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Health Exam Units Provide Free Medical Assistance to Low-Income Communities

For individuals living in low-income communities it can be difficult to get access to health care services. Admittance to the most basic healthcare services can be a struggle due to transportation, getting time off work, lack of insurance, or not enough cash for the co-pay.

Mobile Exam Unit in The Bronx.

To help address this problem across New York City, PHARMA teamed up with the City of New York and U.S. Mobile Health Exams to help underserved residents across in different Burroughs across New York. The goal of this innovative program called Roadmap to Health is to provide free medical assistance to those who need it most.

Telemundo covered the recent event where this program kicked off in January in The Bronx. Click here to watch the full television report of the event. Note that the audio description is in Spanish only.

As you’ll see from the video there was incredible demand by local residents for this service. And this unit will move on to serve other communities, when you’re inside the unit it feels a lot like being in a regular clinic. There’s comfortable seating, privacy, desks, and even photos on the wall to make the overall experience similar to a routine doctor visit as you can see from the photo below.

Mobile health units look and feel a lot like a regular doctor appointment.

How Can Mobile Health Units Help Low-Income Communities?

There are many ways medical vehicles can be leveraged to make offering healthcare more convenient to low-income areas. These are a few of the more common uses:

  • Hearing: Hearing is something that’s often lost gradually and might not be noticed.
  • Health Screening: A regular check-up, especially as you grow older, is one of the most effective ways to catch health issues before they become bigger problems. Screenings that are regularly completed on mobile units include vaccinations like flu shots, blood tests, and ultrasound screenings.
  • Drug Testing: This is a common practice at work sites to ensure safety. Drug testing for legal and illegal substances can be conducted.
  • Vision Screening: The work of an optometrist can be completed on a mobile unit to ensure the vision of patients is good.

The Bottom Line

Mobile units are an efficient way to deliver healthcare services to people in the communities that need help most. This is also a cost-effective way to provide treatment for providers and a convenient way for patients to receive care. In other words, it’s a total win win.

In the future, we hope more cities and states discover the opportunity that exists for mobile health care solutions in their area to better serve communities across the United States.

Ways to Evaluate the Profitability of a Food Hall

The food hall movement is rapidly increasing in popularity across the United States. According to this report from BISNOW, food halls are expected to hit 300 total locations by the end of 2020. That’s more than triple the number when food halls originally began being tracked in 2015.

If you’re not familiar with food halls, they come in a number of permutations. Some of these halls have flexible locations where food trucks can come in, park, and leave easily. Others merge retail with small food kiosks and restaurants and offer shared seating area for guests.

Think of these food halls as a revitalized spin on the tired shopping mall food court. These halls offer guests the opportunity to sample from a variety of food vendors and dine in a communal location. Often these halls are located in trendy downtown urban areas, but not always.

Watch the video below for a guided tour of some of the best Los Angeles food halls from Yellow Productions.

Should You Lease Space at a Food Hall?

With an increase in the number of food hall projects in development there’s probably a location coming soon to your market too if it’s not there already. So should you sign a longterm lease at a place like this?

While there is a ton of excitement around this rapidly growing segment, it doesn’t mean that all locations will be created equal. And just because a certain concept is popular in San Francisco right now, doesn’t mean the model will be as popular where you live.

Just because you have a shared space, doesn’t mean the monthly lease expenses will be any cheaper than a traditional restaurant location. For example the Morgan Food Hall in Raleigh, North Carolina, vendors can expect to pay between $500 – $8,000 per month for a lease.

The Morgan Street Food Hall

How To Identify Profit Potential in a New or Existing Food Hall

One of the advantages to the food hall concept is they can be destinations for diners. If you plan to open a restaurant in a strip mall for example, you can expect that a lot of the marketing will fall on your shoulders as the business owner.

If you’re considering entering a food hall as a vendor the most important job is to figure out if there’s sufficient foot traffic to support the business. The easiest way to determine if there will be a sufficient number of potential customers is to spend time in the area yourself. Make sure not to only visit on Fridays and Saturdays when these locations are bustling with activity. But check on a Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening too. This due diligence will give you a better perspective on how much foot traffic really exists throughout the week. This is a simple way to confirm whether or not the location is worth it from an investment standpoint.

