Evaluating Food Truck Refrigerators

When it comes to the business of selling and serving food, refrigeration is vital. Each type of food business will have different needs in keeping products and ingredients fresh and safe for consumption. For food truck owners, choosing the best refrigerator for your business can have a great impact not just to the quality of the food served but on the operation of your venture.

Considerations and Decisions
Not all refrigerators are created equal and choosing the right one is important from the start for a food truck business. This type of equipment is an investment not to be taken lightly, more so as it affects your business operations in a daily basis.

15594629472_463a604c34_hOne factor that entrepreneurs must first consider is the nature of your business and how refrigeration will be utilized. Will your products be frozen like ice cream or just cold like fresh ingredients? Will you be storing ingredients or ready-made products? Do you want it to be multipurpose like a glass door merchandiser or a sandwich preparation table? The refrigerator you will purchase must be able to complement and function seamlessly with your business model.

Another consideration is the type, size, and energy efficiency of the appliance. Some may choose to use residential type refrigerators to save a bit of money but they are less powerful and have limited selection than commercial types. Also, there are varieties of commercial refrigerators that are more suited for a food truck business because they come with convenient features like prep tables, refrigerated drawers, and extremely durable design. Though commercial refrigerators are typically larger than residential types, many models are designed to be energy efficient that can save you money in the long run.

Also an important factor is the after-sales support for the refrigerator including maintenance, warranty, and parts. Because a busted refrigerator can halt your food truck operation, maintenance and repair services must be taken into account when picking the brand or manufacturer of your equipment. Having dependable after-sales support ensures that you will benefit from the full life-cycle of the equipment and get a return on investment.

F48CC299-E611-471A-992B-BB39A4DAE4CC91F83B72-819D-4530-A42C-DA17C5964630The health code and regulation of the vending areas is also a factor that must never be overlooked when choosing equipment for your food truck. Many territories have city or state laws that require mobile food businesses to have commercial-type appliances. These regulations may set specifications like storage capacity, acceptable operating temperature, or even external thermostat display based on the type of products to be sold. Ensure to purchase a refrigerator that will be compliant to local laws to avoid legal issues from interrupting your business operation.

Not All Are Created Equal
Commercial refrigerators specifically marketed for mobile food businesses come in various types with their own benefits.

Refrigerated Chef Bases
Featuring rugged tops that can be used for food preparation or hold other appliances, refrigerated chef bases gained popularity due to its convenient design. Because the refrigerated drawers are conveniently close to the cooking line, food truck operation is efficient and requires less movement.

Buyer’s Check: If cooking equipment will be used on top of the chef base, make sure to take into account the warm air produced by the refrigerator’s condenser in addition to the heat from the cooking equipment when doing the calculation of CFM (cubic per minute) ventilation requirements for the exhaust hood. Use mounting legs to achieve minimum amount of clearance between the cooking equipment and the chef base. Check the refrigerator’s specification sheet to prevent exceeding the weight of objects put on top of the chef base.

Sandwich, Salad, or Pizza Prep Tables
Used to streamline food preparation while keeping ingredients cold and fresh, prep tables can be equipped with mounted cutting board and pans for easy food assembly. They can come in two different categories: sandwich or salad prep table and pizza prep tables. Sandwich prep tables have a thinner cutting board, have no rail (flat prep), and uses 1/3 size food pans. Pizza prep tables have a thicker cutting board, raised rail, and uses 1/6 size food pans. Depending on the model, refrigeration is achieved via air cooled, cold wall, or liquid jacket method.

Buyer’s Check: Choose the type base on your application and available space. The number of ingredients required by the dish or menu can affect what style and configuration you must purchase. Keep refrigerated prep tables from high heat, humidity, or air flow as it may impact the quality and temperature of ingredients.

