Food Trucks vs Trailers: What's Your Flavor?
Looking for the freedom that comes from being your own boss, without shying away from hard work? Want to get involved in the Pizzeria restaurant business, without sacrificing the time and money it takes to open a brick and mortar restaurant?
It seems like opening a food truck is all the rage these days as evidenced by many food truck events like the Food Truck Invasion. But, the wonderful world of food on wheels can be a difficult one to break into without the right preparation.
Joining the legions of grub-slingers behind windows takes a lot of careful consideration about what kind of space works best for your business and your style of cooking. The prospective location of your mobile restaurant, the way you cook, and what kind of space you’ll need for your recipes are important considerations.
One of the first concerns in beginning a brick oven pizza truck business is solving the age-old debate: food truck vs food trailer? So without further ado, let’s dive into the most important factors in choosing the confines for your pizzeria on wheels!
What is the difference between a food trailer and food truck?
A food truck is a vehicle that can power itself, in which a restaurant staff prepares food. Food trucks are often regulated by the same laws as a restaurant. A wood oven pizza truck can be convenient because it provides enough interior space for a three-compartment sink, refrigerator, and whatever other equipment is required by law or ordinance.
A food trailer is pulled behind another vehicle, such as a truck or an SUV. Some regions may have laxer laws for operating a food trailer versus a food truck. A brick oven pizza trailer may be a less expensive option than a comparable food truck, especially if you already have a vehicle with towing capacity.
All areas have different rules for food trucks and food areas, and of course, it is important to research legal and safety concerns before embarking on any new business venture, especially a mobile food truck business.
What Questions Should You Ask Yourself?
1. Where will you set up your food business?
Not all parcels are made equal. Depending on the area you’ll be setting your eatery up in, you’ll be better off with either more or less space to cook your food, making it prudent to decide where you’d like to site your business first before making any decisions about the vehicle you’d like.
Make sure you know the events where you could possibly snag a catering service. Be updated on local farmer's market events, festivals, corporate events, or a family reunion that wants a mobile wood-fired pizza oven twist at their event.
Mobility, larger spaces, events
If you’re looking to set up a mobile business that can travel to different areas, like festivals, fairs, or other temporary functions like catered parties, it may be better to choose a food truck. The advantages of a food truck in these situations include easy transportation, a more compact design that makes navigating inner-city streets (where many popular events are held) less challenging, and the ability to make multiple stops in one day, according to Custom Concessions.
A food truck also makes entering and exiting events a bit easier, since you don’t have to drop a trailer off its hitch. In the event that you’re short on power for any given reason, a truck also has a gasoline or diesel engine that can be run like a generator in a pinch.
While a mobile business might not have the staying brand power of a stationary storefront, such a thing is less important when providing food to a captive audience more interested in tasting what’s available than searching for a name they recognize. However, following consistent routes or making repeat appearances at annual events can help build authority among a customer base that will start looking out for you.
Storefronts, villages, crowds
On the other end of the spectrum are businesses that usually stay in one place, or are in one place long enough that moving it isn’t an immediate concern. Trailers are better for stationary wood oven pizza catering, such as an all-day event in which you will not expect to be traveling between venues.
Areas, where this is more common, include “villages” of multiple other vendors, like the famed food cart pods of Portland, or trailers that set up shop on university campuses and only pack up once the semester is over. Food trailers can also take up less space than a food truck if storage space is a concern.
A trailer also often has the additional advantage of being a larger working space than a truck, since the whole trailer can be converted into usable kitchen space without the need for an unimpeded driver’s cab. Trailers will need their own hookups for electricity, unless you bring a generator along, which can be hooked up to the tongue, roof, or even underneath the trailer.
A trailer in the same space long enough has the same staying power and memorability as any business storefront located inside of a building, which is great for establishing a reputation that people will remember when they visit the spot you’re located in. It’s also a great way to tie yourself to a particular area or crowd when branding since you can associate yourself with landmarks or specific demographics like students, business people on the go, or tourists.
