Building a food truck

Author
StephD
Junior Burger
  • Total Posts : 5
  • Joined: 2010/12/17 17:29:00
  • Location: Birmingham, AL
  • Status: offline
2010/12/18 15:50:51 (permalink)

Building a food truck

I apologize if this is posted elsewhere. I tried searching for it and didnt find much info in one place.
 
Ive been catering lunches for the last year, cooking at home and delivering to clients. I have had several problems, one being keeping food warm. Even in a warming bag, by the time I make it into the city, the food has substantially cooled down and two, Ive been working without a license since Im not in a commercial kitchen which terrifies me. Because of this, and to get more business legally, I am looking to open a food truck here in Bham Alabama serving gourmet lunch downtown. I have been searching for trucks online, but seeing prices upward of $20,000, they are all waaaaay out of my price range. Im thinking of building one myself. Ive seen several step vans for under $2000. I have 2 questions for you.
 
1. What are all the componets I would need to build a food truck? I know 3 sinks and 1 hand washing sink, Im guessing a generator or a way to power appliances. The health department says if I use noncommercial appliances they have to be 6 inches off the ground, how can I accomplish that? Wheels that lock? Other than the above,  Im lost about what a food truck needs!
 
2. I only have about $6,000 to build the truck and obtain food licenses. Is this possible to make this happen with that amount of money, if I attempt to do everything myself or with free labor?
 
Thanks so much any input you can give. Im sooooo glad I found this site. Its great to know there is somewhere to go and get support for a community of like mind individuals. 
#1

12 Replies Related Threads

    chefbuba
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 2011
    • Joined: 2009/06/22 16:31:00
    • Location: Near You, WA
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/18 17:44:11 (permalink)
    StephD

    I apologize if this is posted elsewhere. I tried searching for it and didnt find much info in one place.

    Ive been catering lunches for the last year, cooking at home and delivering to clients. I have had several problems, one being keeping food warm. Even in a warming bag, by the time I make it into the city, the food has substantially cooled down and two, Ive been working without a license since Im not in a commercial kitchen which terrifies me. Because of this, and to get more business legally, I am looking to open a food truck here in Bham Alabama serving gourmet lunch downtown. I have been searching for trucks online, but seeing prices upward of $20,000, they are all waaaaay out of my price range. Im thinking of building one myself. Ive seen several step vans for under $2000. I have 2 questions for you.

    1. What are all the componets I would need to build a food truck? I know 3 sinks and 1 hand washing sink, Im guessing a generator or a way to power appliances. The health department says if I use noncommercial appliances they have to be 6 inches off the ground, how can I accomplish that? Wheels that lock? Other than the above,  Im lost about what a food truck needs!

    2. I only have about $6,000 to build the truck and obtain food licenses. Is this possible to make this happen with that amount of money, if I attempt to do everything myself or with free labor?

    Thanks so much any input you can give. Im sooooo glad I found this site. Its great to know there is somewhere to go and get support for a community of like mind individuals. 


    Steph... Look at some of the posts by sheetseer and wild dog, they will cover some of the q's you may have on building a mobile rig.
     
    I would be scared ****less to be cooking out of my home and be charging people for food. It's one thing to make something at home and take to a friends for a get together, whole different ball game when you start charging people for it.
    What happens when you get someone sick?
     
    It appears that you don't have a proper way to transport the food in a safe manor.
    Hot food held hot at 140 or above and cold food below 40.
    One of the first things you need to do is get your food handlers permit, so that you understand how to properly handle food, clean and sanitize.
     
    You say you want to do gourmet lunches, what will that consist of?
    Your mobile kitchen design will be dependant on your menu, volume of service, etc.
    Mobile kitchens are not a poor mans game.  I spent well above your budget just buying a few smallwares for my trailer...
    A generator can cost you $2-10,000 alone, then you have stailness steel sinks, refrigeration, counters, work tables, cooking appliances, flooring, plumbing, hood, fire suppresion system, if required could be $3-4,000 alone, gas lines, electric, propane tanks,,,,the list goes on and on.
     
