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Food Truck Floor Options: Everything You Need to Know

Researching the best type of flooring install inside your food truck or concession trailer? In today’s post, we address everything you need to consider before investing in the floor of your food truck. In addition to sharing the best options, we layout some of pitfalls to watch out for with the most popular food truck flooring types.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we’ve been manufacturing concession trailers for over 15 years and have worked on literally hundreds of concession units during this time frame. After working on so many of these units and even making repairs to concession trailers from other manufacturers, we’ve seen it all in terms of good and bad with food truck builds. These are the most important food truck floor considerations based on our years of experience.

Popular Option #1: Aluminum Tread Plating

If you’ve browsed other online food truck build photos, you’ve no doubt seen photos of glistening mobile kitchens. These images feature spotless kitchens, all brand-new stainless steel kitchen equipment, and floors you could literally eat off of they’re so shiny and clean. These types of floors usually have aluminum tread plating installed on the floors.

Example of the interior of a brand new mobile kitchen build using aluminum tread plating.

We’re happy to build interior kitchens using this type of plating and it can work well, but there are considerations you should know about before making a final decision.

First, your floors will never look as clean as the day the concession unit rolls out of the manufacturing facility. Mobile kitchens are not sterile environments that will remain in pristine condition and untouched like you’ll find in promotional photos.

Soon you’ll be taking your kitchen on the road, cooking and generating sales with the unit. This means you’ll be moving back and forth throughout the kitchen, rolling inventory across the floor, dropping things, and food will inevitably hit the floor. The flooring will continue to do it’s job, but it’s important to keep in mind that pristine look of the shiny aluminum floor won’t last forever!

The other consideration is if you plan to sell a lot of deep-fried products. If you do, you can expect a certain amount of grease to make it on the floors and create a slippery surface. Slippery kitchen floors can be extremely dangerous and a potential hazard to employees. The aluminum plating installed does have have tread, which will helps reduce risk of slipping. But this remains an important safety consideration that a business owner should be aware of.

BBQ food truck built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

Common Installation Mistakes 

Assuming you want to move forward with aluminum plating for floors there are manufacturing considerations you need to consider as well. With aluminum tread plating you need to install sheets or pieces that fit the exact size of your floor. When you layer sheets there is the opportunity to create moisture in the gaps if your not extremely detail oriented. Moisture from water or grease is not good.

Installing a floor correctly is a skill that does take time and repetition to master. One way we ensure all moisture and air pockets are removed from the floor is to install each plate using a 100+ pound roller. This helps smooth out any air pockets or bubbles that might exist. During the installation, you also need to make sure you’re using the right type of glue and applying it at the correct temperature. If you’re applying these floors in an environment that isn’t temperature controlled (too hot or too cold) there will be problems.

We can’t stress enough the importance of installing these sheets correctly to prevent bacteria and other bad stuff from seeping into the floors. If these sheets are installed incorrectly, moisture or bacteria can eventually rot out the floor of your truck.

More than one concession unit originally built by another manufacture has been brought to us for repairs due to this vary reason. The challenge as a food truck vendor is that your flooring might appear to be in sound condition for months or over a year before you discover there’s a problem.

Popular Option #2: Black Rubber Floor

Our recommendation for food truck flooring is to use a rubber floor. There are a few distinct advantages to using a rubber floor versus aluminum plating. First, you can have a rubber floor created to the exact specs and layout of your concession unit. This means your floor is applied on one piece meaning there’s almost no chance for air or moisture to get past the protective barrier.

Aside from your floors being better protected, these rubber floors lock out grease, water, or anything else you can throw at them. You’re also less likely to slip on these surfaces compared to aluminum floors. Finally, this material is better suited for normal wear of food truck operations. The rubber material can handle anything you throw at it during a regular service.

You can choose a different color options for your rubber floors, but most people prefer black. Overall, we feel rubber floors are a more practical option for most food truck vendors. If you want to learn about the optimal floor size in a food truck, read our related post on the topic.

One last point is that from a cost perspective, both aluminum and rubber floors are about the same price so there’s no real cost savings to be had either way. If you have additional questions about building a mobile food unit or flooring specifically, drop us a line or give us a call at 904-397-0246. We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have about the custom build process.

Important Considerations When Installing Food Truck Exhaust Hoods

When outfitting a food truck, a lot of the same commercial equipment you would use in a coffee shop or restaurant can be installed in a mobile unit. But there are some pieces of equipment you should never be taken from a restaurant and installed onto your food truck. One example of this is with the exhaust hood.

