Across the country, arctic temperatures have been sweeping through, as winter weather begins rearing its ugly head much earlier than we’d all like. Typically for food truck operators, this marks the beginning of a decrease in business. Few people are willing to stand outside in freezing temperatures longer than a couple of minutes to wait for food. A lot of food trucks will close up for the winter, but for those that try to stick it out, here are some tips and ideas to help survive the winter months ahead.
First thing’s first: if you’re going to use your food truck in the winter, you’ll need to make sure your truck is prepared for the colder weather. Food Truckr recommends investing in quality snow tires, maintaining your belts and hoses, check or replace your battery and keep your fluids filled. An emergency kit is a must. If your truck has trouble or breaks down, you want to be prepared while you wait for help to arrive. Include jumper cables, blankets, road flares and whatever you feel you need to make it through if your truck is incapacitated.
In addition, it gets COLD in a food truck. Dress warm if you’re going out for lunch and dinner runs. Trying to serve folks quickly with numb fingers and toes is a lot less thrilling than it sounds! You’ll want to rethink your food storage as well. During the spring and summer, storing non-perishables and cooking supplies in your truck doesn’t pose a problem. But in the winter, those items are susceptible to freezing. If you can, plan to store your food elsewhere during the winter, making sure you follow local laws and health codes while doing so.
Strategize Your Menu
If you’re going to serve during the winter, make sure your menu fits the weather. Consider adding more hearty and hot foods to your menu, such as chili, soups, and stews. These are quick to serve, so your customer isn’t left waiting in the cold. If you offer up made to order items, such as burgers, consider par-cooking them first, so that your wait time goes down. I’m sure most customers don’t mind waiting 10 minutes for a freshly cooked burger in the summer, but when it’s below freezing, they just want hot food in their hand as soon as possible. For beverages, don’t forget coffee, tea or hot chocolate. There are so many variations you can do with these beverages to really entice your customers.
Catering and Special Events
Obviously, business isn’t going to be as brisk as the warmer months of the year. If you decide not to go out as often during the winter, you can keep your brand active during the season by offering your truck’s services for catering or special events. These can be beneficial, as you can guarantee that you will make some money, rather than hoping someone will come out to your truck at lunch on a 10 degree day. If you can, partner up with brick and mortar restaurants to offer some of your items as well. The important thing is to keep your truck’s brand in the minds of customers until spring comes, and your truck is back on its regular schedule.
If you’re ready to brave the temperatures and take your truck out, don’t forget Central! We have everything you need to equip your truck for your cooking needs. Click here to shop now. You can also contact a Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 with any questions you may have about how to winterize your truck’s cooking equipment. Live chat is also available!
For many parts of the U.S., August means time for your county and state fairs. In Central Restaurant’s home town of Indianapolis, the 157th Indiana State Fair kicks off Friday August 1st. While this blogger prefers the thrills and dizziness of the carnival rides during his visits, many of the near 1 million visitors expected at this years event will sample (probably even devour) the dozens of unique foods presented by over 140 food vendors.
2014 Indiana State Fair Featured Foods
Every year, the food vendors compete to have their unique offering crowned that year’s ‘Signature Food’. This year, the competition’s theme incorporated the re-opening of the famed State Fair Coliseum after an 18-month renovation. Vendors were asked to submit “Reconstructed/Deconstructed” foods and a panel of 6 local celebrities voted on a winner earlier this summer.
The winner was the Fruit Twister Shake-Up from Goodwin Family Products based in Muncie, Indiana. Their take on the classic lemon shake-up adds fresh oranges, pineapple and strawberries to a refreshing mix of sugar (or zero-calorie Splenda), ice and water. This new summer treat, along with the other nominees will be available at the Fair from August 1st through the 17th.
Cheeseburger Basket on a Stick (Barto’s Catering): Barto’s Signature Cheeseburger Basket all rolled into one. Fresh seasoned ground beef and Sharp Aged Cheddar cheese tucked in a hash brown potato ball and rolled in seasoned bread crumbs and deep-fried to golden brown. Served on a stick.
