Reporter's Notebook

Hitting the road with food trucks

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Experts offer tips on how to build a safe and effective food truck

One of the newest and hottest vehicles to promote your restaurant is a literal vehicle -- colorful and sometimes whimsical food trucks that are being rolled out to highlight brands and dish out free food.

But before you start creating your hot-dog-shaped truck, two experts on building these vehicles and creating marketing strategies for them offered a slew of tips at the NRA Show.

Joe Doyon of Lancaster, Mass.-based Turtle Transit said make sure your truck's food storage compartments do not contain plumbing, that there is a proper ventilation system, and that the floors are made of a non-absorbent material that's easily cleaned.

In addition, light bulbs and tubes have to be covered, there has to be portable fire protection and make sure's there's proper cold storage, Doyon told an audience during a breakout session on food trucks. And while you're at it, make sure the interior height inside is at least 74 inches from floor to ceiling and that the clear aisle space is 30 inches.

Jonathan Dew, who manages a food truck program for the Atlanta-based Arby's Foundation, said that permit and requirements differ in locations.

"From a regulation standpoint, it's the wild, wild west," said Dew, Arby's Foundation's director of marketing and communications. "It depends where you are."

Doyon also suggested food trucks go green through recycling and the use of solar and wind power.

And be careful who you buy your truck from, Doyon said, noting a national brand restaurant got stuck with a food truck that had side panels glued on instead of riveted.

But both Doyon and Dew said the food trucks are the way of the future and there's even a "Vendy Awards" form best food truck.

"You have to test and test and test," Doyon advised.

Contact Alan Snel at alan.snel@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @AlanSnelNRN

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