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Mobile Food Business Questions

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Im looking into converting a older 80s RV into a food truck. A few questions I have.

Would the RV look hurt sales? I plan on painting silver or white and putting food decals on it.

Could I use the hood and exhaust over the stove for a fryer and griddle?

How are local business about parking next to them? I didnt plan on being in front of competing business but where does private road meet private property? I was going to get permission for two spots and stop at the bus stations, ferry, and parks.

On equipment I was looking at tabletop fryers, 16" griddle, laptop with POS, Steam table for a few 1/3rd pans. Could I use a crockpot for a food warmer?

I have a bathroom sink (hand washing),and two sinks in the kitchen area. Will I still have to add a third sink? Will my plumbing be up to code? Should I concentrate on propane powered or electric off the generator?

Im nervous of dealing with the inspectors and want everything perfect so i dont waist money fixing it.

One mistake im making is trying to make to many different types of foods. How many varieties do you normally sell. To keep service fast and waist low. I was going for dogs,burgers,steak n cheese, subs, salads, fried dough,fried pre breaded chicken,fries,mashed potatoes, chili, mac and cheese.

Any other tips will be helpful.
post #2 of 10
you should start with your local codes - codes / laws / requirements most certainly vary - in Penna there is state law and local ordinances right down to small city level and you must satisfy every one of them + you need permits/licenses for every third stop light..... what works in one county may not be acceptable to the next county over - and "apparent common sense" is not always applied.

"sanitation" is a big issue on homespun conversions - you just can't whack a bunch of boards together and promise the inspector you'll clean it everyday. I highly recommend you do _all_ the homework, twice - and then double check everything before you get started - it is possible to get it all done and have an inspector tell you it all has to go . . .
post #3 of 10
I agree 100% with Dillberts reply above for the very reason I am quoting from your post.

By doing the homework thoroughly you will meet and/or talk with the inspectors. Believe it or not they are there to help you get it right. They will provide you with plenty of information and help you understand it all.

Plumbing is a real nightmare. I was put through the ringer over a plumbing issue and it cost me two really important months of business delays. When it comes to plumbing you need to talk with the installer, the planner and the state level inspector that is the one where the buck stops here label.
post #4 of 10
In addition to the advice already about working with the many local authorities to learn what you need to do before you do anything:
1. Look at the other food businesses in the area you want to serve: what do they serve? What do they NOT serve, that customers want? If you serve the same things, how will you set yourself off -- better quality? cheaper prices? variations they don't offer? You might get customers early, who are curious, but you need to make sure that you KEEP them by making yourself unique in a way that appeals to them. Trim your menu according to what you have determined will sell (you need to do a lot more research into customer desires).

2. Are you going to prep elsewhere (such as boiling the potatoes and macaroni, making the chili and salads, etc.) and then finish everything in the truck? Or do everything in the truck? Do you have enough storage and prep space for that? Again, trim your menu according to what you can do on what will sell.

3. Related back to #2: are you going to make most of the food yourself (chili, salads, mac and cheese, dough, fresh-cut fries) or will you buy them all prepped and just heat or finish in the truck? Do you have suppliers lined up for either the raw ingredients or the ready-to-finish items? What about suppliers for all the other stuff you'll need: containers, napkins, bags, cutlery, cleaning supplies, beverages? There's so much more to what you want to do than just cooking.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
What about the appearance of a 20ft RV trying to sell you food? Will it work?

I was going to gut out all the stuff I didnt need. It already has a prep area,fridge, stove, hot water, cabinets, sinks, a hood. I can cover all the counter tops with aluminum or steel and do the same for the siding. Sanitation doesnt seem like a problem too me. I worked in plenty of dirty kitchens and its mostly workers not the kitchen. Now im 25 have a record worked mostly in food prep and service. I worked as a sub contractor cleaning hood exhaust so I been in plenty of dirty kitchens and have no problems cleaning them. I helped numerous restaurants pass inspections now I didnt know all the rules, I was just cleaning but picked up little tips.

I have a feeling the city people will treat me like a joke. But im real tired of being replaced by Guatemalans that work for half the price. Im good with money and manage to save with low paying jobs. I run and design websites for a hobby. So ill have no problem making a website and marketing it.

For food i was going wholesale BJ, Sams Clubs,Walmart etc. For the fried chicken i plan on using the same supplier as a former restaurant I worked at. THey were 2 oz breaded strips and were tasty. Theres also to local butchers one is more beefed based and the other is more Italian flavored.

Supplies I found cheaper on the internet in bulk and there's a food wholesaler next door to me witch sells fresh produce and napkins, oil, containers, etc.

I didnt want to sell subs and salads cause of waste but I figured the local business employees would want something healthy. They can be prepared before and just add meat and dressing. I also have recipes for home made salad dressing from Italian place I worked at but its not worth the time. I was going to make the sides at home and lie about it. The sides are more for the flea market and Ill use whatever is leftover for the weekly route.

