Planning and strategy is an important part of your concessions food service business startup.  Your planning should incorporate licensing, code, overhead, costs, profit and look ahead to growth.  This guide will serve as an introductory look at preparing to buy your own mobile food service stand.  Today’s guide is brought to you by the kind folks at One Fat Frog Restaurant & Commercial Equipment and it will cover the areas you should prepare for when starting your own mobile concessions stand.

Tips about buying/ building a trailer/ cart:

  • Apply for all food service cook/ food prep licensure before purchasing a trailer- these classes will generally provide information unique to your locality.
  • Contact local/ state health departments- discuss permitting & standards for equipment and employees.
  • Contact local/ state fire marshall for code requirements.
  • Where will you generally park this stand?  What is the optimum size for the space available to park- fairs, flea markets, art shows, farmer’s markets all charge according to “spaces”… so the less spaces you need the more profit you make.  This also dovetails into asking the supervisor if they allow pushcart vendors to sell near you.
  • What is the difference in insurance cost if you are insuring a concessions trailer versus an rv/ van/ ice cream truck?  Think pushcarts here- these can be low, low overhead.

Before buying equipment:

  • How will you be powering it?  what sort of generator will you have?  will you use gas?  There may be licensing code requirements that dictate this- see your health and fire departments for further information.
  • if buying soft serve ice cream- will it be air or water cooled?
  • Ihat is the space available in your trailer?  what space does the equipment take including breathing room?  Will you have room to appropriately clean and care for it?
  • Are you optimizing your space- ie:  one piece of equipment that makes three items versus three separate items.
  • Do you need to install vents or hood system?  Will windows be adequate?  Do your windows have screens?  Does code require screens?

Getting down to the nitty gritty

  • Who will be your clients?  What will they buy?  How much do you have to sell to make a profit?  Often this is the most overlooked part of the puzzle.  Think with growth in mind but don’t create a set up that dictates you have several employees if you’re just starting out.
  • Have you diversified product so that it’s easy to upsell?  Think of it this way- offering then different sodas doesn’t mean an upsell- as a client will buy only one drink for themselves; but adding chips or hot dogs or a complementary dish will be an upsell.
  • Will you have a tented area or awning to provide shade and protection from the elements?
  • Will your serving window be at an appropriate height for your customer base?  Do you have/ need ADA accommodations/ accessibility for serving customers in wheelchairs?  Does your trailer have a “well floor” (modification so that you are closer to your customers?  If you buy an after-market reno trailer chances are you will be hunched over serving your customers.

Used Equipment

One Fat Frog specializes in working with customers who are retrofitting or outfitting mobile concessions/ carts/ ice cream trucks.  We encourage our customers to explore the opportunities of tabletop and under the counter equipment.  Additionally, smaller convection ovens can be a great purchase as they allow for an extensive variety of food.

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