Building a Mobile Food (Lunch Wagon) coffee cart

Mr Shave

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Hello all

This site has been a great resource during the planning process. Thank you for all of those that have contributed and provided answers to other members. I hope this thread will help others thinking about opening a cart/van/cafe in the future and those currently in the process.

Currently I am working on installing the plumbing and installing the electrical components

Original plan was to have 3 fresh water and 3 grey water tanks. The main reasoning for having multiple tanks (versus a couple larger tanks) is to fit them around the truck frame. Other reasons include: preventing the water from sloshing around and ability to tanks in/out of service based off needs.

With the revised plan only 2 fresh water tanks (25 + 35 = 70 gallons) and 3 grey tanks (40 + 25 + 35 = 110 gallons) will be used. In the state of Hawaii, and in most counties, grey water tank capacity needs to be 115% larger then fresh.

How much water does a typical mobile food cart / van use in a day?

How much water do you use?

Do you have hot water available?

Thanks,
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Personally I'd minimize the number of tanks, lines, fittings, etc. to minimize leaks down the road. Having smaller tanks placed strategically based on the frame is a good layout though.

I have a total fresh water capacity of 90 gals... 45 for the sinks/espresso machine and the other 45 for the icemaker. The grey tank is 50 gals and I routed the drain for the icemaker under the van since it's simply fresh water and no need to occupy precious space in the grey tank with it.

Water usage depends on your efficiency more than anything. If you do have an onboard icemaker, be sure to get an air cooled one as water cooled units use much more water due to the extra circulation needed for cooling.

Hot water will be a must and you can get by with the typical 2.5 gal~ type made for vending.

Right now if I fill both tanks I can vend 2-3 days based on current needs. I installed a high volume carbon filter/softener onboard so we can get water whenever/wherever if need be even if we aren't at home. As long as the water is potable it can be used.
 

Mr Shave

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Thanks for the advice and comments.

I live in Hawaii and all of the tanks were special ordered. The thing that I have "continually learned" is you can never plan enough.
I ended up buying a tank, cost couple hundred?, and am not going to end up using it.

Cost of tanks + shipping to CA $1,399.95 + shipping to HI
Cost of fittings, clamps, hoses, and misc parts $283.43

So yes, the parts and fittings did add up very quickly.

HI doesn't require hot water for my menu. I do not think that is sanitary and plan on installing a small tankless water heater.
HI does require that all ice run off be collected in grey water tanks. I suppose every county views things differently.

With your 90 gallons, how many customers do you serve on average?
What does your van offer, as far as products?
What is your product mix like?
Have you had any issues with leaks? 2 of my tanks will not be readily accessible. They are going to be in a tool box that is bolted to the frame of the truck. I am not thrilled about this, but it is the most feasible way I thought of installing them.

Koolaupoko-20110321-00019.jpg
grey tank
Koolaupoko-20110321-00026.jpg
tool box that will hold 2 tanks and be mounted underneath truck
 

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shadow745

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Can't really say how many we serve on the 90 gallons total as all business stops/events we do are different. If we do more blended drinks we have to wash/rinse/sanitize more often, therefore we replenish sink water more often. OR if we do an event in which drip coffee is in high demand I will have to use alot of water for brewing airpots back-to-back. For example, we did an outside event yesterday and in the first 2 hrs. I had already brewed over 3 gallons of drip coffee. If I had to give a number I'd say we could take care of 300 cups or more before running low. Again, this depends on drinks being made and how efficient you are with water usage.

FWIW the past year we have been at a stationary spot daily (old car lot) and doing events on the weekends. Now we are going fully mobile business-to-business and it's working very well. This past Friday we vended at a new business and cranked out 74 specialty drinks in 3 hrs. with most of them being blended, which require more time/ingredients. Ended up making about $300 gross in a 3 hr. time frame. Pretty good if you ask me as we break even around $150 per day. Trust me when I say an average of $100 per hr. when you have an average ticket price of $3.00 per drink will keep you BUSY. We used maybe 15-20 gals of water for this 3 hrs. of work. I fill the tanks pretty much daily as well as keeping the grey tank emptied out as often as possible.