If the food hall is brand new or under construction, you won’t be able to get these kinds of traffic insights. Instead take a look at the surrounding community for clues. Are there major office buildings or retail centers within walking distance where employees could come for lunch? Is this an up-and-coming area where you expect growth in the coming years? Can you get a shorter-term lease to reduce business risk? These are all important questions to ask.

Beyond estimating the market opportunity, the next thing you’ll want to confirm is whether or not your concept will work in the food hall. Find out the types of restaurants that will be serving in the same food hall to ensure there are a diverse set of menus. If you plan to open an Indian inspired restaurant, you don’t want two other businesses with the similar menu operating in your area.

Aside from the nearby competition, also consider whether your menu makes sense for the environment. If the food hall is only busy during the evenings, you may want to reconsider opening a cafe that specializes in breakfast. The timing might not be right!

Continued Growth for the Foreseeable Future

For the next five years, the proliferation of food halls seems inevitable. According to reports from sources like Yahoo!, landlords are continuing to place bets on this concept especially in shopping malls where traffic has declined.

As a food vendor, it’s critical to stay on-top of changing consumer preferences. Establishing your business in a food hall could be the ideal way for you to capitalize on a trend that is poised for success in the coming years.

Are Solar and Wind Powered Food Trucks Possible?

Good news! Renewable energy has become increasingly affordable and practical over the past half decade. This means mobile food owners that want to utilize more environmentally-friendly power have more options now than ever before!

Keep in mind that while the progress of renewable technologies has been in hyper drive in recent years, renewable energy is still mostly used as a supplemental source of energy for most food truck owners that use it.

We recommend that even if you install solar panels on top of your truck to capture energy, you’ll still want a generator installed as well. At the very least this insures you have a backup energy source power from in case of emergencies. There’s nothing worse than experiencing a power outage when there’s a long line of customers waiting to enjoy your food.

Solar panels.

Below are some basic considerations to keep in mind if you’re trying to operate a truck with 100% renewable energy. We hope this gives you perspective on whether or not this is the right choice for your food unit.

Things to Consider Before Going Fully Solar

Some menu concepts require less energy than others so the menu you choose plays a major role in determining how much power you’ll need to generate from the sun or wind.

As a basic example, a coffee truck requires a lot of electricity to power. Why is coffee so demanding on a mobile power grid? The main reason is the amount of equipment that’s typically installed on these units like coffee makers, blenders, and espresso machines.

On the other hand there are food concepts that make harnessing renewable energy more practical. One example is with this pizza truck called Pi featured on a local affiliate WENY News. According to the report, this is the first ever solar and wind power pizza food truck of its kind.

The Pi pizza truck installed solar panels on top of the vehicle to collect energy from the sun. A small wind turbine was also installed. The pizza truck is able to operate a refrigerator, pumps, hot water heater and lights. Since there is a wood-fire pizza oven installed on the truck there’s no need for electricity to power the cooking equipment. If you want to utilize primarily solar power, a pizza truck is a good approach from a power perspective assuming you want a wood fire pizza oven.

Utilizing Solar and Wind Power on Food Units

To figure out how much electric power your food truck will need, you’ll need to start by listing each piece of equipment you plan to use on the truck.

Start out by creating a list of all the cooking equipment: refrigerators, griddles, microwave, coffee maker. Don’t stop at just cooking equipment, however. You’ll also need to list anything requiring electricity like the air conditioning unit, stereo, lights, television or digital menu.

Remember that each piece of equipment will require a certain amount of wattage to work. The more equipment you add to your vehicle the greater the electrical demands will be. Check out our detailed post on determining the electrical power needs for a food truck for more information on this topic. Here’s another really in-depth PDF on determining how to apply solar energy for food trucks.

At M&R Speciality Trailers and Trucks, we can do the math on our end to ensure you have enough power to consistently operate a food truck. We’ve been helping mobile food owners build their units for over 15 years and understand the nuances of powering a food truck.

Additional considerations that must be calculated include how long you plan to operate the vehicle per day. If you plan to operate the food unit for four hours per day, you’ll need a lot less capacity than if you plan to serve at all-day events like fairs where you could be serving for 10+ hours. Also, some cooking equipment will require a surge of extra energy when starting up so you always want to have more available power than you actually need. These are factors manufacturers with less experience frequently don’t take into consideration.