Under-counter Refrigerators
With limited space to work with inside a food truck, under-counter models can serve as a main or secondary refrigeration unit. They are designed to be fit under counter-tops and some are not suitable to be used as preparation space or hold equipment above them. Height measurements include 36 inches for typical under-counter refrigerators, 34 inches for “ADA height” (Americans with Disabilities Act) models, and 30 to 32 inches for “low profile” versions (including legs or casters).

fridgeBuyer’s Check: Carefully measure the area where the fridge or freezer will be placed. Depending on the design of the model, required clearance for proper ventilation might be necessary. Drawer-types are gaining more popularity due to quick access to ingredients compared to door-type under-counter refrigerators. Some under-counter refrigerators are designed with heavy-duty worktop surface and can be mounted with an optional back-splash accessory, essentially transforming it into a worktop refrigerator.

Worktop Refrigerators
Having the same height as an under-counter refrigerator, worktop models differ by being designed to provide a convenient space for cutting and preparing food. Also, some models have a back-splash attached to protect the wall from food debris or particles, though other models forego this feature to achieve a seamless and easier to clean design.

Buyer’s Check: Due to similarities with under-counter refrigerators, check the weight-bearing specification of the model you are about to purchase, as those designed to be able to carry weight above can be safely used as worktop.

Choosing the right refrigerator for your mobile food business can be a bit confusing with all the options available and the various health regulations that need to be considered. But sticking to your business plan, needs, and budget is a great way to keep on track and select the equipment that will help your food truck succeed.

By |August 7th, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Pros and Cons of Starting a Food Truck

Starting a business in the food industry can be very rewarding but aspiring entrepreneurs must also be ready for the challenges. The growing popularity of food trucks today makes it very appealing to people who want to initiate or expand their culinary ventures. But what can you expect when it comes to starting a mobile food business?

Food Truck

Food Truck Venture: The Advantages

With relatively lower initial investment and operating costs, starting a food truck is cheaper and faster than opening a restaurant. The smaller expenses of a mobile food business make it a great avenue for first-time entrepreneurs to enter the food industry and learn the landscape, providing invaluable experience that can be beneficial for future undertakings. Food trucks can also become a complimentary addition to established businesses like catering companies wanting to increase revenue or expand their market without the need for drastic changes on operations.

The dynamic of the food truck business is a bit different compared to running a restaurant or providing catering services, which makes it great for people who enjoy bustling working environments. In peak hours, working in a food truck is rarely boring because service is faster and more intimate as you develop rapport to customers when they become regulars.

Trying new recipes or modifying products are also much easier for food trucks. Menus are designed to be uncomplicated but delicious, which can be both challenging and enjoyable for entrepreneurs. The variety or customization of dishes and the ability to offer new products quicker also gives an edge to food trucks over non-mobile restaurants. Also, many customers who love food trucks enjoy trying out new innovative products.

In addition, the ability to participate on events like concerts or festivals can be very profitable to mobile food businesses, a revenue stream that is not available to restaurants.

 

Food Truck Venture: The Drawbacks

Though the mobile food industry is exciting, prospective entrepreneurs must be ready for its challenges.

Getting a food truck business started through a bank loan can be tough. Banks are skeptical lending money because some believe that the food truck trend is just a fad and may suddenly vanish. It might be easier to get a loan if you have a substantial business history, some form of collateral, or if the loan is cosigned by someone with a good credit record.Food Truck 2

Another challenge is the regulations. Some states and municipalities have clear rules regarding mobile food businesses while others do not. Entrepreneurs need to research and contact relevant agencies on individual locations they plan to operate or sell at and obtain business requirements. In addition, local restaurants may lobby against food trucks due to the increased competition and unclear regulations, which makes starting a mobile food business a bit more challenging.

Buying the right truck and finding a commercial kitchen can take time and money. A retrofitted used food truck typically cost $30,000 while a newly designed mobile food preparation vehicle with all new equipment can cost more than $100,000. A state licensed commercial kitchen is also a requirement in most municipalities where the food truck must be parked. In some cities where cooking in the truck is not allowed, food must be prepared and packaged in a commercial kitchen. A shared-use commercial kitchen can save you money but may cause delays when another food truck is using the facility. A private commercial kitchen (whether purchased or leased) will always be available to you but require a larger investment.

The mobile food industry is also very competitive as more businesses take the plunge. Margins can be low and sometimes, the business may even lose you money. Because customers will be out in the open to buy from a food truck, the weather can affect revenue. Food truck operations can be seasonal in places with cold climates while even in warmer locations, unexpected rain can put a dent on sales.

