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 Questions from prospective cart buyer

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soapmaker

  • Total Posts: 3
  • Joined: 5/26/2005
  • Location: upstate, NY
Questions from prospective cart buyer Thu, 05/26/05 9:58 PM (permalink)
Hello--
I am considering purchasing a food cart in the next year. Right now i am in the research stage and am happy to have found this board.

I found the application for our local health department and have a few questions. I am hoping to get some background info from the forum before I contact the health dept so I know the right kind of questions to ask.

Here is one requirement I have a questions about:

Letter from a commissary
- a commissary is a permitted establishment that gives you permission to use their
facility for some of your storage and to wash, rinse and sanitize your utensils.

It sounds like this is a restauant or store. Why would they give a cart vendor permission to use their facilities?

If I get licensed in my county what happens if I want to go to a festival in a neighboring county?

In one of the other forums on this board it said that your food costs should be 30% or less of the retail price. Are the guidelines the same for carts?

I am not especially interested in selling hot dogs (don't hate me!) although I plan to if there is a demand. I looked at the website of allamericanhotdog.com. I can see that they offer carts with another focus other than hot dogs but did not see any details. What other types of foods can you cook/sell with a cart that the health department will allow. For example, can you sell soup?

That is about it for now. Thank you for your time.

Meg
 
#1
    UncleVic

    • Total Posts: 6025
    • Joined: 10/14/2003
    • Location: West Palm Beach, FL
    • Roadfood Insider
    RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Thu, 05/26/05 11:50 PM (permalink)
    As for the commissary, you can contact a local church or VFW hall... They might rent ya the use and space you need..

     
    #2
      festivalfood

      • Total Posts: 168
      • Joined: 9/18/2004
      • Location: peckville, PA
      RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Fri, 05/27/05 8:01 PM (permalink)
      The thing about the commisary is to make sure any food prepared is prepared in a health department inspected commercial kitchen that is zoned for that purpose also.Uncle Vic has a good suggestion about a local church,VFW,or some other non profit group that would most likely not mind renting you the space as needed.Although a cart is less expensive,a concession trailer with hot water,three bay plus hand wash sink etc., commercial refridgeration,washable surfaces and inspected by the health department to prepare foods usually does not require a commisary,since the concession trailer is the commisary,not so with an open cart.Some health inspectors are more lenient than others,some are like drill sargeants.The reason some hot dog vendors with open carts are not required in some areas to have a commisary,is that all the food is bought prepared,premade by a distributor,even the hot dogs are really cooked when you buy them they are just ,for the most part warmed in the hot water.The same with the toppings,they are just being warmed in the steam table.The one thing that all health inspectors that I have come across stress is that no food can be prepared in your home kitchen(unless it is a commercially licensed kitchen),but many vendors do,but it is something that they don't allow.It is better to do your research before you buy a set up,then to buy something first ,and find out you should have bought something else,like many people do.That is one reason you will see hot dog carts for sale on ebay or elsewhere pretty cheap,is that it was more of a hassle then they bargained for when they started dealing with a strict health inspector,or found out that some areas do not allow mobile food vendors,or you need a permit,and most if not all the permits are taken and it is impossible to get a new one issued.I am not trying to discourage you,I am just complimenting you on doing your homewaork first before buying something and jumping into the business unprepared.
      Good Luck!
      Jim
       
      #3
        festivalfood

        • Total Posts: 168
        • Joined: 9/18/2004
        • Location: peckville, PA
        RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Fri, 05/27/05 8:14 PM (permalink)
        I forgot the rest of your questions Meg! As far as food costs the 30% or under rule ,in the mobile food ending business the food costs are way less.Think about a funnel cake which costs pennies in product,but sells for $3.00 or more at a fair.The last time I checked on hotdogs I think food cost was around $.30 and they sell for $1.50 to $3.00 depending where you are at.As far as soups,sure you can sell soups ,but they have to be prepared according to the rules of the local health department.
         
        #4
          soapmaker

          • Total Posts: 3
          • Joined: 5/26/2005
          • Location: upstate, NY
          RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Thu, 06/2/05 11:18 PM (permalink)
          So if you have a concession truck you can cook in them like a kitchen?
           
          #5
            festivalfood

            • Total Posts: 168
            • Joined: 9/18/2004
            • Location: peckville, PA
            RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Fri, 06/3/05 6:39 AM (permalink)
            You have to check with your board of health,but if it complies to the requirements of a commercial kitchen I don't see why not.I see them all over the place in NJ and other places.I am not talking about the catering trucks that the sides pop up and people buy sandwiches and coffee off the sides of them commonly called "roach coaches" by the people who eat off them(no disrespect to anyone who owns one,but that's what they are jokingly called).I am talking about the "California " type lunch truck that is enclosed,with stainless and washable walls,commercial refridgeration,three bay,plus handwash sink,NSF commercial cooking appliances with an exhaust hood(if required,you don't need one for just a steam table).It is basically a rolling commercial kitchen,and usually does not require a commisary if you can store all your food and supplies on board.You cannot store your food in your home fridge or a freezer in your basement,it has to be in a commercially inspected kitchen or commisary.Health inspectors are like cops,some are nice and try to help you do the right things,and others are like storm troopers looking to trip you up.I have dealt with and handled both types,if you know the regulations and comply,you will have no problems.Remember what ever you do,try to be ,and look as professional as possible,it helps with health inspectors and with people feeling comfortable enough to buy from you.I don't care how good,or clean it is,if I see someone with an old school bus with a household refigerator,crock pot,and dollar store microwave selling hot dogs or whatever on the side of the road,Im not stopping,it could be great food,but the perception of getting ill later in the day scares me more than maybe missing out on some great food.Commercial concession equipment is expensive,and some concession trailers cost around $250,000 believe it or not(go on Waymatics website and look up some of their top of the line trailers),but there is a reason for that,you can make very good money in the concession business,and it takes money to make money like anything else.It all depends on how much you want to make,some people are happy with a hot dog cart making a couple hundred a day,and some people make hundreds of thousands a year with big dollar concession equipment(and the right contacts to get into the right events).The failure of many people is not researching first,and running into problems at every turn with their new venture.Do your homework,and have fun!
             