    Is the truck you buy mechanically sound? How much money will you have to spend on that?  Commercial truck insurance is very expensive, $2-4,000 a yr, then you need liability insurance for the business....You have health dept license, city/county licenses, you will most likley have to have a commissary to operate from, this all 
    costs $$.
     Not trying to steer you away from one day having a mobile kitchen, but 6 grand ain't gonna do it.
    #2
    localnet
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1064
    • Joined: 2010/03/10 08:35:00
    • Location: SE MI
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/19 09:04:53 (permalink)
    What CB said above. I know you want to do a full blown kitchen, but maybe starting smaller would be better. Go check out this site, there are plans on there to build a hot dog cart. It will pass your local HD and can be built for around or even under a grand. With a little bit of work and your HD approval, you can put a flat grill/griddle on it and make say cheese steaks or another grilled product.
     
    Here is the link: http://www.buildahotdogcart.com/
     
    Many of us here have bought the plans and built the cart. Something to look at.
     
    Mike
    #3
    lornaschinske
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1610
    • Joined: 2009/03/04 22:28:00
    • Location: Roswell, NM until we leave for another place
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/19 11:07:59 (permalink)
    You can do it for your budget. But you have to get creative and do the work yourself. We built our food cart with materials we had on hand plus bought used. What we can serve off our tiny cart is amazing. Like was was previously posted above... what you need depends on your menu... and vice versa. You may have to drop an item or two or change it somehow in order to make it on a truck/cart.
     
    As it stands now we have "probably" $4K to $5K invested in the cart right now. We haven't kept track of pricing and the mods we made in TX cost us more than we would have liked as we were in an area where we were unfamiliar with stores and were pushed on time.
     
    http://s570.photobucket.c...inske/?start=all  the view all option, which is what you should see, should have everything in chronological order. The main section was built and permitted in NC. We put the roof on in NM because the umbrella wouldn't hold up to the wind. Screened in/added sinks in TX for compliance. Plexiglass/heater in NM (again and currently) because it's cold and windy (plexiglass is removable so the screens can be put back in for the hot summers... the tempered glass panels next to the serving counter & hot table are permanent). The heater is hung on a panel that will become a door next summer, all we have to do is add hinges and latch.
     
    Rather than build an open cart, I tell folks to build enclosed. It costs a little more but it will make your life easier and it could be cheaper in the long run. Also enclosed is more versatile. I'm paranoid... I think the states are going to eventually regulate the open carts out of existence. But that's up to you.
    post edited by lornaschinske - 2010/12/19 11:13:33
    #4
    StephD
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 5
    • Joined: 2010/12/17 17:29:00
    • Location: Birmingham, AL
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/20 20:16:35 (permalink)
    I was beginning to get nervous.... my little hopes washed away! lol! Thanks for your input. Ill check out the hotdog cart section. If there is a will, theres a way.... at least thats what Im hoping!
    #5
    THE WILD DOG
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1465
    • Joined: 2010/01/12 01:53:00
    • Location: Hunt Valley, MD
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/21 00:33:17 (permalink)
    you can do it bud... Trust me, it may take some time and doing it yourself will cut down alot on the costs. If you have to start small then that's the way to go. I highly recommend the building your own cart thing. Very resourceful. Don't look at it as your dreams slipping away, look at it as a pathway to achieving your dreams.
    #6
    localnet
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1064
    • Joined: 2010/03/10 08:35:00
    • Location: SE MI
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/22 13:45:19 (permalink)
    Steph, there is some serious money in this racket if you do it right. I just had a buddy of mine call me from Texas. He just moved there and a new friend of his is selling hot dogs at two Home depots, in their parking lots. My buddy offered him $50,000.00 cash for one of his carts, with the location, the friend laughed, no sale. 
     
    These are carts, not trucks or trailers, in the parking lot. Build your own, and design it to fit your menu.
     
