these vehicles is that you’ll be working with a limited amount of space onboard these vehicles. A maximum of two employees is recommended on these units due to the space limits. Still, if you’re either on a tight budget or need an agile unit that can navigate busy city streets these are great options. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinters and other models are often used as work vehicles and can handle the daily wear-and-tear of food operations. Below is an example of a previous Ford Transit we converted at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Food Carts – When the average person thinks of a food cart they think of the hot dog guy, the pretzel vendor, or maybe even ice cream cart. Those can certainly all fit the criteria, but carts can be so much more than that.

One example would be our innovative line of BBQ smokers. These BBQ carts allow you to start a catering business or enter competitions for well under $5,000 depending on the model. Whether your specialty is brisket, pulled pork, or chicken we can help you get started on a shoe string budget.

Shipping Containers – In the past couple of years, shipping container kitchens have become increasingly popular. Advantage of these containers is there durability, low price point, and size. The downside of course is that they are significantly less mobile than the other alternatives listed in this post. If you plan to operate out of a somewhat permanent location these options can be really cool.

We modified the shipping container and mounted it on the back of a truck to maintain it’s mobility while giving it a truly unique experience to guests. Customers can literally watch how the sausage (or in this case) pizza is being made while they wait.

Catering Business – Catering is another popular option for beginning food entrepreneurs. With this business model you can often get started without any type of specialty food unit. All you need is serving equipment and access to a commercial kitchen assuming you’ve acquired a catering license in your area to serve legally.

We hope this post has given you some new ideas on alternatives to food trucks. Let us know if there are any options we missed within the comments section below.

 

How to Make Food Truck Menu Prices That Ensure Profitability

No matter what the idea and industry, there are certain things that every business owner has to consider among the waves and tides of decisions, strategies, and research that goes into their business. Of these, probably the most important, and easily the first thing noticed, for all customers besides the product itself is Price. What exactly are you going to charge for your object, your service, your council, or in our case today, mobile food and drink.

This particular question, I find, finds quite the interesting pang in the Food Truck industry; for anyone with even the slightest knowledge and experience with them, it’s well known that they’re a source of low-priced edible options. In fact, it’s been the base of many a restaurant’s complaints, along with all the other lower costs they have to deal with. Despite the almost identical spirit in the roles both these businesses try to offer, the distinctive difference offered purely by their base of operations still show itself in these notably disparate fashions; now, whether they choose to use this to garner hate and grudges or as a means to work together and grow in fun and unique ways is up to them, and left for another article.

So what actually needs to be considered when figuring out your own prices? Of course one should always be aware of the other local truck menus, see if there’s a general range, don’t want to risk seeming notably more expensive for similar products. But at the end of the day this is your own food, and the retail still needs to correlate particular profit percentages compared to the costs that went into them.

This can vary depending on owner preference, but actual food costs, the only actual direct and tangible cost in a menu item, can range 22-45%; restaurants can and do often go even lower with this. With such a big profit range, it almost seems why its even an issue to knock prices low, but of course as anyone even slightly familiar with business knows, the ‘profit’ left after food is anything but. Not counting the daily costs of employee wages, permit + parking fees, gas, electricity, and every other thing needed to run restaurants and food trucks, one of course is still in possession of large loans and leases that need to be paid back every single month. Then there’s the occasional maintenance, emergency costs, etc. So what we have is an overall huge cost that needs to be divided among years and months, then applied to individual days in estimation and goals of how much profit after food costs you need to make of profit overall to break even. And the know that you will likely not making even close to this when starting out, which will likely drive up the cost goals later on when (well, if) you actually get enough business to start making a livable wage.

kg6So what was originally a somewhat-exciting range of pricing becomes a scary number that starts making us sweat and doubt our choices; do we take the risk at an attractive price and hope we’re skimming right at the point of having a few cents of gross profit over to get us through the year, or do we add an extra dollar or two to make sure, only then to worry about the price image? Menu helps determine these, but overall the final decision may come simply to confidence on whether or not you think the quality speaks for itself, or confidence that you can get enough business to have those quarters add up over time.

Though truthfully, your own final decision can be based off of anything from in-depth, complex area analysis to simply what you feel seems right, but a bit of study and understanding your costs doesn’t hurt (have to do a business plan at some point anyways right?). We looked into one truck’s experience and view on this topic, and sat down in an interview with the owner, Tom Mcnulty, to discuss the idea.

Question: Firstly, why don’t you tell us all about yourself and the truck? How did it all get started?