            #6
              bassrocker4u2

              • Total Posts: 534
              • Joined: 11/12/2003
              • Location: new holland, PA
              RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Fri, 06/3/05 7:49 AM (permalink)
              meg, it would be easier to just move here to savannah, and buy my little bbq place. its already got a huge customer base. we are selling real cheap. we are anxious to move closer to new grandbaby..
               
              #7
                soapmaker

                • Total Posts: 3
                • Joined: 5/26/2005
                • Location: upstate, NY
                RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Sun, 06/19/05 10:15 PM (permalink)
                Thank you all for the advice. Sorry it has been a while since I posted. We have been on mandatory overtime at work and I have a new grandbaby. #8 so I can't buy your barbecue place in Savannah!

                I went to a festival today. We got food from 2 different vendors. The food was good at both but the service was terrible. Why sign up to do a festival if you don't have enough manpower to serve people promptly and competently?

                Anyways, since my last post I have decided I definitely want a trailer or truck rather than a cart. The trailer is cheaper but then you need a truck or SUV to pull it. The truck is more convenient but if the truck mechanics go bad then you have all your equipment inside something that cannot be driven. Any opinions?

                What are some good sites that list used trailers or trucks? Of course, I would love to buy a new custom built one but I don't have that kind of cash.

                Hope all you Dads had a great Father's Day!
                 
                #8
                  Caramel Copper

                  • Total Posts: 66
                  • Joined: 6/21/2005
                  • Location: Hogansville, GA
                  RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Tue, 06/21/05 8:29 PM (permalink)
                  Go for the trailer, worst case scenario is the motor in the SUV throws a rod and you can rent a truck to pull your trailer. IMHO, you are still in Biz.

                  Copper
                   
                  #9
                    drbbq

                    • Total Posts: 26
                    • Joined: 7/7/2005
                    • Location: Lakeland, FL
                    RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Fri, 07/8/05 9:09 PM (permalink)
                    I had a BBQ trailer that I operated in Florida for a few years. It had everything I needed, screens, sinks refrig etc, so the health department required only that I had a legal comissary to dump my gray water and fill my fresh water. I found a local septic sucking guy and paid him by the dump.

                    They weren't very forthcoming with that info though, until I figured it out. Meanwhile I spent a month trying to find someone with a full kitchen to help me. Nobody has any incentive to help you, unless it's an old friend. You will immediately become their competitor.

                    What I ended up with was a Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle License from the state, which meant that in theory, I could operate anywhere in Florida, subject to local ordinances. That's where the problem came. Most towns don't want trailers and carts messing with their big tax base restaurants. I was also legal for any festivals.
                     
                    #10
                      Caramel Copper

                      • Total Posts: 66
                      • Joined: 6/21/2005
                      • Location: Hogansville, GA
                      RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Sat, 07/9/05 1:23 PM (permalink)
                      quote:
                      Originally posted by drbbq

                      I had a BBQ trailer that I operated in Florida for a few years. It had everything I needed, screens, sinks refrig etc, so the health department required only that I had a legal comissary to dump my gray water and fill my fresh water. I found a local septic sucking guy and paid him by the dump.

                      They weren't very forthcoming with that info though, until I figured it out. Meanwhile I spent a month trying to find someone with a full kitchen to help me. Nobody has any incentive to help you, unless it's an old friend. You will immediately become their competitor.

                      What I ended up with was a Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle License from the state, which meant that in theory, I could operate anywhere in Florida, subject to local ordinances. That's where the problem came. Most towns don't want trailers and carts messing with their big tax base restaurants . I was also legal for any festivals.



                      Truer words were never spoken.

                      Copper
                       
                      #11
                        djtomatoe

                        • Total Posts: 197
                        • Joined: 9/13/2005
                        • Location: santa cruz, calif
                        RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Wed, 03/8/06 9:11 PM (permalink)
                        what is a "normal" commissary cost?
                        what are people paying to a restaurant for their use.
                        today i was told by one restaurant that it would be $300.00 a month, which i think is too much.....THAT'S $3600. a year!!!!!!! yikes!!!!
                         
                        #12
                          cowboy bob 2

                          • Total Posts: 101
                          • Joined: 8/31/2004
                          • Location: Lancaster, PA
                          RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Thu, 03/9/06 6:01 PM (permalink)
                          Soap maker, greetings from Cowboy Bob, I just sent you an E-mail to see if your interested in my old unit. 6x15 with less than 50 miles on the tires. 2 yrs old.
                          CBB
                           
                          #13
                            1965daytonacoupe

                            • Total Posts: 8
                            • Joined: 3/14/2006
                            • Location: statesville, NC
                            RE: Questions from prospective cart buyer Tue, 03/14/06 11:11 AM (permalink)
                            Howdy howdy,

                            I'm new here but I thought I could help out on this one.

                            Before my friend opened his retaurant recently he operated the only hot dog cart in the area. For a long while I ran it for him on the weekends or helped out at events. Whenever we traveled to another county or city to do a small event we simply had to call and let them know we were coming if it was taking place on private property.

                            I can tell you that I loved running it for him. Also, I now make one meeeean dog or bratie. The best part was special events. I know that Eric cleaned up at one demolition derby we did. We had a non-stop line for the duration of the show. I grilled and he served. Tons of fun man.

                            Best of luck!
                            DH
                             
                            #14
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