Updated: Mar 5
Check out the advantages and disadvantages of different types of mobile catering units
With a mobile catering business, there are many types of catering units you can pitch up in and serve customers.
From converted vintage food trucks and custom-built concession trailers to pop gazebo food stalls.
And with each of these different types of units comes its own advantages and disadvantages.
So which is the better, a food truck, food trailer or food stall?
Food trucks are better for mobility and reducing set up time, whilst food trailers can offer mobile space, whilst on the other hand, food stalls are cheap to buy and don't require much storage space.
However, there is no definitive answer and it largely depends on your individual needs.
In this article, I will go through all the pro's and con's of food trucks, trailers and stall to give you an idea.
Food trucks are mobile kitchens on wheels and are usually converted from a wide range of old commercial vehicles such as American Ford Step Vans and French H vans.
Easy for setting up - With a food truck you can drive to a location, park up and start serving without any setup
Professional looking - A lot of food trucks are converted to a very high standard and along with good branding makes them stand out
Eliminates towing - Food trucks have their own engines which means there is no need for towing, which saves time on setting up and packing away
Easy to park - Food trucks are relatively easy to park because they are one unit and can move between different locations relatively easy
Relatively expensive - Food trucks are not cheap and they are the most expensive mobile catering unit
Mechanical failure - This can be an issue especially with older vintage models and if the engine fails you cant get to the event and trade
Limited space - Some food trucks tend to be relatively small with means limited space for equipment and cooking
Maintenace costs - Because a food truck has an engine aside from commercial kitchen equipment the cost of maintenance will be higher
Storage costs - Food trucks can't just be left at the side of the road for zoning laws in some countries and also to protect from vandalism and theft. This means they need to be stored
How much does a food truck cost?
Food truck prices vary and can be brought second hand for around £10,000 for a basic model and all the way up to £100,000 for a fully equipped custom model.
For the most part food trailers are usually custom built from scratch as dedicated mobile food outlets and range in size from around 7ft to 34+.
Some exceptions are Airstreams trailers, which start as mobile homes/caravans and are later converted into a food trailer.
Relatively cheap - Food trailers are a good medium between a food trucks and food stall and costs significantly cheaper than a food truck
More space - Food trailer tends to be larger than food trucks going up to 34ft +, which means more space for cooking, equipment and staff
Built to specification - Food trailers are built from scratch to be dedicated food units, as opposed to converted food trucks, which means you can custom design the layout and size.
Lower maintenance costs - Food trailers do not have an engine which means things are less likely to break down resulting in lower maintenance costs
Towing - Food trailers have to be towed which can make it awkward when pitching up in tight spaces and are also harder to move between locations
Longer set up - With a food trailer you have to unhitch the trailer from your vehicle when you set up and hitch it back on again when you leave
Storage costs - Like a food truck, you cant leave a food trailer on the side of the road for the reasons we discussed. Again unless you have a large drive this means finding suitable storage for the unit overnight
Extra insurance - Whilst it isn't mandatory In the UK to have towing insurance it is a wise thing to be covered against accidents when you have your whole business tied to the back of a vehicle
How much does a food trailer cost?
like food trucks, food trailer prices vary and can be brought second hand for as little as £3,000 for a small 7ft model all the way up to £50,000 for a fully equipped 34 ft custom unit.
Food stalls are mobile kitchens that operate under a pop-up gazebo and can be seen at many of the street food markets springing up in your local area.
Very cheap - Food stalls are a very cheap and cost-efficient way to get started in the mobile catering industry
Easy to store - Pop-up gazebos and folding tables are designed for easy storage so a food stall can be packed away and stored in a van or garage
Very low maintenance cost - With a food stall you only really need to maintain the cooking equipment
Longer set-up - Food stalls take much longer than a food truck or trailer to set-up and can often take 30 mins to 1.5 hours to get the gazebo and all your equipment set-up
Limited space - Most food stalls measure around 3-metre x 3 metres, which means space can be limited for staff and equipment.
Weather conditions - Because food stalls are relatively lightweight and have an umbrella-type roof they are prone to damage in windy weather conditions.
How much does a food stall Cost?
Food stalls are by far the cheapest out of the three mobile catering units and can cost as little as £1000 for the whole set-up including the pop-up gazebo and cooking equipment.
Food trucks, food trailers and food stalls all offer advantages and disadvantages and depending and will be suitable for different types of need.
Food trucks offer greater mobility and can go from location to location with relative ease, whilst saving time on set-up. However, there are relatively expensive to buy and maintain.
On the other hand, food trailers are less expensive and offer more space but are not very easy to park.
And whilst food stalls take extra time to set up they are easy to store and are the cheapest option.
If I had to choose one and was just starting I would go for a food stall. It's the most cost-effective way to test a new product and minimize risk.