Food Trucks Versus Food Carts with Scott Ross | FTE Episode 021

This morning I sit down with Scott Ross of Ross RV’s and Food Carts based just south of Portland, Oregon. Scott informed me that his company will produce over 70 food carts in 2013 so he’s certainly qualified to explain some of the unique benefits and challenges that come along with operating a cart instead of a truck in addition to providing vendors with some things to things to consider when investing in a vehicle.

I found out about Scott when looking at the speaker list for the ROAM Mobile Food Conference that was held back in September. From what I can tell, the goal of this conference is to train mobile food entrepreneurs about how to operate all aspects of their business from marketing to accounting to advocating with local government to ensure food laws are friendly. The event featured of variety of these boot-camp style sessions with a lot of different experts. I hope to get there next year.

But back to the interview at hand. In this podcast you’ll learn the answer to the most frequently asked question Ross gets about building custom food carts. He also shares a list of items you should be thinking about before approaching a manufacturer to build your vehicle, including type of kitchen you want, the pots, pans, shelving that you want on the truck, local health codes, and of course their budget. After all of this information is compiled a floor plan is finalized so that it can be submitted to the local health department. Going through this process helps ensure the inspection process goes fast so that the owner can get up and running as fast as possible.

Finally, we Ross shares insights into some of the factors that contribute to success in this industry. Ross has helped launch a variety of mobile food businesses and provides some really helpful advice on the importance of location and having a unique food concept that helps draw customers to you.

What You’ll Learn

Unique Characteristics of a Food Truck:

  • More mobile. There’s an engine in them so you can take off at anytime.
  • More prone to breakdowns than a cart. After all, there’s more that can break.
  • Easier to park in downtown environments with limited space
  • If you’re planning to do a regular route.
  • If you’re thinking about buying used you need to scrutinize the quality of the engine, the brakes, the tires, and other parts of the truck. You could be investing thousands in repairs and replacement parts just a few months after your initial purchase if you don’t. This is something you don’t want to be stressing about when you’re just getting started.
  • Base cost for a no frills food truck: $7,000 – $10,000

Unique Characteristics of Food Carts:

  • Usually the more affordable option. Lower barrier to entry to purchase one of these.
  • From a labor standpoint, it’s easier to add equipment to a trailer. Also, there’s often more room to add cooking equipment and other on a cart.
  • Better for stationary, longer-term parking locations such as the pods that are popular in the Portland area. Not the ideal option for stopping by for a couple hours and then leaving. If you’re thinking about about doing a lot of fairs or catering events a trailer will be just fine.
  • Trailers will take a lot more space.
  • You’ll need a reliable vehicle with some horsepower to tow the trailer.
  • Taxes are often a bit lower on food carts due to the fact that you’re not able to drive it according to Scott Ross. Check your local tax code to identify is this is accurate where you’re planning to setup shop.
  • Base cost for a basic cart: $4,500

Our Sponsor

FoodStart.com – Need capital? We’re sponsored by FoodStart.com where you can get $1,000 in as a listener of the podcast. Click here for details.

Mentioned in the Episode

Ross RV’s and Food Carts – This is the official website. Scott made it very clear on the podcast that anyone listening should feel free to email him with questions about food carts, which I thought was thought was very nice of him. You’ll find his phone number and email address on the website.

ROAM Mobile Food Conference – This conference was held early in the year. Scott was a speaker at this conference along with a number of heavy hitters in the industry like Richard Myrick of Mobile-Cuisine.com. I would love to attend this event next year.

FTE Episode 14 – Our previous guest Laney Strange uses a trailer for her smoothie business in this episode. Learn why she went this direction by listening to this episode.

Food Truck Faceoff Casting – Last week we had Season 4 Runner up from the Great Food Truck Race, Tikka Tikka Taco on the show where Michael Swaleh shared his advice for getting selected on the show. If you’re interested in launching a food truck and being on a reality television show the is a great opportunity. Casting calls will be held in Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto and Austin over the next few weeks. Check the website for details.

Yolis Street Food – Thanks for the chat Carolina and for being a member of the FoodTruckEmpire.com email list. Look for Yolis Street Food in Florida soon.