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7 Tips to Keep Food Truck Kitchens at Peak Performance

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Food trucks are not only trendy, they’re often among the best dining options in town. But, because they are mobile, they face some special challenges and require extra maintenance – and I’m not talking about the engine!

In addition to restaurants’ usual maintenance requirements, food trucks have a few that are unique. Because they are mobile, they experience vibrations and jarring that loosens connections. That’s exacerbated by the fact that food trucks’ cooking and refrigeration equipment tends to be lighter than that of stationary restaurants. Dust blows in more easily, too, so operators need a more aggressive cleaning schedule.

Here are a few tips to share with your customers, and a few just for you:

  1. Be Proactive. Fix small issues immediately, before they escalate. Create daily, weekly, monthly, and annual cleaning and maintenance schedules. List exactly what each item entails. This helps operators coordinate down time with slow periods and budget for repairs.
  2. Don’t clean with a garden hose. At day’s end, it’s tempting to spray out the truck. Don’t. Equipment surfaces may be stainless steel, but the internal components and undersides are made of other metals. Sprayed water can penetrate, causing electrical shorts and corrosion. Instead of blasting away with water, follow manufacturers’ recommended methods — oven cleaners, degreasers, and scrub brushes. This keeps the equipment in service longer, saving time and money.
  3. Clean the ice machine often. Relying on multiple water sources, combined with the open windows, confined spaces, and workers’ comings and goings combine contaminate ice machines faster than in standard kitchens. To avoid dirty, slimy ice, clean ice machines often. Also, regularly clean the condenser coils of all refrigeration units with a brush and vacuum.
  4. Check the exhaust hood: Service and deep clean the exhaust hood annually. Check the drive belts quarterly, and clean the filters and separate grease receptacles. This reduces the demand on the fan and lowers the fire risk.
  5. Inspect the propane supply: Ensure the correct volume of fuel flows to the kitchen equipment and that the tank size is adequate. This ensures there is enough fuel pressure for efficient cooking. (Note: Fuel vaporization is affected by both ambient temperature and the surface area of fuel inside the tank.)
  6. Examine all connections: Vibrations can loosen gas, water, and electrical connections quickly, so a quick check can improve equipment performance as well as safety and sanitation.
  7. Remember the generator. While some locations have shore power, usually a generator is needed. It’s worth checking to ensure it provides adequate power, that fuel filters are clean, and that the tank is large enough to run the kitchen. Install a carbon monoxide detector to enhance safety.

With more than 4,000 food trucks operating in 2017 in the U.S – and their numbers growing steadily – food trucks offer opportunities for restaurant service technicians to expand their client base. Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas have the most food trucks per capita, but opportunities are virtually everywhere.