Mobile catering trucks once specialized in preparing and selling quick foods sandwiches, burgers and tacos. These "restaurants on wheels" drive from location to location with a city, parking curbside (or in parking lots) to fix snacks and meals for customers. In the late 2000s, Los Angeles and other major cities saw an influx of gourmet and specialty catering trucks ready to feed hungry office workers and tourists with everything from Southern barbecue to Japanese food. Mobile kitchens in food trucks need to be more compact and efficient than ever to serve their growing customer base.
Tailor kitchen equipment to your food specialties. Every mobile catering truck has its own menu and special dishes. Some catering trucks serve Mexican food such as tacos. Other trucks sell a selection of freshly prepared and pre-wrapped sandwiches at lunch. Consider the quantity of frozen and non-perishable food the business uses on a daily basis and how much storage and preparation space you need. Food preparers will need an adequate working area, one not encumbered by too much equipment.
Guarantee that the kitchen has adequate electricity. The catering truck will need a constant supply of electricity to keep refrigerators and other appliances running. While you may be able to hook the truck up to power outlets at certain locations on your route, don’t assume this will always be the case. Purchase an electric or solar-powered generator to avoid black-outs.
Attach a water supply system. A mobile food truck needs a steady water supply to prepare food and beverages, clean utensils and other equipment, and allow employees to wash their hands when needed. Catering truck supply companies sell complete water systems, with sinks, for hand-washing and water holding, as well as a waste water tank with a drain for disposal. A hose to fill water tanks and wash down preparation areas is also necessary, as is a small water heater.
Purchase proper refrigeration units. Stainless steel refrigerators and freezers keep food chilled until ready for use. Place a thermometer on all freezer or refrigeration units to ensure that food is chilled at an adequate temperature to prevent spoilage and food-borne illnesses.
Incorporate gas burners to prepare hot food. Some mobile catering trucks come equipped with broilers, grills and hot plates to prepare hamburgers, hot sandwiches and other foods. Exhaust fans and hoods, grease traps, disposal units and fire extinguishers are needed for maintenance and fire prevention. The mobile truck may also come with propane tanks and a gas shutoff valve to provide heat for cooking meals.
Outfit the catering truck kitchen with miscellaneous equipment. This can include an ice bin to keep drinks cold, a fountain beverage dispenser and cabinets in which to keep paper goods, aluminum foil, plastic utensils and other supplies. You may choose to add a small electronic cash register near the mobile truck window to make cash transactions run more smoothly.
Abide by the rules and regulations for mobile catering trucks in your state. Inquire about necessary licenses or permits at your local Health Department office.
- The Fun Times Guide: How to Start a Food Catering Truck Business
- Mobile Catering Business: Concession Trailer, Vending Cart, Lunch Truck Business Information Center
- Catering Truck: Frequently Asked Questions
- Startupbizhub: How to Start a Mobile Catering Business
- Los Angeles Times: Food trucks are rolling into the mainstream
Marianne Moro is a copywriter and journalist based in Hollywood. She has been writing professionally since 1999, specializing in home remodeling, interior decorating, pets, travel and holistic health. Moro was a part-time editor and contributing writer for Remodeleze.com, a home remodeling and decorating website, and has also contributed to the Cutting Chair and Entertainment Today.