I plan on getting a spot at a flea market in a different county they average 2k visitors a day, year round every weekend. In my area they have a farmers market but its small. Theres only one hot dog cart downtown. And at the flea market a few juice vendors, hot dog , burgers, and sausages.

I will be the only one with fried dough, chicken, salads. Something easy to make and noone offers is cannolis.

My city is 3 miles squared with 30k people so its very populated for a small area. We have a bus station and a ferry from long island where the rich people come to Ct for the casinos. But when they get off theres nothing but parking lots. I have a spot secured accross from the court house. We have a huge hispanic population so I thought of tacos, burritos, beef patties.

Theres a event that attract 300k people over a 3 day weekend. They shut down two streets and fill them with vendors. Its 500 a day but Im moblie and ill drive around the whole thing and avoid the fees. Theres a large office complex that rents out there parking lot. I want to talk to them directly about parking there. Its less a then a mile from the event and is a good spot where people with small kids go to avoid the shoulder to shoulder crowds that are downtown. Im sure I can break even on this event alone.

I contacted SCORE a group that helps new businesses they told me to contact the Zoning Commison first.I was going to meet the healt dept first. I called the health dept but they wanted to meet to discuss specifics. I dont think they have the answers about the hood either.

The guy from score said he could help me get finaceing but I dont think the lendors would be willing unless I went with a legit food truck.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
I had to make 5 post to show this to you.
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

post #8 of 10
I don't think the exterior appearance will be a negative factor to customers - it looks like it's in good shape and "neat & clean" goes a long way - at least that's my knee jerk reaction when I'm walking by food vendors.

you must know what the rules & regs are and their interpretation by the licensing / permitting bodies. I saw a vendor shut down on the spot at a country fair because he had a partially opening seam in the vinyl flooring. now, the vendor had an attitude, and I rather suspect that didn't fly well with the inspector, but there is the letter of the law - that was the inspector's story and he stuck to it.

the idea of covering the work tops with metal is all well and good - but here, no joints/seams allowed that are not welded and ground perfectly smooth - including back and side splash boards. if you're doing this work yourself, some skills required - the inspectors wipes the joints with a cotton ball, it the cotton sticks - you're toast.

a hood must have a capture lip and drain such that nothing from the hood can drip into the food area - that's not "std" for residential type applications. it's these kinds of "gotcha's" that can kick your project back to square one minus two.

nothing's impossible and I encourage you to go for it - just realize: the least expensive way to get to where you want to be is to only have to do it once.
post #9 of 10
i am also interested in doing a mobile food kitchen, and have looked into a bit of what it will take..your biggest hurdle will be to be able to provide a professional licensed kitchen as your commissary/ your operations base..the health dept is very(rightfully so) concerned that you have a place to wash up your pots, pans, utensils, etc. properly with an approved water source(a church, a friend who has a restaurant, county fairgrounds are places to look), ..i have a restaurant so am umbrellaed under that license, but you will need a license(its not very pricey)..call your local health dept...they are really very helpful and will lead you in the right direction..they want you to succeed and just want to be sure you are not making anyone sick..or worse!..they may also require you to take a food handlers course(usually 1 or 2 days)..its always a good idea to reinforce good kitchen hygiene, plus you get a card to impress people with...there may also be other mobile food kitchens around that you can call and 'pick their brains' about how they did things..you can always google!..as far as menu, you probably know what will go best in your 'hood'..i am having a bit of the same problem just trying to decide my menu while making it easy for me, interesting for the customers and fun for all..in the end, i will always keep it simple..hope this helps

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne


food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

post #10 of 10

2 more cents!

just a few other thoughts...if you are trying to make this fast food, i don't think burgers fit the bill unless you are constantly grilling them..they take tie to cook..not just grab and go food if folks have to wait for them.. and personally i don't really view them as healthy food..what about wraps? you can make them ahead a bit and geez the skies the limit on what you can put in them..fish tacos, burritos, jerk chicken, and if you do dogs..do them with justice!... start with really good dogs,lots of different toppings like chili, jalapenos, onions, a special relish etc...and you just gotta have a good bun ! there are a few people around my towm doing mobile food using remodeled airstream trailers,old stepvans and delivery trucks..the ones here just park them in a spot for the whole summer and store them away in the winter. the face of mobile food service has changed to include upscale, eclectic menus with healthy alternatives, like using locally grown vegetables and free range chicken and grass fed beef..there are kebabs, humuus, fine pastries and desserts, rotisserie chicken, good bbq etc...as i said, just a few more thoughts
i don't know if its necessary to 'gut' the whole interior..a few of these kitchens i have been in like the old airstreams, seem to be pretty much intact..of course, check with the health dept...they'll give you the skinny

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne


food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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