Music festivals, rodeos, sports events and main streets throughout the country all have one thing in common: food trailers. Supplying the masses with delicious, deep-fried delicacies, summer beverages and ice creams, the food trailer industry has grown to over 1.2 billion in revenue in the last year. Starting a food trailer business is more affordable, flexible and accessible than a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, it comes with a unique set of challenges.
One of the largest challenges arises from fitting an entire kitchen and serving area in a space averaging less than 200 square feet. It follows that food vending entrepreneurs ought to spend significant time finessing the design of their trailers. One method of accomplishing this difficult task is planning a design by running through the entire process of storing, preparing and selling your chosen food or beverage. This process, referred to as the workflow, gives a step-by-step framework to build profitable food trailers.
Storing Raw Ingredients
Every food item starts as separate raw ingredients. Allocating space for these goods, such as flour, oil, coffee beans or milk, is a great first step in designing your truck. Decide upfront whether a fridge and freezer will be required. These take up floor space and need a power outlet. Even if none of your raw ingredients need refrigeration, ice-cold beverages are a big hit for many summer events and may necessitate storing large amounts of ice.
You can store dry ingredients more flexibly. Overhead cabinets leave precious counter space available. Displaying aesthetic ingredients like jars of toppings or fresh fruit behind the serving area will attract customers.
Preparing the Food Product
Once all the ingredients have a home, the next step in the workflow moves onto the preparation area. Normally this will involve counter space and cooking appliances such as deep fryers, stovetops and blenders. Some vendors hide this section from outside eyes, giving the food trailer a less chaotic vibe. Coffee, snowcone and waffle trucks can attract business by showing off the creation of their product. Frozen french fries and large bowls of dough that appear less delicious than the final product may be hidden from public eyes by preparing them against the front wall. To save space and decrease delivery time, preparing some foods outside of the trailer in advance is a great idea.
Tap into all the benefits of experiential marketing by adding speakers to your design. Appropriate music help people remember the experience and puts them in a good mood. Let the aroma from whatever food product you are selling permeate the surrounding. The magnet properties of a donut vendor’s aroma will attract customers like moths to a streetlight.
With potential customers lining up outside, it’s time to hone in on the point of contact between customer and kitchen. A serving window should be well lit and the focal point of the trailer’s design. Enough counter space needs to be available to place food orders and accept payment. An easily accessible menu makes a food trailer much more approachable. The serving window offers the best setup to fully immerse customers in your brand, so don’t skimp on this part.
With satisfied customers, the final step in a full-fledged trailer design is creating a cleaning station. Running water is slightly more complicated in a vehicle than in a building. Pumps, clean and grey water containers are easy to install but must be emptied and refilled regularly. Bigger sinks are the most convenient for washing up, but when space is limited, a compromise between space-saving and utility is most likely the best option. It is best to keep the sink out of the serving window and easily accessible for staff to wash their hands.
A final consideration to keep in mind throughout a food trailer’s designs is securing all loose items for travel. Magnetic cabinet doors, a sliding screen or doors to enclose the serving window can help make moving locations a smooth operation.
Designing a food trailer that is comfortable for staff, attractive to the public, and quick to deliver orders can feel like an overwhelming task. Break down the process with the workflow required for your business. Keep the customer experience in mind by displaying some food creation and ingredients but keeping the dirty dishes out of sight. Make the most of the exterior with vinyl signs and experiential marketing. Have fun with the design, and it will pay back dividends at the next carnival or wherever you set up down the road.