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How to Start Vending Outside Home Improvement Stores like Home Depot

Depending on where you live, you may have noticed a concession trailer or hot dog cart serving outside of a big-box home improvement store like Home Depot and wondered… How can I get my concession business to vend there?

Home Depot’s can be desirable areas to vend because there can be foot traffic in-and-out of the store all day, seven days a week. Home improvement stores attract a wide-range of professionals including contractors, laborers, and even the weekend do-it-yourselfer. In this post, we explore how to get your business approved to vend in these locations, what the process is like, and if it’s the right decision for your business.

Getting Booked in Front of a Home Depot

Many vendors are surprised to find out that there’s more red-tape involved in serving food at a Home Depot or Lowes than one might expect. You can’t simply make a phone call to your local retailer and ask when the best time for your arrival is. You’ve got to go through an application process with a third-party that manages all of the vendors outside of Home Depot’s and other larger retailers nationally.

Young man outside of a Home Depot location.

The organization you’ll need to work with to vend at Home Depot is called Best Vendors. Best Vendors offers a variety food services for businesses including vending machine stocking, break room services, and also book third-party vendors in front of retail stores through their sub-division called Street Eats Limited.

To be considered to vend at these locations, you first need to contact the Street Eats Limited and request an application to vend. Along with the completed application, you will pay a fee associated with this. At the time of writing the fee is about $50.00, but could change in the future. It can take 4 – 8 weeks to get written approval from this company build this time frame into your expectations.

In addition to submitting the applicable keep in mind that your concession trailer or cart must be fully compliant with all local health / fire codes, meet NSF requirements, and certified in food safety courses.

After getting through the approval process, you will learn how much it will cost to vend outside your particular Home Depot or Lowe’s location from Street Eats Limited. Each location has a different set price for renting or leasing the space. The arrangement is almost like having your own rented restaurant space, where you pay a monthly lease fee in exchange for the opportunity to operate here.

Ultimately, you’ll need to determine if going through this process makes sense from a business perspective.  Many vendors determine it’s not worth the effort or expense. Still there are some businesses that find success operating with this arrangement. As with any business arrangement there are advantages and disadvantages that should be considered.

Understanding Your Target Market

Before you move forward with vending outside of a home improvement store there are some things you need to keep in mind. The most important consideration is whether or not your concession food makes sense to sell outside of these retailers.

Do you know your target market?

Monday – Friday you’ll find a lot of folks like contractors, laborers, painters, construction workers and grounds keepers shopping here for work. When these people enter a Home Depot, they usually have a clear goal in mind. Pick up a specific tool or material for the worksite and return to work. These people do not have a lot of time to spare and the faster they return to the job site the better. As a result, if these individuals decide to eat they want something that’s fast, portable, a preferably low cost.

One of the food concepts that has proven to be successful outside of Home Depot’s is the hot dog trailer. Hot dog’s can be served fast and eaten on the go if needed. They are also an affordable meal for any worker. Other menu items with the potential to work well are tacos and pizza.

Bottom line, if you plan to serve food that’s higher end or takes a long time to prepare this will not be the right venue. If you’ve got a 2-gallon can of paint in your right hand and a bag of brushes in the left, you simply aren’t going to be in the right state of mind for a sit-down gourmet lunch.

Other Location Factors

Not all Home Depot or Lowe’s allow food vendors to serve outside their location. If you happen to live in Northern states it’s unlikely you’ll find food vendors at all. Before putting too much effort into the application process, it may save you some time to ask if the store even accepts vendors in front of your location. That will give you a quick red or green light in determining if you should move forward.

Another factor you need to consider if the location will be regularly hosting charitable or other organizations outside of store. While organizations like Boy Scouts of America are wonderful their presence may not be ideal from a business perspective if they are also selling food to raise funds. This is yet another consideration to keep in mind before moving ahead with this location.

In conclusion, if you have a food concept that makes sense for a home-improvement store, vending at these locations can be a profitable option. There are some examples of hot dog vendors that are able to operate profitable businesses outside of a Home Depot for many years. Just like any other vending location, sometimes this strategy can and other times it won’t. We hope this post has given you some additional information on whether or not this spot will work for you.

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How To Factor For Seasonality in a Concession Business

Winter is indeed coming. For vendors operating in cooler temperature states or even Canada this inevitably means lower monthly revenue figures for the rest of the year as we move deeper into the fall and winter months.

