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Cooling down a food trailer doesn’t sound like an easy task considering heat and fire is the main way most of us cook our food. Yet, there are easy tricks to help keep your trailer running for hours and your employees healthy on hot summer days.
The best way to cool a food trailer is to plan ahead. Decide where to park your trailer, what time of day to be open, and what food to serve. If you are designing a food trailer, add a customization like a hood fan, windows, and low heat equipment to save you headaches come summer.
If your food trailer already has those features, listed below are added tips you might not have thought of. Read on to get more ideas on keeping your food trailer cool.
Park in the shade.
Parking your food trailer in the right spot can make a big difference for business and for staying cool.
When you park a food truck or trailer in the sun the radiation from the sun’s rays will heat up the roof. Also, the street underneath your food trailer is subject to the same process before you park there. When you park in the sun you are being heated from above and below.
The simple solution is to park in the shade. While the air temperature in the shade is the same, the street and your food truck aren’t under high levels of solar radiation. The Sacramento Bee reported in a brief test in 2018, the ground shaded by trees was 89°F (32°C) compared to the ground in direct sun (116°F/47°C) a few steps away.
Finding a shaded place to park your food trailer before starting business for the day may do you the most amount of good in the long run.
Close before it gets too hot.
This may not be the best choice for everyone as it would limit the amount of business you are able to do within a single day. The hottest time of day is 3pm and may last as late as 6pm. For the health of the people working your food trailer, it may be a good idea to stop serving food for these hours of the day.
Since it isn’t hot year round, this may be a practice for the hottest time of year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the warmest time of the year for the majority of the United States in mid-July to mid-August.
Going into the summer months with proper business hours will take adjusting for your customers, but loyal eaters will find you no matter what time of day you serve.
Close for extremely hot days.
There are some days that are realistically too hot to be outside even when standing still. Running a food truck on a day over 100°F (38°C) could result in heat exhaustion and cause physical harm to your employees.
The goal of your food service is to make money without having to pay rent for a brick and mortar building, so closing for a full day or a string of days sounds bad for business. But sending an employee to the hospital due to unsafe work conditions is worse.
Consider closing down on the days the air temperature is going to reach over 100°F (38°C). If you live in areas where constant record-breaking heat waves happen, schedule closures into your summer earning goals. To make up for the loss on hot days, schedule extra evening events or stay open a little later on cooler days.
Prepare cold food.
Having a menu planned that requires less heat to prepare will save you on hot days, and helps cool down could your customers.
Having cold food for sale from your food trailer can make a big difference if you aren’t able to change your hours or park under a tree. Not running your stove, oil fryer, or microwave in your food trailer will cut down on the heat inside the trailer, allowing you to stay open longer and serve more people.
If days of extreme warm weather are in the forecast, changing up your menu will be a nice change for your customers and keep your food truck cool. Successful food trucks and trailers already use this method.
A great feature of using a barbecue to cook instead of a stove is it’s outside! It will be an added investment in your food trailer if you don’t already own one, but some options can be towed like the Big John’s Towable Charcoal Grill.
If you have space where you park your food trailer and there aren’t any laws against using a barbecue at your location, go for it. Remember to change your menu so you can barbecue the items you would cook on the stove.
Give yourself a break from the hot trailer and serve delicious barbecue on the hot days.
Use as little equipment as possible.
The same principle applies to this as the earlier tips. Find a way to not use your kitchen. It seems counterproductive to have a food trailer and then not use the equipment you spent the money on. Yet, it will be for a few weeks in the middle of summer and not the whole year.
Limit the time you use your cooktop. Use the stove to prep food in the cool part of the day, and it can stay off during the hottest hours. Mobile-Cuisine.com suggests turning off any unnecessary electronics in your kitchen as well, such as:
- Refrigerator (if possible)
All electronics produce heat, and they will increase the temperature of your trailer.
Put the generator over there.
If your food truck or trailer requires a generator to power equipment, park it as far away as possible. The exhaust from a generator is hot like the exhaust from your car. The closer to your trailer the more it will heat your trailer.
If you can survive a day without the generator do so. It will save you the stress of moving it and keep your food trailer cooler.
Install a hood fan.
Investing in a good quality hood fan can go a long way. They use power to run, but a hood fan system will vent out the hot air created during cooking. The Captive-Aire Food Truck Exhaust Hood is specifically designed for food trucks and trailers, and could save you on hot days.
NewsChannel 9 WSYR Syracuse interviews a food truck owner who is reaping the benefits of a quality hood fan:
Keep windows and doors open.
Your food trailer should have at least one door, but hopefully it has a couple windows to serve food out of. Keeping all windows and doors open to help circulate air will cool down the trailer by creating a crosswind.
Using a personal fan can cool you down and help keep the air circulating in the food trailer. Keep them small so the energy output remains small.
Lastly, consider installing ceiling vents on the trailer to help release hot air. Hot air rises, so the vents on the ceiling allow for the hot air to escape and cooler air to come in through the windows and doors.
It’s not easy to keep a food trailer cool, and it may take some time to perfect your setup. Implementing simple changes like your hours of operation, menu, equipment, and ventilation will keep your business running all summer long.