The Bottom Line on Solar Power

Even though there’s been tremendous progress with solar panels and wind turbine technology in recent years, we still recommend installing a generator with a food truck and ensuring there’s an easy way to plug-into another electrical source. Sooner or later you will be thankful you have the flexibility to power the unit in different ways.

The other component you need to consider at the time of writing is the cost of installing a solar panels or wind turbines on a food truck. Both will require additional initial costs that could range from an additional $3,000 – $10,000 in the overall cost of the vehicle. The additional startup cost is something to be aware while you’re in the planning phase of your business. These costs should go down as technology improves in the future, but for right now they can add an extra 5% – 10% to the total cost of a food truck build.

Anything we as a society can do to move to renewable energy alternatives the better. It will be better for the environment and create entire new vertical of jobs. If you’re considering a solar powered food truck for your business, give us a call at 904-397-0246 for a free consultation.

7 Rules Every LA Food Truck Owner Must Know! [Checklist]

Know the rules before you start your food truck business in Los Angeles

In this regulation article we’ll be covering the top 7 rules that ALL Los Angeles food truck owners must know if they are going to be running a food truck in Los Angeles.  Please stay tuned to this series of articles for other cities as we publish them. The best way to stay in touch is to join our email list below in the red box.

Flaming Pizza Food Truck Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

1. Street Signs

“Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign,” you know the song right?  Los Angeles is just as bad as all of the other major cities and their is no special exceptions for food trucks, even despite Los Angeles having some of the most food truck friendly laws in the country.

You must obey the posted parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions on stopping, loading, and parking from either posted signs or painted curbs” [LAMC 80.73(b)2(B)]

2. Stick to the sidewalk

This seems like a no-brainer but apparently there have been food trucks who have tried to serve their food with the service window facing the street?!  Happy they got the sale… sad their customer got ran over by an oncoming car!  Don’t let this happen to your day and be sure to know the rules and serve your food with your service window facing the sidewalk.

You must dispense food from the sidewalk side of the street. No truck may dispense food street side” [LAMC 80.73(b)2(C)]

3. Trash (part 1)

You must have a trash can outside your food truck and it needs to be clearly marked as a trash can and have a sign attached that requests customers to dump their trash in the receptacle.  Having a trash can inside of the truck wont cut the mustard! We recommend this solid, 50-gallon trash can with easy rolling wheels for easy movement.

You must have a CONSPICUOUS litter receptacle which is clearly marked with a sign requesting its use by patrons [LAMC 80.73(b)2(D)]

4. Trash (part 2)

In addition to having a clearly marked trash can, you actually have to remove it and take it with you when you’re done serving food.  Imagine that.  Oh, and no cigarette butts either.  So make sure you buy a well-constructed trash can with wheels on it for easy pick up after your long day.

Trash shall be removed from all areas VISIBLE around the truck. The truck shall take all bags with them when vacating an area. Trash is to include all materials originally dispensed from the truck as well as any other items left by patrons, such as cigarette butts [LAMC 80.73(b)2(E)]

5. Watch your head

Well, you don’t want to knock your customers out before you sell them some food right? So make sure you got the clearance man!  Most food trucks should have the 7′ clearance you need, but best to consult with a licensed food truck builder just in case.

The “hatch” of a truck shall be at least 7 feet above the sidewalk in order to avoid patron collisions  [LAMC 56.08(e) disputed] 

6. Overnight

Food trucks must be parked overnight in a commissary which is basically a huge commercial kitchen with some parking spaces in or around it. Each major city has one or two of them and they typically charge food truck owners for a wide range of services. NO…the owner cannot park his “Bad Ass Burger” truck in his driveway after he’s done for the day.  Why?  Because it might explode as we have seen and reported on many, many, times.

Trucks must be parked at a Commissary every night. [Cal Code: 114295(c)]

7. Bathroom, please?

You know that sign in restaurant bathrooms instructing all employees to wash their hands before they return for work?  Yeah, turns out the same thing applies to food truck employees, but instead of the city trusting them to do it on their truck….they require a public/private bathroom to be available within 200 feet of the truck while serving for over an hour.  The letter isn’t needed any longer.