Tkgom: I’m a culinary graduate, graduated from GCA in San Francisco, I’ve been in the restaurant business for 25 years, essentially a country club restaurant, I opened my own restaurant up in Santa Rosa, the only reason I closed it down was the overhead costs, the overhead costs were tremendous. And that’s when I decided to get into the food truck business with low overhead and stuff like that.

The concept of my truck, Keep on Grubbin’, based off of changing the menu frequently, depending on the season, shopping at the local produce market. So that’s how I keep up with the concept of the truck. And that’s kind of where I got to today, it’s been a tough movement, you’ve got to really get your name out there, be consistant with good food to build up your truck, branding your truck.

Q: So, what was it like seeing all the costs that had to go into Keep on Grubbin’?

Tom: Well, after opening up a restaurant it was very minimal in comparison. I looked at it and, the leases were kind of high, I was leasing a truck when I first started. But basically you had to put up the first lineup and if you wanted to get your truck wrapped then you get your truck wrapped. So for under $10,000 you could get a particular food truck business up and running. And the insurance is a lot different in a food truck than in a restaurant.

kg5Q: How did you go about figuring out the profit needed every week/month in order to pay these costs, and what was the actual range?

Tom: I don’t use programs, I have my own program and spreadsheet that we used at the restaurant. So my food cost is 23%, and my overall cost is 33%.

The first couple months, when you get into the food truck, it’s very hard, you’re not making the kind of money you think you’re going to be making. So you do have to have cash, you have to have reserves to help cover that, it’s the business part. But how I determined that, I just used my original business plan with my percentages, and that was how I came up with the costs to run the business.

Q: What decisions went into deciding how much the menu items should sell for? What profit percentage compared to FOOD cost did you generally end up at?

Tom: I did comparisons with other trucks to see if I was in line with pricing, and looks like percentages, with my percentages, I was right in line with others. So my thing was based all on percentages, and that was 23% cost was where I set it.

Q: Have you ever found had to change the prices for particular reasons? If so, why was it; and if not, were you ever really tempted to raise them for more profit?

Tom: I’ve never raised our prices, not even for certain events. I’ve lowered them for school events, with the kids who don’t have a lot of cash, so I have to lower my prices for High School and Elementary events. But I’ve never raised my prices for an event just to make more profit.

Q: Many a restaurant has lauded against trucks for their lower and ‘easier’ costs to deal with, along with their ability to sell food for cheaper and thus steal away customers. What’s your take on this idea vs why prices are comparatively so low?

Tom: It’s basically your overhead costs, the overhead costs are much more minimal than your free-standing restaurant; labor, rent, insurance, just that alone is why these food trucks can run the prices that they can.

Q: From what you’ve seen, what Opportunities and Challenges do the generally lower-priced Food Truck menus offer?

Tom: The opportunities are to have more people to enjoy the food off your truck, gives them the opportunity to come for lunch or dinner. A lot of events we do, there’s a lot of food trucks there, and a lot of people that come like to eat off of not just one truck, but a handful of trucks that are there. So the lower prices than a restaurant gives people the opportunity to sample the different foods than a food truck.

As for challenges, sometimes you’re not making your profit margin that you need to make. That’s some of the challenges when you do have to lower your price for some of those events. But I could take stuff off the menu, my higher percentage items I took off the menu and I basically ran my car, but I still needed to run at a lower price. You’re still making your profit margins even if you’re at the lower price.

Q: What’s your take on trucks, perhaps coming from a restaurant or some other viewpoint, that start selling their items for notably higher, restaurant-level pricing on the streets in order to make a higher return on their goods?

Tom: I haven’t really run into that, I think prices are really comparable. I really haven’t seen any truck which were… except for some of the lobster trucks that can charge a little more than regular/cheaper food trucks. But they’re trying to run they’re cost and percentages, cuz it’s higher buying seafood than buying these other things. That’s the only time I’ve seen prices not comparable.

Q: Is there any last points of interest you’d like to make on the topic?

Tom: Basically just take the business plan that you have, a good business plan, try to keep costs as low as you can to be successful.

We do thank Tom for taking the time to sit with us and go over these questions with us and appreciate all the assistance he could muster. Though of course we realize that this combination of self-important opening ramblings and brief interviews can never truly cover all that you may want or need to know when deciding menu prices for yourself, so we’ve gone and found some Articles and Resources that we hope prove helpful. Good luck in your decision-making and problem solving, save something for my thin wallet!

Food Truck Income Survey – This is a survey of 300 full-time food truck owners that share their annual revenue estimates. This is a great resources for understanding the typical revenue numbers of a mobile food unit.

