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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.

The Starting Quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagle’s Just Opened a Food Truck

The starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, Carson Wentz, has a new side gig as a food truck vendor. Well… Sort of.

Wentz has a new charitable food truck named Thy Kingdom Crumb offering free meals to those in need in the Philadelphia area. The food truck made its debut in late August at Acme Markets in Philly. For the grand opening both Wentz and super-star teammate Zach Ertz distributed meals.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, you can view the truck in person at regular season home games at Lincoln Financial Field throughout the year.

The goal of the food truck is to use food as a means of community outreach and demonstrating God’s unconditional love. There’s no cost and no strings attached to anyone that wants a meal from the vehicle. You could be a struggling college student or a high-earning doctor getting off a shift. Everyone is welcome to enjoy a free meal. The mobile organization plans to serve both individuals and other non-profits across Philly with the vehicle.

Meals and a Mission

The meals being served from this unit aren’t what one might expect from a free food truck either. “We’re definitely not dishing out cafeteria style food that’s for sure,” explains the trucks chef. Meals being served during the first service of the vehicle include chicken and shrimp salad. There’s also hot BBQ chicken sandwiches available. In total, enough food was cooked to feed 2,500 people for the first service.

As you might expect, Carson Wentz isn’t pulling off this vision alone. He has an entire team of volunteers that help to execute the vision. Volunteers from a variety of organizations and churches help prep and distribute the food. Reverend Kyle Horner of Connect Church helps drive the truck to events.

You can learn more about the launch of Thy Kingdom Crumb by watching the video above. In the video, Carson Wentz explains his desire to give back to the community of Philadelphia. The piece also gives you a behind the scenes on the food truck being wrapped and rolled out for the first time. This food truck is part of Wentz’s Audience of 1 Foundation. You can learn more about the organization and its goals here.

This week and weekend marks the start of the 2018 NFL regular season. Wentz is starting out the season on the injured reserve due to a knee injury, but is expected to return to action in the coming weeks. We wish Wentz nothing but the best on his on and off-field endeavors in 2018.

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 MarketWatch.com, 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.

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