Trucks must have a bathroom letter from an accessible bathroom with hot water (103-108 degrees), single serving soap, paper towels, kept in clean working order if vending for over an hour  (Cal Code: 114315)

Here is an epic checklist you can share with your fellow food truckers if you operate in Los Angeles! Note that every city and state you plan to operate in will have different laws. Generally speaking, larger cities will have more specific rules and regulations than smaller jurisdictions. Just remember that these laws were not put in place to be a nuisance to vendors. They were implemented to help keep the public safe, which is the goal of any reputation food truck owner as well.

Huntsville Shopping Center: Alabama Food Truck Park?

Huntsville Shopping Center debuts Food Truck Park

If there is anything that is more trending than food trucks right now then it is certainly the “food truck parks” and if little ‘ol Huntsville, Alabama is getting one then you know we’ve hit mainstream.  It’s not the fanciest of food truck park ideas as they decided to go with a mix of indoor and outdoor space with only a little character and styling but just having one helps move the industry forward another inch.

If you love food truck fare, but aren’t fond of long lines or extreme temperatures, a new street food option is coming soon to the Creekside Shopping Center parking lot in Huntsville.

Pinhook Provisions Street Food Park

Amie Vaughn White, who works for South Realty, plans to open Pinhook Provisions Street Food Park, a new year-round mobile dining hotspot on 2315 Bob Wallace Ave. featuring ample parking, climate-controlled indoor seating, outdoor seating with fans, restrooms, yard games, live music and more.

White, who does design work on the side, said the idea began brewing last year when she was with a client in Atlanta and saw a similar venue in the Howell Mill area. The concept started coming to fruition about two months ago and is now on target to launch Aug. 1 across from Jerry Damson Honda.

“I love the food truck rallies (in Huntsville), but they’re slammed and they’re hot and there’s nowhere to go to the restroom,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t Huntsville have its own food truck park?’”

Founded in 1974, South Realty is a Huntsville-based commercial and residential real estate firm that owns the Creekside retail center, which is home to Marco’s Pizza, Ideal Exercise, The Printer Connection and other tenants. White, who has been working on and off at her father’s company since she was 15, is now director of development for the small business.

Named after Pinhook Creek, the park will accommodate up to 12 food trucks, have more than 70 parking spots, include trash removal and recycling, feature picnic tables and outdoor fans, and offer dog-friendly amenities such as community water bowls and pickup stations. It will also provide Wi-Fi service and two entrances and exits for easy access.

“I want it to be a destination,” she said. “I imagine it to be somewhere that strikes a balance between high-end and down to earth, so you can bring your kids but you can also enjoy a nice atmosphere.”

The park, which will open with a breakfast and lunch rotation, will later expand to offer dinner and weekend hours, as well as special events. The daily breakfast shift will run from 7-10 a.m. and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week.

The Brief History of Food Trucks in America (1691 – Present)

Food trucks in America are considered to be a brand new movement. However, mobile food has been alive and kicking as far back as the 1600s when street cart owners were considered by some to be unfair competition for brick-and-mortar restaurant owners.

In this post, we take a brief look at the history of food trucks in America. From the first street vendors in the 1600s, to the chuck wagons of the Wild West, all the way to the modern gourmet food trucks that we’re familiar with today.

1691 – New York City (previously New Amsterdam) starts regulating street vendors selling food and other items from vending carts around the city.

Inside a gourmet food truck. 

History of Food Trucks: 1800’s

1850’s – Dining cars begin serving cross country train passengers with meals.

1866 – Charles Goodnight invents the “Chuck Wagon” to feed cattlemen and wagon trains traversing the old West.

1872 – The first make-shift diner is setup in a horse-drawn freight wagon.

1894 – Ivy League universities start to attract sausage vendors who sell their hot dogs outside the student dorms and their carts became known as “dog wagons”.

History of Food Trucks: 1900’s

1917 – The US Army mobile canteens (or field kitchens) start feeding troops.

1936 – Oscar Mayer introduces the first portable hot dog cart, The Weiner Mobile.

1950’s – Ice cream trucks become a thing and start selling their frozen treats on every street in America.

1960’s – Roach coaches are born and begin selling food to construction sites around the country.

1974 – The East Los Angeles bar gets the nation’s first taco truck when Raul Martinez converts an old ice cream truck.

