Concession Interiors: How to Layout Your Food Truck the Right Way
The outside of your food truck is visually interesting, so you’re get noticed, but how the interior is set up makes a difference too. Several key factors of the business, including how many menu items you can offer, how quickly your workers can serve your customers, and how clean you can keep the unit are all affected by your internal layout. Here’s how to configure the interior of your truck for the best outcome and experience.
Develop Your Menu Selection
Image via Flickr by jczart
Before you buy up equipment and start outfitting your truck, take time to create your menu offerings, including all the ingredients you’ll need. Make a comprehensive list of each menu item and what it takes to prepare it, as well as the condiments, sauces, and garnishes you’ll offer. Once you know this, you’ll be able to accurately predict what you need in terms of equipment, refrigerators, freezer units, utensils, and other accessories. Be sure the size of your truck is adequate for the storage space and preparation space needed to prepare each menu item.
Taste test your menu items. Is there a difference in the look or edibility of the food if the order of assembly is changed? For example, the cheese might need to go directly on top of a piping hot burger for maximum melting. Lettuce might fall off if it isn’t anchored with toppings. Develop your workflow in the order which produces the best outcome.
Develop Processes for Constructing Each Menu Selection
Now you can create the best process for getting the menu items out of storage, through preparation, and to the customer. As much prep work as possible needs to be done before the start of each business day. Decide what needs to be chopped, sliced, thawed, or otherwise prepared before opening time. Then determine which parts of the process need to be done upon customer order. Once you determine how the items will move through the process, you can set up the equipment and work areas to accommodate these processes.
A simple menu is the best for maximizing this workflow. When you add too many items, the processes are more complex, and it becomes harder to construct a consistent process that accommodates the variety of menu items. Focus on the few items you do best, and avoid selections that over-complicate the process. Remember, what seems easy during testing becomes much more difficult under the pressure of a waiting line of hungry customers.
Line Up the Processes for the Best Efficiency in Producing Menu Items
Once you have the menu, draw a diagram of how each item should be prepared, from storage to the time it’s ready to be handed to the customer. What utensils will you need? How much space will you need for grills or griddles? Ideally, each food item will begin at the furthermost point from the service window, and progress until it’s at the point of sale, where the customer can pick up their order. This keeps workers from having to move back and forth during the process, which opens the door for errors, spills, and wasted time and money.
Place storage bins, freezers, and refrigeration units at the furthermost point from the service window. Then line up the equipment and utensils as they will be needed throughout the preparation and assembly process. Plan for things like special orders, such as how your workers will manage adding onions or skipping the mayo. The finishing touches should be the last point in the process, so that worker can easily hand the items to the worker who is serving the customer.
Configure Items Where They’re Easy to Clean
As you set up equipment, supplies, and utensils within the truck, consider how easy it is going to be to clean the areas around the prep sites. If you leave too much room between fixtures, lots of food and other things can fall in between, which can be difficult or impossible to clean. Too little space means workers can’t get in there to scrub it spotless. Remember, you’ll be having regular inspections by the health department. If you can’t keep it clean, you won’t be able to maintain your license.
Can the drawers and doors be opened and closed without inhibiting workers or bumping other equipment? Don’t install refrigeration units, freezers, microwaves, or other open and close fixtures until checking out how it will function when the unit is fully staffed. Store heavy instruments, knives, and other potentially hazardous items low, because these can easily be knocked off during a busy workday and cause injuries. Think through how the configuration will work during drive time, as well as how it will flow during service hours.
Train Workers on the Menu Items, Processes, and Cleaning Methods
The best layout is only going to work as well as your employees are able to understand and follow it. Train them well in the procedures, making sure they understand the menu selections, how the ingredients should be stored and handled, and how to properly clean the equipment and utensils. Beyond training, listen to your employees. The folks that deal with these work processes daily are a goldmine of information when it comes to honing processes and streamlining the workflow.
Do a dry run before you roll out to hit your first gig. If you don’t want to waste food, make this an employee appreciation day and let them eat the fruits of their labor, or volunteer to serve a small group of charity workers to test out your food truck under real world, but not high pressure, circumstances. Offer to serve the workers at the local animal shelter, or find out where Habitat for Humanity is building a house and needs a good meal for their volunteers. There are many ways to test out your food truck without wasting the food, supplies, and effort. These also make great public relations opportunities to get your name out there.
Once you get the food truck interior laid out like you want, fine tune processes to get it right. The best food service businesses never stop making things better, safer, easier, and more profitable.