The Mac Daddy (Gobble Gobble): Gobble Gooble’s signature homemade macaroni and cheese topped with their pulled BBQ turkey.
Funnel Cake Ice Cream Sandwich (Urick Concessions): Creamy, soft-served vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two golden brown mini funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Colossal Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a Salted Chocolate Carmel Shake (American Dairy Association): Three columns of breaded mozzarella sandwiched between two slices of American cheese grilled to perfection on Sour Dough Bread. This colossal sandwich is accompanied by a delicious Salted Chocolate Caramel Milkshake.
We Can Help You With Your Signature Foods
Central is proud to have done business with several of this year’s winners over the years, and we can help you too. Whether you are full time on the fair circuit or equipping your fixed location – finding the right equipment to expertly prepare your ‘signature dishes’ is what we do everyday. Talk with a product consultant today at 800-215-9293 and they can walk your through our selection of Concession Equipment, Commercial Deep Fryers or Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines.
And, if you are from out-of-town and looking to sample a Fruit Twister Shake-up for yourself, your product consultant might be able to include one with your next shipped order! (OK, maybe not.)
Those long, warm summer nights are upon us, and consumers are looking for exciting ways to enjoy them. Among other summertime activities, millions of Americans will choose to attend a food festival.
One of the world’s largest, The Taste of Chicago, will be held this year July 9th through the 13th in Grant Park. It will feature 66 restaurants representing the gambit of Chicago food royalty from the iconic Lou Malnati’s Pizza to new-comers M Burger and The Big Cheese Poutinerie. In 2013 the festival attracted 1.5 million very hungry people.
Consider Joining a Local Food Festival
You don’t have to be in Chicago to reap the benefits of a great food festival. Many small restaurants look to local fairs and festivals to expose the public to their everyday food offerings. Industry website FairsAndFestivals.net has an exhaustive listing of food and festivals nationwide that may appeal to you – from cultural, holiday or event celebrations to craft fairs. Once you find a festival that could fit your operation, searching individual festival websites can then usually point you to the correct contact people, fees (exhibitors or local permits) or requirements (including insurance) for that event.
Why exhibit at a food festival? Good question. Realize that you are not only selling the food at your festival booth (with exposure to hundreds or thousands of potential customers), but also the concept of your restaurant and the full experience one will have at your traditional location year-round. Give the consumer a ‘taste‘ and convert them into a loyal fan!
What should you serve? Consider signature dishes and recipes that are unlikely to be found elsewhere at the festival. Go daring, but keep a mass appeal. Find a couple of items that will attract attention for their uniqueness. FairsAndFestivals.net notes that it is miss with a unique ethnic dish.
How do I do this? Even if you’re not setup for a full mobile operation, there are many ways to still serve up a quality and food-safe product with minimal additional equipment investment. Perhaps you can pre-cook or partially cook your food items at your restaurant or other location. Maybe add your signature sauce to a simple hot dog or hamburger. Or, choose a cold dish that requires little on-site preparation.
Helpful Equipment From Central Restaurant
Whatever approach you take, Central has all the equipment and supplies that you’ll need for a successful festival booth whether you exhibit once a year or decide to hit the festival circuit.
Magicater 60″ Wide Commercial Outdoor Gas Grill
If you’re preparing food off-site, look into a holding cabinet to keep food at safe temperatures while in transport or waiting
Food warmers can rethermalize or keep sauces or other ingredients hot and delicious
Whatever you decide, remember that Central Restaurant has a team of product consultants ready to help you plan your festival food booth needs. Give them a call at 800-215-9293, tell them what you want to do…and they will provide solutions that meet your needs and budget.
Food trucks have been around for a couple hundred years in America, and are currently taking our nation by storm. Every major city seems to have at least one food truck, but how did this mobile cuisine start? Street food has been around in larger cities on the east coast since the late 17thcentury. In 1691, New York City began to “regulate street vendors selling food from push carts.” As technology advanced, so did food trucks, transforming from dining cars on trains to wagons to the US Army utilizing mobile kitchens to feed the troops during the early wars.