Pricing Methods – the ‘For Dummies’ approach to the two basic cost-to-retail pricing calculations

Mobile Cuisine Menu Pricing Article – a look at changing factors to consider, along with questions you should ask yourself.

Dealing with Food Costs and Quantities – tips to help curb those nasty figures to make sure you can scale down those scary retail prices.

Menu Display Options – Find out some of the different creative ways you can display your menu after the prices have been determined.

Ultimate Guide to Menu Display Options For Food Trucks

Every food truck has to display their menu on something, and every business owner has their preference. Some go for the simplest methods at their disposal, with the barest outline of items and prices (with or without descriptions), while others go for big pizzazz, flashy designs and sometimes even tech help! Does one’s choice in mediums for this affect final outcomes and success in any way? Ultimately I’d say that depends on the business owner’s perspective, the answer being similar to your thoughts on the necessity for a highly attractive and interesting wrap/graphic design for your truck/trailer as opposed to keeping a single matte color with minimal display.

At the end of the day it’s all about presentation, with various arguments going back and forth for what truly is necessary for the most successful. If there is anything truly important, however, it’s making sure to choose the right menu display option that fits YOUR business and particular needs. One can always change it in the future, supposing you’re starting off with an easily ditched style and replacing it with a just-as-easily attached one, but getting it where you want right at the start leaves one less hassle down the line. Of course sometimes one simply has to settle for a different idea due to lack of funds, yet another factor to take into consideration.

So towards this end, I thought it’d be fun to go over a collection of the main food truck menu styles that have seemed rather popular here and there, listing the Pros and Cons of each. For your consideration, here they are:

fm4WhiteBoard

The a-typical display in office board rooms and small neighborhood cafes, this smooth blank surface houses the familiar space to be filled with notes, drawings, and other things via marker, coming with an eraser that clears every bit of it within the blink of an eye.

Pro: Very inexpensive, super easy and fast to clean/wipe off and redo each day, so very accessible to changes. Also easy to find and set up on the side of the truck.

Con: Little to no real presentation value, tacky, often looking as cheap as they are unless one REALLY puts a lot of attention and effort into designs and writing on it. Parts of it can smudge/smear/wipe off easily from outside factors, so sections can need frequent re-writing and fix-up to keep looking decent (though not a problem if already planning to clean off and redo every day).

Chalk Board

fm2One of the favorites for menus both on the truck and sign-posted outside, something about the simplistic and sorta-rustic, sorta-old-school feel of the chalk board has seemed to thrum amongst truck owners. Likely due to the ability to portray their personality through its particular medium.

Pro: Much more attractive than the white board, seeming clean and smooth when done well, still in an affordable range, and with the ability to erase and change menu when needed. Very good at displaying one’s artistic sense if so inclined.

Con: A little more labor intensive when it comes to cleaning off as well as writing (if trying to make it look very clean, attractive, and professional; simple printed ‘item+price’ styles are easy), not to mention there ARE a lot of trucks using them so it’s not that unique on its own. One of the menus you’ll be spending the most time with very likely.

fm6Laminated Custom Menu Display

When you just have a design, logo, layout, and all manner of ways you want your menu to look that can’t be portrayed another way, getting something made custom to slap on the side is the way to go. These babies are usually laminated and/or placed under a case, are often made of unique set dimensions, and fit exactly what the truck owner wants (very much the difference between restaurant daily print-out menus and the ones that you know were hired out to have someone make at one point in time).

Pro: Custom, attractive, very presentable, this is purely expressive of YOUR truck and food, and needs no further effort once installed (besides giving a spray and wipe to make all shiny and stuff, but that’s done with cleaning).

Con: Specialty stuff always costs more money; and if you want it bolted on in a solid presentable way, then that will take some work (or likely, money to have someone else do). Also, this is one of the set menus, this is what you WILL be serving from now on, though there is the possibility for swapping it out with another custom menu later, but again that will be a cost. Additions can always be handled via extra cards and stuff attached/written on the side.

Metal/Hard Board Attachments

fm3Whether it’s a piece of metal bent and displayed beside the window, hard plastic filled with slider slots, or the typical cork-based tack-boards, having something more solid brings a clear and orderly approach to the customer’s eye. Many of these styles, custom made and attached, can have the menu painted on or used in conjunction with tabs that are attached or slid in on a daily basis.

Pro: Custom, often very nice and presentable looking, can be made to hold interchangeable menu item slots/cards for adjustable daily options, especially durable and long-lasting. Computer/spray printed words carry less worry and effort into the effect of writing it by hand every day.

