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-   -   Trailer Smoker v Food Truck (https://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=291401)

BarristerBBQ 04-27-2021 08:22 AM

Trailer Smoker v Food Truck
 
My partner and I are in the early stages of starting up a BBQ business. We are both (mostly) retired attorneys and want to transition into this business over the next couple of years. We are confident in our craft, but obviously taking it from the backyard to the street is a big leap. Our basic business plan is to start small by cooking for family/friends/church events over the next year so we can learn the ropes of cooking for a mass audience as well as work on obtaining reliable/quality meat and wood suppliers in the area. However, the set up in each of back yards wouldn't accommodate cooking for more than 10-15 people at a time so we need to invest in a rig. Our ultimate goal is to transition into a food truck which brings us to the current dilemma. In researching different rigs it looks like there is a small market for smokers with a sink set up on the trailer. When comparing this to our local health department guidelines it seems like we might be able to operate as a 'mobile food vendor' without the need for an actual truck or separate trailer as long as we use a commissary kitchen (there is a local one we can rent for $10 an hour plus storage). While we are still pretty far off from moving to a commercial venture, I would like to invest in a rig that could also carry us to the next stage. I can see several advantages and disadvantages to operating off a trailer smoker only, namely cost and ease of only having to transport the smoker. So, after that long winded setup, here are my questions:

1. Does have anyone have experience operating a set up like this (i.e. operating your trailer smoker as a food truck) and, if so, any tips, pros/cons you can share?

2. Anyone have any experience buying a rig like this and have any referrals to where you go it? I have found a handful of places within a days driving distance of us (we live in KY), but is obviously hard to tell exactly what you are getting without seeing it in person.

3. Or, should we just get a quality smoker now and just worry about transitioning into a different set up down the road. If so, has anyone bought a trailer smoker in the southeast and have a good referral?

Thanks in advance for anyone who got this far down in my post and has any thoughtful insight!

smokeisgood 05-05-2021 01:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BarristerBBQ (Post 4469831)
My partner and I are in the early stages of starting up a BBQ business. We are both (mostly) retired attorneys and want to transition into this business over the next couple of years. We are confident in our craft, but obviously taking it from the backyard to the street is a big leap. Our basic business plan is to start small by cooking for family/friends/church events over the next year so we can learn the ropes of cooking for a mass audience as well as work on obtaining reliable/quality meat and wood suppliers in the area. However, the set up in each of back yards wouldn't accommodate cooking for more than 10-15 people at a time so we need to invest in a rig. Our ultimate goal is to transition into a food truck which brings us to the current dilemma. In researching different rigs it looks like there is a small market for smokers with a sink set up on the trailer. When comparing this to our local health department guidelines it seems like we might be able to operate as a 'mobile food vendor' without the need for an actual truck or separate trailer as long as we use a commissary kitchen (there is a local one we can rent for $10 an hour plus storage). While we are still pretty far off from moving to a commercial venture, I would like to invest in a rig that could also carry us to the next stage. I can see several advantages and disadvantages to operating off a trailer smoker only, namely cost and ease of only having to transport the smoker. So, after that long winded setup, here are my questions:

1. Does have anyone have experience operating a set up like this (i.e. operating your trailer smoker as a food truck) and, if so, any tips, pros/cons you can share?

2. Anyone have any experience buying a rig like this and have any referrals to where you go it? I have found a handful of places within a days driving distance of us (we live in KY), but is obviously hard to tell exactly what you are getting without seeing it in person.

3. Or, should we just get a quality smoker now and just worry about transitioning into a different set up down the road. If so, has anyone bought a trailer smoker in the southeast and have a good referral?

Thanks in advance for anyone who got this far down in my post and has any thoughtful insight!