The food truck hype really sparked only a few years ago in 2006 when “Wikipedia adds ‘food truck’ to their list of entries.” After that, more food trucks started popping up around the country in hopes to catch on to the latest craze. In 2010 alone, the National Restaurant Association decided to “dedicate 1,500 square feet to food truck exhibits at its annual convention”, Food Network premiered “The Great Food Truck Race” and Mobile Cuisine became “the first website to provide coverage of the mobile food industry nationally.”
Food Truck Initiatives
Food trucks have experienced a huge fan base as the trend continues. Cities now have regular food truck gatherings every day where they can all park at one place and let the customers come to them. The old-fashioned lunch gatherings at a restaurant have now been replaced by finding a food truck closest to a business and eating out that way.
The only difficult part of being a food truck fan? Finding where they are. That’s why one fan based in Indianapolis decided to come up with a way to track his favorite trucks.
“I started @indyfoodtruck right on the cusp of the Indianapolis food truck boom. There was West Coast Tacos, Scratch, Duos, Hoosier Fat Daddy, Fat Sammies and maybe a couple of others, all running around downtown, serving up delicious and quick street food. I was hooked from the start but found it tremendously difficult to figure out where all the trucks were parked on any given day. I just figured, ‘Hey, if I’m having this much trouble, I bet everyone else is too,’ so I decided to share my tracking efforts with the rest of the city. That was over two years ago, and I’m still sending out the updates every day, but instead of a mere handful, we now have dozens and dozens of active food trucks in Indy,” explains Matt Hanger, creator of @indyfoodtruck.
Setting Them Apart
Matt Hanger has frequented many food trucks, especially in the Indianapolis area, and knows what sets food trucks apart.
“In my opinion, the trucks that excel, the ones that set themselves apart from the crowd, have a genuine passion for creating great food. What that means exactly is different to different people, but you know it when you see it. Without that I don’t think you could have a truly great food truck,” he explains.
Matt continued with “Of course, great service matters too, it’s tremendously important. How you interact with customers in-person and social media. Creating a pleasant atmosphere (cleanliness, where you park, quiet generators, how the food is presented, etc.) matters too.”
Owning and operating your very own food truck takes a lot of time, especially for the planning. You need to plan what your menu will be and what you will serve before you even purchase the truck. Even if you already have a vision of what your truck will serve, you need to fine tune the menu so you can know whether or not a truck will be able to fulfill its needs.
FoodCart USA is one of the pioneering companies to create custom food trucks and bring the food truck trend to Miami, Florida. Tania from FoodCart USA helps design food truck kitchens based on the potential menu of the truck. The same thing goes with what type of equipment you will need. The first question FoodCart USA asks to customers is ‘What is going to be on the menu?’. Tania said that everybody usually wants a flattop, and most refrigeration. She also said that refrigeration is key to a food truck, and not having enough refrigeration is usually the main thing customers complain about. There is no real difference between restaurant equipment and equipment for food trucks, except food truck equipment may be a little smaller for space reasons.
What’s Tania’s piece of advice for food truck operators? “To me, make sure they keep up with the health codes. Make sure we have clean, nice food [and good] appearance outside of [the] vehicle and safety and the health. [I] would love [for food trucks] to someday have grades just like restaurants,” she explained.
Keep in mind that the way you lay out your mobile food truck is crucial to your truck’s success. You want to create a flexible kitchen that’s easy to move around and also easy enough to switch equipment if your menu changes and you want to try something new. Also, you need to consider what type of power source you will be using for your equipment. Everything in a mobile food kitchen must be 120V, according to Product Consultant Sarah Templeton.
“They should have some form of generator for the refrigerator units,” Product Consultant Brian Greentaner explains. “However, when you get to the cooking equipment, the power requirements of the griddles and ovens require a larger power source, which would have to be a tow-able generator.”
“You can use [Central’s] equipment, however you would have to purchase shallow depth cooking equipment like grills and charbroilers, and once installed would need to have a stainless fabricator do some creative welding for stability and for ease of cleanliness,” explains Product Consultant Rick Arenstein.