Most food vendors anticipate this lower demand due to seasonality. In places like New York, Boston and the entire country of Canada you’ll need to be prepared for substantial revenue impacts. If you’re located in Southern California or Florida, the winter-time revenue impacts will be less pronounced.

When you’re starting your business or still in the business plan development stage, it’s important to understand and be prepared for these changes. If not, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Some Trucks Menus are More Seasonal Than Others. Photo Credit: www.benjerry.com

How Will Seasonality Impact Your Revenue?

As mentioned above, seasonality could impact you a little or a lot depending on where you operate. The best way to identify how much of a revenue hit you could expect to take is to ask other street vendors in your area how much business slows down for them. If you talk to four or five veteran vendors, you should be able to get a good ballpark estimate.

If possible, try to find someone with a similar style menu to you for estimates. A shaved ice trailer is going to have a much tougher time generating sales in December compared to a coffee truck so keep menu in mind. If you have limited information, a 30% decrease in sales is a good rule of thumb.

To determine the revenue percentage decrease compare your previous months revenue you can use some mathematical formulas to determine how much you can expect to make during the slow months. Alternatively, you can use a straight forward online calculator like this one to determine what your % decrease would be.

bobo's que

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Ways to Combat Seasonality Impact

Although changing seasons is outside your control there are some things within your control to bring in revenue during the winter season. Here are a few different ways many existing concession businesses we work with approach this time period.

Head South: One of the most attractive elements of operating a concession trailer is that if business isn’t good somewhere, you can simply hitch up the trailer and travel somewhere more profitable. Of course, it’s not quite that easy to differing health codes  and vending regulations. But you can make it happen with a bit of strategic planning.

Some of our previous customers operate this way by design. During the summer months, they head north to take advantage of festivals and events. When fall comes they pack up and head south to vend for the winter where it’s warm. This can be a great lifestyle if you have a desire to move around a bit.

Change Menu: If you’re selling ice cream to Eskimos in January, it’s probably not going to work out well for you. Even if you are a terrific sales person! One option you have is to adapt your menu to serving foods that customers are more accustomed to consuming during the winter.

Adding hot coffee, hot chocolate or warm soups could be ways to adapt a menu for winter. In fact, these seasonal menu changes could be a great way to keep things exciting for your customers as well. Even chain restaurants like Soup Plantation will mix up their menu to match the season.

Focus on Catering and Big Events: While it may be cold outside that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of catering opportunities to be had this time of year. As holidays like Christmas and New Year’s approach, businesses often reward their employees with corporate lunches or parties that are catered. These events can be quite lucrative as well!

In addition to indoor catering, most cities will have winter festivals that are held outside even during those cold winter months. Be on the look out with your cities website to keep in tune with local upcoming events. Well attended events like winter carnivals can be a great opportunity to generate a big day of sales in an otherwise down month.

Finally, we’ve worked with a lot of concession vendors that simply decide to take some time off during the winter and relax. Focusing on high-revenue months from June – August and putting lifestyle first could be the best option for you too. Many vendors work really long and hard hours during the summer then take the winters off.

Remember, you have no control over weather conditions in your area and for most vendors the winter months will be lower revenue months. You do have a lot of different options over what you can do to combat these slower months, however.

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How Much Food Storage Space is Needed on Your Concession Trailer?

How much storage space is needed on your concession trailer? This is a question frequently overlooked by first time vendors. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the type of kitchen equipment that will be installed and the wrap of the vehicle. These are important parts of the build process. But at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we also understand you need to have enough available space on the concession trailer to store your raw materials like hamburgers, tacos, or BBQ after your equipment is installed.

Within the food industry, the amount of storage space inside your food trailer is referred to as your capacity. Your capacity will determine the maximum number of customers you can serve at any given event. As an example, if you were operating a taco truck that had available on board storage to make 500 taco plates. In this scenario, if you charge $8.00 per plate of tacos your maximum revenue per day would be $4,016. In this scenario, you would have plenty of storage and being able to serve 500 customers without needing to replenish the supplies on your trailer is a great situation to be in.

rib customer

Another satisfied customer.

If you discovered, however that your maximum capacity of your vehicle was only 50 taco plates, you’ll be severely limiting your upside on the concession unit. In this hypothetical, you would hit a daily revenue ceiling of just $400. If you are a solo operator with a small trailer, you could still technically be turning a small profit with this level of capacity. But why put such a low cap on your potential sales?