Food trucks are nothing new but the industry’s surging popularity offers great opportunities and potential for success to innovative and passionate entrepreneurs today. Every business venture has its risks and rewards. But knowing where you want to go and striving to get there despite the challenges makes a difference.

As Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

By |July 5th, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Choosing a Food Truck Generator

Picking a Generator for a Food TruckGenerac_Portable_Generators

Unlike restaurants that have a fixed connection to the grid for all their electricity needs, mobile food vendors require reliable power that can travel with them from point A to point B. This makes generators an essential part of any food truck today. Choosing the right generator to power your appliances is a very important decision that have lasting implications to your business if not considered carefully.

 

How to Buy a Generator?

Access to portable electricity is not cheap, which is why food truck owners should consider certain things before choosing your power source. Answering the following questions can serve as a starting point and give you a picture of what to look for in selecting a generator.

 

What appliances will you use at a given day?

Understanding how your equipment will function when powered by a generator is important to prevent your food truck operations from stalling. Some appliances need a higher starting wattage (required power to start up) compared to its running wattage. You need to know the kind of load your generator will be powering so you can calculate how much power (and the size of generator) you will need.

There are two kinds of loads:

  Resistive loads – require the same amount of power to start up and run. These are appliances usually involved in heating or produces heat like light bulbs, coffee makers, toasters, and microwave ovens.

  Reactive loads – require additional power to start but consumes less once it is running. These are appliances that contain an electric motor like refrigerators, bean grinders, blenders, and air conditioners.

 

How much power do you need?

A generator can only produce a certain amount of electricity so make sure to choose a model that will be able to cover your food truck’s power requirements.

To know how much power your generator should have, calculate the power requirements of all the appliances you will be using at the same time. You can determine the power required by an appliance by checking the bottom or side for a stamp, its nameplate, or the data tag found on electric motors. Manuals also contain these information.

Power requirements of appliances are usually listed in amps while most generators list power outputs in watts so a bit of conversion might be required.

Conversions:

Watts = Volts x Amps

Amps = Watts / Volts

To calculate: Add the power requirements of the appliances you will use at a given time. This will give you the amount of power your generator should at least have. If the load is reactive, calculate using starting wattage, which is typically 3 times the running wattage.

Example calculation: (using estimated power requirements)

Coffee maker – starting wattage: 600; running wattage: 600

Refrigerator (Energy Star) – starting wattage: 1200; running wattage: 192

5 Lights bulbs – starting wattage: 300; running wattage: 300

Blender – starting wattage: 850; running wattage: 400

 

Total: 2950W

You will need a generator with power output of at least 2950 watts. Getting a generator with a slightly higher wattage output than your requirement is recommended; some appliances increase their need for energy as they age and become less efficient.

Honda Generator  In addition, generators are advertised with “maximum power” and “rated power.” Maximum power is the highest wattage a generator can produce and usually available for up to 30 minutes. Rated power is the power a generator can produce for extended periods of time, which is typically 90% of maximum power. Use rated power in determining whether a generator will be able to provide your food truck with enough energy to operate your equipment.

 

What type of generator should you choose?

Conventional vs Inverter Generators

There is a wide variety of generators for mobile food vendors to choose from but models fall into two categories: conventional generators and inverter generators.

Conventional Generator

  • basic concept has remained essentially unchanged
  • uses a motor attached to an alternator producing AC power
  • requires a constant speed (usually 3600 rpm); fluctuation in engine speed affects energy flow
  • greater power output
  • extended run time
  • cannot be used in parallel operation
  • larger and heavier than inverter generators
  • less expensive than inverter generators

Inverter Generator

  • relatively recent development
  • uses advance circuitry to convert multi-phase AC power to DC power then inverts to “cleaner” AC power
  • can adjusts engine speed depending on load requirement
  • smoother electrical signal; safer for sensitive equipment (laptops and phones)
  • fuel efficient
  • adequate run time despite compact size
  • portable and lightweight
  • produces less noise and vibration
  • capable of parallel operation with multiple units
  • more expensive than conventional generators

Both types of generators use fossil fuel (usually gas, diesel, or propane) to produce electricity. Many food truck operators prefer to use inverter generators for the smoother energy output, portability, fuel efficiency, and quiet operation despite the higher price compared to conventional generators.

