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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Old 12-18-2018, 03:24 PM   #1
jordan011
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Join Date: 11-30-18
Location: Spring
Name/Nickname : Jordan
Default First Concession Trailer Setup - Looking for Help

Hello All,

I have been a long time reader on this site, but never an active poster.

I just finished up my first BBQ Concession events over the past couple months and I am now ready to move on from the borrowed trailer, to my own.

This is where you come in. I need some help/advice with the set up and equipment selection. Those of you who have done this before have the knowledge that I need. Any help that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. There is nothing worse than spending a bunch of money and wishing you had done it different. If you could go back to when you built your trailer, what would you have do different and why?

I am located north of Houston, TX and looking to maintain that authentic Texas BBQ that I have been cooking.

My idea as of now is to buy a 20’-24’ concession porch trailer (8’ porch screened in) and add the following items to it: Steam Table, vertical Warmer, Sandwich prep station, fridge, Countertop griddle, possibly a fryer. On this note, I am looking to do an all-electric set up unless I go with a pit that is gas assist. Is that a bad idea? Do I need the gas?

On the porch, I plan to outfit it with one of the following semi-automated pit options: a used J&R little red smokehouse, a new ole hickory CTO DW, or a new Patterson Pit (similar, but smaller than a bewley).

Keep in mind that I have only ever cooked on a traditional offset smoker, this will be my first experience with a commercial smoker and I want to do it right.

Thank you all in advance. I look forward to hearing all of your experiences and opinion,

Jordan
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Old 12-18-2018, 04:45 PM   #2
SmoothBoarBBQ
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I'd stay away from a griddle unless your menu explicitly needs it. Same goes for the fryer...dealing with hot grease on a moving trailer can be a nightmare. Not to mention the excess heat which comes from the fryer and the griddle.

You haven't mentioned a generator yet...with a trailer of that size, and all of that equipment, as well as an electrical smoker, you're going to be drawing approximately 10,000 watts. So that's a hefty expense that you need to make sure you're calculating for your budget.

All of my equipment is propane powered including the smokers (with fireboxes for wood / charcoal), the warming box, and the tankless hot water heater. I have a small inverter generator to run the water pump and the refrigerator. Personally I would go with all propane equipment because it's fast, easy, and cheaper overall. Plus, with the aid of some coolers, you can still run your entire operation on propane if there is a big power outage. We got hit with a big hurricane this year and I was still busting out BBQ and feeding half of my street for almost a whole week during the outage.

As for a smoker I had my eye on a CTO-DW and was VERY close to buying one, but I ended up going with a MUCH cheaper "hog style" smoker because the cost of the CTO was just too high. They quoted me right at about $10K for it, and while it's certainly worth it, it was just to high for a "starter trailer." Also, I did the weights and balances, and the CTO-DW comes in at roughly 1700 Lbs. My trailer has (2) 3500Lb axles, so having that kind of weight on the rear end of the trailer with nothing to balance it out up front was giving it a huge tongue weight.

Just some food for thought. Here's a small album of how my trailer is setup. This is from when I first picked it up, and I did add some shelves directly across from the refrigerator.
https://imgur.com/a/4z4Rppj

Hope this helps and feel free to shoot me a message. I've only been doing this for a few months, but it took me almost a year of trying to get everything organized to get started. I had a very challenging time dealing with the health department because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knew what kind of equipment / setup would be necessary to get permitted. They kept repeating their mantra ; "Just buy the trailer and we'll let you know if it can be permitted." Unreal how frustrating and useless they were.

Good luck with everything and hope it works out!
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Old 12-18-2018, 05:26 PM   #3
kurtsara
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
As for a smoker I had my eye on a CTO-DW and was VERY close to buying one, but I ended up going with a MUCH cheaper "hog style" smoker because the cost of the CTO was just too high. They quoted me right at about $10K for it, and while it's certainly worth it, it was just to high for a "starter trailer." Also, I did the weights and balances, and the CTO-DW comes in at roughly 1700 Lbs. My trailer has (2) 3500Lb axles, so having that kind of weight on the rear end of the trailer with nothing to balance it out up front was giving it a huge tongue weight.

Just some food for thought. Here's a small album of how my trailer is setup. This is from when I first picked it up, and I did add some shelves directly across from the refrigerator.
https://imgur.com/a/4z4Rppj

Hope this helps and feel free to shoot me a message. I've only been doing this for a few months, but it took me almost a year of trying to get everything organized to get started. I had a very challenging time dealing with the health department because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knew what kind of equipment / setup would be necessary to get permitted. They kept repeating their mantra ; "Just buy the trailer and we'll let you know if it can be permitted." Unreal how frustrating and useless they were.

