Archive for August 2009
One of the key factors in running a successful mobile hot dog stand is getting the right cart. But what is the right cart? What features should a good hot dog cart have? With 20 years of experience in both operating and building hot dog carts, we can help you to answer those questions. This article is written to help you navigate the decision process.
A hot dog cart is in actuality a miniature mobile restaurant. It has on a small scale many of the features of a take out restaurant. They also come under many of the same rules and regulations that restaurants do.
The one feature a cart does not offer is seating for customers. And, of course, the food serving capacity and the menu are more limited on a mobile food cart as compared to a typical sit down restaurant. The advantages of a hot dog cart are in the mobility, the low cost to the owner and quick convenient service they offer to customers.
The challenge for many prospective hot dog cart operators is selecting that cart that is just right for their needs and goals. A good hot dog cart must meet the owner’s expectations, pass the local health codes, be easy to operate, and provide a reliable source of income for many years.
The right cart should, first of all, suit the kind of food service business that you will be running. While many of the small cart models serve just wieners and sausages, many hot dog carts can actually serve much more than just hot dogs. Larger carts can be equipped with additional food preparation equipment for serving other food items such as French fries, onion rings, and fresh hot coffee. Pizza makers, popcorn poppers, griddles for breakfast foods, pop machines and a host of other equipment for preparing limitless tasty treats can be added to a large mobile vending cart.
The fully enclosed carts can serve virtually any fast food if it is prepared on a small gas or electric appliance. The internal volume and counter space allows for the installation of a wide variety of food preparation equipment. The storage space under the counters allows the operator to feed a large population. Two, three or even more operators can be accommodated in the largest stand-in cart.
So your desired menu offering and the customer traffic volume at your location will decide what size of cart you will require. A small menu of just hot dogs and drinks at a small location would be well served with something like the New York model. It can serve 65 meals a day including a can of soda. If you find you are selling more than 65 meals a day, a portable cooler or two can add some additional storage. A location with a lot more traffic could support a Hummer that had an internal capacity for about 100 sodas and dogs in the built -in cooler. But a really busy location would need a Willy Dog, an A101, or one of the Stand-In models.
The small carts can be equipped with a small Barbeque or a single fryer. This would enable an operator to add to the menu but storage capacity is limited. The larger carts are more easily modified for more equipment. The Stand-In models allow the greatest flexibility in storage, food options and ability to expand.
Weather is another consideration when selecting a mobile food stand. The small cart models are operated out of doors. The umbrella is the only shelter they offer. In warm seasons and southern climes this is all that is necessary. But if you operated in a northern area and want to work in your cart for all four seasons, you may find that a stand-in model is required for the all weather capability that they give. Heaters, fans and air conditioners can even be added if necessary.
Budget is often a primary concern for people considering getting started in a new hot dog cart business. The cart is the most expensive part of that new enterprise. The smaller carts are also the least expensive. The New Yorker offers an excellent platform to get started for a very reasonable investment. It also allows for some growth and flexibility in menu. The Hummer model offers about twice the capacity of the New Yorker for only a few hundred dollars more in base price making it a very popular choice.
If you find that your location outgrows the capacity of your cart, you can easily up-size. There is a vibrant market for used hot dog carts. Your hands-on experience will now give you a better idea of the size of cart you need. Your problem is success, which is a good problem to have. Success will also allow you to easily afford a larger model if you were on a tight budget for buying your first cart. Many of our customers have followed this route.
The right hot dog cart must meet the health regulations as specified by your local county health department. These regulations vary widely across the country so we have to know the specific requirements for your area to build a cart that will be legal and pass inspection.
Health departments generally require a mobile food vending cart to be made of corrosion resistant materials like stainless steel so that they will stand up to the rigors of daily cleaning. The food preparation equipment usually has to be of commercial grade and mounted so that it is easily cleaned and is safe to operate.
Hot dog carts are invariably required to have an on-board water supply. This water is used to supply equipment such as steamer pans with fresh clean water for cooking wieners. The water is also used to clean any utensils and dishes as well as for the cart operator to wash his or her hands. Our hot dog carts are supplied as standard with hot and cold running water. (except for the base model Starter cart and the tabletop Wee Willy model)
Some health departments require that the water supply on a mobile vending cart must be pressurized as opposed to the standard gravity feed method. This is easily accomplished by a factory-installed option that includes a 12-volt DC electric water pump. This pump can be powered by an on-board automotive type battery so that the cart remains totally self-contained without the need for an external power source.
Health departments sometimes require more on-board water volume than the cart is equipped with as standard. This, also, is not a problem as additional volume is easily added to most cart models.
Another common requirement by health officials involves the number of sinks installed on the cart. Additional sinks are easily added to most cart models. Splashguards between sinks can also be installed. The standard size sinks are 6” square and these meet most regulations for size requirements. Larger sinks can be installed, however, if required.
A few health departments demand that the equipment installed on a mobile food stand has been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). NSF certification costs a little more but, again, is easily accommodated. This requirement must be specified at time of order so that the right equipment is built in during construction and so that certain procedures are followed and recorded during the assembly process.
Yet another common health requirement in some areas is called a sneeze guard. This is a clear window that separates the customers from the food preparation area and prevents them from contaminating the food by sneezing, coughing, or touching. This involves installing a framework around part of or the entire top surface of the cart.
These health requirements affect the physical design of your hot dog cart and many are best installed at the factory. Therefore, the right hot dog cart for you will be the one that has all of the necessary options as specified by the county you will be operating in.
Ease of Operation
A hot dog cart should be completely self-contained without requiring additional equipment or supplies besides what is in or on the cart body. This greatly simplifies the cart operator’s job and reduces effort. This is particularly true when cleaning, setting up and transporting the cart.
A hot dog cart should be easy to work from. The operator should be able to perform all of the necessary tasks of preparing and serving food with minimum strain and effort. The best cart is designed so that the operator does not have to move around a lot to accomplish his work. The only exception would be when retrieving additional supplies from the storage compartments located around the cart body. The Willy Dog and A101 models are especially well designed in that the operator moves along only one side of the cart to accomplish all functions. These models were designed with our years of hands on experience in mind.
Reliability and Life Expectancy
A good quality built food cart will last for years and years, thus providing the owner with a very profitable source of income. This means the cart must be well-built using only high quality materials and rugged commercial grade equipment.
Our carts are built with heavy gauge stainless steel sheet metal so that they will be rugged, resist corrosion and last for many years in service. Where ever possible we use continuous welds to maximize strength. The towable carts are built onto DOT approved trailers and are ready for highway use.
This focus on quality and efficacious design is the reason for our success and growth. We are proud of our product and are customers tell us that we make the best hot dog carts and mobile food stands in the industry. Their greatest compliment is paid when they come back to order yet another cart to equip their growing food service business.
So which cart is best for you? The answer is found in the information shown above. You may find that you are limited in your choices by your budget considerations. You may have to climb up to the cart you really want in stages over time. Therefore, you may want to start small and upgrade to another larger model later on. Or if you have the financial resources, you may find that choosing one of the larger carts will make the decisions easier because of the flexibility and growth capacity that these units offer.
No matter what you decide, we are sure that you will be happy with your decision and that you will enjoy the experience. We look forward to helping you get started in a new career as your own boss operating your very own hot dog cart or mobile food vending stand. Your best decision is choosing us as your supplier!