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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.

Plumbing diagram on a mobile unit.

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.

bobo's que

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Install an Awning on a Food Truck?

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

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

Dining Area

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

dining area

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com.

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

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

Improved Customer Experience / Marketing

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

Photo Credit: www.benjerry.com

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

Considerations

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

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

Funnel Cake Concession Trailer Business Startup Report

funnel-cake

Classic Funnel Cake Concession Trailer.

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

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

tasty funnel cakeThe Business Side of Funnel Cake

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

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

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

Funnel Cake Ingredients

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

Extra Toppings

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

  • Chocolate
  • Strawberry
  • Carmel
  • Butterscotch

Business Challenges

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

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

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

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

BBQ Concession Trailers with Bathrooms Installed Onboard

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

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

 

Bathroom Benefits

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

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

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

Things to Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How-to Determine Electrical Power Needs of a Food Truck

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

Understanding Watts and Volts

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

Electrical power (symbolized by P) is defined as:

P=VI

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

How Much Power Will You Need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lightOutlet Adapters

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

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

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

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

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

Please be careful!

Trending Now: Fresh Produce Food Trucks

 

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

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

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

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

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

Mill Village Mobile Market

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


Real Food Farm

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

Fresh Truck

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

frt2FoodShare’s Mobile Good Food Market

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

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

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

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