You’ve decided that mobile catering is for you, great! You’ve got the idea and vehicle sorted and the menu finalised but now you need to kit it out for use.
So, we come back to the question that brought you here in the first place – what equipment do you need to run a catering van? Well, stick with me because we’re focusing on the must-have equipment you need to run a mobile catering business in this new blog.
Before we start, I just wanted to say that the type of equipment will largely depend on your choice of cuisine and style of cooking. For example, for authentic Chinese and Japanese, you’ll most likely need a rice cooker but that’s not going to be of such importance if your truck specialises in fried chicken. Therefore, this list focuses on more general suggestions that should fit all, but still take them with a pinch of salt and customise them to fit your business.
Check your space
Before we get into it and start splashing the cash on fancy new equipment, your first port of call is going to be working out how much space is available to you. Once you’ve done this, the shopping spree can begin!
A griddle is the piece of equipment needed for cooking those much-loved foods like burgers, eggs and pancakes.
If you want to get your sauces simmering, protein cooked and anything in between sautéing, pan-frying or boiling, a range is necessary for it all to be possible.
We don’t always like seeing a microwave, but sometimes nothing else will do. And as street food culture is fast-paced and the cooking style practical, this no-fuss piece of equipment allows you to heat food quickly.
We know food truck vending is fast-paced and, because of this, customers expect a quick turnaround, so you want to find as many smart and fast ways to work as possible. A toaster is a great corner cutter for achieving the perfect texture on bread for sandwiches or breakfast items like bagels, muffins and even waffles.
A fryer will be a must for anyone looking to cook popular food items like chips, donuts, churros and spring rolls.
✓ Ventilation and exhaust
With all that cooking going on, you don’t want to smoke yourself out. Proper ventilation may need to be fitted, especially if you’re going to be using a griddle. Don’t forget about that grease either, an exhaust hood will help to remove grease vapours produced by your other equipment that could become dangerous.
Warming and holding
This little gem is an affordable and portable piece of equipment that will help to keep your food warm. You will probably be able to pick a decent one up second-hand, but just ensure it’s reliable. You’ll want to check the lids fit the trays and the burners work.
✓ Standard tools of the trade
From spatulas, slotted spoons, tongs, knives and even a knife rack and holder, you may recognise these standard cooking utensils from your mum’s kitchen, but they will also form the basic foundations of your own.
✓ Chopping boards
It doesn’t matter if you’re cutting, chopping, dicing or slicing, a selection of chopping boards are essential for any chef or kitchen, in fact.
And did you know they follow a specific colour code for what can be prepped on each?
Most are self-explanatory but the basic rules to follow are: white for bakery and dairy, yellow for cooked meat, brown for root vegetables, red for raw meat, blue for raw fish and green for salad, fruit and fresh veg.
Following this code is not only basic practice for any professional kitchen but also extremely important to prevent contamination so, if you’re likely to forget or want to remind your staff, why not stick a laminated wall chart up? It will be a quick point of reference for anyone who may not remember.
✓ Stainless steel worktop
Depending on the space available, a stainless steel worktop can be added. It will be easy to clean and provide extra prep space.
✓ Pots and pans
Whether it’s stainless steel or Teflon, you’re going to need saucepans and frying pans to make those specialty dishes.
The easiest way to ensure your food is cooked thoroughly to keep customers safe.
✓ Condiment dispenser
Don’t be the guy that gives out sachets of sauces. They’re inconvenient for those eating and typically more expensive to buy from the wholesaler. Instead, look to buy a condiment dispenser. If you keep it inside, it’s an easy way to control portions or you can put it outside when serving if you’re not too fussed about how much ketchup someone has with their burger.
Alternatively, you can buy squeeze bottles, but they aren’t as good for the environment – unless they’re refillable, of course!
Let customers add salt and pepper for extra seasoning or offer sugar, spices, cheese or crushed chillies alongside your toppings.
✓ Paper food trays and cups
A classic, no-nonsense way to serve your food. They are cheap to buy in bulk and easy for the customer to take and throw away.
✓ Disposable cutlery
You want customers to be able to enjoy your food, don’t you? Well then, in order for this to happen you’ll need to have disposable cutlery at the ready! You can buy plastic, but I would opt for wooden. They may be slightly more expensive, but your conscience will be clear because they are better for the environment.
✓ Napkin dispenser
Especially essential if you’re serving something messy or typically eaten with your hands. Leave it outside for customers to help themselves.
Whilst this might not be your first thought, you’re also going to need a good POS system. Whether that be used for managing orders and taking payments or digging a little deeper and analysing data, this tool will ensure your business runs smoothly.
✓ Under counter refrigerator
This is probably the most common of refrigerators as it doubles up as a countertop and allows you to maximise space.
✓ Glassdoor refrigerator
Depending on what you plan to sell, you may want to consider a glass door refrigerator. It’s a great place to store all canned or bottled drinks and comes in a variety of different sizes so you could get a mini one and perch it on the countertop to help you upsell!
The bigger the better for this one. If you have the space, a multi-compartment sink will not only help you get through those dirty dishes but could also act as extra storage when the cleaning is done.
You’ll also need a hand sink fitted for you and your employees to wash hands and keep your food safe.
Not everyone is going to have the luxury of a lot of space but, if you do, then look to get a dishwasher. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re not having to spend several miserable hours bent over the sink.
They come in a variety of different sizes so, even if you are a little short on space, you should be able to find one suitable. They take little to no time to run and normally come with stackable trays so you can get ahead and prep the next batch of dirty dishes.
✓ Cleaning and sanitising products
I think this one speaks for itself; you’re going to need to keep your truck clean. You’ll need to have sanitising and cleaning products for surfaces, floors and dishes.
After what we’ve all been through with COVID, it’s more important than ever to have sanitiser available. Have a pump in and outside. You want your customers and staff to feel equally safe.
✓ Bin and liners
Another one that speaks for itself and ensures your vehicle stays fresh and neat. Keep a large stock of liners, there is nothing more frustrating than running out of these!
✓ Broom, dustpan and mop
Tidy truck, tidy service. You’ll want to keep the floors clean and clear to not only keep everything orderly but to also prevent anyone tripping or skidding.
As I said earlier, your equipment is going to differ depending on what you serve, so it’s important to give a thought to the added extras that are going to make a difference to your business. For example, if you’re a crepe business then a heated crepe maker is pretty essential. Or if fresh donuts are your jam, you’ll need a fryer.
You need to have a good ol’ think about what’s needed in order to get your food out to the public.
Before you go
I’m hoping I’ve made it a little easier for you to see what you need to kit your kitchen out. Whilst the equipment is an essential step in the process of starting your business, it also needs to be factored in when thinking about how much your food truck is going to cost overall.
Another thing you must not forget is insurance and, you’re in the right place. From hot dog vans and snack huts to mobile coffee shops and everything in between, Lexham Insurance can offer you a catering van insurance policy
If you are set on opening a business like this but are a bit lost and need some guidance, check out our guide on how to start a food truck which is full of tips and tricks to help you find the road to success.
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