2. Consider your style
Once you either have an idea for where you’d like to set up your mobile cuisine machine, or even better, have located a space and vehicle, you’ll have to make a few choices about what kind of business you’d like it to be; and in this case, some styles are more suited to different vehicles than others.
Think about food management.
- Will you be baking pizzas or cooking other specialties?
- Do you need refrigeration?
- What are the things needed to make sure your food or dough is ready and fresh to be cooked at the event?
If you aren't buying pre-made dough, the dough making process is a major consideration as you'll need room for a mixer, a dough prep table, and maybe a press. Make sure to have enough cold and dry storage for the ingredients.
Aside from being a possible business venture, it’s always fun to have great food wherever you go. Pizza oven trailers give you the opportunity to take the party with you anywhere you go. Spending outdoors not just in your patio but on the beach or park or anywhere that cooking is possible would be of a different level when you have a wood-fired pizza oven with you to cook, bake, grill or roast any food that you want.
3. Fast food = fast profits
Food like pizza, one of our personal favorites here (if you couldn’t tell) can be cooked up and served with blazing speed with the right preparation and tools. In environments like city centers, mobile routes, or festivals and fairs that feature a dedicated food cart area separate from other attractions, an emphasis on quick service will be appreciated by your patrons.
Quick-service food trucks are usually the way to go here for multiple reasons. For one, they usually require less set-up time, given the absence of a towing vehicle and a trailer that needs to be dropped and secured. A food truck can also drive to a hungry crowd on-demand, making it an ideal choice for someone that operates in areas with vibrant outdoor, music, or nightlife scenes.
Just make sure the city is alright with you setting up shop on any given curb; you might need a special license for that. Another thing to consider is the health license needed in having a wood-fired pizza oven trailer business. Make sure you have the local permits necessary to operate the business that you want.
4. Patience is a virtue
Generally speaking, both food trucks and trailers are meant to be fast food options. They’re almost always found in places where other attractions or concerns are more pressing than the atmosphere of the place they’re eating at, like the music at a festival or the meeting occurring after a lunch break.
However, there are some attributes that make waiting more tolerable for your patrons. These can be environmental, such as your stand being located in a place where they can still hear music or watch a show, or be related to your business itself because of charismatic staff, seating, or a peek into the kitchen, according to Mobile Cuisine.
It is a must to consider the size of the pizza oven that you buy or build for your truck or trailer. Think of all the possibilities. How many pizzas will you cook in a definite span of time to keep the party going and to keep those pizza lovers happy?
If the food you’re cooking might need a little extra love, you’re better off placing your business in an area that can support these distractions, which are usually environments better suited to food trailers. Trailers in a village are often a destination in and of themselves, like the aforementioned food carts in Portland, or are strategically placed by event organizers at events to keep guests happy.
Choosing The Right Oven For Your Mobile Pizza Business
After answering important questions about your business model, vehicle, and prospective locations, it’s time to take the next big step: Choosing the right oven for your mobile kitchen’s workspace and the needs of your customers.
There are many food truck manufacturers that offer new and used food trucks for sale that can be ordered to your specifications. If you have purchased an old truck or trailer that you are modifying for yourself, you will need to order your wood-fired oven separately. There are a few factors that go into such decisions.
1. How much space will you expect to have?
If all of your operations must fit inside the truck – as in, you will not be allowed to cook Italian style pizzas in a portable outdoor oven – you will be more constrained as to space and ventilation. It’s very important to have a direct ventilation system if your oven will be a permanent installation. Smoke can be removed from the ceiling of your truck through a chimney pipe.
The Chicago Brick Oven 750 is a hooded brick oven. With its 41x28" cooking surface, this oven will easily cook (2) 12"pizzas at a time – this model is well within the size range of most food trucks and will allow space for prep and sales. And, you can always use multiple ovens for handling larger crowds!
2. How quickly will you need to heat your oven? Our food truck ovens heat in a range of times, from 20 minutes to several hours of slowly building. At long catered events in which guests may not expect food when they arrive, a slower heating oven may be fine.
In residential settings, a slow heating oven can even add to the fun and enjoyment of the evening. But, in a fast-paced food truck, there may not be enough time to wait for the oven to come to temperature.
