Surely all hotdog carts on the streets look almost the same. The colors and the umbrellas and the size may be different, but they are all pretty much the same aren’t they?
If you go with an approach like that when going to purchase a hotdog cart, then you will be disappointed. Either you will buy a used cart from an individual that won’t pass the muster or, if new, the manufacturer will “up-sell” you a cart that would not only be costly but would consist of the added bells and whistles that you probably don’t even require. Most importantly, it would ignore your specific, local, health inspector mandated requirements. Case in point, you need an education in hotdog carts, their operations, equipments, compartments, types and requirements.
The first thing you need to know before you decide on a cart is where you would be working. Would you be catering to a local lunch crowd or only work fairs and special events? If you plan on working during lunch hours, then a medium sized cart would suffice, ideally one with two three third size pans. For festivals and events, opt for big carts with two full size pans. In either case, don’t bother with tiny carts, regardless of how inexpensive they are!
The size of your cart will also depend on how many hotdogs you wish to produce at a given time. Each cart has different per hour production limitations. Needless to say, the more your cart’s capacity, the more business you’d likely do. But then again, you will also need to find a location that is crowded enough to support those sales aspirations.
You will need the heat to get cooking. State regulations vary based on heat sources and limitations also. But for the most part, you will require at least one 20 pound propane gas cylinder for medium sized carts. I strongly suggest that you keep an extra one with a quick connector hose for emergencies and peak days.
For big carts, your cart should be able to hold around 40 pounds of propane. Ideally, purchase two 20 pound propane cylinders. According to most state regulations, it is illegal to use 20 pound cylinders indoors.
You will need to get an adaptor to use one pound camping cylinders for indoors. If you plan on working indoors permanently then opt for carts with electric heat sources. You can also use ‘sterno’ solid fuel heat, but that is inefficient and quite inexpensive.
Surely you wouldn’t be working on the cart day in and day out, or even camping beside it. So what do you plan to do when you call it a day? You can opt to tow the cart with you, for which you’d require a tow. You can easily tow your cart using even the smallest of cars.
You will need a hitch on your car. Purchase a durable one and get it professionally installed. If you plan on towing your cart around a lot, then make sure you purchase larger cart with more durable wheels.
A lot of vendors have an arrangement with the landlord to store the cart onsite, in a storage area or backroom. Make sure you decide on how you plan to store the cart before purchasing one, because in case you plan to store onsite, then you can easily opt for a less expensive cart with regular bicycle tires. For this of course, you’d need to figure out your location and speak to the landlord before purchasing the cart.
Carts don’t just simply require a fryer and a bun heater, it is mandatory to have other equipments installed too – including, but not limited to, a cooling compartment, washing equipment and water mixing faucets.
For most locations, your cart will need to have hand-washing equipment with a sink, faucets and two separate tanks for clean and waste water. The waste-water tank should ideally be at least 15 percent larger than the clean water tank for overflow prevention. The health department in your area may have other specifications, so be sure to check with them first.