Calling all Food truck/mobile coffee owners!!

I am really hot on this idea. The shop I run now is doing very well and I am thinking it may be time to try out a new concept. I have been looking into these trucks, and I think I have found the truck that I would like to buy. My questions at this point are many. I actually have a lot more of those than answers right now. I am doing my due diligence on the permitting aspect. I seem to have hit a roadblock in the question and answer phase at the city planning dept. This is the local authority who grants itinerant food cards (supposedly what I need). I would like to be in an area that is close to the university. Apparently a lot of those areas near the university are zoned UMU-1 (a no go). The man at the planning office told me that I need to find an address or a couple (would be better) at which I would like to park/sell from. He said that I need to find some addresses that are zoned MU-1 or MU-2. Another question arises there... Should I be looking at streets or actual physical addresses? If I am looking at actual addresses then aren't we talking private property again? He also suggested also that I look at using private property. The only problem I see with using private property is that I will end up paying rent to the property owner, thus making me less mobile. I want to be able to move around and have more of a "route" than a set in location. If I wanted to be in a set in location I think I would just go for another "brick and mortar" drive thru. Please enlighten me. I have been on the phone all afternoon with people who think that my idea would work better on Mars than where I am looking :|
 

BLENDERZ

New member
Oct 25, 2010
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0
im also selling my coffee/espresso , smoothie truck dont know if your interested.pls call me at 714-829-6828,jon
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
Well we've been mobile (as in espresso, drip, smoothies, chai, etc) for 1 year now and have learned alot. In our county there are really no restrictions to speak of that we have to abide by. Can't really help as to what areas are zoned for specific uses. Finding a "private" space on which to park isn't all bad as that is what we do daily. We pay $5 per day and have electricity that cost $2-3 daily. Hard to beat for a daily spot with guaranteed traffic right? Then we do all sorts of events on the weekends. Most don't have electricity though and then we run off propane, which is rather costly, but is reasonable for the $$$ we make most of the time.

Will also mention established "brick and mortar" businesses don't like mobile businesses in our area because they feel as if we are swooping in, getting their customers and then leaving. Nothing could be further from the truth. We pay everything as we go... having a van payment, subleasing that daily spot, paying for electricity, paying sales tax on everything, buying as much as we can local including lots of diesel/propane, we are fully insured on the van, liability for what we sell as well as coverage on our equipment and the list goes on. If these businesses were doing such a good job with their product they wouldn't have anything to bitch and whine about either.... Good luck! Being mobile has lots of advantages, but also some disadvantages... Later!
 
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Thanks Shadow,
So as far as being out in public, when your not doing an event, you are using private property? Are you on commercial private property? Do you ever get hasseled by any code enforcement entities for any reason? Do you ever just pull up at curbs or on an empty lot somewhere? I am finding that Acquiring an itinerant food card legitimately from the city is bound in red tape and BS. Do you do any kind of real cooking on your truck, or just heating and serving? I would like to do some actual cooking, on say a flat top with a ventalation and supression system. Does this complicate matters too much? Should I be just trying to do what I know works in a small space and limit cooking to what can be done in a microwave? Thanks for your help. I really want to make this a possibility sooner than later.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
Yes. It is an old Ford car lot, basically abandoned years ago when the new dealership was built locally. A realtor is in charge of trying to lease/sell it for the owner, but for now a couple of guys lease it at a really good price and do their own things with it. One guy runs a produce stand on a small part of it and the other guy uses it for heavy equipment storage/maintenance. A fairly new guy to it all also runs a hot dog cart on it since it is in the middle of a small town. So we pay $150 monthly (only $5 per day) and come/go as we please. Since there is a private electrical pole onsite we were able to get electricity and I bought 75 ft. of heavy gauge/heavy outdoor rated electrical cord (6 gauge/4 wire with a very tough insulation), bought the male/female ends and installed them... now we simply plug and play as I like to call it. I mean having a coffee lab on wheels is as awesome as it gets if you're a true coffee geek.