Con: Besides the tack-boards, more costly still for the custom work compared to buying something one can put on the side of the truck yourself.  If getting one made with painted on menu, then flexibility in future offerings once again drops.

fm9Menu Cards, with or without Pictures

When you just wanna take the lazy way out, one can print out squares of paper from your own computer, each with a food item name, price, even description and/or picture if you want some. These can be attached to the afore-mentioned hard boards, stuck onto the side of the truck, or taped to a window.

Pro: No cost, very easy to put up as well as change display depending on menu for the day, the pictures CAN be a good way to give customers an understanding of what they’re getting. Presentation is also quite flexible, getting it wherever on the truck you want without being tied down.

Con: It’s tacky; even the pictures, which CAN be used positively, can often be viewed just as low quality (think of restaurant menus with pictures of almost everything vs simple, clean text). It’s often quite obvious that it came out of a word document.

“Butcher Paper Roll”

Whether it’s attached to the truck like a big brown toilet paper on a giant handlebar, or simply pulled off in sheets at home when needing to make a change, brown butcher paper (or similar material) can act as a quick and easy source of providing a BIG and LONG menu for a dynamic yet sort of rustic display.

Pfmro: Easy to change and redo, little actual maintenance (what’s ruined gets scrapped for something else), unique look, can be rather cheap up front depending on what and how used.

Con: Will have to continue buying more as time goes on and you run out of the roll. Black marker handwriting CAN come with similar associations as whiteboard look as opposed to clean text font if not done well enough (it’s less a pro-con situation and more just a choice on decided final look, unless handwriting of whoever does it sucks). If you have the roll attached to truck, it does LOOK nice and cool, but need to ensure proper protection in case of rain, so a small awning of sorts over it will be needed.

Television Screen

fm5Oh yes, why stick with simple boards and printed pieces of paper with stuff written/printed on it when you can just get a Flatscreen Television stuck into the side of your truck!? These have definitely become popular with some of the new wave truck owners, connecting it to the computer and pasting a slide of their menu to cover the whole screen as their choice of menu display.

Pro: Very distinctive and eye-catching, easy to see when dark out, and with a graphics screen purely in control by your computer, you can make the menu look however you want. Can also be used to show movies, sports games, slideshows, and other fun things depending on your crowd and event’s interests. Obviously also easily changed to meet seasonal menu needs.

Con: Usually needs to be installed IN the truck during the initial design, ending up a very costly choice for menu; and come on, TV vs Cheap board, it’s already a pricey upgrade. One also needs to ensure absolute protection, being difficult and costly for fixing and replacing once issues come up (luckily it’s being used for simple purposes). Depending on where it’s placed (most trucks have it in the notable open space to the side of the window, but I’ve seen ones that are peaking from within the serving window, requiring you to step up to see), one may want a secondary standing or side menu for people to study from a distance/off to the side.

Truck Graphics

Probably the simplest idea and most popular idea for food trucks, not even messing with getting something else and having it printed on the side of the truck along with whatever graphics you’re getting it ‘wrapped’ with. No room for wondering, people can just come up, look at the truck and know what’s there.

Pro: Fully Customizable, easy to see, attractive/interesting, no need to worry about special maintenance or cleaning, and if you’re already getting the truck wrapped/painted in unique graphics than there’s no extra cost in it.

Con: There is NO changing this menu at all, so you BETTER be confident that this is the food you’ll be serving from the truck from now on. Little seasonal additions can be added on with some printed paper and tape, but if you want a notable menu change then you’ll need a new wrap, and that’ll cost you. Thus it should only be attempted by certain kinds of trucks.

However you choose is up to you, there really is no right or wrong option here, so long as you find the one that fits YOUR Truck best. With luck hopefully this has helped your narrow down, or at least widen your idea to some of the different options. And I’m sure that’s not even all that’s out there, heck we didn’t even mention having it spray/painted on the window. If you want to explore even further or think of something new and unique all your own, go and do it! That’s the great part about this business, the adventurous spirit.

What Are Mobile Command Centers Used For?

What are common uses of a mobile command center? These vehicles most frequently used as mobile bases and communication centers in the field. These units are often stationed near a crisis center or natural disaster. They are also designed to operate autonomously in areas where electricity, water, and food is unavailable or in limited supply.

Government agencies, law enforcement, fire departments and health care organizations use mobile command centers in different ways, but the reality is you can accomplish almost any desired goal inside one of these advanced units. As long as the command center is preinstalled with the right equipment and designed thougtfully, you can accomplish the same goals as in a fixed facility, albeit usually in a smaller space.