Good luck with everything and hope it works out!
You can put the smoker and porch on the front of a trailer so you don't have negative tongue weight. Does the op need a NSF smoke or can he get by with a cheap hog style smoker?
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:18 PM   #4
ynotfehc
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First thing in deciding equipment and setup is determining menu and how you want your flow. I went with a fully enclosed trailer but 3 large screened in awning windows on the back around the smoker, and 1 concession window. Customer orders at the window and I can usually have it dished up by the time they are done paying and have their drink if ordered, otherwise I would like to have 2 windows if I was doing larger events with 300+ covers for faster service.
I have a cto-dw and really like it. It's big enough to do a lot of meat but efficient enough to do smaller cooks too. It has a gas assist, but I use it only for starting the fire.
I would go everything possible propane rather than electric. Generators can be loud or expensive, and its a pain to refuel them in the middle of service. I've heard of more than a few food trucks and trailers exploding this year, because they were refueling while generator was running. I think I have pics posted of the interior of my trailer on my Facebook page, pig approved bbq, feel free to take a look.
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Old 12-19-2018, 03:41 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kurtsara View Post
You can put the smoker and porch on the front of a trailer so you don't have negative tongue weight. Does the op need a NSF smoke or can he get by with a cheap hog style smoker?
Putting the porch on the front side of the trailer is a damned good idea, but I don't see a lot of trailers built that way. For my next trailer (ie my dream trailer) that will definitely be something I'll look into.

As for a NSF smoker that's really a local health department question but definitely something OP needs to know before buying. As far as I understand most health inspectors don't seem to care as long as the smoker is covered (ie on the porch and screened in), as well as generally quite clean in appearance. But I'm sure some health departments are going to be much more restrictive, so certainly need to make sure before buying a piece of equipment.
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Old 12-19-2018, 10:05 AM   #6
medic92
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As SmoothBoar said, griddles and fryers are something you may want to avoid. We have a griddle in our trailer and except for the very rare breakfast catering job (we've done two in 1 1/2 years) we don't use our griddle. Fryers are dirty, hot and a royal pain in the rear to deal with.
If upper cabinets are available in the trailer and the cost isn't too high, get them. We installed metal wire shelving in our trailer but securing everything with bungee cords and all that crap can be tiresome.
Like everyone else has said, figure out your menu to determine what you're going to need as far as equipment.
And don't let them talk you into a smaller refrigerator.
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Old 12-19-2018, 10:45 AM   #7
jordan011
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Join Date: 11-30-18
Location: Spring
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
I'd stay away from a griddle unless your menu explicitly needs it. Same goes for the fryer...dealing with hot grease on a moving trailer can be a nightmare. Not to mention the excess heat which comes from the fryer and the griddle.

Good call on the grease, i hadn't really thought about it to be honest.

You haven't mentioned a generator yet...with a trailer of that size, and all of that equipment, as well as an electrical smoker, you're going to be drawing approximately 10,000 watts. So that's a hefty expense that you need to make sure you're calculating for your budget.

All of my equipment is propane powered including the smokers (with fireboxes for wood / charcoal), the warming box, and the tankless hot water heater. I have a small inverter generator to run the water pump and the refrigerator. Personally I would go with all propane equipment because it's fast, easy, and cheaper overall. Plus, with the aid of some coolers, you can still run your entire operation on propane if there is a big power outage. We got hit with a big hurricane this year and I was still busting out BBQ and feeding half of my street for almost a whole week during the outage.

Maybe i should revisit the all electric idea. The event I just did has power, but i guess everywhere wont have power. I need to start pricing out propane appliances I suppose.

As for a smoker I had my eye on a CTO-DW and was VERY close to buying one, but I ended up going with a MUCH cheaper "hog style" smoker because the cost of the CTO was just too high. They quoted me right at about $10K for it, and while it's certainly worth it, it was just to high for a "starter trailer." Also, I did the weights and balances, and the CTO-DW comes in at roughly 1700 Lbs. My trailer has (2) 3500Lb axles, so having that kind of weight on the rear end of the trailer with nothing to balance it out up front was giving it a huge tongue weight.

Just some food for thought. Here's a small album of how my trailer is setup. This is from when I first picked it up, and I did add some shelves directly across from the refrigerator.
https://imgur.com/a/4z4Rppj

Hope this helps and feel free to shoot me a message. I've only been doing this for a few months, but it took me almost a year of trying to get everything organized to get started. I had a very challenging time dealing with the health department because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knew what kind of equipment / setup would be necessary to get permitted. They kept repeating their mantra ; "Just buy the trailer and we'll let you know if it can be permitted." Unreal how frustrating and useless they were.

Good luck with everything and hope it works out!
I really like your trailer. I've been looking at one very similar. Hopefully i will be able to get one here in the next few months.
I appreciate all of your information. You just got my brain going (AGAIN Lol)! I'm glad I reached out on here. Glad to talk to people who have done this. This is a lot more involved than I expected. I just applied for temporary permits for the last event that I did and that was a breeze. I never even talked to or saw a health inspector. I need to really start calling around to my local heath department before I start putting money down on this stuff. Thank you again!
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Old 12-19-2018, 10:51 AM   #8
jordan011
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Join Date: 11-30-18
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kurtsara
ynotfehc

That is a good idea, putting the pit on the tongue side. I like it. I will ask the guy I've been talking to if that would be an option. I don't believe that it has to be NSF, I just want something more automated so I can sleep. M-F I am a project manage lol

As far as your CTO DW, do you sacrifice flavor in comparison to an offset? I want my food quality to remain the same. Never using one before, it makes me nervous because they definitely are not cheap.