1980’s – Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ attracts “grease trucks” selling “Fat Sandwiches” to college students.

History of Food Trucks: 2000’s

A Modern Food Van Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

2004 – New York celebrates their food cart heritage after The Street Vendor Project creates the Vendy Awards. A competition that selects and celebrates NYC’s best street food vendors.

July 2006 – Wikipedia adds “food truck” to their data list and creates the history of food trucks around the world.

November 2008 – Roy Choi hits a homerun with his Kogi BBQ food truck in Los Angeles, selling Asian infused tacos to the masses.

January 2010 – Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association (SoCalMFVA) is formed by Matt Geller, becoming the first member organized entity created to protect the rights of food truck owners.

May 2010 – The National Restaurant Association portions some 1,500 square feet to food truck exhibits at its annual convention in Chicago, signaling a recognition of their importance.

August 2010 – The mobile food industry gets its first television program, the Great Food Truck Race and become an overnight hit.

September 2010 – The US government adds a reference guide called the “Tips for Starting Your Own Street Food Business” to its small business website, www.business.gov.

October 2010 – Zagat guide announces that they will begin to provide reviews of food trucks in 2011.

November 2010 – Los Angeles begins to rank food trucks with letter grades, just like their cousin restaurants.

January 2011 – President Barak Obama “Tweets” out that his favorite food truck in Washington DC is D.C. Empanadas.  City erupts in pride!

June 2011 – New York issues the first limited liquor license to the Pera Food Truck.

August 2011 – The Gap clothing retailer launches a nationwide ad campaign marketing a retro style jean with the use of a food truck in it.

February 2012 – NFL Super Bowl allows food trucks in to serve fans in Indianapolis.

June 2014 – The National Food Truck Association (NFTA and not to be confused with NAFTA) is formed creating the first national association of food truck associations.

August 2014 – The movie “Chef” is released which serves as the first ever motion picture to be centered around the story of a food truck and its owner.

Spring 2015 – Hundreds of successful food truck owners across the country begin opening complimentary restaurants as they master their trade

Present – Food Truck owners start looking for and requiring fully automated food truck POS systems to handle their on-the-go businesses and other mobile business concepts start to gain a foothold in the industry. Food trucks are evolving into larger enterprises and moving to restaurants, multiple food trucks, and some have even gone on to acquire venture capital funding and build multi-million dollar food brands.

What will happen next in the food truck industry is anyones guess. But looking toward the future of the food truck industry all signs point to increased growth in the industry. According to IBISWorld Industry reports over $1 billion in annual revenues can be expected in the coming years.

Is It Possible To Start a Food Boat Business?

Food trucks transformed how food is served on land. But could the same culinary disruption be about to happen on boats as well? Is it even possible to start a food boat business?

In fact, there are businesses that generate revenue in a similar way to food trucks, but with a boat instead. Usually these aqua based business operate only a short time of the year during peak tourist season at a lake or a busy harbor when other there are many other vessels in the water. Here’s how the business model works.

Most of these so called “food boats” operate more like floating convenience store than a restaurant. Prepackaged treats like ice-cream sandwiches, candy bars, sunflower seeds, pre-made sandwiches and cold beverages is all that’s usually served from these units. In many cases, you won’t be able to find a fresh cooked meal like you would expect on a truck.

The kitchen equipment on these floating units is often sparse. Some boats will have a full-size refrigerator or freezer to keep pre-packaged food items cold. These boats stick to serving pre-packaged or ready-to-eat items because the health code requirements needed to serve this product is minimal. In an effort to better serve their customers, these units will also carry gas, water, batteries, fishing bait and other supplies that could be required by boaters. Below is a video on food boat in action based out of Washington, D.C., called Nauti Foods:

As you can see in the video everyone from paddle boarders to other boaters visit this pontoon for a quick snack.

Is This a Full-Time Business?

For most operators this is not a full-time venture. It’s a simple way to generate a few extra bucks during peak summer time weekends. Often the folks that operate this type of unit part-time have a related business similar like managing a dock or teaching boating lessons. Although there are probably a handful of exceptions, operating this type of business is not a viable way to generate a comfortable and consistent income.

Florida is one state where you would have a better than average chance of operating this business full time due to year round good weather and plenty rivers, lakes, and ocean water.