In this post, we catalog common ways agencies use mobile command centers. If you’re in the market for a mobile command center, we also recommend starting by organizing a list of use cases for the unit along with specialized equipment needed to complete each task.

It’s critical that you work with a manufacturer that takes the time to not just understand the equipment you need installed, but your workflows as well. Otherwise, staff could end up with too little space to operate inside the vehicle efficiently and comfortably. If your organization is planning to operate in areas left without electricity, power requirements must also be considered. By understanding your organizational needs first, an experienced manufacturer will be able to ensure the mobile facility has been designed to meet your needs in the field.

Organizations That Use Mobile Command Centers

rehab trailer

Fire Departments: Fire fighters find themselves in remote areas without nearby access to food, restrooms, or shelter for days or even weeks at a time. The mobile command center above has been outfitted to help fire departments provide better support for serious fires. Some of the features in this unit include a decontamination shower and restroom for firemen and women in the field. There is also a built in control room that serves as a dispatch and communication hub while in the field that includes WIFI access. Finally, there is a crow’s nest positioned the top of the unit to survey the scene.

Law Enforcement: Police departments are another group that benefit from these units, although the equipment installed is different than fire departments. From a communication standpoint, dispatchers can be setup to provide nearby surveillance using direct satellite communication systems and night vision cameras mounted to remote controlled telescopic poles.

Conference rooms can also be installed that offers a mobile strategy and planning area to conduct sting operations. These units can also be installed with lockers and storage units to transport supplies. Kitchen areas and bathrooms can also be installed to support longer term operations.

Government Agencies: There are many government agencies that can provide support with disaster relief in times that require an immediate response. These units can be equipped to provide basic health care, food service, and temporary shelter for those impacted by a major storm or other natural disaster. Groups that regularly utilize units like this in natural disasters include FEMA, International Medical Corp., and The Red Cross.

Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals often need a mobile command center to provide support where patients need help most. Mobile command centers can aid in processing patients, providing routine checkups, and even conduct emergency on-site surgeries if needed.

Of course these command centers are not only useful in disaster situations. Units can be converted to assist in everyday scenarios by hold blood drives. Other units can travel to areas where patients, including the elderly, may not be able to access high-quality healthcare services.

If you’re researching a mobile command center, contact M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks. We specialize in building mobile units that meet your organizations specialized needs and specifications.

Custom-Built Dog and Pet Grooming Trailers in Florida

Looking for a low-cost, longterm business model that’s essentially recession proof? No matter if it’s good times or hard, people continue to increase spending to improve the quality of life for pets. According to this report from NBC News, Americans spent more than $60 billion on their pets in 2015 alone. That’s an increase of 25% in annual spend from just 5 years before.

This investment is being made in a variety of areas of a pets life, including better food, clothing and apparel, medical treatment, obedience classes and regular grooming like haircuts and baths.

While spend across all types of pets continues to increase as part of this mega-trend, dogs continue to be the most popular for families. The Association for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates an average size dog will cost more than $1,700 in the first year to provide care. The cost increases as pets continue to age and have more healthcare needs.

Combining Business with Passion

If you have a passion for working with animals and improving their overall wellbeing, starting a mobile dog or pet grooming trailer could be the right option for you.  These mobile units are sometimes called pet salons as they provide everything a four legged friend needs to a hair cut, refreshing bath, and dry.

This business model by providing a variety of pet grooming services like cuts, baths, de-shedding services, and other extra add-ons.  These services are provided to the pet on-site at either the families home or an office. Many pet owners prefer these grooming services to come to them both out of convenience for themselves and comfort of the animal. While dogs are by far the most popular recipient of these services, domestic cats also need grooming and pampering from time to time so the market opportunity in any area is large.

Operating this grooming service as a mobile business provides numerous benefits to not just the customer, but you as the prospective business owner as well. If you were to start a grooming business in a retail location, you would need to invest thousands of dollars monthly to lease the location. With a mobile unit like a trailer or van, the entire investment can be fully-paid off in 1 – 2 years by many business owners. After you own the trailer outright, you can retain the additional profits for yourself or use the cashflow to grow the business even further.

Your future pet salon customers.

Grooming Trailer Equipment List

Here is a list of equipment that we often find in a pet salons trailer or van. Your specific equipment list may vary depending on your personal needs and plans for the business.

Stainless Steel Pet Grooming Wash Tub – A large 62″ tub with ramp is ideal if you plan to serve larger canines.

Hot / Cold Water – By offering warm / cold water to your guests you are able to provide a higher level of service. Waste water tanks are also recommended for installation in a grooming unit.

