Food Trucks vs. Food Trailers
While both mobile restaurants serve dishes that are similar, there are many differences in the equipment, ingredients used, cooking time, and other factors. The differences can be so significant for both regular customers and mobile restaurateurs that it may be best to consider them two separate business entities.
So, what is the difference between a food truck and a food trailer? A food truck, in the simplest terms, is a kitchen on wheels. A small commercial vehicle with storage for food preparation items and equipment that is to be used and cooked on the vehicle and unable to function without a connection (power or water) at all times. A food trailer is one that is towed behind a vehicle and the term typically means that it’s an open-air kitchen on wheels.
Before you decide to open a mobile food business, it’s important to understand the key differences between food trailers and trucks.
Key Differences Between Food Trucks & Food Trailers
Let’s take a quick look at some of the key differences between food trucks and food trailers.
The equipment of an average food truck is smaller than that of a mobile trailer. Both units are equipped with refrigerators for storage, but trailers use gas-powered units while trucks use electric or diesel units.
Trucks typically have smaller cooking equipment than trailers because of limited space, while food trailers require more room for cooking larger dishes.
Size & Capacity
Food trucks are typically smaller than mobile food trailers and contain between 6 to 9 square feet of counter space inside the truck. Food trucks can typically serve around 60-70 customers per hour, while trailers typically serve 100 to 150 customers per hour.
Trucks are confined to permanent locations, but food trailers can be moved into different areas for short periods of time or during busy times of the day. Because they are more mobile, food trailers have a larger variety of dishes available than trucks. Food trucks also have a limited menu.
Type of Food
Typically, food truck dishes are classic American dishes such as burgers and fries, while food trailers specialize in regional dishes such as Cajun cuisine or seafood.
Food trucks offer more options for breakfast items than trailers do. Food trailers also tend to serve lighter meals that aren’t heavy on fried foods, while food trucks offer more fried foods on their menu.
Food trailers tend to have lower prices of entrees on average than food trucks. Food trailers also serve more expensive dishes with gourmet ingredients, while food trucks emphasize affordable, traditional dishes available at a lower price point.
Type of equipment & mobility determines how often menus need to be changed. Food trailers have more options for changing menus because they are more mobile.
Running a food truck or trailer can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand the differences before you get started.
What is a Food Truck?
A food truck is a self-contained mobile commercial kitchen, usually on a large vehicle or trailer, to help provide the ideal platform for serving food.
Food trucks are typically equipped with a counter and kitchen where customers can see their orders being prepared.
A typical food truck serves different types of cuisine such as Mexican, Italian, or American depending on the client base in one location.
Food trucks can be found parked in various places such as near schools and office buildings during lunchtime and in industrial areas late at night.
Food trucks are also used by catering companies to serve at parties, business functions, weddings, etc.
There are many types of food sold in food trucks such as tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, doughnuts, and chicken wings. Food truck vendors typically offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Food truck operators are also able to cater events by selling food at the location of the event
Compared to other mobile units, food trucks are more established and better known in the public eye because of their widespread use in many cities across America.
How Much Does a Food Truck Cost?
Food trucks are part of a growing trend in America. Nearly every city across the US has at least one food truck catering to customers’ needs. Serving everything from burgers and fries to tacos and Asian fusion. Food trucks can serve both sit-down meals or act as takeout or catering services.
If you are looking to get involved in the food truck business, there are several things you’ll need to consider before making that decision.
Food trucks cost anywhere between $35,000 and $100,000 depending on the type of food they serve and their overall quality. You also want to consider what kind of equipment or kitchen supplies you will need to make the type of food you plan on serving.
For example, if you are looking to serve quick and simple meals (burgers, fries) then your equipment costs can be quite low. On the other hand, if you plan on making sushi or organic foods, your food truck may have a higher start-up cost.
The first thing you will need to do is sit down and create a business plan. This includes determining your costs for building your truck, purchasing equipment, food product costs, labor, marketing, operating expenses (gas, insurance), licenses & permits, taxes, etc.
You have to have some sort of idea of what the profit margin on every item you sell is going to be.
What is a Food Trailer?
A food trailer has the same function as a food truck, but everything is on a smaller scale and more suited for tight spaces; it can be towed by a regular car!
You will find them at special events, parties, film shoots, music festivals, and along roadsides.
Food trailers are mobile kitchen buildings that typically stand on wheels and have a propane-powered stovetop, oven, and sometimes refrigeration.
Unlike food trucks, they do not need to be permanently attached to water or electric utilities.
Because of their larger size, a food trailer can have a larger cooking capacity than a food truck, but they are generally limited to stationary locations.
A food trailer is called a “trailer” because it can be moved from one place to another. Many of them are towed onto different parking areas, even public streets, where they are opened up and ready for business. They are usually connected to utilities at this point so that electricity, running water, gas supply, etc. are available.
A food trailer can be used as a small business or for private events. Food trailers are often used at festivals, fairs, carnivals, concerts, shopping centers’ outdoor pedestrian malls, and other outdoor gatherings.
How Much Does a Food Trailer Cost?
Food trailers come in many different types of styles; the main differences are in the kinds of foods that they sell. As a general rule, food trailers are mobile and expedient. The cost of a food trailer will vary depending on the size and quality of the unit.
Many trailers can be purchased used for between $15,000 to $25,000. Because of the high cost of food truck permits, it is often difficult for small businesses to afford new trailers.
Used equipment allows these companies to compete with established restaurants that may not have started out as mobile. The average size of a trailer is between 20 and 32 feet long by around 8 to 10 feet wide.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Mobile Food Service
The initial costs of starting a food truck business are much lower than compared to starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, the ongoing expenses can be overwhelming.
For this reason, many people opt for food truck/trailer leasing instead of buying their own mobile food service. It’s far less capital intensive and it doesn’t require any real maintenance or upkeep.
What Types of Food Will You Serve?
This is one of the most important decisions you can make because it will determine which type you’ll buy.
For example, if your menu is heavy on sandwiches and light on hot dogs, you may want to invest in a long-haul truck rather than a trailer.
If you are unsure which type of food truck will work best for the menu items you plan to serve, take some time to research each type and figure out which vehicle will be most economical to operate.
Where Do You Plan to Park It?
In addition to the cost, you also have to factor in where you’ll keep it when it’s not being used for business. If you live near a warehouse district or industrial area, chances are good that you’ll be able to find an inexpensive monthly lease or parking space at a local business.
If you prefer to keep your food truck or trailer in a residential area, look for a lot near the center of town where there is always foot traffic and plenty of pedestrians looking for lunch on the go. Many towns now have commissary kitchens that offer parking spaces for rent.
How Much Time Will You Invest in The Business?
This is probably one of the most important questions to answer because it can mean either an added expense or saving money. For example, some food truck owners only show up during lunch hours and leave everything else (advertising, marketing, etc.) to experts.
If this works for you, you don’t have to spend any extra time working on those things. But, if you plan on marketing your food truck yourself, be prepared to invest a lot of time in making flyers and other types of advertisements for the launch of your business.
Even though there are several things to consider, owning a food truck or trailer can be an awesome investment. Just make sure you are choosing the right mobile food service for you and your business model.