In the example above, you’ll likely find that during busy time periods you’ll run out of food to serve and won’t be able to take advantage of demand. This is a missed opportunity as a business owner. This is not a good situation from a customer  experience standpoint either. There’s nothing worse than waiting in line at a food trailer for 10 minutes only to find that they’ve run out of food once you get to the serving window.

How Much Capacity Do You Need?

Everyone’s storage capacity needs will be different. If you operate a coffee truck, it’s very likely you won’t need a whole lot of extra space because coffee beans, milk, cream, and small sides like pastries don’t require a whole lot of space. On the other hand if you’re operating a BBQ trailer that serves a variety of sandwiches and plates, you’re going to need room to store those smoked meats.

One good starting place for determining your trucks overall capacity is to calculate the break-even point for your truck. In other words, how many sales would you need per day to pay off all your expenses. After you determine the minimum sales needed to cover your operating costs like wages, gas, and cost-of-goods sold (COGs), you’ll be able to start playing around with the numbers to find out how much on-board storage you’ll need. Obviously, you want to do much better than breaking even on the concession trailer so make sure you create a maximum single day revenue goal that you would be happy with and go from there.

The formula for a break-even analysis is below:

Total Fixed Costs ÷ ( (Total Sales – Total Variable Costs) / Total Sales) = Break Even Point

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show

M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks Booth at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show

Quick Options For Increasing Capacity

Enlist help: If you need to restock your shelves in a pinch, having an employee or a family member that can travel off-site to get more supplies is a simple way to make sure you’ve got appropriate capacity at an event. If you have a runner, they are able to drive to the commissary, grocery store, or restaurant supply center to get more product is a simple way to ensure you’re able to maximize sales on your truck. Just make sure you’re not pulling employees from the serving window, which could reduce your throughput times.

Get a second vehicle: At a certain point, there’s only so much storage potential on a mobile concession unit. Another solution that’s been used by our customers is to get a second vehicle dedicated exclusively to food storage. Often a smaller unit like a van is sufficient for this purpose and the vehicle may have little more than some shelving and refrigeration units installed.

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Eric Silverstein: Is Food The Most Important Factor in Starting a Food Truck?

When first time restauranteurs or food truck owners are just starting out it’s logical to think that perfecting the food is the best use of their limited time. After all if you don’t make a good impression to first time customers, you might never get the opportunity to serve them a second time.

In this Q/A interview with Eric Silverstein, owner of the massively popular Austin-based restaurant  The Peached Tortilla shares why food is actually not the most important factor in determining whether or not a food business will be successful. Eric knows what he’s talking about too. Just a few years ago Eric launched The Peached Tortilla concept from a single food truck. Today Eric’s brand has grown to four food trucks, a restaurant location, and is regarded as a visionary restauranteur in the Austin area.

In this interview Eric sits down with a brand new co-founder, Quentin Cantu of Ranch Hand Food Truck to discuss some of the misconceptions about food startups and what to expect if you’re thinking about embarking on your own food startup journey. Click play on the video below to watch the full 3 minute and 12 second interview.

Interview Highlights

Question: What are the biggest misconceptions about food start-ups? What do you wish you would have known when you got started?

Answer: Your investment in human capital is extremely important. Your team will make or break you in this industry. Also, if you’re goal is to grow, you simply won’t be able to work every shift. You can’t prep and chop everything. How you cultivate and manage your team will dictate your level of success in the restaurant industry. If you’re starting a food truck, you may not realize that you will become a manager of people by embarking on this business. How you treat and lead people is a big component.

You need to have a system for operating your business. You need to have a system for ordering more product, cooking food, serving customers. When you just start out, obviously you won’t have everything figured out immediately. It will take some time to get this part right, continue to evolve and be a process that you optimize over time.

Eric points out at the conclusion of the conversation that how to cook food or what you’re serving never came up as part of this section of the interview. That’s not to say that having terrific food isn’t important. But if you want to start and grow a successful business, your energy as the owner of that business needs to be on other areas.

If you enjoyed this video Eric Silverstein is regularly publishing videos like this weekly on his YouTube Channel. Eric’s goal is to document what it takes to succeed in today’s hyper competitive restaurant industry. Whether you’re thinking about getting started or looking for ways to make your current restaurant more efficient this will be a hugely valuable behind the scenes series. Check out the series intro video below:

How Much Does a BBQ Concession Business Cost to Start?