At first we did try the park/setup thing and it worked OK, but using propane is costly and you usually run into landowners with their hand out wanting alot of $$$ to park there. Or you have a visit from a local zoning guy, etc. telling you this is such and such property and that sort of thing. Getting into events is sort of easy because what we do is rare and there is no competition to conflict with doing most events. You have lots of people that do hot dogs, mini donuts, drip coffee.... but not espresso and all the specialty drinks that go with it. Then it really blows their minds when they peek inside and see a "real" machine, as in hands-on and not push a button and watch like so many places are heading. One guy last week stopped by and asked "you do espresso? I read on your website that you do and was wondering if you have a real machine to work with..." I told him "well I have a lever machine/hand mill at home for the old school thing, but what I have in here gets the job done quite nicely".... he then ordered a quad shot with 2 pkts of raw sugar and seemed rather impressed.....
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
We don't do much in the way of food... offer David's Biscotti, muffins and bagels that we buy at Sam's Club and heat onboard with a toaster over. Before we try anything new we always contact our local environmental health office just to get the OK. As in me buying the toaster to heat bagels, pastries, etc. We are considering offering either pre-made biscuits/sandwiches, or buying the stuff to make them ourselves for more profit. People appreciate having a one stop shop in the mornings. BUT to make it ourselves we have to pay a $100 fee for the permit and prove we have a certified kitchen to work out of. Ultimately we will be doing all the prep in the van since it was built to California health codes, which is considered the toughest to follow. But we still have to have a commercial kitchen that we say we work out of. If we offer pre-made food we won't have to bother with any of that.

Regarding a cooking area.... personally I wouldn't as I strongly push the coffee as that is what we specialize in and most of the room in our van is dedicated for that purpose as well as having an area for the drip station and smoothie station. BTW a fully loaded Dodge Sprinter 3500 Hi Top is expensive, but has all the room you will need. Maybe something small such as a panini press would handle what you'd like to do... Later!
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
Not a problem... was thinking you may be required to use a commissary, meaning a place to get potable water, dump grey water, etc. For us as long as we use potable water (which we do from the local municipality) we are fine as we dump our grey water on our property, which happens to be 2.5 acres of wooded area out in a country setting.

To make sure all equipment onboard gets the best water possible I decided to install an onboard filtration system. Thought about RO, but that would be too big/costly because when I fill the tanks up it is 90 gallons max and I needed something that would do what I wanted and do it with good flow for fast fillups. I stumbled across a setup called the Boji RV/Marine system, which consists of a carbon filter and softener. The softener does have to be regenerated manually, but that only takes 30-45 mins. every 2,00 gallons on average, which is maybe 3 times yearly as it stands now. This system didn't cost too much ($325 I think) and does wonders with filtering/softening the incoming city supplied water.

BUT having very good water means there isn't any chlorine that helps kill algae and other issues that can spawn in tanks exposed to warm air/sunlight. I test the water after it passes through the system weekly to ensure all is working well and recently noticed the PH was getting a bit high. Before the system right from the outdoor faucet it was 6.8-7.0, but after sitting in the tanks a bit it was climbing to around 8.4. Also noticed the water started getting a very slight greenish tint to it but the taste, smell was still fine. Was thinking both issues were related and discovered algae will indeed cause the PH to climb as it starves the water of oxygen. Had thought about disinfecting both water tanks, just wasn't sure how often I needed to do it. BTW this is a very common issue with RV setups, etc. Basically all I needed to do was add a bleach solution to the tanks, fill them up, let them sit for 4-5 hrs. then drain. Then refilled with fresh water, drove around a bit to slosh everything around and drained once more. Then refilled this morning and everything is perfect. Just something to think about in case you go mobile. Most of what applies to RVs will apply to anything mobile. Later!
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
Awesome? Not really, just trying to be helpful regarding something I'm really familiar with, as we have been doing the mobile thing for exactly 1 year now. Being mobile has alot of advantages, but it's not easy and has some drawbacks as well. Some people do this sort of thing for weekend events, caterings, etc. and aren't very involved in pounding the pavement. BUT we run the van throughout the week as a retail coffeeshop and do events on the weekends as well.

Don't know if I mentioned it in previous postings, but I will say it really helps if you offer a "donation" to get into certain events. Now most public events (fairs, festivals, etc) will be based on a set amount, some are percentage based, but to get into school functions and that sort of thing we offer a "donation" of 20% of our gross sales after we take sales tax out. This helps things run that much smoother and it helps us all out in one way or another. We also include any tips received on that day. During the week we give all tips to various non-profit agencies in our county.

BTW, we do have a website as I don't mention it too often. It is www.shotofspro.com if it's OK to post that here. Later!
 
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