    Mike
    #7
    waydeg
    Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 444
    • Joined: 2008/12/23 13:56:00
    • Location: Frisco, TX
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2010/12/24 18:02:45 (permalink)
    StephD

    I was beginning to get nervous.... my little hopes washed away! lol! Thanks for your input. Ill check out the hotdog cart section. If there is a will, theres a way.... at least thats what Im hoping!

    There is... 
    I would recommend you reverse engineer the process knowing we all can't start with a decked out, full blown food truck. Decide on what type of food/menu you want to serve and work back from there deciding on your equipment and flow to meet your goals. I have a Top Dog cart with a 24" griddle. I wanted to cater to the NYers and Chicagoans(?) in the DFW area and do both NC Sabrett and NC Vienna Beef. Works like a charm. Busy. Busy. Busy.
     
    The upside is I've also done full blown breakfasts, cheesesteaks, tacos/burritos, mongolian BBQ,  soup and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (you get the idea) off my little "hot dog cart". THE WILD DOG (Jaye) is the perfect example of a do it yourself success story. You can search the forums and find his journey. Best of luck!!!
    #8
    josephmartins
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 35
    • Joined: 2010/06/27 12:17:00
    • Location: Keene, NH
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2011/01/03 11:22:29 (permalink)
    It seems the original challenge was just keeping the food warm/hot enough for the trip.
     
    Health code and licensing issues aside (and there are several), a good quality insulated transporter such as a Cambro would do the trick.  They range in type (hotel pans, soups, sheet pans etc), and size. The non-plugin type easily keeps foods hot/cold for 4 hours+, and the plugin types can keep the foods hot/cold at your kitchen for hours while you work, then unplug and go and you'll have another 4+ hours to transport the food.
     
    Normally they sell for a couple hundred or more each.  If you keep an eye on classifieds such as Craigslist you'll see them pop up now and again for $50-100 ea.
     
    As a short term solution I recommend using Cambros.  Everything else suggested by others above is important but it takes time and quite a lot of money. As a next step I would recommend that you study and test for the food safety certification, and contact the state's Health Dept to obtain rules for residential/homestead kitchens. Some states do allow in-home kitchens but there are guidelines and restrictions especially with regard to potentially hazardous foods.
    post edited by josephmartins - 2011/01/03 11:28:30
    #9
    Wanna b dogger
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 1
    • Joined: 2011/01/15 16:38:00
    • Location: Birmingham, AL
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2011/01/15 18:37:05 (permalink)
    In bham myself trying to locate a commissary which is probably the most challenging part if any one has ideas all help will be appreciated
    #10
    KurtSara
    Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 183
    • Joined: 2010/05/06 21:24:00
    • Location: Central MN
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2011/01/15 19:42:14 (permalink)
    Wanna b dogger

    In bham myself trying to locate a commissary which is probably the most challenging part if any one has ideas all help will be appreciated

    you might want to start your own thread
    #11
    reese77
    Double Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 508
    • Joined: 2011/01/07 14:52:00
    • Location: Stockbridge, GA
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2011/01/19 15:27:03 (permalink)
    Wanna b dogger

    In bham myself trying to locate a commissary which is probably the most challenging part if any one has ideas all help will be appreciated

     
    I am working around this by converting an extra garage in my basement into a second kitchen. I spoke to the building, zoning and planning departments as well as the health department and this can be used as a permitted base of operation. I am in the process of drawing up plans now as I need to furnish 6 separate diagrams for approval.
     
    I can do most of the construction work myself expect for plumbing as the room is in the basement, I will need to have the floor broken up to have a sink/floor drain connected to the sewer line.
    #12
    agmccall
    Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 239
    • Joined: 2010/09/28 19:39:00
    • Location: Albany, NY
    • Status: offline
    Re:Building a food truck 2011/01/21 10:03:30 (permalink)
    Hello
     
    I found these on ebay which would be a good start if you are close enough to pick up and want a enclosed trailer
     
    http://shop.ebay.com/sweetriverstrailers/m.html
     
    Al
    #13
    Jump to:
    © 2014 APG vNext Trial Version 5.1