There are many different models of generators out on the market today. Some of the most popular and recommended models are made by Generac and Honda.  Generac and Honda offer their generators at low prices, and both are completely reliable brands that offer a range of low watt generators to high watt generators to fit your needs.

Some of the best mobile generators by Generac are the MLG series. They range from 8,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 25,000 watts.  They are inverter generators run on diesel. They will hold enough fuel to run for 48 hours straight.  However the generators come with their own trailer so they must be pulled from behind the truck.Generac Generators

Generac also has portable generators that don’t need to be pulled from behind.  The most reliable of them would be the XP series.  This series has models ranging from 4,000, 6,500, 8,000, and 10,000 Watts. They are inverter generators run on diesel and has a 9 gallon tank.  These generators will last about 9 hours at a time.

Generac has a very wide array of generators to fit all your food truck needs and all their generators are extremely reliable, very durable, and will last a whole days use.

Honda doesn’t have a very wide selection of generators but they are extremely reliable and durable.  Their best generators are their EB series.  These generators range from 5,000, 6,500, and 10,000 watts.  They are inverter generators.  The generators hold 6.2-8.2 gallons of gasoline fuel. They will run for 7.2 hours to 10.1 hours at a time.

We sent out a tweet asking our food truck followers what generators they were using and what they would recommend to other food trucks. We also asked if they were having any problems with their current generator.

Of course, our followers came through and gave us a couple excellent recommendations for generators that meet all their needs.

One follower recommended the Honda EU3000i. It is very quiet, offers 3,000 watts, weighs about 46 lbs., and will last 8.1 hours on 1 gallon of gasoline fuel.  There another very handy model that offers the same features as the Honda EU3000i but it is only 2,000 watts.  Honda also offers generators that give less watts and are smaller.

Another generator that was recommended by our followers is the Onan Marquis Gold 7000. If you don’t want to get a Generac or Honda generator this is a very highly recommend model that will meet all your needs.  It produces 7,000 Watts and runs on gasoline fuel.  It is extremely quiet and will last a whole day’s work.

 

 

References:

http://www.rollingkitchens.com/wiki/RKB/vending_truck_questions

http://blog.mygenerator.com.au/best-generators-for-food-vans-revealed/

http://www.generatorjoe.net/html/understandingloads.html

http://www.yamahaef2000is.com/conventional_generator_vs_inverter_generator.html

http://powerequipment.honda.com/generators/inverter-generator-advantages

http://www.portableinvertergenerators.com/buying-guides/how-do-inverter-generators-work/

https://www.absolutegenerators.com/blog/food-truck-generator/

http://powerequipment.honda.com/generators/generator-wattage-estimation-guide

http://powerequipment.honda.com/generators/generator-power-management

http://powerequipment.honda.com/generators/generator-how-much-power#Starting

http://powerequipment.honda.com/generators

http://www.generac.com

 

By |June 2nd, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Does Your Food Truck Have Enough Gluten-free and Vegan Options?

Does Your Food Truck Have Enough Gluten-free and Vegan Options?Gluten Free Sign

We are what we eat. To some, it may be a lifestyle choice. But for others, eating the wrong food can be a matter of life and death.

Gluten Intolerance
In America, more than 15 million people have food allergies. Research show that 1 out of 133 people worldwide could have some form of gluten-related disorder, which include celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. That is a significant rise from 1 in 2500 a decade ago. With the rising number of people claiming to have gluten related illnesses, gluten-free food and products became a hot topic in mainstream media with some not taking it seriously. But sensitivity or allergy to gluten, just like any other health concern, is a serious matter that mobile food vendors should consider when it comes to the products served to customers.

