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Thread: food truck experience?

  1. #1
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    food truck experience?

    long story, but looks like I just bought a food truck. No idea what I want to do with it, from what I understand in my area (Philadelphia, NJ shore), permitting and licenses are a huge PITA. Thinking of possibly just getting it inspected and renting it on a monthly basis, or setting up as a generic mobile kitchen and offering as a weekly rental to caterers. I'd like to be able to run with a few niche ideas I was kicking around for some secondary income (didn't pay much for it, don't need it to be a full-time business), but sounds like it needs to be full-time/110% or it's just going to cost more than it makes to operate alone.

    This is a fairly new, very well appointed truck that was a marketing write-off for a large corporation (so, no expense spared in building it), but has not been inspected in a few years, so it'll need tires/brakes and all new licenses/inspections. That doesn't worry me as much as getting the necessary permits for parking and serving food legally (most stories I'm hearing is the trucks are operating in a grey zone most of the time).

    Anyone here have any real experience getting a truck up and running in this area and want to tell your stories over a few drinks?


  2. #2
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    In my brief foray into the food truck world the fire suppression system ended up being the deal breaker.

    Truck (actually trailer) was operational when acquired and met county requirements. No suppression system required. Took it to Tampa where city required suppression. Installing "approved" system would cost 16K for 30K trailer. Was able to just break even, most days in the county.

    Older and wider..

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    No experience with food trucks, but experience in other public-facing business. You may be thinking of this anyway, but a big priority should be comprehensive liability insurance. Lots of it.

    If anyone gets hurt, whether a customer or the renter and crew, the chain of lawsuits will make a beeline for the owner of the food truck. And if you're renting it out, you won't have much control over safety standards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daveb View Post
    In my brief foray into the food truck world the fire suppression system ended up being the deal breaker.

    Truck (actually trailer) was operational when acquired and met county requirements. No suppression system required. Took it to Tampa where city required suppression. Installing "approved" system would cost 16K for 30K trailer. Was able to just break even, most days in the county.
    Is this just in Tampa? I'm in Jacksonville and will be starting a food trailer in September. I haven't heard anything about that. It's being built now.

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    This is coming from New Orleans and working on older early 90ís/mid 80ís trucks but like daveb said the fire suppression system is a huge pita if itís not already in place. Think it was 20k to get one installed on one of our trucks. I do film catering and we have 3 trucks working at a time, they are usually a little more outfitted than most Street food trucks Iíve seen. Itís a little different for us since we donít actually sell food to the public. Iím not too sure about permits/inspections on the food front but we do have them. Iíve just never done the process myself. I do know we have to get the fire dept. to inspect them just like a regular restaurant and put their little tags on the extinguishers and suppression systems. There are companies that build these trucks to your specs and the last guy I talked to would get you something permitted and ready to sell food for about 40k. Might be worth finding someone like that to talk to about what you need permit wise and to make a relationship for repairs that come up. Your going to need an electrician, plumber, mechanic, and general handyman for repairs and general upkeep. Whoever is working on the truck will need power, water, propane and possibly ice if there is an area (belly) for drinks. Itís nice to have an area to call home for the truck that has all of this, minus the propane. Our trucks have built in tanks so we usually take them to the closest uhaul/hardware store or sometimes we find people who will deliver depending on what city weíre in. Leaving a generator running 24/7 for refrigeration is a pita compared to running extension cords. Does it have a generator? Other thing to think about if your going to rent it is cleanliness. Once a week we pull out the hood vents, screens, range burners and anything the doesnít get scrubbed daily. Just something to think about when your making a contract up, adding a fee or some stipulations for using the truck. And then you have to think about the down time, itíll get dusty, moldy and probably some rust on the flat top if it sits for a week. Bleach is your friend for the mold. Not sure what all yours has but depending on the trucks ours has 6ft flat top, 6 burner range, 2-3 ovens, 1 fryer, 5-6 pan steam wells, built in refrigeration, triple sink, water reservoir, and hot water/coffee urns that hold roughly 50 gals of water. Thatís a lot of nooks and crannies not including prep/service areas to get dirty. Itís also best if the truck does not move much. I know that kind of defeats the point but just from a longevity stand point itís probably loaded to the gills weight wise. Which will affect everything from the structure to the engine. It can be pretty easy to overheat an engine going up a hill if you donít know what your doing and most people who want to use a food truck are cooks, not mechanics. Not much here to help you get up and running but some things to think about when it is up and running.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jville View Post
    Is this just in Tampa? I'm in Jacksonville and will be starting a food trailer in September. I haven't heard anything about that. It's being built now.
    Start with Duvall county requirements, the fire marshall owns these here. In addition to the suppression system the city also wanted to require a 2nd exit in event of fire, again above and beyond the county requirements. None of this fell under the food inspector's umbrella. No idea if the city of Jax and other cities you may be operating in have their own requirements but apparently they can.

    Suppression would not be hard to incorporate it into design and build but then it's one more thing that requires annuals. It only got prohibitive to change the existing design.
    Older and wider..

  7. #7
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    if you ever get the ball rolling, would love to meet up and chat about your plans as I definitely want to get into this myself down the road. I live in broward.


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