An exhaust hood, sometimes called a range hood, is the device that’s positioned directly above your oven and cooking area to provide ventilation. This piece of equipment removes smoke, airborne grease, and other fumes from the food truck. Exhaust hoods also have fans installed to pull fumes out of your cooking area. The most popular exhaust hoods that we install are stainless steel. You can view an example of an exhaust hood below that’s been installed into a BBQ food truck.

Food Truck Exhaust Hood

Exhaust hood built into a BBQ food truck.

Things You Need to Consider Before Installing a Food Truck Exhaust Hood

If this is your first time visiting our website, we’ve been manufacturing concession trailers / trucks for over 15 years. During this time period we’ve seen it all in terms of food truck build outs and can tell you that there are many parts that people don’t understand or simply aren’t aware of when installing exhaust fans into a mobile unit. Here are some of the common mistakes we’ve seen happen when installing this important piece of equipment.

Mounting Curbs: A mounting curb is this is what sits on top of the roof and secures the exhaust hood to fan itself. This can look like nothing more than a simple metal box. In addition to providing a path for unwanted smoke and fumes to exit the vehicle, the mounting curb also seals the food truck so moisture doesn’t leak inside of the kitchen. If not completely sealed, rain water and other external weather elements outside of your vehicle will get inside creating a laundry list of potential hazards.

Roof Penetrations: You should never have penetrations or tiny holes in roof itself. This is yet another opportunity for grease and moisture to collect. Also, all screws must be on outside of the exhaust hood for safety and code purposes. We’ve regularly seen this issue when customers bring their food trucks to us this specific repair. This is unfortunate because it’s the type of issue that can be easily overlooked for weeks or months by a food truck operator.

Exhaust Tubes: There should not be any holes or space in the exhaust tubes or the connection. These need to be fully sealed from tube to fan. If the tubes are not fully sealed, grease can get in and it will be a fire hazard. We weld exhaust tubes so there is no way for grease to get in. We see this issue frequently on food trucks that are brought to us for repair, unfortunately. This problem is often found during the safety inspection.

The Flying Pie Guy. Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

The Approach We Use and Recommend When Installing Exhaust Hoods

To avoid the issues above, this is the process we use for each of our custom build outs. The most important step is that we have custom size exhaust fans made for each concession truck or trailer. These exhaust hoods are designed and manufactured for each food truck or trailer we build. Our hoods also come with installed fans that are positioned at the edge of the vehicle. Exhaust hoods designed for restaurants are in the wrong place for a mobile unit.

The size of the exhaust hood is also custom manufactured based on your cooking equipment you want installed. National requirements state that your exhaust hood must be 12-inches than all your equipment put together, six inches on each side. During the design stage of your food truck, we ensure your concession trailer meets these essential requirements. As you might imagine, the installation of the wrong size of exhaust hood can be a costly and time consuming mistake for these reasons.

We also install a non-flammable back splash standard on all our food units. Stainless steel sheets is what we use on back of the equipment to ensure a long-lasting and durable product.

As you can see there’s a lot more to buying an exhaust hood for a food truck than finding something online and installing. There are numerous custom modifications that must to be completed for this piece of equipment to pass safety inspections and keep you up and running longterm.

If you would like to learn more about our methodology for manufacturing custom food units, give us a call at 904-397-0246 for a no obligation consultation. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

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 in 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.

 

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.

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.

The Ultimate List of Commonly Installed Food Truck Appliances

Beautiful yellow wrap on this BBQ trailer.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks we’ve installed just about every appliance imaginable into a food truck or concession trailer. This list compiles the most commonly requested appliances to be installed onboard a mobile food unit.

If you don’t find the device you need on this list, not to worry. Our motto is: “If you can dream it, we can build it.” We’ve received countless one-of-a-kind requests during our 15+ years in the custom manufacturing industry and welcome the opportunity to execute your vision. Beyond just appliances, check out our previously published equipment checklist here for information about ovens, refrigerators, and more.

Commonly Installed Appliances

Mobile Coffee / Beverages Common Use
Coffee Maker Making coffee!
Espresso Maker Often equipped with milk steamer and other features.
Grinder Fresher beans and enhanced flavor.
Blender Smoothies, juices, iced coffees, specialty drinks.
Water Purification System For higher quality and more consistent coffee, tea, and beverages.
Commercial Juice Press For freshly squeeze fruit juices.
Spindle Mixer Most commonly used for milk shakes.
Shaved Ice Machine Snowcones, Italian ice, etc.
Food Prep
Food processor Quickly mix sauces / salsas.
Lettuce cutter Faster more consistent way to chop lettuce.
Vegetable dicer Faster more consistent way to dice carrots and other veggies.
Cutting board This is a must have on any mobile food unit.
French Fry Cutters If you serve hand cut french fries, you need this.
Shredders / Graters Must have if you need shredded cheese.
Meat
Meat Grinders Ideal if you require freshly ground meats or unique burgers.
Meat Slicer Perfect for mobile delis / sandwiches.
Pizza
Mixers Great if you want to make your own crust.

 

Selecting the Right Appliances For Your Food Concept

Wondering what appliances you should have installed on your food unit? The best way to accomplish this is to figure out what type of menu you plan to serve and then work backwards. After you get the menu figured out, determining the appliances you need to operate will be almost a no brainer.

Using the example list above, if you plan to open a coffee truck, you’ll need blenders, an espresso machine, coffee maker, and likely water-purification. If you don’t plan to serve juices though there’s no need for the juicer to be installed.

As a first step in the concession business, we always recommend writing a business plan. As part of that plan you will draft the initial menu, appliances, cooking equipment you need to cook and serve that menu. From there, we can help you select the size of unit, layout, power and health code requirements for your specific area.

We can also work with you to determine the appliances that are built-into your mobile kitchen and those that should be plugged-in and stored in a cabinet when not in operation. The size of the appliance and frequency of use for each device is a major factor in determining the right choice.

One rule of thumb in the mobile food business is to keep your menu and number appliances to a minimum. From a space perspective, you’re limited on a food truck. The other factor to be aware of is that every appliance requires more power. So the size and model of your generator will change depending the appliances installed and power requirements.

We hope this blog post has given you a simple road map for selecting the right appliances for your food unit. If you have questions about your own future mobile kitchen, give us a call at 904-397-0246. At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we provide free consultations and no obligation blue-print designs for all our builds.

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How to Legally Dispose of Gray Water For a Food Truck

Whether your operating a food truck or trailer, you need to consider how to properly dispose of “gray water” for your business. How you remove gray water is critical from a legal perspective and you’ll face stiff fines or have your vending license revoked if you fail to meet this requirement.

On top of the legal ramifications, disposing of this waste water correctly is the right thing to do. It ensures that your waste won’t make anyone sick or backup sewer systems of your local municipality.

In case your unfamiliar with the term “gray water” already, it’s the waste water you produce from a day of operating your mobile kitchen. This waste often contains grease, soap, chlorine, food particles, or bacteria.

Checking For Approved Waste Water Systems

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we understand the importance of getting an approved waste water system installed that meets the requirements of local government agencies. This is an important step that can be overlooked by builders and first-time vendors. If missed, the result will mean more time and money to fix on your end.

Take for example, if you planned to operate a “mobile food facility” (AKA food truck) in San Diego County. In this county, you would be required to have a total capacity of carrying 45 gallons of waste water in two separate tanks. The first requires a small 7.5 gallon tank for hand washing. The second requires a larger 37.5 gallons for ware washing and other waste. To find out what rules are in your area consult your local health department before moving forward with any build.

After you’ve got the appropriate sized waste tanks installed, you’ll also need to make sure there is a way to drain the tank externally that can be connected to a hose to offer more flexibility. Some mobile units even have a grease trap installed.

One pro tip that you’ll want to build into your process is to inspect if there is any leakage from your waste water tank. If there is leakage and it’s discovered by an inspector first, your business will be shut down until you fix the problem.

One simple way to ensue the tank is not leaking or cracked is to check underneath your vehicle after each day of operation. You’ll see the waste water on the ground, especially when parked on pavement.

Approved Gray Water Facilities

Now that you’ve figured out what you need in terms of onboard equipment, you’ll want to find out where exactly you can dispose of your waste water at the end of the day. One easy recommendation is to ask your local health department for a list of approved resources in your area. Here are a few of the most common ways you can dispose of waste water:

Commissaries: This is the most common location for food trucks to dispose of their waste water at the end of the shift. Most commissaries will have a location setup where you can hook an external hose to release water into a grease interceptor.

Restaurants: If you already own a restaurant then this is your best option. If not, you’ll have to have to find another business owner that you can exchange value for and potentially pay a small fee. One tip would be to reach out to smaller restaurant owners that would be happy to do this for a small fee.

