Finding the right food cart depends on what products you’re selling and where you'll be selling them. These range from simple merchandisers that can hold your finished product all the way up to full-service carts where you can prepare, merchandise, and sell your food in an outdoor setting. Many have power strip outlets for conveniently powering electric equipment.
Products in this category cover everything from simple popcorn merchandising stands to full-service serving kiosks. You will find specialized carts for serving soup, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, and shaved ice, as well as as multi-purpose carts that can be used to serve a variety of products. You can shop for the right equipment by the specific food you’re serving or by type.
This equipment is available in three main types.
Carts are the smallest variety. These are usually a few feet in length and are geared towards preparing simple concessions like popcorn. These vending carts are typically the easiest to maneuver and provide the most decorative look, often painted with red and gold that customers recognize as the marketing colors of popcorn or similarly distinctive hues.
To mimic such carts of old, and to increase both mobility and stability, many of these units have at least one set of very large wheels. These make it possible to move them across all types of terrain. Further improving stability, many will have a wheelbarrow-like design, with legs on one side and wheels on the other.
A stand is larger than a cart and offers more room for merchandising and holding food, but is typically only large enough for one operator to complete restocking as needed. These will often have merchandising graphics to advertise your products and shelves for holding individual items. Many are electrically powered, allowing them to hold foods like soups, hot syrups, and sauces.
Since these are not meant to be mobile in the way that carts are, they typically only have small casters that should not be moved over uneven surfaces. However, they do make it possible to move the stand to another part of your serving area or to clean under it.
The largest and most versatile type is the kiosk . These are typically several feet long and have the capacity to hold, merchandise, and serve food. The largest of these allow room for multiple employees to work side-by-side.
This design is often found at large events facilities, where they provide multiple serving stations for large meals, and in arenas and stadiums, where they can be set up throughout the concourse and provided food from a central commissary. They also have small casters, which makes it possible to move them around a large complex, but these are not equipped to move over uneven surfaces.
None of these carts should ever be moved with hot food inside them, as it can spill and burn operators. Additionally, they shouldn’t be viewed as long-term holding centers, as they typically don’t provide heating and units with it are not high-powered enough to maintain food-safe temperatures for extended periods.
If your cart will be used outdoors, protect your employees, customers, and food from the elements by choosing a cart with an umbrella or a canopy. Canopies are attached to the cart and can't be adjusted, while umbrellas can be lowered or removed when they are not needed.
Food Pan Capacity
If you'll be holding fresh food in pans, pay attention to food pan capacity. This will let you know how many pans you'll be able to keep on hand. Many of the pan wells available on these carts are insulated to keep hot foods hotter and cold foods colder for longer. These wells are only available on kiosk-style models.
Choose from these useful specialty options to get the most out of your food cart:
- A cash box can keep your revenue safe from theft.
- For holding additional supplies and condiments, choose a cart with an overshelf.
- An enclosed cabinet can keep supplies out of sight for a neat appearance.
- Drawers can make it easy to store items like straws, napkins, and utensils.
- If you’re serving foods that require a little prep work, consider a cart with a built-in cutting board.
- Insulated units can help keep food fresher for longer.
- Carts with a cup/bowl dispenser can keep those serving items close at hand.
- A unit with lockable storage can keep your supplies secure while your cart is left unattended.
- Food carts with included graphics can help attract customers and set your business apart from the competition.