Brian Greentaner continued, “Most [equipment] will require some sort of retrofit. The wheel wells in these types of trucks are a form of an obstacle.”
Slow Food Truck, based out of Hollywood, Florida, said their essentials are a spoon and tool kit.
A food truck has to be clean and sanitary, so an operator needs some sanitation necessities. Make sure your truck has towels, trash cans, anti-fatigue mats (for all of the standing and running around), broom, mops and squeegees would all be great. Keep pests at bay in your food truck with an insect control system. Make sure you know how to prepare for food truck for health inspections, too.
To give you an idea of what a typical successful food truck requires, Nation’s Restaurant News proivdes details for the Sauca food truck. They list out what an established food truck has equipment wise, and how much everything costs.
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
No. of trucks: 2 in operation, 2 more expected to launch this summer
Proprietor: Farhad Assari, former investment banker
Signature item: The Sauca, a hand-held, griddled flatbread sandwich inspired by global street food. Examples: Mexicali Fish Taco, $7.50; The Medi Veggie, $6.50
Type of truck: Workhorse
Kitchen footprint: 70 square feet
grill for warming and marking flatbreads
griddle for cooking proteins
steamer for warming fillings
sandwich prep table
undercounter refrigerated drawers
three-compartment sink, hand sink
custom-made service window
Total cost: $100,000, including truck, equipment, installation and exterior wrap”
I spoke with Michael Jay Fine, owner of Fine Fire Equipment Company located in North Miami Beach, Florida regarding fire safety and mobile kitchens. “All manufacturers require an automatic fire suppression system and are serviced and inspected every six months, and during those six month inspections it is very, very important that the detection link (what goes off to activate the system) gets changed every six months,” Michael explained.
“Some companies sometimes overlook this very important change. Bottom line is that these systems need to be maintained per every manufacturer inspection,” he continued.
If you’re in the Florida area and would like to consult with Mr. Fine, call them at (305)945-9956 for Dade County, or (954)966-1936 for Broward County.
Shop With Central
Still interested in starting up your own food truck? Central has a plethora of food truck necessities that will fit in your mobile kitchen. If you have any questions regarding products, our Product Consultants can certainly help.
Don’t forget about FoodCart USA if you’re looking for a customized food truck!
Food trucks have been working hard all winter. Now that spring has arrived, traffic is going to continue to increase. People have finally learned to love this type of foodservice, although for many cities, becoming established has been anything but easy and they continue to make their way. Here is some of the latest news for the food truck industry.
Food Truck/Mobile Food Conference, Roam, Coming to Portland
Roam, a conference exclusively for mobile food, will take place from September 13 to 15 in Portland, Ore. Roam encourages anyone in the mobile food industry to attend, as well as government policy makers, members of the media, writers and bloggers. It will be a great way for current food truck and mobile food owners to connect and for aspiring owners to learn more. Since many cities are still learning how to incorporate food trucks in with restaurants and other foodservices, they say “policy makers will find a central resource for city planning best practices, discussion and collaboration.” Learn more and register on Roam’s website.
Progress and Struggles
Things are finally getting a little easier for some food trucks. After a month long battle in Fishers, Ind., news station WishTV reported food trucks there will soon be able to run in the city. This comes after criticism that food trucks take away business from area restaurants and did not have to pay property taxes. Based on the vote, food trucks there will have to purchase a $200 annual permit and may have to possibly purchase more for special events.
Food trucks in Washington DC are unfortunately still fighting their battle. According to InTheCapital, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has “proposed new regulations that would make food trucks illegal in most of downtown.” With the proposed regulations, there will be new locations for carts and sidewalk vendors. As for food trucks, the proposed regulations discuss “Mobile Roadway Vending” (MRV) locations, which will be designated areas where food trucks can park and serve. These MRVs will be limited. InTheCapital said access to these places will be “doled out in a type of ‘vendor lottery’ where eligible food trucks with the right licenses will be chosen randomly.” This isn’t settling well with D.C. food trucks or their supporters. The D.C. Food Truck Association has put together a portion of their website to help save area food trucks.