One type of boat that could produce a full-time income would be a tour or river boat dinner cruise, however. These types of businesses have operated successfully for generations where there’s nearby water source. Due to their larger size, these boats can provide large crowds of 100 – 500 people dinner and entertainment for an evening or longer. These experiences can be as short as a few hours to a few weeks if you happen to be on a cruise ship.

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a creative way to make some extra cash during the peak tourist months in your area this could be a way to accomplish that goal. Just don’t expect this to be your main source of income.

Roy Choi Proves There’s No Limit to Food Truck Business Potential

Roy Choi proves there’s no limit to the type of food business you can launch with a food truck. Choi’s story is been well told. Starting in Los Angeles with a small food truck serving Korean tacos, he is credited with helping to launch the modern food truck movement as we know it.

Now, only a decade after getting started, Choi has evolved into a celebrity chef with books, a fleet of food trucks, and now a collection of BBQ sauces available only at William’s Sonoma. Choi’s growth is astounding and impossible to replicate, but there’s plenty of business lessons “ordinary” food truck owners can learn from the story too.

While you may never be credited with launching a food movement (timing, location, hard work and luck have a lot to do with that), you can apply some of these lessons into your own food trailer. First is that the concession trailer can serve as the launchpad for a bigger food brand. But often you need to think outside the food truck box to make it happen.

Roy Choi in action. Photo Credit: http://kogibbq.com/about-chef-roy/

Case and point, you don’t need don’t need distribution or support of a major retailer to begin selling your own sauces or rubs. If you own a small BBQ trailer, you can begin by selling homemade rubs at catering events or daily service.

Assuming you operate a BBQ business already, the cool thing about releasing a sauce or rub is that doing so won’t take a lot of extra work. You already have the recipe. You’re already making the product. You already have a business entity and brand created. All you need to do now is package the product according to health guidelines.

Even if you don’t have an existing concession business, thanks to updated Cottage Food Laws in most states you can get started easily from a legal perspective assuming you meet their requirements. Cottage food law vary from state to state, but all of them have limit the amount of revenue you can make per year. In California, you can make over $50,000 annually and still be considered a cottage food business.

In the event you do exceed your small food businesses annual revenue limits, you can change into another food business entity like an LLC or Sole Proprietorship. Needing to change the structure of your business due to a high-volume of sales is a good problem to have.

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

How Could This Work in Your Business?

The examples we’ve shared above all apply to BBQ businesses, but if you use your imagination you could apply similar growth strategies to any food business. Here are a few other ways we’ve seen mobile food owners expand and grow their brands no matter what the product:

  • A kettle corn or popcorn vendor could sell organic and packaged bags at independent grocery stores. This could create a new channel of sales. In fact, the brand Boomchickapop started in this exact way by selling at local events and outside Minnesota Vikings football games. In 2017, the same brand was sold to the food giant Conagra. Not bad for a little kettle corn stand.
  • A food truck selling Asian-style street tacos eventually started a multi-location restaurant in Austin. The Peached Tortilla is now one of the most popular establishments in the city and even has a location open at the Austin airport if you happen to visit.
  • Family members selling lobster rolls from a food truck got an investment ABC’s hit television show Shark Tank. Now Cousins Maine Lobster has evolved into a food truck franchise, restaurant, and successful mail order business. The founders even wrote a book about how they transformed a single food truck into a multi-million dollar food business. Pretty cool!

Of course even if you don’t have aspirations of selling your business to a large corporation or becoming a celebrity chef there are still plenty of lessons that can come from these food business entrepreneurs. Maybe most importantly is that if you’re able to make a concept work on a small scale, it’s likely that you can scale it up and grow your business further through other channels.

Of course, the most natural progression of course would be simply to add a second concession trailer or truck to your business if you already own a mobile food unit. Once you start to get busy and become well known in your area you’ll start to feel like you want to be two places at once. For example, you might want to serve a high-value catering event and a well-attended promotional event on the other side of town. The only way this will be possible is if you have two units.

Bottom line, the great thing about starting out with a food truck is that it can evolve into anything you want: restaurant, more food trucks, a product line, a book, or a celebrity chef. Roy Choi has proven the sky’s the limit when you start a mobile food business.

Will Marijuana Food Trucks Be a Legit Business Opportunity in 2019?

