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Top Four Most Profitable Food and Beverage Kiosks in Shopping Malls

Signing a long-term lease in a high-traffic shopping mall can be extremely expensive and risky if your food concept isn’t proven. According to this article on, you should expect to pay between $50 – $100 per square foot monthly for the most desirable retail spaces in America. In smaller shopping malls in mid-size metro you can expect to pay more $15 – $25 per square foot. Either way, the monthly dues are significant.

That means if you decide to lease a modest sized location, you can expect to pay $1,500 – $5,000 in rent minimum each month. This obligation is even more daunting considering many landlords require a multi-year lease commitment that can leave entrepreneurs on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in commitments. But if these expensive monthly rents don’t fit into your business plan, we have good news. There are more affordable options that still allow you to leverage the foot traffic of a shopping mall to reach customers.

The solution for your business could be to start a food or beverage kiosk in a food court or shopping mall kiosk instead of a storefront. The first advantage of this path is the cost. As you might expect, renting a kiosk location in a mall will be much more affordable than the alternative. In some locations you’ll be able to get started for $800 per month in rent.

In addition to the lower monthly rent, shorter lease terms are common with kiosks or carts. It’s not out of the ordinary for a mall kiosk to rent a space in only the most profitable months of the year from October – December. After the peak sales season is over, vendors leave and often don’t return until the holiday season next year.

The ability to structure a short-term lease agreement is much more advantageous for vendor’s. It’s been well documented that the American shopping mall and retail industry isn’t as vibrant as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. If you started a food kiosk in a shopping center and sales begin to dwindle, you can quickly adapt and easily move the business to a more profitable location. This isn’t an option for stores with a 5-year lease agreement in place.

If you’re in the market for a food service kiosk, you aren’t short on options. An almost unlimited menu of food items can be served from these versatile and mobile units including hot dogs, pretzels, corn dogs, pizza, coffee, smoothies, gourmet popcorn, and ice cream are the tip of the iceberg. They are even versatile enough to be used to vend indoors or at open air shopping centers.

All that being said, below is a list of highly profitable menu concepts that work well with a kiosk. These kiosks are often positioned in malls, but if you think outside the box can be profitably placed in other locations too like college campuses, casinos, hospitals, or large corporate offices.

Snow cone or Shaved Ice Kiosk

Below is an example of a snow cone kiosk recently built for a customer. This kiosk was designed to be taken to a mall or area events. Since mobility was important to this customer we used all aluminum material for the cart so that it would be light and transported easily.

As you’ll see in the video everything the vendor needs to operate their snow cone / shaved ice business is right here. There’s even room for storage available inside this mobile unit. Units like this start at around $9,000 making this a viable opportunity for anyone. Depending on the size of the cup, it can cost as little as $.20 cents per snow cone to the vendor (depending on size). This same snow cone can be sold for $3.00 in most locations making it extremely high-margin.

Mobile Coffee Kiosk

No doubt you’ve seen a coffee kiosk at a mall, airport, or even a grocery store. In fact, these little coffee kiosks are so profitable that publicly traded companies like Starbucks have jumped on the bandwagon. You can also take advantage of this too! As you may be aware, beverages are an extremely profitable category… especially coffee.

It goes without saying that you want to serve a high-quality product. According to this Investopedia article, you can get a premium pound of coffee for about $15.00. You should be able to serve about 23 cups of 12 oz. coffee conservatively per pound. This breaks down to around $0.65 cents per cup. Add on another $.35 cents for the cost of the cup, lid, napkin, complimentary sugar and cream. You could then charge $2.00 per cup for a basic premium roast and be profiting around $1.00 per cup. Naturally you would be charging more for foam, flavor pumps, Espressos and other drinks. Either way, it’s a highly profitable space to be in.