Going Gluten-Free
Offering a gluten-free option in your food truck menu to cater for consumer with such preference can be easy to implement. Though it will require additional time and effort, the advantages may be worth the investment. A gradual addition of new gluten-free items like bread-less sandwiches (deconstructed tacos or burrito bowls) is a great step in catering to a new brand of customers. Substituting or eliminating ingredients containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, among others) to create gluten-free variants of existing menu options is a viable strategy that will not have a drastic effect to your food truck’s prep work.

People with gluten sensitivity can experience “brain fog,” depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue, among others. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where gluten ingestion leads to damage in the small intestine, has much severe consequences. By considering the addition of gluten-free menu options, food trucks can provide not just delicious but also safe and inclusive food to all their customers.

Vegan ChoiceVegan Food
Food preferences can also be a matter of lifestyle and principle, in addition to matters of health. Vegans are those who adhere to a strict plant-based diet, with no animal products (not even dairy or eggs) whatsoever. According to the 2013 Public Policy Polling Survey, among the 500 participants, 7% identified themselves as vegans.

Despite being a food minority when it comes to food demography, vegans and vegetarians have a significant voice when it comes to issue concerning health and consumption in developed countries. Food trucks catering to this consumer demography get significant advantages as vegetarian food are not just bought by strict dieters but also by meat-lovers who are interested in healthier choices. Providing even just one high quality and delicious vegan friendly entree can become significant for food trucks that want to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Success in the mobile food business do not just depend on the best tasting menus or most popular locations. Taking care of customers, whether satisfying their cravings or looking after their health, is what counts the most at the core of every fulfilled entrepreneur.

By |May 12th, 2015|Categories: blog, growing a food truck business, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Does My Food Truck Have Enough Vegetarian Menu Items?

Whether being a lifestyle choice or due to health reasons, an increasing number of people are becoming more discerning when it comes to the food they buy and eat. Being in the front-end of the food economy, consumer trends toward healthier options can have a dramatic effect to the food truck industry. It is essential for mobile food vendors to ask how they can react or leverage their business to cater to the changing needs of their customers.veggie burger

Rising Health Consciousness
Consumers are embracing healthier options, particularly the younger generations. According to a recent report by the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey, 41% of consumers under age 20 (Generation Z) are willing to pay more for healthier products compared to 32% of millennials (born early 1980 to early 2000’s) and 21% of baby boomers. In addition, the number of vegetarians and vegans are also on the rise. According to the 2013 Public Policy Polling Survey, 13% of Americans identify themselves are either vegetarian (6%) or vegan (7%). This is a bit of a leap from the 2012 Gallup poll (5% vegetarian and 2% vegan).

Higher Profit Margins
Though some may find it challenging and even intimidating to integrate healthier options into the food truck menu, vendors may find that vegetarian options can give high margins and also added revenue streams. Because vegetarian dishes can be made using lower cost ingredients without compromising quality and taste, one can price their vegetarian dishes competitively. For example, substituting crumbled tofu for cottage cheese or ricotta cheese in lasagna and similar dishes can lower the cost. Another example is eliminating meat in preparing pasta sauce.

Many people also do not mind to pay more for healthier options because they look at it as an investment on their health. Instead of paying for medication or treatment due to a bad diet in the future, consumers prefer to pay for healthier food today.

VegetariansVEGGIES
In reaction to the increasing number of consumers who want healthier food options, a growing number of food trucks in larger urban areas are becoming vegan-friendly and had become very popular. Also, the number of vegetarian products in groceries are also increasing, from the number of brands of soy and almond milk to meat replacements like tempeh and tofu.

Check out PETA’s list of top vegan-friendly food trucks and see how they manage to make it work:
http://www.peta.org/features/petas-top-five-vegan-friendly-food-trucks/

If you are still unsure whether have vegetarian option in your food truck menu is a right choice, here are some pros and cons that may help you decide.

Pros:
Attracts curious and health conscious customers
Higher profit margins
Associated advocacy with vegetarianism (compassion to animals, good ethics, environmental awareness, etc.)
Market expansion or diversification
Issues connected to meat or animal-sourced products (rising prices, diseases, contamination, etc.)
Business differentiation

Cons:
Some customers may get turned off with vegetarian food (thinking that is may not taste good)
Researching, experimenting, and testing vegetarian dishes requires time, effort, and resources
Certain ingredients may not be readily available

Summary:

Vegetarians are on the rise. Over time, more and more will show up at your mobile food business. These could become some of your most loyal customers – we strongly suggest you have more than one vegetarian option (even if you are a BBQ truck).

