Perhaps you always have viewed the street food vendors in your city with envy. They get to spend the entire day outdoors, working for themselves and chatting up strangers, and you would like to give this career a try. On the other hand, maybe you want a food cart of your own for a family reunion or company picnic. Either way, you have decided that you need to own a food cart. If you buy one ready-made, it can be quite expensive. Fortunately, you can get the components for your cart separately and save money assembling them yourself.
Plan your food cart. Decide whether you want to start your own food cart business or just have your own food cart for private use. The intended use of your food cart will dictate what supplies you need. If you plan to sell your food, you need to purchase stainless steel equipment that meets the licensing requirements of your local municipality. If you want to start a commercial venture, visit your local licensing bureau and get a list of the requirements you need to meet before you make any purchases. You will also need to decide what kind of food you want to have in your food cart and whether you want to cook it yourself.
Purchase a cooking or warming system for your food cart from a food-cart manufacturer. Food-cart manufacturers sell all of the pieces you need to build a cart of your own. If you buy all of your components from the same vendor, then they will be easy to assemble. Depending upon what you plan to carry in your food cart, you will need either a broiler, grill, boiler or just a warmer. If you want to do the cooking yourself, you will also need to buy a propane tank, burners or a griddle. If you plan to use your cart for strictly private events, you can just buy a warmer. If you want to sell food, you will need to buy commercial-grade cooking equipment.
Choose a metal frame for your cart. Your frame will depend mostly upon what type of cooking equipment you plan to install. You can get a small frame that just holds your cooker and a few supplies, or you can buy an elaborate frame that includes cabinets for holding your supplies, space for a bun warmer, trash disposal and even running water. You need to pick out a sneeze guard for your cart to protect your food from germs. Make sure that all the components you choose will fit together on your frame.
Pick out a set of wheels for your cart. You can buy sets of two or three wheels. Three wheels are easier to push and can hold more weight. If you plan to use your cart for commercial purposes, you will need to buy thick rubber wheels that can endure street use. If you just want to roll your cart out into your backyard for picnics once in a while, you can buy old-fashioned wooden wheels.
Assemble all the pieces of your food cart as directed by their manufacturer. These kits are designed for people who are not experts in engineering or construction, and the instructions should be easy to follow. Assemble your food cart exactly as the manufacturer directs; do not attempt to save time or trouble by skipping parts or changing them. This could make your food cart unstable or even dangerous if you make a mistake installing the cooking element.
Decorate your cart. Add an umbrella to protect you from the sun. You will need a napkin dispenser, condiment bottles and maybe even a cash register. You can buy a sign and a menu for your food cart or you cam make your cart look more personalized and paint your own.
Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.