Smoothie Kiosk

The smoothie kiosk is another option that can be highly profitable and aligns well with the people’s goals to eat and drink healthy. The most popular smoothie options include flavors like strawberry or blueberry. But there are plenty of niche varieties that can be served to cater to a specific audience. For example, you could offer a line of organic smoothies. You could also serve smoothies designed to provide protein and build muscle or an extra Vitamin C boost to fight cold and flu season. The options here are almost limitless. A regular sized smoothie can retail for $6 – $8 a piece leaving the business owner plenty of profitability as well.

Ice Cream Kiosk

Finally, the ice cream kiosk is an extremely popular and beloved option in shopping malls. This kiosk can come in many different forms, including soft serve, frozen yogurt or scooped ice cream. No matter where you plan to conduct business this a highly profitable concept, no matter what variation you choose.

Let’s say for example you decide on an old-school ice cream shop concept with scoops. You should be able to get a premium tub of ice cream for around $30. You’ll get 55 four-once scoops of ice cream per tub working out to a grand total of $0.55 per scoop. As the business owner, you should build a buffer into these figures of course because everyone has waste and scoop size is not an exact science. You’d be hard pressed to find an gourmet ice cream place serving cones under $3.00 a piece… Leaving you the business owner with plenty of margin.

The next time you go to a mall, pay attention to the different types of food service kiosks that are in operation. You’ll likely stumble across other variations not covered in this piece like soft pretzels or kettle corn. There are literally hundreds of food business opportunities like this that can be started affordably and with less risk than investing in a traditional retail space. The combination of lower cost, increased mobility, and flexibility to offer a wide range of menus make these businesses attractive.

What is a Loncheras Food Truck?

A loncheras truck is a food truck serving Mexican faire like tacos and burritos. The rough translation of lonchera from Spanish into English is “lunch box.” These roaming vessels are often referred to as taco trucks as well.

If you live in Los Angeles or the surrounding area the sight of a loncheras truck is nothing new. They’ve been serving affordable meals decades before the gourmet food truck movement took ever hold in the United States.

Loncheras are small businesses owned by a Mexican or Mexican-American family and employing only members of the family. You can often spot these trucks serving families or workers in lower-income neighborhoods. In short, these are straight-forward small businesses that provide a basic income for the owners / operators.

Unlike their gourmet food truck counterparts, you won’t be able to find a website for a loncheras truck. Most aren’t active on social media either. These trucks have been serving the same communities for years and don’t do any forms of marketing aside from word of mouth and being at the right place at the right time positioning themselves where people are hungry.

The other difference between gourmet truck is that loncheras will often have a regular location that they vend every day. In this sense, they are highly similar to a brick-and-mortar restaurant with regular hours of operation and can be found in the same spot. This also reduces the need for social media since the location of the food doesn’t change.

Just like an old-school lunch truck, these businesses look for locations with demand and under-served food options like construction sites or residential areas without nearby food service.

Loncheras Menus

The menus of the loncheras haven’t changed much over the last few decades. Usually, you’ll find all the Mexican food you’re familiar with like street tacos or burritos. Street tacos are smaller, hand-held tacos that can include a variety of proteins like chicken, ground beef, or steak.

The advantage of operating a lonchera or any Mexican food business is that you can offer an extensive menu with only a few core ingredients. Tacos, burritos, tortas (a Mexican sandwich), and plates can be served with minor adaptations like a different shell or wrap.

Some lonchera operators offer menu items that go beyond the basics, however. This can include bacon wrapped hot dogs with grilled onions, a popular street food offering. Another popular adaptation is to put Carna Asada and melted cheese on top of tortilla chips or French fries as a creative spin on nachos.

Some of these vendors have adapted their menus to meet the dietary preferences of their customers as well. Potatoes for example is a filling and affordable replacement for meat items for vegetarians. Of course, there’s always been the option to enjoy a cheese enchilada or quesadilla.

Business Requirements of Loncheras Trucks

There’s a perception among some people that loncheras don’t need to adhere to the same health regulations of other businesses. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These businesses have the exact same requirements as food trucks and restaurants.