Stainless Steel Cabinets – Store products like soap, shampoo, conditioner, clippers, towels, nail and pad care items, deshedding tools and grooming mitts.

Pet Dryer – Some groomers prefer to hand dry pets, while others prefer to use a pet dryer and have this piece of equipment installed on inside their unit.

One of the advantages to getting started in this industry is that there’s a lot of training available. There are dog grooming schools located across the country and even home study courses that can give you the skills you need to provide expert pet care. Best of all, these courses are very affordable, usually requiring less a total investment under $2,000.

If you would like to get involved in the mobile pet service industry, give us a call at 904-397-0246 or contact us by email to discuss your goals and get a free quote. We manufacture custom-built pet grooming trailer to fit your exact needs in Florida that can be shipped across the United States and around the world.

The Best Places to Find Blank or Unwrapped Food Trucks

Tony's Clam Chowder

Trying to find a blank food truck? A blank truck is simply a food truck that hasn’t been wrapped with graphics or painted yet. A professional wrap makes an night-and-day difference in how a food truck will look to the public. This single update can transform a tired looking 20-year old truck and make the unit look brand new.

If you’re in the market for an unwrapped food truck there are a few places you can begin your search. First, keep in mind that any food truck can be “unwrapped” so to speak. If you acquire a food truck that was preowned or used for another purpose (such as a FedEx delivery or bread truck), you can get the previous branding removed and start with a clean slate.

Don’t let a truck with that’s already wrapped or been painted discourage you from buying. Most trucks being up-fitted to a mobile kitchen require brand refresh anyway. As a result, it’s not a whole lot more work to invest in a pre-owned mobile unit with graphics you plan to update after purchase.

All the being said if you’re looking for a blank food truck some of the best places to look are for used vehicles that were at one time part of a fleet. The most common examples of this would be delivery trucks from FedEx or bread delivery trucks.

One of the best models to familiarize yourself with is the Chevrolet P30 truck. This is the most popular make / model of vehicle converted into a food truck due to it’s reliability and cab area. You can occasionally find these units for sale in your area on websites like Craigslist or eBay. Of course, at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we can also help you on your search to find the perfect unit to fit your needs. We have relationships with dealers across the United States and can likely help connect you with the right product.

The Cost of Getting a New Food Truck Wrap

The cost to wrap a food truck ranges from $3,000 – $6,000.  The final price will be determined by who designs your wrap and the complexity of the design. The size of your unit will also play a role in determining the price as more vinyl will be needed to cover the vehicle.

We always recommend getting quotes from 2 – 3 graphic design companies to price compare. It’s worth comparing prices because some companies include design into their wrap fees or will provide a discount if you work with them on the design and wrap aspect of the unit.

You should always get samples of a graphic designers prior work before you work with them. A good design has a lot to do with personal taste. A design that you love someone else may dislike. Viewing the designers portfolio of past work will give you an idea of whether or not you like their style. You can often view a companies past work by browsing their website. For example, GatorWraps.com features many of their past wraps online so you can get hundreds of vehicle wrap examples from the comfort of your home.

As an added layer of protection, if the company is a 3M Certified Graphics Installation Company this can also provide an added level of comfort because you know they’ve been trained to apply the wrap correctly. We also recommend checking online reviews of the company to see what past customers are saying about the company.

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

Should You Paint a Food Truck?

A food truck can be painted, but most vendors choose a vinyl wrap instead. Vinyl wraps maintain their glossy look and standup against the elements better than paint. Additionally, the details of a vinyl wrap is superior to paint.

When you receive a proposed design on a wrap, you can be confident the final product is going to closely match that design in terms of color and detail. With paint, it can be more difficult to get the detailed shades and coloring just right… even if you have an experienced and highly skilled painter.

You will be able to save some money on the exterior of your vehicle as many paint jobs cost between $1,000 – $3,000. Still, when it comes to something as important as the outside of your mobile food unit, it will pay future dividends to get a wrap that will promote your food truck professionally for years to come.

Interview with Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine Founder Shawn Wenner

Learn more about Entrepreneurial Chef Founder Shawn Wenner.

It’s a stark reality that you’ll need more than “good food” to start a thriving restaurant or food truck. You’ll also need to develop business and marketing chops to keep your business open for the long haul. Unfortunately, these important skills aren’t usually taught in culinary school.

Enter Shawn Wenner, who after almost 10-years of working at a culinary arts school chose to start the Entrepreneurial Chef, a magazine and educational platform created to help close the gap between food and entrepreneurship. In today’s exclusive Q/A interview, we learn why Wenner set out to start the Forbes of the culinary industry and help a new generation of food entrepreneurs.