Another vote for propane, I think this must be the way to go.

Last edited by jordan011; 12-19-2018 at 10:58 AM..
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Old 12-19-2018, 10:57 AM   #9
jordan011
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Join Date: 11-30-18
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Name/Nickname : Jordan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kurtsara View Post
You can put the smoker and porch on the front of a trailer so you don't have negative tongue weight. Does the op need a NSF smoke or can he get by with a cheap hog style smoker?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ynotfehc View Post
First thing in deciding equipment and setup is determining menu and how you want your flow. I went with a fully enclosed trailer but 3 large screened in awning windows on the back around the smoker, and 1 concession window. Customer orders at the window and I can usually have it dished up by the time they are done paying and have their drink if ordered, otherwise I would like to have 2 windows if I was doing larger events with 300+ covers for faster service.
I have a cto-dw and really like it. It's big enough to do a lot of meat but efficient enough to do smaller cooks too. It has a gas assist, but I use it only for starting the fire.
I would go everything possible propane rather than electric. Generators can be loud or expensive, and its a pain to refuel them in the middle of service. I've heard of more than a few food trucks and trailers exploding this year, because they were refueling while generator was running. I think I have pics posted of the interior of my trailer on my Facebook page, pig approved bbq, feel free to take a look.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
Putting the porch on the front side of the trailer is a damned good idea, but I don't see a lot of trailers built that way. For my next trailer (ie my dream trailer) that will definitely be something I'll look into.

As for a NSF smoker that's really a local health department question but definitely something OP needs to know before buying. As far as I understand most health inspectors don't seem to care as long as the smoker is covered (ie on the porch and screened in), as well as generally quite clean in appearance. But I'm sure some health departments are going to be much more restrictive, so certainly need to make sure before buying a piece of equipment.
Quote:
Originally Posted by medic92 View Post
As SmoothBoar said, griddles and fryers are something you may want to avoid. We have a griddle in our trailer and except for the very rare breakfast catering job (we've done two in 1 1/2 years) we don't use our griddle. Fryers are dirty, hot and a royal pain in the rear to deal with.
If upper cabinets are available in the trailer and the cost isn't too high, get them. We installed metal wire shelving in our trailer but securing everything with bungee cords and all that crap can be tiresome.
Like everyone else has said, figure out your menu to determine what you're going to need as far as equipment.
And don't let them talk you into a smaller refrigerator.
Cabinets, that can be done. Good call, I planned to do something similar to what you did originally.
Okay so cut out the fryer and grittle. I may just add a grill on the porch later.
Yes refrigeration is key. At my event in October (its an annual event) I was going through an average of 12 cases of turkey legs and 10 cases of sausage daily. That's in addition to the hundreds of pork and beef sandwiches I was serving.
This is also why I need a big pit & warmer!
When I am not doing events, I would like to be set up to sell more options by the LB.
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Old 12-19-2018, 05:16 PM   #10
kurtsara
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Before you buy a smoker just make sure you do not need NSF. You hate to buy something you can't use.

We have a 8' 6" X 20' with the porch on the front and 2 CTO's.


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Old 12-19-2018, 07:39 PM   #11
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Just as another trailer to look at for ideas, here's a very quick and very unprofessional Youtube video I did of the inside of our trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW6o...ature=youtu.be
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Old 12-19-2018, 07:45 PM   #12
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One more thing on the trailer. Get a serving/ordering window that slides side-to-side, not the lousy storm window that raises vertically. Trust me, you'll thank me for it.
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Old 12-19-2018, 11:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by medic92 View Post
One more thing on the trailer. Get a serving/ordering window that slides side-to-side, not the lousy storm window that raises vertically. Trust me, you'll thank me for it.
This is very true. While the storm window does work it offers no protection from the bugs during the warmer months...same goes for the wind. It's always open during service and it's definitely not the best design in the world.
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Old 12-20-2018, 08:05 AM   #14
jordan011
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Join Date: 11-30-18
Location: Spring
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kurtsara View Post
Before you buy a smoker just make sure you do not need NSF. You hate to buy something you can't use.

We have a 8' 6" X 20' with the porch on the front and 2 CTO's.


Any particular reason you went with 2 smaller cto’s instead of the dw model?
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Old 12-20-2018, 08:08 AM   #15
jordan011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by medic92 View Post
Just as another trailer to look at for ideas, here's a very quick and very unprofessional Youtube video I did of the inside of our trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW6o...ature=youtu.be
I like your set up a lot. It is very nice. I didn’t see a warmer. Did I miss it or how do you keep your cuts warm during the day? Do you ever use your oven? That is something else I had originally had on the list but cut out because I figured I could use my smoker. It might come in handy though I busy days or for sides I would imagine.
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