If you operate a loncheras truck in Los Angeles County, you will need to use a commissary. A commissary is a commercial kitchen that can be rented by caterers and other small food businesses to prep food in a safe area. The use of a commissary is a requirement for all mobile food vendors in many cities. These commissaries often charge between $800 – $1,500 monthly to rent a space and even park the truck overnight. Naturally, these businesses must pay their fair share of taxes and submit to routine health inspections if they would like to continue operating legally.

Similar to the fabled roach coach, the loncheras food trucks still carry a certain stigma among older customers that can recall eating from these questionably clean vehicles. Fortunately, the rise of the gourmet food truck has gone a long way to improving this perception, especially among younger customers. As a general rule of thumb, there’s no need to be concerned about the health and cleanliness of most of these trucks.

To learn more about the history of loncheras food trucks check out these informative pieces:

How Tamales and Tacos Launched a Billion Dollar Food Truck Industry: This is arguably the best article on the history of taco trucks online. This piece takes you back to the tamale wagons of the 1870s – 1940s all the way up to present day. It’s also an excellent piece on how the mobile food industry has continued to evolve.

Top 10 Taco Trucks of LA: Take a look at some of the top-rated loncheras taco trucks in operation within the confines of Los Angeles.

Four of the Best Tasting Pho Food Trucks on the Planet

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup. With the popularity of foreign food increasing each year, it is not surprising that Pho is gaining a lot of attention. There are even Pho food trucks now that serve this savory dish. Here are the four best Pho food trucks that you can find anywhere.

What Is That Pho?

Before we visit the top Pho food trucks out there, we need to talk a little about the food they serve. As mentioned earlier, Pho came from Vietnam. While Vietnamese cuisine may not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese, it is gaining many followers recently.

It certainly helped a lot when former President Obama ate with Anthony Bourdain at a small Vietnamese restaurant when he visited the country.

Pho is a kind of soup, made with rice noodles, meat, broth, and herbs. It is a common street food in Vietnam, so it is not surprising that food trucks are serving it now in the States.

At first, the food was popularized in other countries by the flood of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the war in their country, but now, with the help of the internet, more and more people are willing to try it out.

The Best Pho Food Trucks

Here are four of the best Pho food trucks that are around today:

Pho Real, Reno

In the video, Elijah Brhel, the owner, speaks for a Pho Real food truck that operates around the Reno area. Elijah says that he tries to source all their ingredients locally.

Elijah gave some explanation as to why the soup is so popular. He believes one of the reasons is because it is so homey and simple. At the same time, it can also be made spicier and more ingredients can be added to it.

They make their own broth and they added their own twist to it. Instead of making the traditional Pho broth, they are making a veggie broth. Except for the buns and the noodles, they make everything else that they serve.

The most popular variation they have is their Fried Brussels Sprouts. They have Facebook Page and a website where customers can find where they will be located for a day.

Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck, North Carolina

Food Network fans might be familiar with this next entry. Sophia Woo and Sunny Lin of Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck were winners of the Food Network’s “The Great American Food Truck Race”.

They explained that the food they serve is more like nature and nurture. They also said that they are kind of playful with the food they serve, which means that they don’t stay in one realm. The only thing that kind of remains constant with their food is that it stays Asian.

Of course, they serve Pho on the truck but they have other options as well. For example, they have dumplings and even Taiwanese spaghetti. One of their favorites is their version of the Bulgogi, which is a traditional Korean barbecue.

The pair said that without the support of the community, they could not have attained the success that they have reached so far. They mentioned friends who helped in building the food truck and the Kickstarter campaign that they started which helped raise the funds for the project.

They have plans on opening up a brick and mortar restaurant but they won’t be giving up the truck which has made a name for them. Also, they are giving out to the community by accepting donations for Haven House.