For the purposes of this particular blog post we will be focusing on the costs to start a BBQ concession, catering, or vending business using a mobile unit like a trailer or truck. At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks one of our specialties is manufacturing BBQ trailers, trucks, and smokers built to our customers needs and desires. Not only do we understand the cost to operate this type of business, but understand the different goals people have when investing in a BBQ trailer. Some of our customers like Wade, an active service member of the United States military, invested in a trailer to start a catering business on weekends and participate in a few competitive events each year. Others like Smokin’ Bull Shack (shown in the video bel0w) purchased a full-fledged 22 foot trailer to be able to serve smoked meats at the largest events and travel across the state to major events. We’ve included videos of both these examples inside this post.

rib customer

Another satisfied customer.

The Biggest Investment

The largest one-time investment you’ll make in your BBQ business is with equipment. If you purchase a well-built machine that meets your current needs and offers you some room to grow this equipment could serve you well for decades. If you purchase something the is low-quality or hasn’t been maintained, it can become extremely frustrating. The good news is that if you already own a reliable vehicle to pull a trailer, you can get a structurally sound smoker trailer at a price regular folks can afford.

Small Trailer – If you’re on a budget and want to start small, the Model NS 60 SWT  is a great option at $3,550. The trailer boasts sliding shelves that can be pulled out of the trailer for cleaning or serving and a warmer box that can serve as a cooker box as well. Check the link for full specs on this trailer. If you want to go a little bit larger, the Model NS 70 SWT gives you even more cooking space for a slight bump in cost $3,750. Both of these trailers have everything you need to get started with catering gigs, participating in BBQ competitions or serving at events. If you want some different add-ons like a roof or 3-compartment sink for health code requirements those can be easily added on to your unit. With a total investment of under $5,000 to purchase your most expensive piece of equipment is not a bad way to start a business and allows you to quickly get to profitability or start the business in your spare-time on the weekends.

Large Trailer / Truck – Ready to go a bit more aggressive? Have you already been running a successful catering business for a number of years, but want to make a step up and get into some of the bigger events in your area.

Depending on what equipment and features you would like installed on the vehicle a BBQ truck will cost between $50,000 -$100,000 all in. You can purchase full-equipment BBQ trailer for under $50,000. Why so much less expensive? You don’t have an engine and a mode of transportation built in. If you already own a reliable truck you can cut your start up costs significantly. In the event your truck breaks down, you can get a loaner through a local Lowe’s or Home Depot for under $50 bucks a day so you won’t miss out on any lucrative events.

Licensing Costs and Insurance

Each of these costs is variable and will depend on where you live.

Permits: Every city, county, and state will have different rules of the road so to speak for your BBQ business. We won’t get into an exhaustive list here, but a safe bet is that you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 – $500 annually to get all the appropriate inspections for your BBQ business. If you happen to live in a major metropolitan area such as New York City these fee’s could balloon into the thousands of dollars per year.

Business Entity: If you’re just starting out starting your business as a “cottage food” business can be an affordable way to goal. In a nutshell, the cottage food laws were put in place over the past 10 years to loosen the prohibitive food laws that were a challenge for small food businesses to overcome. There annual income sales limits of $54,000 with this business entity so as you grow you will need to consider transitioning the business to an LLC.

Insurance: This is another cost that will vary depending on your location. Noticing a trend in this section? Using back of the napkin math you should budget around $1,000 – $3,000 annually for this.

Supplies and Recurring Monthly Costs

Although every business is different. Here are a few typical monthly expenses you can use as a guide. We hope this article has helped to make you aware of the different costs associated with starting up your very own concession business.

Commissary $0 – $1,200
Phone / Internet $75
Fuel $200
Point-of-Sale Software $20
Emergency Expenses / Other $200
Food (Meats, Seasoning, Breads) / Beverage Restock Depends on sales.
Napkins, Paper Plates, Plastic Forks and Spoons $100 – $300

What is a Roach Coach? Where Did the Term Come From?

Before the rise of gourmet food trucks there was the “roach coach.” In fact, a small number of people (generally over the age of 60) still refer to mobile food units by the name roach coach. Fortunately, over the past 20 years the perception of the quality of food that can be served from a truck has been completely transformed and flipped on its head thanks to the innovative chefs that operate food trucks in the 21st century. In today’s post, we discuss how that name came to be and dive into the history of the food truck so you understand where this term came from.

What is a Roach Coach?

