Has anybody ever owned/operated a mobile food van?

Looking to pick brains and experience here.

I’m having a sort-of midlife crisis, and although I have a full time office job (worked there for over 10yrs now) I hate it with a passion: the pay is ordinary and I’m starting to have nightmares about working there for the next 20 yrs, just getting by, then retiring on nothing and dropping dead.

I’ve had some serious health issues over the past few weeks that allows me to claim a government allowance: I haven’t actually received it yet, but it’s pending apparently. But my doc has advised me that due to the severity of my condition, I may well be eligible for a longer term pension: application for that will be submitted on Monday. In other words, I might be in a position of not having to return to the job I loathe (and which exacerbates my back issues) and it will give me a bit of breathing space to explore some other options in my life…YAY. :):slight_smile:

My passion is cooking, and whilst I’d never make Master Chef, my munger is good, healthy, tasty and I’ve never had a complaint yet. My ex and I own an old caravan (that is currently not being used ) but is in very good condition for its vintage (1960’s). My daydream at the moment is to transform the van into a mobile food van, doing weekend markets, festivals, wherever people want something yummy and filling. I do NOT want to do burgers, chips and dimsims. :smiley:

Now I know that rules and regulations differ from country to country, but I’d be really interested in hearing people’s experiences…either as an operator or even as a customer.

(My daughter is the entrepreneurial type who understands all things financial, tax and insurance etc. I just know how to cook up a storm.)


I had to Google munger and this cracked me up:

I’m assuming it means something different in Aussie.

Oh dear, language is a funny thing innit?

In Strine, munger means food. Not your haute cuisine stuff, more big globs of stuff like say goulash, spag bol, honest home-cooked food.

If you have a mob around for dinner, and the consensus is that it was ‘bonza munger’, you have just earned the Aussie equivalent of a Michelin Hat or something.


I’ve seen enough episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible and so forth to say don’t do it. A lot of the people who own the restaurants on these shows claim they got into it because they love to cook but they don’t know how to operate a restaurant.

And also, it’s going to cost you thousands of dollars to transform a caravan (presumably one that was meant to sleep and travel in) into one suitable for use as a food truck. Around here many of the food trucks were fitted out by specialty companies at a cost of thousands.

Plus you already have health issues. Did you think that being in the food business would be a walk in the park?

A good friend of mine does this, he has a trailer that he takes to fairs and events and uses it for catering jobs as well. But if you don’t want to do the typical junk food like burgers and fries your options are limited, that’s what people are looking for at the outdoor events. If you want to make quality food then catering might work out better for you, a lot of caterers around here are bringing their own equipment to the venue so they don’t have worry about the old stove in the church basement. However, if you have health issues you should be considering how that will affect you in commercial cooking. Because my knees are now shot I won’t be doing much of that ever again. Cooking for a hundred people is a lot harder than making a family dinner.

I’m not going to be operating a restaurant, and I’m under no illusions that it will be hard work: my health issues presently involve being unable to sit, once upright I’m pretty good to go.

And yes, it will involve some major renovations. We’re not looking at this as a short term quick reno…looking more at probably six months or so, picking up second-hand equipment (eg bain maries, grills, vent systems, fridges, stainless steel benches etc) according to all the rules and regulations as set out by the govt authorities. My daughter’s partner is a tradesman and we have plenty of blokey labour on hand to do the hard yakka transforming the van into a vendor unit. We’re still in the pre-homework stage and reckon we can do it well under $5k

And we’re probably only looking at maybe 6-8 main dishes (current thoughts are savoury pancakes, curries/chillies and rice, lasagnes, and quick stuff like sausage rolls and home-made pies…more or less will be added as time goes on), and of course will be dependent upon the venue where we’ll be operating on any given weekend. Gotta have a lentil stew for the hippie rainbow festivals. :smiley:

Reading the Aussie English in this thread is like watching an anthropological documentary.

Yakka. Munger.

Fascinating. (Takes notes)

:slight_smile: Good luck!

That’s far too many. For a festival where you’ll be competing with other food vans you probably want 2 or 3 at most.

Hey thanks Quartz. It’s stuff like that I’d not really considered, and never cease to marvel at the wealth of info this board offers. :slight_smile:

Thinking I might offer my services (free) for a day helping out at an existing foodie van just to get some pointers and more advice. Don’t want to get underfoot, but maybe at one of our local Sunday Markets here in Melb where they never seem too rushed.

I have a friend with a similar dream (in DC where food trucks are serious cuisine). He got a part time job on one to learn the ropes, and spent a lot time practicing high-quantity fast food preparation with his friends as simulated customers. I believe he was planning to save $10,000 US for the van.