Pho King Awesome Food Truck, Long Beach

It seems obligatory for food trucks to be named with puns and this next entry is no exception. Pho King Awesome Food Truck, is a family owned business based in Long Beach area. It is gaining quite a following in the area. No doubt the name alone turns many heads.

Their most popular dish is, of course, their Pho King noodle. After all, it is what they named their business after. They have ox tail, beef brisket, and other variations of the broth.

For the video, they prepared an ox tail based Pho and they also served the crew their own taco version, which is kind of sweet and spicy.

Nhu Lan Vietnamese Food, Tucson

Owned by Nghia Tran, from Saigon who has been living in the States for several years now, the Nhu Lan Vietnamese Food Truck serves traditional Vietnamese style food like Pho, Vietnamese meatballs, and also Chinese food.

They use different kinds of pork for their Vietnamese style sandwich. They serve their Pho noodles in two packages. One is for the broth and the noodles, while the other one is for most of the meats.

These are just four of the leading Pho food trucks in the country. Because Pho and other similar street foods are  gaining popularity today, you can expect more of these kinds of food trucks to become more common in the future.

Important Note: None of these food trucks listed in the videos above were built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

The Typical Day in the Life of a Crepe Truck

Part of the appeal of food trucks is that they bring a wider variety of specialty foods to people.

While restaurants do offer exotic and foreign foods, food trucks make them more accessible. Crepes would be a good example of this. Crepes are thin pastries that are kind of like really thin pancakes. While most people in the United States have heard of crepes, establishments that offer them are not that common. At least not as common as hamburger stands and that is why mobile trucks that serve crepes are very interesting.

From a business standpoint, crepes are highly profitable items to sell as well. According to Pancake World, you can expect to net $2.43 per portion sold assuming you sell each crepe for $4.10. While this profit margin does not factor in employee wages or fee’s associated with vending at select events, having a food cost of around 50% is fantastic for a food business.

In many parts of the United States, it’s not  uncommon for customers to pay between $5.00 – $8.00 per crepe. This level of pricing elasticity gives you a lot of options as a business owner to get creative with business opportunities since there’s money after all your expenses to share with groups that want to fund raise.

If you’re wondering what it would be like to operate a crepe business yourself, here are two short videos about crepe food trucks that should give you a few ideas on what an average day is really like.

Holy Crepe Food Truck

Holy Crepes food truck operates in the Bethesda, Maryland area. It is owned and run by Boris Lambrev and his wife. They opened up in March 2016. Boris has experience in the crepe business before, but it was not a food truck and he was working for someone else as an employee. Eventually he decided that it would be better if he would strike out on his own to build a mobile food business.

He first learned making crepes when he was in Cyprus then he moved to Greece, where he continued making crepes. They offer all kinds of crepes, from sweet to savory ones.

One of the problems that Boris cited in connection with running a food truck business is that the space is quite limited. He even jokingly said that the lack of space can lead to silly fights between him and his wife.

Things you can get from this short video:

  • A glimpse of what it’s like inside a small food truck.
  • Possible food truck ideas.
  • A short description of how a food truck business started, which can be inspiring.

If you live around the Bethesda area, you might happen to see the Holy Crepe truck going around. Be sure to taste their crepes which has that authentic taste to it.

Crepe Company Food Truck

Orlando is a very diverse city. That means there is no shortage there when it comes to the food options that are available. It is also home to many unique food trucks. The Orlando Food Truck Guide is a video series that aims to explore the diverse food truck scene in the city. For its first episode, the series features the Crepe Company Food Truck.

Crepe Company is the idea of Lisa “Crepe Lady” Fareed. She said that she got the idea for selling crepes when she went to France and she fell in love with the pastry. She was amazed with how the vendors would make the crepe right in front of her. She wanted to bring that whole experience to the States.

Crepe Types

When it comes to the kinds of crepes that they offer, Lisa says that they aim towards having more American-style options. They still have French-style crepes though for those who want a more authentic feel.