The term roach coach was used to describe white and grey food trucks that frequented construction and other worksites during the 70s and 80s. These vehicles got their name by due to their questionable sanitation practices. These vehicles would serve basic convenience food that you would be familiar seeing at a gas station or convenience store. Basic hot dogs, bags of chips, pre-made sandwiches and burgers were the expected fair at these mobile establishments. Although it seems almost incomprehensible now, some trucks would even sell packs of cigarettes from the serving window.

If you were to eat at one of these roach coaches, sometimes called snack trucks, it was purely out of convenience. Construction sites are often located in parts of the city where there is not access to other eating alternatives. If you didn’t bring your lunch in a pail, you literally had no dining alternatives.

You will still find food trucks actively serving blue and white collar workers at different job sites or corporate parks, but the term roach coach is a thing of the past. While getting the appropriate health and licensing requirements may have been less stringent in the past, the process of starting a food truck isn’t much different than starting a restaurant from a health perspective. All food trucks are expected to operate and maintain clean kitchens at the same level you would expect any other food establishment to operate. In most cities, food trucks will undergo numerous inspections throughout the year by government employees to ensure health requirements are maintained.

What Does a Roach Coach Look Like?

Most of the food trucks you see on the road today are state-of-the-art rolling restaurants. They have efficient and clean kitchen layouts, dynamic logos, mouthwatering menu options with the goal of winning you over as a longterm repeat customer and fan. The goal of the roach coach is simpler and much more transactional. Serve food in places where there aren’t other options available. There’s no goal to gain a repeat customer or advocate for the business.

The lack of branding on these roach-coach style food trucks is the most obvious differentiators. The image featured below is a classic example of the old school type of mobile food unit. This plain gray style of vehicle would have been extremely common site to see at construction sites 20 – 30 years ago. You can still find trucks like this on the road today and you shouldn’t be concerned for your health when eating at these mobile established.  Although they aren’t branded in the same way as gourmet trucks, they must adhere to all of the same health code requirements to legally operate.

This is what a “roach coach” typically looks like.

A Bite of Food Truck History

You can think of the roach coach as a time period of the larger mobile food industry that got it’s beginnings back in the Wild West. In the mid-1800s the original chuck wagon became popular feeding hungry cowboys out on the open plains.

As mobile refrigeration became an option, mobile food made enormous leaps forward and the variety of food that could be safely served in a mobile setting increased. Before refrigeration,  salted or smoked meats were the only kind of protein that could travel.

In the 1950s, mobile canteens like the one shown below were authorized by the United States Military. These canteen’s became a familiar site offering enlisted men hot meals in bases around the country.

Mobile canteen’s like this were used by the U.S. Army in the 1950s.

As you can see, people’s perceptions of what mobile food is has continued to evolve over the past 50 years. Although we can’t predict with certainty what the future of mobile vending will look like in the next 50 years, we are confident it won’t look the same as it does today.

What Are The 20 Most Popular Food Truck Menu Concepts?

Thinking about getting into the food truck business, but struggling to find your perfect menu? In today’s post our goal is to help solve this problem by organizing a list of the most popular menu concepts we’ve seen executed well on food trucks in recent years.

In our 15+ years in business, we’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of food entrepreneurs launch their own mobile businesses each of these concepts on our list have produced numerous successful businesses for our customers. Often, if you want to be successful in the food industry you don’t need to have the most creative menu in town. You simply need to execute on serving consistently good food that people crave paired with exceptional customer service.

Finding Your Gourmet Twist

Before you go out and open a taco trailer because it’s popular there’s one important factor among each of these menu concepts that you need to keep in mind. The most successful food truck (or restaurant) owners are able to put their own unique spin when cooking up menu items. That means you’ll have to use a small amount of creativity to specialize to make your food unique to consumers.

For example even with hot dogs being a very popular concept you wouldn’t want to serve an ordinary hot dog with ketchup and mustard from your truck. You can get that at any 7-11 for $2.00. Instead try serving a bacon wrapped, cheddar cheese dog to differentiate your menu.

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

Another common way to differentiate your food is to serve a specific style that is unique to a geographic region. One menu concept this is popular is with barbecue. There are many different barbecue cooking and flavor styles including Kansas City, Memphis, sweet and others.

You can find plenty of ways to differentiate a coffee truck too. One option is that you could specialize in serving coffees made only with organic beans. Alternatively, you could feature coffees that are grown in different parts of the world including South America, Africa, or North America. The opportunity to take a well-known menu and adapt it to become totally exclusive you is not difficult.