Food trucks continue to branch out in cities all across the country and now they’ve hit airports. In a February article from Mobile Cuisine, they reported a few of the country’s airports, such as Orlando International and Los Angeles International, allow food trucks to park in cell phone parking lots. These food trucks introduce local cuisine to those from out of town, but one food truck owner noted it was especially great to open there during flight delays where those picking up a passenger had to wait there.
What’s that saying? “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” That’s exactly what some restaurants are doing. Jack in the Box just rolled out a food truck Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas. Chick-fil-A will also be rolling out a food truck in Washington D.C. Non-chains are jumping on board as well. In a Seattle Times article, they shared that some established restaurants in the area are considering food trucks, or have started them, with a select group of items from their restaurant menu.
On Sunday Feb. 5, the New England Patriots and the New York Giants will meet again for Super Bowl XLVI.
Not only is the Super Bowl one of the biggest games of the year, but it’s also such a grand event for the hosting city. This year, the game will be played in the same city as Central’s headquarters—Indianapolis.
For all events to go smoothly, all businesses in a hosting city have to be involved and prepare. This ranges from hotels and businesses to restaurants and food trucks. The foodservice industry as a whole will play a huge role in the Super Bowl festivities.
Rendering of Super Bowl Village
Julia Watson, vice president of marketing and communications for Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., said businesses have had to forecast as much as six months of business in the 10 day period.
“You can’t do business as usual with a lean staff, or haven’t changed the delivery schedule to make sure to have supplies on hand,” she explained.
“Restaurants have gone to great effort and expense to maximize their ability to serve a very large number of visitors in a short amount of time.”
Watson said restaurants have stepped up in many ways such as an increased staff, streamlined food and beverage menus, extended hours of operation, additional seating and enhanced amenities such as outdoor heaters, etc.
There are an estimated 150,000 coming to Indianapolis. While this is an excellent and unique business opportunity, it can be a challenge to plan how it will all work when taking into consideration the number of seats available versus how many will be coming in.
In a recent article from the Indianapolis Star, they estimated there are about 25,000 seats in the city’s approximate 200 restaurants. Then on top of that, many streets have been closed so restaurants have had to strategically plan how they will receive deliveries from vendors and how their employees will make it in to work.
“Deliveries will be a challenge,” said Bryn Jones, director of marketing at St. Elmo Steak House. “Our plan here is to have all deliveries made in the early A.M. every day, and we will have employees working 24/7 so that we will be able to receive inventory when it is more convenient for delivery drivers to get in and out of the city due to the huge increase in traffic during the day.”
Then for their employee’s commute, Jones said they will have two buses circling a route to help employees get to and from the restaurant.
“This will be necessary to help us and our employees save money by not having to pay $50 or whatever amount is charged per day in parking.”
Going back to the mathematics of the “seat to tourist ratio,” the city has plans that will help both restaurants and visitors to make it all work.
Volunteers at Volunteer Kick-Off
Communications Director Jennifer Hansen of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. said there will be “mobile concierge” on the streets walking around to assist visitors.
“They will have live updates on restaurant availability to tell guests what’s opening,” she said.
But restaurants will not be the only way visitors can get something to eat.
Hansen also mentioned the Super Bowl Village will have mobile food sites too.
Mobile food, which is a trend that has truly boomed over the past year—especially in Indianapolis, will play an important role in this year’s Super Bowl events.
Click here for the second part of our Super Bowl series to learn how Indianapolis food trucks will participate as well as food rescuing and how restaurants outside of the downtown area have been impacted.
Monument Circle/Indianapolis Super Bowl Press Center
Welcome to the second part of our Super Bowl foodservice series. If you missed the first part, click here to see how downtown restaurants have been impacted by the 10 day extravaganza that leads up to the Super Bowl.
Aside from restaurants, mobile food will play a very important role during this year’s Super Bowl events.
While there will be mobile food sites all over, the city has created a special opportunity just for food trucks and have set aside space just for them on downtown Indianapolis’ Monument Circle.