You might also visit an area where there are multiple trucks and wander around to take notes. How many entrees on each truck? How many beverages? What is the approximate turnaround time per customer? (Watch a customer place their order and then see how long before they get the food.) And how tightly grouped is the food? Do you have sushi and hamburgers? Indian food and tacos? In my experience the food trucks specialize, although you get some fusion combos, like the famous Korean taco truck in Los Angeles.

And you should have a website to let people know where you’ll be (and what the menu is). The trucks with a following will send out a tweet announcing where they will be that day.

Agreed. I’d also be sure that your food is strongly themed - make sure your customers recognize your tucker as YOURS. The example of the fusion Korean tacos is a good one. If you do 8 random dishes from various cuisines, you’ll just confuse people!

The most successful food stalls at Parap markets (in Darwin) are the one-hit wonders, like the tropical fruit smoothies, or Mary’s laksa booth. If your customers are regular and local, word soon gets around.

My small town has a taco truck that seems to be doing pretty well; they have a Facebook page that tells everyone where they’re going to be. I’ve had their tacos, they’re delicious. They park for a couple hours around mid-day for lunches, and then they show up in front of a bar/brewery from maybe 6-12 on Friday and Saturday nights.

My home office also has a bevy of food trucks that come around for lunch. I’m remote, so I don’t get to partake, but every week there’s a schedule that the receptionist emails to everyone.

That seems to be the cash-cow for food trucks: showing up at office buildings at lunch. I know when I was at the office for a week, the wait at the food truck was 20 or 30 minutes because of the loooooong line. So I gotta think they are making at least a decent living at it, since there’s 3-5 different trucks every week.

There’s also a cupcake truck. Yum!

Another angle on the menu thought. Think about not just the overall dishes being made, but also the ingredients going into it. If you can overlap ingredients, it makes inventory management much easier, which can translate into lower overhead and less waste.

My personal issue with a lot of places that I see food trucks at is the lack of tabletop places to put things down. I order a plate of something and a bottle of soda. I have to put the bottle in a pocket or on the ground near me until I’m done eating, because my hands are full. I’m not sure if there is a good way to deal with this from the food truck’s perspective…but I wanted to throw it out there for you.


<that comment won’t make as much sense in a few weeks.>

So how do you say “roach coach” in Australian?

I’m curious if you’ve considered a car-towable food cart as opposed to a full-scale food truck? Here in NYC, there are far more towable food carts, many with full cooking facilities (that operate off water and propane tanks). I’ve seen Thai food, falafel, mexican, and indian, and many other full blown cuisines served from a 2-person freestanding cart. And the coffee & baked goods cart that makes egg sandwiches on their grill is ubiquitous as well.

I think the cost of converting your RV – remember you’re going to have to comply with local food safety regs, of which you are presently ignorant – could be quite substantial. Better to just sell the RV and buy a street legal cart. :slight_smile:

They are quite the thing at the moment in Sydney. They even have a website. They turn up every week near where I work and the popular ones are Let’s Do Yum Cha (love the pork and peanut dumplings), the one that does overpriced slider burgers, Vegie Patch and the one that does jaffles. Here is a review of some.I have tried something from each of them and, although all the food is OK, the only one I have tried more than once is the yum cha truck.

There is frequently a stall at the same place on market day selling gozleme with a few savoury fillings. I used to get them once in a while but they are so popular that it now involves queuing so I don’t bother. However they are a breeze to throw together and I do them at barbies but with completely different fillings. I have imagined creating a business and calling it Ozleme and attempting what you contemplate with a more imaginative array of fillings than the stall offers.

You’ll be on your feet for a few solid hours a day (more if you work more than one mealtime). Will your health accommodate that?

In my area, food truck prominence is still quite new. The food truck lunches tend to be a bit more expensive than getting food to go from the fixed sandwich/salad lunch places around. I assume that while they’re saving on rent, they’re paying more for ingredients by not being able to buy at the same large scale. For me, then, I’m partly paying for the novelty factor, and I don’t know if I’ll keep going back (and paying extra) as time goes on. I’m also not sure what kind of draw these trucks will pull in once the weather turns cold and messy.

This is one of my favorite browsing sites whenever I start day dreaming about a food truck: http://concessiontrailerswarehouse.com/

Gives a great idea of what’s needed for each food type, and typical layouts, etc.

Wow…there’s some very serious setups on that site!

My ambitions are a* little* more modest: our caravan is vintage 60’s and looks much like this.

Thankfully it’s in very good nick and has always been garaged undercover so no structural damage. It’s fully road-worthy, so all we gotta do is gut it, get it food-worthy, pay lots of fees and insurance and shit, and away we go!

Well, that’s the theory anyway. :stuck_out_tongue: