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April 9, 2018 Staff

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.


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