 

By |April 13th, 2015|Categories: blog, starting a food truck|1 Comment

How To Grow A Family Run Mobile Food Business

Food-truckGrowing a food truck business can be very challenging. But having your family involved can lessen the stress of running a demanding venture. Success in the food truck industry do not happen overnight but a family working together offers advantages that can lead to the success of your business.

Here are some ways to leverage your family’s relationship to grow your business.

  • Streamline operations. Understanding each other in a personal level can benefit your business processes. Divide and compliment responsibilities according to each member’s strengths to ensure the efficiency and quality of your service. Simplify recipes so that other family members can learn them and help out when needed.
  • Simplify and mix up. A complex menu can overwhelm customers and preparing multiple products can get exhausting. Specialize on limited products and focus on delivering top quality. Develop dishes that do not require too many components or special ingredients to make keeping track of inventory easier. Mixing up the menu can keep people interested and attract new customers.
  • Innovate your service. Book events that you can cater during the truck’s off hours with the help of other family members. Share your route and schedule to customers then offer deliveries while changing locations. Offer special promos to create a following.
  • Develop relationships. Build connections and cooperation with suppliers, local businesses, and other food truck owners. It is best that some family members work to create connections to find reliable suppliers, companies to cater, and take part in the food truck community as a representative of your business.

There are many family-run food trucks that work like well-oiled machines, leveraging their close relationship to achieve success. But your efficient business operation can take a hit when one of you becomes unavailable due to an emergency, illness, or needs some time off.

Your family may work seamlessly together but it can be hard to find an employee that will work as well. If you really want to grow your food truck business, you will need to have as many processes that are easy to learn as possible. This is one of many reasons why we are building a mobile point of sale application from the ground up that focuses entirely on the mobile food industry.

To learn more about how your business can benefit with the Food on a Truck app, join our email list at http://www.foodonatruck.com/stay-updated/.

By |February 16th, 2015|Categories: blog, family owned, growing a food truck business, starting a food truck|0 Comments

Should I Start a Food Truck with My Spouse?

There is a lot to consider when starting a food truck, more so if you want to do it with your spouse. There are advantages in running a business with your spouse but there are also disadvantages that can affect the success of your business and your relationship.

Here is a list of pros and cons that you can weigh to see if starting a mobile food business can work for you and your other half.

Pros:

  • 3800467037_1c0bf2ee3c_nSave money. Working together means you don’t have to spend on hiring another set of hands, at least in the beginning. Because your spouse know that the business revenue will benefit your family, he or she will most likely work for free.
  • Quality time. Unlike couples with separate jobs, you get to spend more time with your beloved working together and this can even strengthen your relationship. Even if you get busy with work, your partner will understand and see what occupies your time because both of you are involved in it.
  • Better communication. Being a couple, you know each other; your mindsets, moods, and motivations. Using this knowledge, you can plan and design a system for your business, saving time and eliminating stress.
  • Emotionally invested. Having your spouse as a business partner means you are working with someone you know is passionate for the food truck. He or she will be the most dedicated co-worker you will ever have.

Cons:Food Trucks

  • Too much time together can get smothering. Working and living together day-in and day-out can get overwhelming. Remember the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
  • Business problems spill-over. Both of you will not always see eye to eye. You might not agreed on how to achieve the same goal. If disagreements are left unchecked, these business tensions can adversely affect your relationship and food truck business.
  • All your eggs in one basket. Working together in a single business can be risky. If your food truck experience a lean month or if the business does not work out, not having an alternative source of income can become an issue for your family.

Starting a food truck with a partner, be it a friend, an investor, or your spouse, has risks and rewards. Plan your business, debate the pros and cons, and see which path will take your food truck dreams to success.

What are your thoughts and experiences? We would love hear them! Leave a comment or email us at support@zoomifi.com.

By |January 20th, 2015|Categories: blog, family owned, starting a food truck|0 Comments