What Are Your Best Refrigeration Options For A Burgeoning Food Truck Empire?

If you're making the plunge into the world of mobile restaurants -- often dubbed "food trucks" -- you may be looking into the various ways you can outfit your truck (or fleet) while still saving money. With the cost of even a bare-bones food truck surpassing $50,000 in many areas, starting your business in an economical fashion can be a challenge. Fortunately, advances in food storage and preparation technology can make your journey much easier. Read on to learn more about the available refrigeration options for your new food truck, as well as which of your choices may be most compatible with your needs.

What refrigeration options are available for food trucks?

Adequate and reliable refrigeration is one of the key components to a successful food truck. Without enough room to store your cold and frozen items, you could run out of food during the middle of rush hour -- and improper refrigeration can lead to food-borne illnesses and a host of other problems you never want to be associated with your truck.

When it comes to refrigerating food on the go, you'll want something relatively lightweight and compact. Each extra pound your truck (or trailer) is hauling can impact your fuel economy, and ultimately your bottom line. By that same token, you don't want your refrigerator to take up so much space inside your food truck that you don't have room for other necessary equipment. 

Because of these space and weight restrictions, food truck refrigerators are often designed to serve multiple purposes. A wall-mounted commercial refrigerator may also have a fold-out table to be used for prepping, helping you eliminate the need for a counter. These refrigerators can also be designed with hidden storage compartments that will allow you to store individual ingredients within easy reach.

Which type of refrigerator is right for your food truck?

The ideal refrigerating unit for your food truck often depends on your specific type of cuisine and how you'll prepare it. 

For those who need to store large quantities of packaged, frozen items:

If your menu requires you to take food from frozen to hot and tasty (like frozen burgers or chicken strips), your storage needs are likely focused on keeping large amounts of frozen food at a constant low temperature. Because freezers can use quite a bit of energy, it's important to choose an energy-efficient model that is able to power itself from more than one source. Choosing an energy "sipper" rather than a "guzzler" will prevent you from needing to keep your generator running constantly to keep the freezer from shutting off. 

For those who need quick access to cold or chilled ingredients:

Some food trucks may need cold storage only for fresh ingredients (like cut fruit, cheese, or vegetables). If this is the case, you could benefit from a clear-case refrigerator, which will allow you to instantly take a visual inventory of your ingredients and determine whether you need to restock. This will help prevent you from running out of a key ingredient at a crucial time and may also help you avoid spoilage by ensuring that you're aware of everything residing in your food truck's refrigerator. 

Regardless of the type of refrigerating unit you eventually choose, you can save money by purchasing this appliance used. Because commercial refrigerators are designed to withstand the abuse of a busy kitchen, even a well-used refrigerator could have years of life left. You may want to look into restaurant auctions or other liquidation sales in your area to see if you can repurpose these low-cost fixtures and appliances for your own food business. A commercial refrigeration service may be able to help you repair an old fridge for use in your food truck.