Our menu can be found here... Menu » ShotofSpro.com - When you're feeling slow, grab a shot of 'spro!

We stick to traditional methods of drink building, but I will certainly bend the rules to make anything a customer wants provided we have the ingredients. We didn't get carried away with cup size though and we are constantly asked for bigger sizes.
 
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Mr Shave

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The fabricator I have been using is behind and might not be able to help out this week. Hopefully, we can get the other tool box installed this week. This would allow us to start building out the inside.

This is looking at the right side of the truck. It will have the pass through window, refrigeration, espresso machine, and espresso grinder.
2011-03-27%2017.03.08.jpg



This is looking at the left side of the truck. It will have the generator, coffee brewer, grinder, water filtration, sink, blender, and shave ice machine.

2011-03-27%2017.03.32.jpg


Shadow - thanks for sharing your menu, it looks nice with a balance of breath and depth. What is the Italian water drink?
 
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Mr Shave

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Unfortunately, nothing is probably going to get done until the 7th. The fabricator I'm using is busy this week and next week I'll be out of town for a few days.

In the mean time I'm planning on the circuit panel, mapping conduit, and looking for a replacement motorcycle muffler for the generator.
The generator I have is LOUD. It does not purr like those Honda eu2000, so I'm going to do something similar to Joel's Garage: Quiet Generator Muffler

I used to live in Seattle awhile ago. Any must visit shops in Downtown or UDistrict?
 

Mr Shave

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Wow where have I been for the last month?

Well I went to Seattle for about a week and also had a wedding in Anaheim.

Updates: all water tanks are installed, electrical has started going in, and water filtration is in!

everpure.jpg


drool :decaf:

More to come soon!
 
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Mr Shave

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The refrigerators, freezer, ice chest, and sink are all now in the truck.

I really thought once all the equipment was in the truck everything would start going faster.

Koolaupoko-20110522-00089.jpg


Started the counter that will hold the espresso machine, grinder, and syrups. The counter was built to go over the fridge but it is a little high.

What are the counter heights in your shop / mobile unit?


Unpacking refrigerators
Staying "True" to the plan | Mobile Adventure

Building cabinets
Building Cabinets Day 1 | Mobile Adventure

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Mr Shave

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Bar layout

Cabinets Day 2 | Mobile Adventure

IMG085.jpg


counter 1 is coming along nicely

couple of questions
1. Do you think it would be weird to position the grinder at a 45 degree angle facing the barista? I would do this for ergonomics and to save space. It felt comfortable and natural while standing where the espresso machine would go.

Thoughts???

2. Anyone used the guard with the Rattleware knock box have any feedback on the product?

Ran another conduit line for the espresso machine
Installed the sink and did a soft hook up for the plumbing. I didn't hook everything up just in case we need to move the fridge during counter construction.

I'll post more pics Thursday or Friday

:lol:
 

Mr Shave

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Ruby

The truck is 24 ft long, the back area is 14 ft by approximately 8 ft.
I plan on having a 2 person operation for the morning rush then transitioning
to 1 person if businesses doesn't justify 2 people.

2011-01-29%25252014.13.11.jpg


IMG_0367.JPG


both of these photos don't do a good job of showing the depth.

What are you thinking??
 

Ruby

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I'm thinking the place I'm looking at has a pretty small bar/kitchen area and I was wondering how small a space you were planning on working with.
 

Mr Shave

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Mobile Internet

Own - I personally do not have internet in my mobile unit.

Other people have put internet in for video cameras, POS, and for customers.
It can be done with a mifi (hot spot device), mobile broadband usb drive, or a wan solution from Clear Wire.

At this point I do not see the value in adding internet to the truck, when I already have it on my mobile device.
 
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