 

M&R: Tell us about yourself and the Entrepreneurial Chef.
Shawn: After close to a decade of working for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, the campus closed and I was forced to find a new path. A few sleepless nights and slight identity crisis later, I had a flash of insight. Knowing most culinary students started school with entrepreneurial ambitions, coupled with the fact I saw many struggle from a business and entrepreneurial standpoint post graduation, I conceptualized an educational platform focused on food entrepreneurship.
All in all, the platform was originally intended to be a website where successful food entrepreneurs shared actionable advice. Truthfully, I had no idea if icons of the industry would even be interested in talking about the business and entrepreneurial side of things, but quickly realized we hit a nerve and they’ve not only been willing, but extremely eager and supportive. It was never intended to become a national magazine, have a collaborative podcast, launch contests, and engage in the many things happening today.

Digital Cover of Entrepreneurial Chef.

 

M&R: Entrepreneur and chef… Those are two distinct career paths that people usually don’t put together. How did you come up with this concept why did you feel like there was a need in the market for this content?
Shawn: There were honestly about 10 different factors, and each played a part. However, at it’s core, having the ability to speak with hundreds and thousands of budding chefs through the years, it was apparent most had entrepreneurial ambitions. Couple that with entrepreneurship being a core interest with future generations, food being a staple in our society, and the restaurant industry going through challenges, I began seeing where budding chefs would have to find ways to diversify their talents and/or enhance their business knowledge if they truly wanted to live their passion full-time and not struggle financially.
M&R: What’s the mission of Entrepreneurial Chef? 
Shawn: It has always been, and will continue to be, an educational platform to bring ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice to those who possess cooking or baking skills and aspire to live off their art. It’s not just about “how to make money,” though a core of our content planning is around that topic. It’s about helping someone with a passion for food and serving others to monetize their passion and live on their terms – as cliche as it sounds.
And it’s not just for chefs like the title may indicate. Truly, if anyone possesses the unique ability to cook or bake well, we want to help them find a way to monetize their passion. The ultimate goal is our readers and community members take away enough information and inspiration that they reach their entrepreneurial ambitions.

 

M&R: In your opinion, what is one or two of the most interesting pieces you’ve published in the magazine and why?
Shawn: Jokingly, it’s like asking which kid you love best. What I learned early on is everyone has a unique start, angle, struggle, inflexion point, etc., and it’s been incredible hearing about them all. Everything from how the iconic Daniel Boulud was just an eager young man in America and decided to sell truffles on the side one holiday season, but didn’t know he was technically operating illegally due to his legal status at the time. Just imagine an icon like that way back when getting his hand slapped by diplomats and the confusion it caused – yet, he jokingly shared that he sold all his truffles amidst the confusion.
There are people like Chris Hill who became frustrated and wrote his “Dear Chefs” letter that went viral and catapulted his personal brand. Follow that by a powerhouse like Maneet Chauhan who shared the story of giving birth to her child 3 months early on the day her restaurant opened, and then worked in the restaurant with her husband while her child was in NICU – can you imagine? Maneet shared the raw reality of why timing is never perfect from an entrepreneurial standpoint, and you just have to adapt and overcome.
Every person we connect with has yet another story that inspires the next generation and I’m so blessed we have the opportunity to capture them and share.

 

M&R: What’s your longterm goal (say 5 years) for this publication? 
Shawn: It’s funny, someone once said, “Shawn, are you trying to be like the Forbes for the culinary industry,” and without skipping a beat I said, “You bet!” It’s a crazy thought, and pie in the sky vision, but we’re driving to become the go-to resource for food entrepreneurship as a whole.
There are super niche platforms who do incredible jobs creating awesome content that is very focused to a sub niche in food entrepreneurship, like FoodTruckEmpire for instance who goes super deep with Food Trucks. However, what I saw was a lack of platforms that bridged all types of food entrepreneurs together – food truck operators, personal chefs, caterers, restaurant owners, pastry entrepreneurs, specialty food product creators, food bloggers, cookbook authors, food stylists, etc. – so everyone can glean practical advice from one another. We’re driving to become that bridge in various ways from a media standpoint.

 

M&R: Where can people go to subscribe or learn more?

Shawn: For the magazine, under the name Entrepreneurial Chef, we have native apps in Apple Store, Google Play, and are listed on Amazon for Kindle devices. Our website is simply Entrepreneurial Chef and has a ton of info about the site, magazine, and more. Also, our collaborative podcast with Chef Chris Hill called Making the Cut is on iTunes and Stitcher.