If you need to faster heat-up time, consider the Prime Outdoor Wood-Fired Oven. This steel portable pizza oven heats in only 20-30 minutes, allowing you to get your operations up and running quickly. It also has a large 35" x 35" cooking space to handle larger crowds.
3. Wood vs Gas? Which method works best for you?
Why use wood? It's authentic. It's your passion. It is the Italian way! A wood-fired oven is going to leave delicious, smoky flavors in everything you prepare in it. For many, this is the appeal of a wood-fired pizza oven.
On the flip side, using a wood-fired oven means you'll need to have plenty of wood to maintain the fire during your event. Therefore you must factor in the cost of the wood and necessary storage space when considering this option.
Another consideration is whether your area allows cooking with wood. As Mobile Cuisine points out, cooking over wood is banned in some areas so it's important to know the wood-burning codes in your area.
If wood is what you want, consider authentic brick ovens. If you don't need a UL-certified commercial oven, the Lisboa Brick Pizza Oven is affordable yet large enough to cook enough pizzas quickly enough to keep your customers happy.
For those who are looking to take a slightly easier route, a gas oven may be more logical. A gas oven is easier to light and maintain during longer cooking times. Many gas ovens are considered gas-assist which means the gas is used to assist in the lighting and heating while wood is still used to get the cooking floor to its highest temperatures. There are other gas ovens that can be used solely with gas.
Depending on the volume you expect to see in your food truck business, a gas pizza oven like the CBO-750 Hybrid Gas/Wood Oven may be a perfect choice!
Other Food Business Considerations
Of course, there are many considerations to take into account when planning your wood oven pizza catering business including whether the oven you choose requires any UL-Listed certifications.
When operating out of a food truck, space is usually at a premium. You need your driver’s cab to be free of obstructions, and there’s only so much room inside of a road-and-event-worthy van or truck. (We don’t advise turning a tractor-trailer into a food truck, but if you succeed, you’ll probably be guaranteed business.)
A smaller oven often makes a better choice for a food truck, allowing you to maintain an open workflow and leave room for necessities like refrigerators, other cooking instruments, and cash registers.
We highly recommend the commercially certified Chicago Brick Oven 750 for trucks, because of its compact working space (41 by 28 inches) that doesn’t sacrifice efficiency (60 pizzas an hour, and rapidly-heating burner.) The CBO 750 is also available as a hybrid gas/wood oven, letting you decide what works best on the fly.
With the greater real estate that a food trailer affords, you have some extra wiggle room to consider a larger pizza oven. As a rule, a larger oven has more capacity and can bake a greater volume of pizza, oftentimes capable of cooking multiple pizzas at once. Many larger ovens also come with features like storage that ironically save space by including them in their design instead of leaving you to carve out space for it in your trailer itself.
For trailer-based operations, the Alfa Quattro Pro Commercial Pizza Oven offers ample cooking space and functional versatility, like easily-adjusted drought, enabling you to make different foods requiring different levels of heat ad-hoc. Its larger size doesn’t mean a sacrifice in heat time, either: The Quattro Pro reaches 840°F in only 30 minutes, making it possible to begin heating your oven while setting up the rest of your trailer.
How To Start Your Food Truck / Trailer Business
Starting your very own mobile business is a challenging endeavor, which is why your business should reflect your style of cooking and clientele. After all, why put in the work to start a business that doesn’t feel like your own?
According to Money Crashers, here are 10 key steps to starting your mobile business:
The opportunity for a pizza oven food business is wide open for everyone to venture. It does not require full-time work from you but can be managed according to what you want it to be.
You can choose events that you will cater to each week. Mobile pizza oven catering extends an extra income for you if you are working part-time and use your free time in engaging in a business like this. No rental costs, no staff to be paid. Just you and your passion and you are on your way to being a businessman or businesswoman.
We hope this short guide helped point you in the right direction towards your ideal truck or trailer, or as we like to call it, your favorite flavor.
If you want to see other oven options for your custom food truck, see our commercial oven collection here.
Still have questions? Let Patio & Pizza help you make your dreams a reality by reaching out to one of our customer service representatives today!