While there are many legal hurdles yet to jump, investors believe the legalization of marijuana products is (eventually) a foregone conclusion. Forbes reports the legal cannabis industry could hit $57 billion worldwide 2027.

Marijuana is already permitted for recreational and medical use in nine states, including California, Alaska, and Washington. Of course, the use of this product, remains illegal at the federal level. But it’s legalization at the national level seems all but inevitable at this point, even if the process is expected to take a few years.

There are all kinds of products of course that can be produced and sold in this industry with a seemly limitless number of permutations. One option is to infuse THC into drinks like teas and coffees. Another popular option is to include cannabis inside food items, especially baked goods like brownies, cookies, and cakes. With so many different food items available to be made using the ingredient, it leads us to the next natural question of whether-or-not you can sell cannabis infused drinks or desserts from a truck?

Could Cannabis Infused Cookies Be Sold on a Truck Legally?

Can You Expect to See Cannabis Food Trucks in 2019?

Back in 2014 when cannabis had been legalized in Colorado two years prior, NPR ran a story called “The Latest Food Truck Theme is Marijuana for Lunch.” The headline suggests there was a food truck distributing marijuana infused menu items, but the reality of the unit was created for PR purposes and the the truck was never in operation as a real food business.

The use of the “food truck” was brilliant from a marketing and public relations standpoint as the company was featured in numerous reputable news sources and no doubt generated interest in a product that could be sold online. But the unit never sold any pot-infused menu items.

The issue with starting a food truck specializing in cannabis products is due to the fact this product is much more highly regulated than a typical food product. Although the product is becoming legal in many states that doesn’t mean it won’t be strictly regulated. At the time of writing, even though marijuana is becoming legalized across the country don’t expect to see food trucks serving the product anytime soon. Why?

The best example we can think of for comparison purposes is the alcohol industry. At one time in the United States there was a period of prohibition where you could not legally consume alcohol. Although prohibition has long since ended in the United States, there’s still a ton of rules around its consumption. For example, you must be 21 years of age to legally consume. Not just anyone can drink. An establishment selling alcohol must also be approved to do so with a specific license. Not just any business can sell a pint of beer unless they go through an approval process. There are rules around this products use with legal and financial penalties for not following those rules.

A Highly-Regulated Industry

These regulations will likely prevent food trucks dispenseries from becoming a legitimate business opportunity even if the recreational use is permitted inside the state you want to operate in 2019 and beyond. So far there are extremely specific requirements needed for dispensaries to adhere to before they can sell product that are state dependent. Some states like California have specific requirements for the building and layout that marijuana products can be operated out of like bathrooms, breakrooms, and the layout of the building, making it impossible to serve on a mobile unit from a legal perspective. Here’s an example of requirements for medical cannabis buildings in Santa Rosa, California.

There are some very legitimate reasons for the building requirements as well for marijuana dispensaries at this time. First, is that cannabis products are still illegal on a federal level. This means that many dispensaries operate cash only businesses since banks will not process transactions that are technically illegal.

Due to this challenge processing payments, it means dispensary’s carry a lot of cash on hand that can make operating the business more dangerous. In fact, some these business need to have armored vehicles regularly visit their location in take cash and make deposits. As you might expect, high-volume locations could process tens of thousands in cash per day. The goal of these businesses is to never keep too much money on-site and many have large safes and security employed to protect the high-value product and cash.

Of course, if you were to operate a truck, you would be more exposed to theft. You are much more exposed to dangerous criminals in a truck compared to a building with security systems and protection. As the rules and regulation continue to evolve allowing banks to accept payments from these businesses.

At the end of the day, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be seeing cannabis food truck driving around your neighborhood anytime soon like you might see the ice cream man. With all that being said, it will be fun to watch this new industry evolve and grow in the coming years.

Five Ideas to Convert a School Bus into a Mobile Kitchen

First, it was old delivery trucks that were converted into gourmet food trucks. Today, an increasing number of food vendors are serving meals from a converted school bus that’s been transformed into a commercial kitchen. In today’s post, we evaluate some of the best menu ideas we’ve seen on these converted school buses often referred to as food “skoolies” to help you determine if this type of build is the right choice for your business.