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Custom Built Bubble Tea Food Trucks for Sale in Florida

Bubble tea got it’s start in Taiwan in the 1980s, but has quickly become an internationally consumed beverage served in many Vietnamese and Asian-inspired restaurants around the world. This beverage is also commonly called pearl milk tea, boba juice, or simply boba.

If you’re one of the few people left that isn’t sure what exactly bubble tea is, you’ve probably seen it. The beverage is quickly identified by the “boba” or tapioca balls that rest at the bottom of the drink. The image below displays a variety of popular bubble tea flavors, including green tea, honey dew, mango, and more. Note the black tapioca balls, also referred to as pearls, inside of each cup.

A variety of bubble tea flavors and colors.

A World of Flavors and Styles

There is a very wide-range of flavor combinations and style of bubble tea. Each truck or restaurant you frequent will have their own unique spin on the product. You’re job as the future business owner will be to figure out what style and flavor combinations perform best in your area.

Popular Boba Tea Flavors

Below is a list of the most popular flavors of bubble tea. We recommend conducting research in your local market to identify top sellers near you and continually testing flavor combinations to find what works.

  • green tea
  • mango
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • strawberry
  • coconut cream
  • passion fruit
  • bannana
  • lime

Sealed VS Not Sealed: There are also style and serving considerations that must be made before starting your boba business. One major consideration is the type of cups you will serve the product. Many establishments choose to seal their drinks so they can be more easily taken to-go and consumed later. Below is an example of an air-tight sealed cup that is often used. If you plan to serve this way, you will need a sealer machine like this installed on your vehicle.

Example of a sealed cup.

One important note is that boba is served with a wider and larger straw than most drinks. This is to allow the tapioca balls to be consumed through the straw. A regular sized soda straw will not work.

Bubble Tea Food Trucks

If you’re thinking about starting a boba tea truck, the business model works well on mobile food units. The operations of a boba tea truck is highly-similar to a coffee truck or van.

One of the advantages of operating mobile business that serves bubble tea is that it’s a habitual drink, meaning it’s a product that many customers will want to enjoy many times per week or even daily. In the United States, you see this all the time at coffee shops and Starbucks. Customers may come in and purchase the same drink, at the same time 5-days a week. This kind of highly-valuable repeat customer is possible with boba too!

There are a few ways to serve this type of drink. If you already own a coffee truck or kiosk, you could add the boba to your list of drink options as a strategy for attracting a larger customer base. Boba pairs well with coffee shops because it can serve as a catalyst for afternoon or evening sales. Many customers will turn to bubble tea for a sweet afternoon pick-me-up while there are many people that only consume coffee in the morning.

Bubble tea is the ideal addition to a coffee truck menu.

Profit Margin and Operations

The profit margin on bubble tea is high compared to other food items. In the restaurant industry, a profit margin of 33% for each item sold is considered acceptable to restaurant owners. With bubble tea, however, you can expect to profits of 55% – 75% depending on the drink being sold.

In most areas of the United States, you are able to sell a cup of bubble tea for between $4.00 – $6.00 depending on location. That mean’s you should be profiting at least $2.00 per sale conservatively.

In order to make restaurant-quality bubble tea, you won’t need a lot of special equipment. Space is always an important consideration on a food truck and you can easily install all the equipment you’ll need onto a standard sized food truck. Here’s the equipment you’ll typically need installed on a boba truck:

Blender: You’ll need a commercial-grade blender to mix flavors together. Many establishments serve ice blended variations of the drink so make sure you don’t cut corners on this piece of equipment.

Automatic Sealing Machine: As mentioned earlier in the article, if you plan to seal each drink, you’ll need this.  Commercial grade sealers can be purchased for between $1,500 – $2,000 online.

Shaker Machine: Some shops opt to shake the bubble tea by hand. This is a viable option if you want to save money, but if you plan do a high-volume of boba sales you’ll want to invest in a shaker machine. You can purchase a commercial grade shaker machine for $1,499 here.

Fructose Dispenser: This is another optional item for small shops that simply want to add boba as a profit center for their business. A fructose dispenser ensures that the right amount of fructose is dispensed each time you serve. In the long run this can help save money and improve product consistency.

Refrigerators:  Your going to need plenty of refrigeration space on your truck to keep things cool.

Whether you’re planning to operate your business in Florida, the United States, or across the world M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks can custom-build the bubble tea truck that fits your exact specifications and needs. Contact us here for a free, no-obligation quote on your bubble tea truck. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Have Questions about Custom Builds?

Call Us or Submit the Form Below to Contact M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.