Unlike many of those who run a food truck business, Lisa does not have a background in the restaurant or food service industry. She has a degree in finance, but she says that she’s a foodie, which is what drove her to dare to start her own food truck business.

How She Got Started

Lisa started her business back in 2009. She purchased her food truck back in 2011. One amazing thing about the business is the truck itself. It’s not a modern food truck but a converted 1971 Olson Kurbmaster Junior. Lisa bought the vehicle off Craiglist and had it converted so it would have all the features needed for serving crepes.

Despite the upgrade, the truck has an unmistakable vintage feel to it which makes it even more interesting. It’s also running on battery power and Lisa has plans to have to outfitted for solar power, which would become completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy.

Making the Crepes

Lisa says that it takes about a minute and a half for a customer to order and then to get his crepe. That’s quite fast and that is why Lisa makes them fresh to order.

Lisa showed how she made an American-style crepe. It has bacon, turkey, cheddar, tomato, and other ingredients. She also made a Monte Cristo, which she says is one of the more popular types that they have. It has cheddar, mozzarella, raspberry sauce, ham, and turkey. She also made one with Nutella hazelnut spread with banana. Lisa added that the Crepe Company is now open for franchising if this is an opportunity that piques your interest.

Learn from a food truck owner how she got started: In the early days of starting the business Lisa didn’t own a food truck. In fact, Lisa operated Crepe Company as a “pop-up” business for the first two years before investing in a mobile food unit. This is an important lesson for entrepreneurs starting out.

So many times first time business owners believe they need to wait for something to happen before opening for business. For example, not starting the business until they have a food truck. Or not starting a business until they own a restaurant. The key takeaway from this story is you shouldn’t wait until everything is perfect to get started. You can begin testing out your recipes, making sales, and building a brand much earlier than that.

If you are interested in crepes, then these videos should give you a good glimpse of how your business might look like. Hopefully, there are a few ideas here that you can use if you are going to get your own food truck business running.

Reader Note: M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks did not build the trucks shown in the YouTube videos above.

What’s Financial Expert Dave Ramsey’s Opinion on the Food Truck Industry?

In a recent episode of The Dave Ramsey Show, the financial expert of the same name took a call from a prospective food truck business owner. True to form, Ramsey offered candid advice on the next steps the caller Isabelle in Houston should take to improve her personal finances and operate the food truck business profitably. Click the play button below to listen to the full 8-minute segment of the show.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey’s program, listeners call-in seeking advice on a variety of personal finance topics. Many of the callers to Dave’s program are looking for ways to get out of debt by reducing monthly expenses. Others folks call in with questions about retirement planning to dealing with finances in a relationship.

What’s Financial Expert Dave Ramsey’s Opinion on the Food Truck Industry?

Isabelle opens up the call by providing some details about her business planning process to give Dave some insight into the venture. Break even point is in 3 – 4 months after opening. This is the point where the business will begin covering all of it’s expenses. For a concession trailer this usually includes transportation, inventory (food), labor, permits, and other expenses. Once the business is up and running, Isabelle has estimated that she will have a take home or net profit of $70,000 annually for operating the business.

It should be mentioned that Dave Ramsey does not have experience operating a food truck business. That being said Dave is extremely knowledgeable about what it takes to operate a profitable business and understands the numbers. Dave begins by complimenting the caller on the initial forecasting of the business, but asks how Isabelle came to her conclusions for revenue estimates.

Isabelle shares that she surveyed what other food trucks where making in the area to estimate daily revenue. Based on Isabelle’s survey of local food trucks in her area she estimated that she could expect to generate $600 – $900 in daily sales.

Related Reading: What is the Average Food Truck Owner’s Annual Salary?