The trucks will be out from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday Jan. 27 through Sunday Jan. 29 and Thursday Feb. 2 through Sunday Feb. 5.
The space is available in two shifts, 11 trucks in the first shift, then 12 trucks in the second.
Duos Indy food truck is one of the trucks that will park on Monument Circle. Becky Hostetter, chef and a co-owner of Duos, said they are nervous and excited.
“For food trucks, we don’t really know how it will play out but we are planning on all goodness and light.”
Duos Indy/Duos Indy Facebook
One of the interesting aspects of their plans (as for many of the other food trucks and restaurants) has been the menu.
“We want to remain true to our brand and serve with speed, serve food that speaks to the guests and maintains integrity.”
The NY Slice is another truck to park on Monument Circle and said they have had to increase staff by 80 percent. They have also produced a second truck with two serving windows and two brick ovens inside.
With hundreds of thousands coming to Indianapolis, restaurants, hotels, etc., have worked extremely hard to make sure everyone that walks through their doors gets a meal. However, believe it or not, not all of the food is used.
That’s where local food rescue organizations like Second Helpings come in and rescue unused food and redistribute it to the hungry.
He mentioned Super Bowl host committees started working with food rescue organizations three years ago at the Miami Super Bowl and that year alone rescued about 90,000 pounds of food.
Shine described rescued food as anything overstocked, over prepared or unused that has not yet been served to the public. It also must have only been handled by safe food handlers.
He isn’t sure how much they will rescue, but knows they certainly will. And as they are located in downtown Indianapolis, they have already developed relationships with several restaurants, hotels, etc., which will make the food rescue process much easier.
“There is not as big of a learning curve,” he said, as compared to cities where food rescuing isn’t common. “Restaurants will know how to store and take care of the foods.”
Also, to kick off Second Helpings’ involvement with the Super Bowl, they have joined together with local artists and chefs for the event “Souper Bowls 2012,” which will be held on Saturday Jan. 28.
Souper Bowls/Second Helpings
Souper Bowls is a chance for the public to taste some of city’s best soups as well as meet with artists, chefs and members of the community to fight hunger in Central Indiana.
The events being held for the Super Bowl are endless–and extend far beyond Indianapolis’ downtown area near Lucas Oil Stadium where much of the action will take place.
OAKLEY’s Bistro is located on Indianapolis’ northwest side. Despite being 15 to 30 minutes from downtown (depending on how traffic behaves), they have had to make several adjustments to accommodate guests.
“We have a few larger parties coming in, companies that are entertaining, but for the most part we expect our business to come from hotels in our immediate area when people are deciding where to eat,” said Chris Hopkins, manager at OAKLEY’S.
Normally, OAKLEY’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays but will have special hours to be open on Sunday Jan. 29 and Monday Jan. 30. They will also be open on Super Bowl Sunday at 11 a.m. for a Champagne Brunch.
There are around 20 other areas and cities, some as far as 45 miles outside of Indianapolis, declared as Super Celebration Sites. Some sites are businesses while others are restaurants.
“Super Celebration sites are natural gathering places which provide opportunities for residents and visitors to get information about the many activities surrounding the Super Bowl,” their website said.
IN State Fair Host Committee Promotional Booth/Indianapolis Super Bowl Press Center
“The Super Celebration Site program is designed to connect Central Indiana regional communities hosting NFL fans and guests. Each site has housing for NFL guests and fans, a concentration of restaurants and other hospitality amenities and a collaborative group to plan and organize programming.”
Becoming a city set to host the Super Bowl is a great opportunity to showcase what a city has to offer. It’s a lot of work for all involved, but all the hard work pays off in both the short and long term.
Indianapolis sure has a lot to offer and it will be a great 10 days. We’ll be sure to follow up with the restaurants and food trucks mentioned, as well as Second Helpings to see how all events pan out.
If you have anything to share about your Super Bowl experience, whether it’s this year in Indianapolis or a previous year, let us know! We’d love to hear about it.