What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Food Trailer?
The mobile food industry has seen tremendous growth in the last few years, with projections estimating a surge of 6.8% by 2028. This trend is driven by the 16-34 consumer age group interested in new dining experiences outside brick-and-mortar establishments.
While food trucks and trailers have grown in popularity, launching your business requires an investment of time, effort and money. A trailer comes with several benefits over a truck. For instance, you can easily hitch your food trailer to your car to transport your business. Likewise, there are usually more size options available to meet your needs.
Whether your concession trailer is new or used, you’ll likely need to make customizations and install the right equipment. Here’s how to determine what equipment you need to get started.
Buying the Right Food Trailer
Before you purchase a concession trailer, you should consider the following criteria:
- Type and size of trailer you can afford within your budget
- Costs to customize your trailer
- Style or type needed for better operations — based on appearance, hookups and layout
- Type of food you intend to serve — an essential consideration for determining the kitchen and equipment you’ll need
- Amount of storage space required
You’ll also need to determine whether you require a specialty trailer for serving barbecue or icy treats to help turn your business into a tried-and-true success.
7 Essential Equipment to Start a Food Trailer
Once you purchase a food trailer, you’ll need to ensure it has all the bells and whistles for smooth service, like these seven crucial pieces of equipment.
You can’t expect to run a successful concession trailer without a cooktop, so anticipate that a good portion of your budget will apply to installing the right appliances.
You can save money by purchasing used or discounted unit models and countertop alternatives, devoting more space to the appliances you intend to use more frequently. Some cooktop equipment might entail:
- Griddles or grills
- Stovetop ranges
- Microwave ovens
An exhaust hood will also help diminish harmful cooking equipment vapors.
Any food industry professional will underscore the importance of temperature control for optimal food safety. Therefore, you must include warming units to prevent bacteria and foodborne illnesses.
Warming equipment might comprise countertop food warmers, soup kettles or fry dump stations to keep fresh food hot.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies the “Danger Zone” as any food that sits at room temperature or between 40 and 140 F for prolonged periods. As such, it’s safest to serve hot food within two to four hours of cooking, as long as it stays on the warming units.
You’ll need to install a refrigeration unit with a freezer into your trailer. Luckily, you have plenty of size and model options.
For instance, a full-size refrigerator will take up too much space and you might not need a large one. Alternatively, look for an undercounter fridge and freezer to fit beneath your worktop.
Another suitable refrigeration type includes sandwich and salad prep units, in which pans of toppings stay cool sitting in a chilled cabinet — ideal for an assembly prep line.
Storage and Organization
Ensuring you have plenty of storage and organization is also required in your food trailer. Open shelving or a small cabinet can make storing essential ingredients for your business much more manageable.
You can easily keep track of inventory when you have a successful system in place. Approximately one-third of the global food supply is wasted annually, but proper storage can help you take stock of what you have.
You’ll also be able to see upcoming expiration dates to know what needs to be used first or removed from the inventory.
Your concession trailer will need an array of prepping equipment. You may want to include:
- Stainless steel worktop
- Cutting boards
- Skillets and pans
- Knife racks
- Blenders and food processors
Your prepping equipment needs will vary according to your menu, but it’s best to include whatever you think you might need in case something comes up.
Your customers will be looking for on-the-go service, meaning you’ll need to provide disposable utensils. That also means you’ll need to make room on your trailer to store those supplies near the service window.
Standard food trailer supplies include serving utensils, napkin holders, condiment dispensers and squeeze bottles, spice shakers, disposable dinnerware, takeout containers and cups. It might also be helpful to keep food wrap and aluminum foil nearby.
Plastic utensils are cheap to purchase in bulk, but you should consider providing biodegradable alternatives. Approximately 8 to 10 million pounds of plastic waste enters the ocean each year, posing a risk to marine life.
You’ll need to use several cleaning supplies daily — even during business hours — to keep up with strict federal and state health cleaning standards on your food trailer.
Equip your concession trailer with a multicompartment sink, hand sink, mops, brooms, cleaning solutions, sponges and trash bins.
It’s essential to understand that disinfecting removes 100% of surface viruses and bacteria, while sterilization kills all bacteria, fungi and bacterial spores. You’ll want to stock up on bleach, alcohol and chlorine-based cleaners, as well as personal protection equipment to avoid contact with your skin and eyes.
Lots to Fit Into a Compartmentalized Space
You might wonder how you’ll fit all the essential equipment into a tight space. Maximize the square footage as much as possible and be smart about the layout. Keep the most critical equipment in arm’s reach, and remember you can always customize your design vertically.