After learning that Isabelle had taken a logical approach to estimating her daily sales numbers, Dave inquired about the biggest recurring expense in the operations plan… Hiring an employee. Not only was Isabelle planning to hire an employee, but she had also planned to pay for some training and certifications.

As Dave points out in the program, hiring can quickly become the biggest recurring expense for a food business. And while it might make sense to hire in the future, if Isabella was able to operate the food truck on her own initially it would make getting in the black much easier. Isabella agrees she can operate the coffee truck business solo initially.

Finally, Isabelle asks if she should take a loan out to start the business. Dave explains that he never recommends taking out a loan to start a business in any situation. (Cutting up your credit cards and not having any debt is sort of Dave’s thing.) That being said, Dave suggests getting a sales job and living off beans and rice to cut expenses until she is able to purchase the trailer in full.

Overall Dave’s analysis of the food truck business is fascinating and after the hearing about the business model is noticeably excited for Isabelle. Dave even invites the Isabelle to return to the show after her business is launched. It’s great to see that with the appropriate business planning, research, and work ethic that a financial power house like Dave Ramsey sees the business opportunity that exist in mobile food vending.

Why NYC’s Snowday Food Truck Offers Job Training to Youth With Criminal Backgrounds

“People who run criminal organizations have all those (business) skills. They just have been put in the wrong and negative space,” explains Roy Waterman, Director of Program for Drive Change. The goal of Watermans’ organization is to train, mentor, and employ formerly incarcerated young men and women by working on a food truck.

As a former inmate himself, Waterman understands how difficult it can be to turn your life around and become a productive member of society. When you are raised in an environment where all you see if drug use and criminal activity, it can be almost impossible to break out of this negative cycle.

What compounds the difficulty of returning from incarceration is that it becomes infinitely harder to get a job. No one wants to hire a criminal that might steal from the business or cause other problems. It’s just too big of a risk.

But without the ability to get a job that pays respectably, former inmates end up frustrated and fall back into their old survival habits. The goal of Drive Change based in New York City is to provide a positive opportunity to these people that are often forgotten or ignored by most of society.

How a Food Truck Can Serve as a Life Changing Platform

The food truck that Drive Change operates is called Snowday. Snowday’s menu is based around grilled cheese sandwiches, a popular item on mobile food trucks. The food truck also won a prestigious Vendy Award in 2015.

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t recognize the social goal of the food truck. From a day-to-day operational standpoint, the food truck looks and acts like any other unit you see serving folks across NYC. As the video below demonstrates, the average day on a food truck starts in the early morning as Snowday is on the road traveling to a vending location at 8 a.m.

The goal for employees of Snowday is for it to be a transitional, but live changing experience. Each individual that goes through the program will work on the truck for a period of 6 – 12 months. After their fellowship is up, these folks will typically go into another job within the food industry or go to school full-time. Either way, the truck provides a positive work experience and job training that can be leveraged to provide entry into the workforce.

As highlighted in the video above the individuals being trained through Snowday became incarcerated for a laundry list of reasons like bank robbery or possession of drugs. Although their reasons for getting into trouble are all different, the common thread among each of these employees is that they want to make a change. They’ve learned their lesson the hard way and want to move forward.

In conclusion, it’s incredible to be able to see how impactful a food truck can be for individuals when aligned with the right mission. Visit the Drive Change website to learn more about the goals of this important organization.

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

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

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

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

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

clam chowder van

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

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

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

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

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

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.


Interview with Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine Founder Shawn Wenner

Learn more about Entrepreneurial Chef Founder Shawn Wenner.

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

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


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

Digital Cover of Entrepreneurial Chef.


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


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


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


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

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













Can’t Take a Vacation from Your Food Business? This is the One Thing You Need.

Taking a vacation when you run a business can be difficult.

If you own a food business such as a restaurant it can be difficult (some may say impossible) to find the time to take a single day off, much less an entire week of vacation. When owners finally pull themselves away from work, they find themselves thinking about their business, what needs to be done, and everything that might be slipping through the cracks without their supervision. Longterm this is not a healthy way to run a business or run your personal life.