Never done it, never going to do it, but have thought about it quite a bit just for giggles. If I were going to do it, I would buy the biggest porch trailer I could afford and affix the smoker to the porch, then vend out the side window of the trailer, where you could have your A/C, refrigeration, sinks, etc. And instead of trying to find one on a lot somewhere, I would have one of the pit makers like Southern Q (in GA) or the likes build it for me. Pitmaker also makes a terrific trailer unit with multiple smokers and sinks. You guys are attorneys, you should have lots of cash. If you need me to help spend it for you, I'll be glad to design it and it will have all the bells and whistles....:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Your biggest catering problem in Louisville is when someone thinks BBQ, they immediately think Bootleg BBQ.... which I don't really care for, but they seem to be the top selling BBQ in town. And then you also now have Momma's, Mark's, FDKY, Old Hickory, Martin's, Holy Smokes, Mission BBQ, and City BBQ and a bunch of smaller ones. Lot's of competition, and these people all have brick and mortar restaurants behind their names.

Your best meat supplier is going to hands down be drive to Bardstown and work something out with Boone's Butcher Shop.

SmoothBoarBBQ 05-06-2021 05:17 PM

It really comes down to your local health department, but if this is something you want to seriously get into then you should not only look locally (in terms of health department guidelines) but also in your general region. Health codes can change in cities, counties, and states, and some are super specific, ie having to use an electric water heater versus a propane water heater.

I recently closed my BBQ food trailer business after 3 years in operation. It was a lot of fun and I made some decent money, but it was a massive undertaking and I worked more hours for less pay than at any other time in my adult life. Covid really didn't help and it made it very difficult to find enough food to cook and serve to my customers.

Generally those trailers with a smoker and a sink don't do well when it comes to health departments because everything is outside. I had a 20' trailer with a 6' porch which was covered and had my smoker. Even though my porch was covered the health department said it "didn't count" because it was still outside. Essentially they wanted to see those "gull wing doors" over the porch, and then have it screened in as well...absolutely insane and super expensive as well. So before you drop a dime on anything you should make an appointment with the health department and figure out EXACTLY what they will / will not allow. Again, you'll want to reach out to health departments in your region and not just your local city health department.

Overall if I were to do it again I'd buy a well equipped trailer with an 8' porch that had gull wing doors. This way you can open them up as necessary and close them when you're not in operation to protect your equipment. Also you need to define what kind of menu you'd like to have and that will determine your equipment. Are you planning on serving hush puppies, smoked and fried wings, fries, or onion rings? If so you'll need a fryer and that entails needing a vent hood with grease traps and the whole nine yards. Are you planning on doing "artisanal sandwiches" which will require you to toast the bread? If so then you'll need to look at an industrial toaster or flatop griddle.

It's hard to look so far ahead but doing so will keep you from buying equipment you don't need. Food trucks (or food trailers) are small and costly, and this is especially true if your health department mandates that all equipment inside is NSF or UL listed. Trying to find a smoker which meets these requirements is also going to be a monetary challenge.

Good luck with your endeavor.

HBMTN 05-09-2021 10:18 AM

We started out 12 years ago with a food trailer and a trailer counted custom pull cooker. It required two trips or multiple trucks to get both on location but is very effective. Through the years we grew to multiple pull behind smokers, along with stand-alone cookers like FEC120 and a large Ole Hickory Pit. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if two retiring attorneys are starting this venture then the budget to do it best might be there LOL. If so. I would suggest looking into a food trailer with a porch and personally, I'd equip it with an Ole Hickory that opened to the inside of the trailer. I'd set it up a flat top grill, deep fryer and a couple burners, and some type of oven, convection if possible. A real good hot holding cabinet, cold prep table, and a 4 bay propane steam table. A good P.O.S system and the best generator that you can afford. If you won't have a commercial kitchen also then don't fall for the rinky-dink small sinks. Get sinks that you can actually wash stuff in. The more water storage the better. Expect to spend $40-$70k to get the setup right to maximize effectiveness. Personally, if life as an attorney has been anywhere near successful, I'd consider a better way to spend my retirement because profitable, means 70-90 hours a week of work.

thirdeye 05-09-2021 12:39 PM

The nicest set-ups I've seen are the porch-style trailers BUT in my neck of the woods the food trucks set-up (with permission) in parking lots. I've never seen one parked on the street like in the big cities.

Of all the people I've talked too they prefer the trailer option because they can set-up their outfit, then use their pickup if needed to run errands etc. Also if they are vending for a weekend, they lock everything up and leave the trailer on their spot.


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