Camping Areas: You’ll need to consult with your health department if this is an option in your area, but it is fine in some areas. Believe it or not, but RVs have similar waste from bathrooms and cooking that food trucks do. The hookup and disposal is similar as well.

Unfortunately, when it comes to mobile vending the rules are a little bit different no matter where you go. Consulting with your local officials is the safest way to ensure that you’re following the letter of the law.

Don’t Try This At Home

Finally, do not try to dump your gray water at home (or anywhere else it’s not approved). Eventually, the build up from your gray water will plug the sewer systems and it will get back to you. Water companies now have ways to send cameras down plumbing lines to identify where the source of a problem is coming from. If the problem is you, it’ll be you that is on the hook to pay for the problem to be solved.

Concession Trailer Plumbing Blue Print / Layout Example

Although requirements for concession trailers differ across the country there are some requirements that are standard across the board. One of the  standard requirements is for a 3-compartment sink and hand washing sink. These requirements are in place for food safety handling reasons and something you want installed on your unit regardless of legal requirements.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we develop 3 different blue-prints / layouts for each custom build. There is an electrical layout, kitchen layout, and of course a plumbing layout that we will cover in this post. You can view an example of one plumbing layout below.

plumbing blueprint

Plumbing blueprint.

 

One of the challenges of manufacturing a custom truck is that you need to balance the kitchen equipment installed on the concession trailer with the location of plumbing and electrical needs. As a general rule of thumb, we find that a 15 or 16 gallon fresh water tank will work well for most mobile units. Depending on your menu or unique requests (like an installed bathroom), you may need a larger tank. Keep in mind that the larger the tank, the more space it will require inside of your unit.

Additionally, you also need to ensure that you don’t weigh down your concession trailer by going too big. Ideally, you want to be able to safely move your trailer with full fresh water tanks installed for ease of use. The graph below demonstrates how the plumbing can be setup within a concession trailer as an example.

Above is a diagram from the plumbing for an RV courtesy of MarxRV.com. Believe it or not, the way a concession plumbing is setup is often highly similar to that of a recreational vehicle. The plumbing for your vehicle will be dependent on your specific needs like how large of a gray water tank you’ll need, where you would like your sinks positioned inside the vehicle and other personal preferences.

One pro tip that often gets overlooked is that you want to make sure you choose a builder that will install top-grade hoses and fittings for your trailer. When dealing with any type of waste water you don’t want to spring a leak 6 – 12 months down the line just to save a few bucks up front.

Benefits of Reliable On-Board Plumbing

Food Preparation: Many vendors operating require water to prepare their menu items. Some hot dog vendors like to boil their sausages. If you’re preparing any type of soup or Vietnamese Pho you’ll need this too if you want to complete the prep work on-board. If your menu items require you to boil or water is an ingredient of a menu item having an onboard plumbing system will make operating more convenient.

Food Safety: Anyone that prepares food for the public should thoroughly wash their hands before, during and after food prep on a concession trailer. This is one of the simplest ways to prevent the germs from spreading and keep your customers safe. You can learn the proper way to wash your hands at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official website.

In addition to clean water, we recommend installing a hand washing sink and soap dispenser onboard every vehicle to make following these recommendations easier. One of the most common mistakes individuals make when washing their hands is not scrubbing long enough. The CDC recommends scrubbing for at least 20 seconds to ensure as much bad bacteria as possible is destroyed.

Cleaning Supplies: As a food vendor, you’ll be regularly cleaning the pans, spoons, spatulas, tongs, and other cookware needed to execute your menu. To accomplish this important task, you’ll need an onboard sink with hot and cold water. You’ll also need a gray water tank to hold the used water as well.

Many cities or counties will require that your waste water tank is 15% larger than your hot / cold water tanks. Consult your local regulators for the specifications in your area. The reason for this is to ensure that you have plenty of extra space in the tank to drain additional waste water. At the conclusion of each event, we strongly recommend draining your gray water tank at your commissary or other approved area.

Bathroom: An increasing number of operators want a bathroom and sometimes even a shower installed on their concession trailer. If you’re going to be spending 8 – 10 hours or more vending at different events with sometimes questionable rest rooms this can be a really nice feature to have. It also means that you won’t be awkwardly meeting customers inside a the public bathroom. Just keep in mind that you will need a significantly larger waste tank if you plan to have this element installed.

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Three Essential Tips When Buying a Food Truck at Auction

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

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

There are four basic categories of auction sales: 

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

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

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

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

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Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have Questions about Custom Builds?

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