Thanks to the intersection of mobile tech advancements, the rise of the gig economy, and the challenges of navigating a post-COVID world, mobile kitchens have exploded in popularity.
Mobile kitchens allow many types of existing food service businesses to expand operations, improve service, and continue to thrive despite increased consumer hesitation to eat out in traditional dine-in spaces.
Additionally, they provide new entrepreneurs with a way to enter the foodservice industry without opening or buying a brick-and-mortar location.
There’s a lot to consider before investing in a cloud kitchen, whether you’re an established business or an aspiring restaurant entrepreneur. We put together a guide below to further illustrate how mobile kitchens can benefit a variety of businesses, as well as some things to keep in mind.
WHAT IS A MOBILE KITCHEN?
A mobile kitchen is a modified vehicle containing built-in cooking equipment (such as grills, deep-fryers, and refrigeration equipment) and storage space for food and utensils. Mobile kitchens allow for flexibility in menu and location, as well as satellite delivery options.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM MOBILE KITCHENS?
Catering businesses often have to rent cooking equipment or build temporary kitchens to serve their customers. But with a mobile kitchen, they can prepare food on site and have a mobile back of house kitchen for any event. Catering companies can drive their cloud kitchen to their client’s location and serve food much faster.
Brick-and-mortar restaurants that want to reach their customers faster would benefit from a mobile commercial kitchen, as you can position them close to your target customers. For example, if you wanted to get more orders from Wall Street, you could park your cloud kitchen there.
Doing this with a mobile cloud kitchen will also allow you to test-drive new locations and evaluate demand before building a new brick-and-mortar location. If you notice a consistent number of orders in a certain section of the city, for example, you might consider building a new location there.
Virtual Restaurants/Cloud Kitchens
Virtual restaurants and cloud kitchens can cut delivery times and improve customer satisfaction in areas where they receive a substantial number of orders by placing a mobile kitchen in those areas. Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, virtual restaurants can also relocate to certain parts of the city to drum up more business.
Is your business putting on a corporate event — such as an office party — that’s being catered? You can rent a ghost kitchen to provide for your catering company. That way, they’ll be able to position the kitchen where you find it most convenient, and they’ll be able to serve your employees more effectively.
WHY FOOD TRUCKS ARE BETTER THAN MOBILE KITCHEN TRAILERS
You have two options when it comes to mobile kitchens:
Food truck — Drivable vehicle that contains a fully-equipped mobile kitchen.
kitchen trailer — A trailer containing the kitchen. You must tow this with another truck.
In most situations, food trucks are the better option. Here’s why.
Food trucks cost more upfront than cloud kitchen trailers, but if you opt for the latter, you need a reliable vehicle to tow it. This can drive up expenses and, in some cases, cost more than investing in a food truck.
As long as you move your food truck around often, it’ll be more cost-effective than a kitchen trailer.
Food trucks are one unit, making them ideal for traveling to multiple locations.
It’s much easier to navigate around NYC’s tight city streets and fit into more locations with a single food truck than it is with a truck towing a mobile kitchen trailer.
So with a food truck, you’ll be able to move to different locations and position yourself closer to certain areas throughout the day or week, allowing you to serve groups of customers all over the city much faster.
This is especially helpful for cloud kitchens who frequently need to relocate to maximize delivery speeds.
3. MORE LOCATIONS AVAILABLE
Similar to the above point, mobile kitchens are generally allowed on more streets than mobile kitchen trailers. Therefore, you can serve customers in more locations more easily with a food truck.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WITH YOUR MOBILE KITCHEN
If you’re jumping into the foodservice industry for the first time by opening a mobile kitchen, you’ll first want to pick what type of cuisine you’ll serve.
Will it be Mexican? Italian? American? Chinese?
Moreover, will you sell street food? Or will you offer more gourmet dishes?
Established restaurants could use their cloud kitchens to test new menu items before preparing them at their brick-and-mortar locations, too.
Your cuisine decisions will affect the types of equipment you’ll need, which we explain next.
Equipment is specific to each food truck. For example, ovens are almost exclusively found on pizza trucks. Because food trucks have tight food stations, equipment is built out specific to certain cuisines.
Items such as refrigerators, grills, ovens, sinks, and food warmers are likely to be essential to running a ghost kitchen. Make sure you know what essential equipment you need prior to booking a mobile commercial kitchen.
Beyond those, think of the more optional equipment you’ll need to improve efficiency and provide faster service. Your menu will partially inform exactly what pieces of kitchen equipment and utensils you need.
Mobile Kitchens $2,000-$3,000/day for short term rentals, while month-long engagements can drive that cost down. Mobile kitchen costs go beyond the truck, food, utensils, and equipment. There’s also gas, maintenance, insurance, and licensing.
4. Licensing and Compliance
Cloud kitchens are subject to numerous licensing and compliance requirements, just like a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Be aware of mobile food vendor licensing, parking permits/restrictions, health codes, and other compliance requirements.
NEED HELP FINDING THE RIGHT MOBILE KITCHEN FOR YOU?
A ready-to-go cloud kitchen can get you on the road and serving more customers fast. NYFTA offers fully equipped, fully licensed, DOH-compliant mobile commercial kitchens that we can adapt to suit your needs — whether you’re an established restaurant, a catering company, or a delivery-only service.
We’ll cover all the background details — permitting, parking, and maintenance — so you can serve your customers anywhere at any time. Contact us today to bring your cuisine to the streets.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, certain specialty vehicles can serve alcohol at your event, but the event needs to meet certain legal requirements (i.e. take place on private property). You’re more than welcome to discuss the logistics and details of this further with a member of the NYFTA team!
Booking a food cart with NYFTA is easy! Simply select your service, tell us a little bit about your event or branded promotion, and select your food cart. One of our members will reach out to you ASAP to finalize the details.
You can try to book a food truck at any point, but we recommend 4 to 6 weeks from the day of the event.
The number of people a truck can serve depends on the menu offerings, but on average, it can serve 100-150 people per hour when cooking and other preparation is involved. If you have a large number of guests in a short time window, we can have trucks pre-package meals to expedite the process significantly and serve a great number of people.
Our vendors work so hard to ensure that your event is spectacular in any way. Any tips and gratuity will be greatly appreciated.