Top 20 Food Truck Menus

  • Barbecue
  • Amped-up Hamburgers
  • Reinvented Hot dogs
  • Coffee Trucks
  • Smoothie / Healthy Drink Trucks
  • “Grown-up” grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Beef Sliders (Variation on hamburgers.)
  • Cupcakes and desserts
  • Street tacos and burritos
  • Sushi
  • Lobster rolls
  • Mediterranean menus / Gyros
  • Crepes with special toppings
  • Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Ice cream and soft serve
  • Shaved ice / Italian ice
  • Indian food
  • Hawaiian food
  • Chicken wings

***Top menu concepts are organized in no particular order of popularity. 

Combining Main-Stream Concepts to Create Something New

If you’re still having trouble coming up with a unique food truck menu, we have saved one last chef’s secret for creating a unique menu. This is one that has been fully embraced by the mobile food industry. The concept is taking two popular food items and merging them together into something new. This melting pot of flavors is called fusion cuisine.

You’ve probably had some type of fusion cuisine already even if you didn’t know it. One fusion concept that has gained a lot of popularity over the last 10 years is merging a variety of ethnic foods and flavors with the taco. BBQ, Korean, Indian, and even vegetarian food has collided with the hard or soft shell of Mexican food in most cities. And guess what… Most of these flavors work really well together!

We hope today’s post has given you some new ideas that have a proven track record of success being cooked and served from a mobile food unit. Are there any well-knonwn concepts that we’ve missed? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below. 

Three Types of Food Truck Blueprints with Examples

There’s a lot more that goes into the planning and manufacturing a food truck than most people think. Take for example the layout and installation of the cooking equipment inside the truck. As a straight-forward example, a tater tot truck would need to make sure they had deep fryers, a fridge to keep product cool, and a prep station to add all the yummy toppings like sour cream or chives.

rib customer

Another satisfied customer of Smokin’ Bull Shack. Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

But having the tater tot equipment is installed in the food truck is not enough. You also need to make sure each piece is laid out in a way that will be efficient for chefs cooking onboard. To accomplish this goal, a blueprint or written plan for each food truck design is critical.  You do not want the chef (or yourself) to be forced to zig-zag across your trailer like a pinball to cook a single menu item. You might be able to serve food this way during slow time periods on the truck, but during a lunch rush with multiple workers onboard an inefficient setup can be both frustrating and hurt profits if can’t serve food fast enough.

Ideally you want to design the layout or blueprint that allows you to cook food on an assembly line from start to finish. When you think about some of the most profitable restaurants in history like McDonalds or Chipotle, they assemble their food in the this way. When you go to Chipotle, you start by selecting your wrap, then decide on beans, rice, meats, and continue on down a straight line until your perfect burrito is crafted. Can you imagine how inefficient and unorganized these restaurants would become if employees needed to walk to different parts of the kitchen to make a burrito? And yet, this is exactly how many mobile kitchens are laid out.

At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, we work with our customers to design a kitchen layout that’s optimized to serve their menu items.  After developing a blueprint, we walk each customer through the recommendations to ensure that the layout will meets their needs.  If you’re going to make an investment in a food truck or trailer, we want to be confident it’s built to last and manufactured in a way that will help your business operate profitably.

Three Types of Food Truck Blueprints

Although kitchen layout is important for the operations of a food truck it’s not the only blueprint that is developed. We create a total of three blue-prints for each build we produce to ensure your truck is ready to roll:

Kitchen Blueprint: The kitchen blue-print is what we’ve been highlighting so far within this post. The goal of this document is to demonstrate where each piece of equipment will be installed within the trailer. This allows us to demonstrate how much space is available on the truck in addition to walking through how food will be cooked on the concession trailer.

bedroom concession

Example 1: Concession Trailer Kitchen Blueprint

 

pizza trailer blueprint

Example 2: Pizza Trailer Kitchen Blueprint

 

Electrical Blueprint: The electrical blueprint is another important piece of planning a food truck build. Without planning correctly for electrical needs you could find yourself out of power in the worst possible time: Usually when you’ve got a lot of customers and all the kitchen equipment is in use. Our electrical blueprints ensure that your vehicle will have power when you need it. As food trucks become more complex with exterior lighting, televisions or digital menus, you want to be confident your food truck build is sound from an electrical perspective. Often, we need to produce two separate electrical blueprints, one for the ceiling, one for the rest of the vehicle as demonstrated below.

electrical ceiling blueprint

Example 1: Electrical Ceiling Blueprint

 

electrical blueprint

Example 2: Electrical Blueprint

 

Plumbing Blueprint: Finally, there’s the the plumbing blue-print. This section ensures that you’re waste water is going to a tank. But also ensures that you’ll have plenty of hot and cold water on demand from your sinks. One of the challenging aspects of building a food truck is that you’ve got to understand mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and the operational side of a food truck business. At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks we’ve been in business for over 15 years and understand each step of the food truck build process in depth.

plumbing blueprint

Plumbing blueprint.