Today’s post outlines how one food entrepreneur was able to finally get his time back and be able to finally take a proper vacation after two years of 12+ hour days operating a food truck / restaurant.  Staking a claim on time won’t be easy and there will be numerous problems that will pop up in an effort to steal days set aside for yourself. Still if you are able to give yourself a break and relax every once and while, it will benefits your overall health and allow you to avoid business burnout.

Can You Take a Vacation?

“I’m going on vacation outside the country for 3 weeks with my wife,” I told my friend Case.

Case, who also owns a restaurant, looked at me like I was from outer space.

Case started his restaurant more than 3 years ago and had yet to take more than a day off at a time. If Case isn’t at his restaurant every day things would quickly go off the rails.

Supplies don’t get reordered. Catering doesn’t get booked. Things begin to be missed.

Of course, I found myself in the exact same situation just a couple years prior with my own business.

Back when I had only one food truck, I worked 16 hour days / 6 days per week for two years straight…

Here’s what my typical day looked like during that time…

Emails and calls in the early morning. On the truck in the afternoon until evening for service, and closed out the books late into the night.

Then I went to sleep and started it all over again the next day.

Even if you’re making good money, I think you’ll agree that putting in 16 hours a day, 6 days a week is not sustainable forever.

You need some help!

It wasn’t until my mentor Josh showed me why and how to build a team that everything changed in my business for the better…  

A team allowed me to:

  • Attend multiple catering events at the same time and generate more revenue.
  • Focus my effort on growing the business instead of cooking food, serving customers, driving a food truck.
  • Go on vacations with my wife and take a much needed break!

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re just starting out you’ll need to wear a lot of different hats in those early days. But you don’t wear these hats forever!

You need to build your business with the mindset that eventually you’ll passing the daily responsibilities to team members.

Building a team is the only way you can transition from being a solo profitable operator to owning an asset that you can pass along to someone else.

One of the areas we will be focus inside my mentoring program is team building. It’s a critical skill you need to learn whether you plan to start a restaurant, food truck, or catering business.

Hiring team members is critical for your success.

What Team Member You Should Hire First

Even if you’re still in the early stages of planning your business this is the right time to start identify who to hire and when to hire team members first if you want to grow.

There is debate among the business community who the first hire first for your business should be. Being a restaurant owner, I understand the heavy expense business owners pay and the mental challenges of making that first critical hire. As a result, I don’t recommend hiring an expensive manager or highly trained chef first.

Hire someone that’s a good worker that can be trained to complete low-level and routine tasks that you do not want to spend your time doing. This goal of this role is to complete routine tasks on your behalf like prepping food in the morning, washing dishes, or sanitizing the kitchen.

The Dreaded First Hire.

This first hire is important for a couple reasons. First, you’ll get some routine but time consuming tasks taken off your plate. Second, you’ll learn to delegate tasks, provide clear instructions, and be a leader. All important skills for a restaurant owner!

After you’ve successfully hired your first set of lower-wage employees, it’s time to find 1 – 2 rockstar managers that will be able to oversee your business while you’re gone. You’ll need these managers to have a high-level understanding of all aspects of your restaurant operation so they can direct other employees.

If you’re fortunate, you may discover someone with leadership abilities that you can train and promote from within your restaurant. While this can be a great way to incentivize and encourage other employees to excel, it’s wise to also look for external hires with experience if you’re hiring a first manager.

Bottom line, you need to work hard to be successful in the food truck, restaurant or catering business. But you should be able to take a vacation every once and awhile too!  Building a team by hiring is the only way to accomplish this goal.

If you’re able to take some time off you’ll feel better, but it will also allow your business to finally grow. Don’t be the bottle-neck in your business by trying to do everything yourself. Focusing on building a team and reaping the benefits of your hard work.


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