Before jumping on the school bus bandwagon there are some important considerations to think about. First, a converted bus is a lot larger and longer than a standard food truck. According to Wikipedia, the length of an average food truck is 45 feet. Most floor plans for standard food trucks don’t exceed 20 feet in length.

A 45-foot school bus.

The extra space available with a bus can be an advantage or disadvantage to vendors depending on how you look at it. One advantage is you can work in a much larger commercial kitchen. That means you can comfortably fit more employees inside the bus to crank-out orders at a rapid pace. This extra space also means offering a broader range of menu items can be offered. Alternatively, you could use the extra space for food storage. Some food buses have even used the extra space to create limited indoor seating inside their vehicle. You are only limited by your own imagination on how to use the extra space.

Now for the disadvantages. If you operate in a large city, it’s going to be harder to navigate tight urban streets with a bus. It’s a whole lot harder to find street parking when you’re trying to find a 45-foot long spot. Not an easy thing to do in most downtown areas!

The other downside rarely reported on these buses is that the gas mileage stinks. It’s not uncommon to get between 4 – 6 miles per gallon of gasoline. Of course, how you drive the bus and environmental variables will have an impact on that estimate too. At the time of writing gas prices are low (relatively speaking). But in the unlikely scenario we see gas prices go up to $3.00 or more nationally that could really impact your profitability and might put you at risk of going out of business.

No matter how you spin it, you can get around more economically with a food truck in most situations.  If you operate a trailer, you might be able to pull your food unit for 15 – 20 miles per gallon of gas. Depending on how far you plan to travel for events, this decision to convert a bus that could mean adding thousands of dollars in annual expenses. Don’t take this decision lightly!

Five Awesome Menu Ideas That Work Well on Converted School Buses

Bobo’s BBQ Concession Trailer built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks

Truth be told, you can execute any of these menu ideas on a food truck, trailer, or even a sprinter van in some instances. What a bus will allow you to do is go bigger with any of the menu concepts. Want to start an ice cream bus? You could offer 32 flavors or more! Planning a mobile coffee shop? You could offer on-vehicle seating that allows customers to temporarily escape the wind, rain, or cold at an outdoor event. Here are a few concepts that have worked well on a bus for other business owners:

The Coffee Bus: One a 45-foot long bus, you’ll be able to install all the equipment you need to match the beverage options of a brick-and-mortar coffee shop. The other nice option is the ability to create an long and attractive coffee bar on the outside of the vehicle allowing more customers to sit and enjoy their drink. If you plan to operate this business in a warmer, year-round climate then operating a stationary coffee bus can be an exceptional option. There are many coffee shops operating out of converted shipping containers, but buses can work just as well.

The Crepe Bus: Amazing Crepes in White Fish, Montana, is an excellent example of a crepe bus. On this unit, the operators serve a variety of sweet or savory crepe options, including ham and cheddar or Nutella and banana. Some unique beverages are also served from this unit like house made ginger lemonade! It’s a winner.

The Burger Bus: You won’t need a full-size school bus to serve mouth-watering burgers. One popular example of a burger bus in action is Bernie’s Burger Bus in Texas. Bernie’s Burger Bus has grown in popularity over the years and now has multiple units operating in the state.

The Ice Cream Bus: With a bus, you can offer an extensive range of ice cream and soft-serve options. Whether you want to compete with flavor options brick-and-mortar competitors or offer a jaw dropping range of desert options from soft-serve to snow cones this can be a great option. The only aspect you’ll want to keep in mind is that ice cream and soft-serve machines require a lot of energy to power. You will need a lot of generator power to keep your product cool.

Full-Service Restaurant Bus: As mentioned previously, one of the advantages of a bus is that you can build in a lot of cooking equipment and food storage too. This allows you to serve multi-course meals that smaller food trucks can’t realistically pull off.

You’ll notice that most food trucks have a lean menu. Many mobile units focus on serving 3 – 5 core items. A bus, on the other hand, will enable you to serve a much larger menu that reflects what you would expect to see at a restaurant. This gives you the potential advantage of serving a much larger menu. You could also serve bigger traditional meals including sides and all the fixings.

If you’re trying to decide if a bus, food truck, trailer or other vehicle is best for your business, give us a call. We’ve been manufacturing mobile food units for over 15 years and can help you determine the right type of custom build unit that matches your needs.

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