One thing you don’t often hear mentioned in any discussion about the mobile food concession business is: support vehicles. Support vehicles are the grunts of the concession business – working humbly and hard behind the scenes transporting the booth, equipment, stock and living quarters to and from events. Whereas some vendors manage with a single pickup truck, others have a caravan of trailers, trucks, and motor homes.
My first support vehicle was a borrowed pickup truck. It pulled my small concession trailer and a little extra stock. At night I rolled-out my sleeping bag onto the floor of the concession trailer. In the morning I brushed my teeth in the hand-washing sink. A few years later I was able to buy a used Chevy window van. Though I couldn’t stand upright to dress, at least I could sleep without the aroma of fryer grease in my nostrils.
As the years went by I had several concession trailers and several trucks with campers. Then, as the quality of my events improved, I added a tent with a separate menu to my business. With that I needed an entirely different support vehicle. I needed something that would pull my concession trailer and its stock. The same vehicle also needed to haul my tent with its equipment and stock. I also needed a place to sleep while I was away at events. Because my business has only one driver – me – I needed an all purpose vehicle. This was a tall order.
I considered all sorts of vehicles. Initially, I thought I might get a motor home with a ramped “toy hauler” on the rear. It was easy to imagine myself traveling in luxury with a hot morning shower, kitchenette, wood paneling and a real bed to sleep in. The question was whether or not a motor home was built to pull and haul the substantial weight of the entirety of my business.
My next idea was to modify a small bus with a handicap lift, which would come in handy for loading and unloading stock. I was pretty sure a bus had the under carriage and power to do the job. I also really liked the funky aspect of curtained windows and custom built amenities. I didn’t go so far as to picture Ken Kesey’s bus, “Further”, with psychedelic flowers, but I was close. Alas, neither a motor home nor bus was within my price range.
After many months of rubber-necking used vehicle lots I came across a 1979 Ford F600 high box. It had been retired from Columbia Helicopters in Canby Oregon, where it was used to service logging helicopters. It had a 4 speed split shift transmission, heavy springs and a 380hp gas engine. The box was insulated and had high windows so I could see out. Under the belly on one side was a 6000 watt Onan generator. On the other side was an air compressor. It carried two 50 gallon fuel tanks. I asked my mechanic to check it out. He pronounced it a pretty good truck. The price tag was an affordable $5000.
I was in love. Over the next few months I walled the 14-foot box into two sections. Within the front 8-foot section I installed bunk beds, a table, a small toilet closet, a plumbed sink, and carpeting. In the rear I installed a lift gate. The air compressor I sold, and now use that belly box for storing tools and spare parts. With this truck I pulled my concession trailer, hauled a tent, and equipment, and enough stock for two food booths. I also had a comfortable sleeping quarters.
A few years later I decided to focus my business entirely on the tent so I sold my concession trailer and bought a 12 foot utility trailer. Now, this trailer hauls my entire concession business. In the rear section of the truck I carry the plastics and breakables so they don’t get jostled or smashed by wayward equipment in the trailer.
After fourteen years I still love my old truck. But this love affair could be on the rocks.
To be continued…
New subject: Have you noticed how online tutorials always seem to think you already know what you’re doing? I gave up on widgets, sidebars, and RSS feeders and have ordered two books on Amazon.com about learning WordPress. In the meantime, please continue to excuse this blatant self promotion: Learn about the concession business, my book, Food Booth, The Entrepreneur’s Complete Guide to the Food Concession Business, the Mobile Concession Business Plan Workbook, etc. etc. Go to my website, www.foodbooth.net