mobile operation

I’ve been asked to consider partnering with somone in a mobile operation.
Do any of you have experience with either a trailer or a larger truck or have considered this type of operation?
Do you have any operational, equipment, or organizational recommendations?

Bryan

I’ve been in the mobile concessions business for 20 years. What region are you located?
Why is the person seeking a partner? Do they need a cash infusion, just getting started, or doubling up on events?
What type of operation is this? Wood fired, conveyor, $150,000 trailer with all the bells and whistles?

This is something that would be a startup. I work with the person that asked me to consider partnering, his background is as a chef with no real pizza experience and I have 12 years of experience working and managing in various pizza shops. We are both currently in the tech field. As for type of operation I"m still researching what is out there for the mobile operator. Wood burning has an appeal to us but deck or conveyor has it’s perks too. I’ve had really good pizza from all types of ovens so it’s going boil down to economics and our specific concept. I’m also looking at everyting from a pull behind trailer to a converted step van.
I’ve been re-reading a lot of past posts from here about ovens. One of the things we are doing now is trying to define what niche we are trying to fill and what approach is appropriate. We are also the various legalities for mobile operators. I’ve done a ton of research on starting a brick and mortar shop in my city and I need to figure out how this research could apply to the mobile situation. I’m also researching how much the startup would cost and how I’m going to pay for it (mix of our personal funds, begging, and borrowing). The reason for looking at this mobile operation is time and money. I currently can’t get the funds I’d need to startup or buy existing brick and morter store and quit my day job. So I’m looking for something that I can do with the time and money I have available to me that has risk I’m comfortable with taking. There’s about a million things to do and I’m probably doing them all wrong :slight_smile:

I’m located in Mid-Missouri. In my immediate area we have several seasonal events, a pretty strong farmer’s market circuit, lots of opportunities for catering (corporate and private parties), we have several smaller communities with little in the way of restaurants within 40 mile radius of me, and street side vending is a opportunity as well. Lake of the Ozarks is about 90 mins from me and has a very strong tourist draw to the Lake starting in late spring and ending in early fall. It could be considered a target for most of the year but that timeframe is the strongest opportunity. I"m not opposed to looking out of state for event’ either

Bryan

I would recommend keeping your day job and doing small weekend events to get a feel for the business. Events such as farmer’s markets or street fairs with a small entry fee.

The mobile concession business is getting increasingly crowded the past few years and the biggest challenge , I feel, is to find viable events. Good events have vendors that are unlikely to leave. Some event promoters will find a location for anyone that sends a check-feel lucky if you break even at such events.

As far as permitting, most states require a sales tax ID, and a temporary event health permit($20-300/weekend) depending on the state and county fee structure. Contact your local county to see their requirements. You will also need a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy that allows additional insured certificates to be issued.

A bare bones operation would use ice baths to keep the cheese and toppings cool, frozen dough balls to avoid buying a mixer, iced coolers for back stock, and smaller pizza ovens such as the PO26 or PO30 made by Castle Comstock. You could also use par-baked crusts.
For smaller events, our operation uses the PO26 model ovens on casters allowing them to be rolled up a trailer ramp with ease. XLT 2440 conveyors are used for the larger events. We also have 3-20 quart Hobart mixers using 13.5# flour per batch. Switch mixers when they get hot. Dough is stored in True T-49 refrigerators and handled according to Tom’s dough management recommendations-Thanks TL.

Consider putting the equipment in a trailer with ramp and towing with a pickup or van.
Step vans and trucks are considered commercial vehicles and are expensive to register and insure-especially if you travel outside a 50 mile radius.
Some events have electricity, some don’t. Minimize your power needs as often you are charged per circuit. The most extreme event we take part in charges $10/amp! Sometimes 240Volt isn’t available, only 120. Forget about 3 phase.

Piemaker,If you haven’t already make sure to check out last month’s issue as it had a article on the mobile business. As far as some of the ideas you mentioned I would definitely check with your local health department and city about the laws. I have been looking into a truck myself. The health department rules would apply as if I had a stationary location. I will also be allowed to sell food at our local fairs,ball parks and school events without any additional licenses. We also have a local university and a big business district that we will sell to.

Restaurant Business had an article on “Food Truck Follies” in this month’s issue. You can read it over on monkeydish.com.

Boulder and all thanks for the insight and input. You gave me some affirmation of somethings I was assuming and gave me somethings I hadn’t considered yet. The articles were great thanks!

Boulder would you have any pictures online of your setup?

Bryan

No pictures. We keep a low profile as some shows work well for us because there are not many experienced, high-volume booths. If some big swingers come in then you get a smaller slice of the pie.
Had a thought regarding the vending circuit. Say you have a shop or regular job and do an event and clear $1-2,000. It is a good padding to your income. However, if you are strictly a concessionaire and average $1-2,000/week for the 5 month summer season then your lifestyle best match this income level.
It seems best to keep the day job and work some weekends to pad the income. Over time, if you have a good product, you will find shows or a niche where you make quite a bit more then this amount. At my largest shows I have 3 booths with 20 helpers. It has taken several years to find events and promoters that are enjoyable to work with.

speaking of that day job it’s been keeping me away :slight_smile: I really appreciate the input. I am under no illusion that this will make me rich or that the work is easy. What I’m looking for is something that will give me some return in the form of an additional stream of income that would make it worth my time.

What would you consider average sales for a weekend event and something that was a day event to be for what you do? What average percentage is profit generate from those sales? I know this is going to vary by market and event but it might be a good sign post for me to watch for when researching.

Bryan

another question I just had was how do you find events? Currently I’m working word of mouth, chamber or commerce, and googling for my area, while slow it has turned up some dead ends and some good leads.

Bryan