 

As you can see there’s a lot more that goes into the planning stages of a food truck build than meets the eye. We hope this gives you a better understanding of everything it takes to manufacture a quality concession truck or trailer.

What are the Most Common Food Truck Floor Plan Sizes?

What floor plan is right size for you? In this guide our goal is to outline the most commonly used food truck floor plan sizes and demonstrate the pros and cons of each. The ideal floor plan for you will depend largely on a combination of these three factors including: local laws, menu, and personal needs. Ready to find the right layout for your unique situation? Read on.

Local Legal Requirements

If you’re just beginning the food truck research process, you may soon discover that your local health code requires your truck to be a certain size. One example is in the city of Madison, Wisconsin, where a food vendors trailer is not allowed to exceed 10 feet by 12 feet (10′ X 12′). If you purchased a 20 footer and hoped you vend in Downtown Madison, you would not be allowed no matter how well your food trailer was built. This is why it’s so important to look into the health requirements for any new city or county you plan to operate in. An experienced food truck builder will also be able to help you identify the health code in your city and may already be familiar with the unique requirements there.

Taste of Jamaica Trailer in Madison, WI. Photo Credit: PublicHealthMDC.com

To learn more about the special requirements needed to operate a food trailer in Madison, Wisconsin, view their Guide for New Mobile Food Operators. While you probably don’t intend to operate a food unit there, the guide provides some good examples of things you’ll need to consider when starting your own food truck, including how you will deal with waste water, getting licensed, and if you will need to rent commissary space.

Menu

What you plan to serve is going to have a major influence on the size of your mobile food unit. Some concepts like shaved ice, coffee, or tacos don’t require much space at all to operate and a 14′ foot trailer or Sprinter Van will work well. If you’re serving more complex dishes, plan to do a lot of prep work on the vehicle, or want to have a larger variety of menu items than the 18′ footer may be the appropriate choice for you. BBQ is a specific food concept that will requires more space to pull off since you’ve got to have space to keep meats cool, prep, chop, and smoke. You can also invest in an open-air BBQ smoker trailer if you don’t necessarily need a truck.

18′ Foot New South Smoker Trailer. Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

The 16′ foot food truck floor plan is the most common size you may be familiar seeing on the road. The 16′ footer is a versatile size that will allow you to execute the majority of popular concepts out there including hamburgers, sandwiches, Mexican food, and even sushi. This layout offers a nice combination of size without being so large that you feel like you’re driving an 18-wheeler for a living.

Personal Needs and Goals

Finally, there are a lot of personal preferences and goals that should be considered when starting a food truck. For some startups, you may need to keep costs low so you’ll opt for a smaller floor plan. For others having a bathroom installed inside the trailer is a requirement. Keep in mind that you will spend a lot of time inside your vehicle so you’ll want something that meets your needs and is comfortable.

Employees: Do you plan to operate with other people on board? Whether you’ll be hiring staff or working with family members you’ll need space to work and move inside the kitchen. For most people, we find that if you have a two person operation a Sprinter Van or 14′ foot layout works well. Once you get three people inside of a Sprinter Van things start to get pretty tight and the quarters may be closer than you would like.

Efficiency and Volume: Restaurants with some of the fastest serving times and highest volume of sales include Chipotle and McDonald’s. These establishments are able to be super efficient in part because there is a team that cooks and assembles your meal. Each team member has a specific role in putting together your meal and usually work together in a line.

These teams of employees can also crank out meals super fast. Some reports state that Chipotle is able to serve 120 burritos per hour on average and they continue to look for ways to improve that metric because time is money in the restaurant industry. If you hope to duplicate some of the success attributes of these restaurants you will want to look into a bigger vehicle.

