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The Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department is proud to say that if you can build a restaurant in Champaign County, you can build one anywhere in the country including California because their interpretation of the sanitation-health codes are the strictest in the country. Because of that, we are proud that our health scores were 99 and 98 (almost perfect.) Ours is a mobile kitchen.
We took a workhorse truck (87 Chevy Grumman Olsen P30) and stripped it down to bare metal. This included many days with a heatgun removing the vinyl added by the truck's previous owner. It included removing an original propane tank attached to the frame and then welding the sidewall into the hole that was created. We rebuilt the engine, changed the brakes, put new tires and chrome simulators on the truck before we built the kitchen. We added a passenger jump-seat, a drop-safe, a bulkhead wall, a sliding door to separate the kitchen from the cab, and installed a switch panel on the dashboard to control the generator and lights. Zach also installed a lighted handle and retractable step to the passenger door.
The 7.5'x 16' commercial kitchen started off by us taking the inside down to bare metal. We reinforced the floor for the equipment weight and insulated the walls, ceiling and floor, ran electrical and plumbing before covering with washable nsf surfaces. We cut a 6' x 3' opening in the passenger side of the truck for a concession window. Next we cut a curved opening on the opposite side for a standard rv window with screen that opens and closes. We split the back doors so the back could be open for airflow. We added stainless steel and Metro shelving.
Our plumbing system includes copper pipes & fittings, a 6 gal on demand water heater, water pump, water filter, mounting a 60 gal NSF grey water tank under the truck, dump valves, bleed valves, a 30 gal NSF Fresh Water tank, a John Boos Stainless Steel handsink with integral splash guards, a stainless steel mopsink, a custom stainless steel 3 compartment sink with CUPHD required 36" drainboards on each side, T&S brass commercial faucets, and a fill valve.
Our electrical system had it's challenges. We cut a 4'x3' luggage compartment door into the back side of the truck. We set the largest mobile generator on the market (a brand-new Generac 17,500 watt generator) in the space. Then we cut vents in the back of the truck and replaced the luggage door with a steel grate. We insulated the generator compartment for sound and added a fire retardant film they put in racecars. We enclosed the compartment with stainless steel. We ran 200amp electrical into a breaker box. We hooked the generator up to the truck's gas tank for fuel. Finally we added some fans to the ventilation grates. Inside, there are 2 220v GFI outlets, NSF track lighting, a switch to turn the water pump off and on, and a number of 110v GFI outlets,and cat5 for the register and printer. We installed 2 new RV MaxxAir fans that have raincovers so the fans can be running even if it is raining. Two of the outlets have a two-way switch outside by the generator and 2 RV plugs so we could keep the refrigeration running after the truck was turned off and parked for the evening.
We had the truck professionally painted red with a white roof and added vinyl logo wrap. We added a retractable awning when the truck was built, but on one particularly windy day at Parkland College, the awning broke and we had to take it down. Our expense before the restaurant equipment was added to the truck: $54k We could not imagine the expense if we had someone else put in the hours of labor.
It was a labor of love.
Most of the trucks we found on ebay and craigslist that were already used for concessions would not have met Champaign County health or building codes. Since we figured we would have to scrap whatever we found and start over, it made sense for us to start from scratch. This way, we knew that the plumbing, electric, and sanitation would meet our needs.
For serious inquiries on purchasing the Crave Truck, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a telephone number and contact information.
I wasn't raised in a family that told me life was fair. Maybe it's just the idealism of my age. Maybe it's because I was raised to believe that I can achieve anything with hard work. I dunno. Lately, maybe I'm just tired of spinning my wheels.I expected the hurdles of starting-up a business. I didn't expect constant roadblocks to stay in business. I'm not alone. Food Trucks in Chicago can now cook on-board their vehicles, but they are severely limited in the means to actually capture customers and just recoup their expenses. After learning to navigate my own city meetings, I joined my fellow foodtruckers in the Chicago hearings. I didn't expect to find the massive comradery among Chicago Food Trucks, but I felt honored to stand with them and be included. Here in Champaign, I have cultivated a following. We offer a fantastic product that isn't even available in any restaurant in town. It is labor-intensive to make, because an authentic Belgian Liege waffle is made from a yeast dough and not a batter. This means we make dough beforehand to proof everytime we go out. Like a restaurant, we reinvest in product and payroll daily. Unlike restaurants, our food truck is out in the elements. When it is raining, there are little to no customers. When it is ridiculously hot, there are little to no customers. When it is blistering cold and snowing, there are little to no customers. We drive around in a metal box. This past summer, we've had employees suffer from heat exhaustion because temperatures in the truck have exceed 120 degrees fahrenheit. I knew this when I planned to start a food truck. What I didn't expect was the need to change my business model: Food Trucks ultimately go where the people are. Food Trucks are not the same business model as food carts which are stationary businesses where the people need to come to where they are. Last Spring, the rules changed. Or rather the city clerk of Champaign went from saying "park anywhere you can legally park a car (staying only as long as you have a line)" to "you are no longer allowed on city streets PERIOD "and oh yeah, your license renewal will increase 6 fold if you choose to stay in business. Our friends and followers were marvelous! They blew up Twitter and landed us on the evening news. Then the politics began: http://cvp.telvue.com/player?id=T01169&video=59994&mini=1 The city of Champaign quickly moved to quell public sentiment by implementing a pilot program. http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Mobile-Food-Truck-Pilot-Project-Details-and-Application.pdf The city supports food trucks and welcomes them to park in designated areas in 2 hr intervals. The reasoning I imagine for limiting the hours is to accommodate the great number of food trucks in the future. Unfortunately for us, there has not been enough foot traffic this summer in these designated spots to maintain the business. Undoubtedly brick and mortar restaurants have seen a decline in their sales from same-time last year as well. We have been able to stay in business by making catering events our bread and butter. We have attended local municipality events, apartment building parties, company picnics, and private home events. We are a certified mobile kitchen and that makes sense for us to go where we are invited. However, lately our friends and followers are wondering where have we been hiding. To all those who love the Crave Truck we say Catch Us When You Can because you never know when you will see us next time.