Cooking Equipment and Other Features: Need more than just two burners? Want a smoothie machine installed for custom drinks to be added as a menu item? Need a bathroom installed so you aren’t forced to use public restrooms at events? If this sounds like you a 18′ or 20′ floor plan layout is likely the best choice. If you have a lot of cooking equipment you need installed or other special add-ons like a porch, you will need one of the larger layout options.

The Most Common Food Truck Floor Plan Sizes

  • 14′ Foot: Small entry level truck or trailer size. This is about the size of a Sprinter Van as well.
  • 16′ Foot: This is the most popular food truck size. Very versatile.
  • 18′ Foot: Great size if you plan to have more than two vendors onboard a truck or large menu.
  • 20′ Foot: If you plan on doing a lot of volume at major events and want room to grow this is a great option.

If you have more questions about what floor plan would work best for your situation, send us an email or call us at 904-397-0246.

Does Attending Craft Shows Make Sense For Your Concession Business?

Searching for new ways to increase revenue for your concession business? The often-forgotten craft show could be the answer to unlocking consistent profits in your area. In today’s post we show you where to find these craft shows and things to look for when determining whether or not you want to test these events for your existing food business. Enjoy!

food booth

Food vendors at a local craft show. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Advantages of Art Shows

From an economic standpoint, people at craft fairs are an ideal customer for a concession vendor. People that can purchase hand-made necklaces or custom paintings have expendable income. There are cheaper ways to buy similar products so being able to afford to enjoy lunch at your truck, trailer, or cart won’t be an issue from a financial perspective.

In addition to the socio-economic factors, many art shows don’t have much in terms of ready-to-eat foods. There will usually be some take-home products like jelly, honey, or beef jerky. But as far as something hot and ready to eat on-site, the options are often limited.

A lot of food truck owners have seen success by vending at well attended food truck rally’s in their area. Don’t get us wrong, these are terrific events that can attract large crowds and be extremely lucrative. But there is also something to be said of being one of maybe two dining options around lunch time. The crowds may not be as big, but if you can get a large percentage of attendees to give your food a try this can work.

Finally, art shows are usually cheap to vend at. A vendor’s fee of between $15 – $45 will apply depending on popularity. A big reason for the low-cost is that artists couldn’t afford to pay the fees if they were any higher than this. This is an advantage to you as a concession vendor because you can usually break-even after just a few sales. If you discover that an event is not profitable you can quickly move on.

Challenges of Craft Fairs

Naturally there are some hurdles to overcome within this type of event too. The first is timing. A lot of craft fairs are not held during lunch or dinner time hours when you’ll generate the most sales. If a certain craft fair only runs from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and you serve hot dogs, you may want to continue to look elsewhere.

Other craft fairs, especially those held in-doors, will have a strong self-interest to keep food vendors out. It’s no secret that selling food and beverages through a snack bar can be lucrative endeavor for the owners and management of the event. Before you pay any event fee’s, be sure to confirm with the promoter that selling ready-to-eat food is acceptable.

Where To Find Local or National Craft Shows

Ready to explore the art scene for your own business? Here are some of the best resources we know to source these events in your area:

https://www.sunshineartist.com – From their home-base in Wisconsin, this companies mission is to serve the arts and crafts industry. One of the nice features of this website is that there is a search engine that allows you to look up events by keyword and date.

http://festivalnet.com – Website with a list of 26,000+ art fairs and craft shows happening across the United States and Canada.

http://artandcrafts.com – Based out of Edgewater, Florida, this is your professional guide to art and craft shows. At the time of writing there is a fee of $49.95 per year to access the information in this guide. You can also enroll for a 10-day free trail to check out there system. This sounds like a square deal if you want to make a serious attempt at vending at these kinds of events.

http://craftshowyellowpages.com – This is the art and craft show yellow pages. You can browse descriptions of different events across all 50 states here. If you really want to take your knowledge to the next level, you can also sign up for their magazine to be shipped to your house.

http://www.craftmasternews.com – This website includes listing for art and craft shows, but also home improvement, garden shows, farmer’s markets and more!

http://www.eventlister.com – At the time of writing, this website had over 130,000 upcoming events published online. This is an enormous U.S. Searchable database for art shows. You can also shop for thousands of hand-made products from local artists online through their website.

http://www.localharvest.org – This is a website that provides farmers market listings. Not quite the same thing as a craft fair, but there is some overlap here. We were able to find dozens of markets within a 25 mile radius of us that we  never knew existed. This is a very powerful resource.

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