Food trucks are one of the fastest developing establishments in the foodservice industry. In 2015 alone, food truck businesses across America yielded more than $850 million in revenue, with a growth of $140 million expected by 2020.
But more food trucks cruising American streets isn’t all good news.
This rapidly growing type of foodservice comes with dangers such as fire hazards, especially for inexperienced operators. With accidents involving cooking appliances and chemicals also posing significant threats, there’s a need for caution when operating a food truck business. This is why it is especially important to do your safety homework if you are a new food truck owner.
So, how can you ensure safety on your food truck?
To get you started, here are 7 safety tips for food truck operation:
1. Install an Automatic Fire Suppression System
Whether you’re using electrical or gas cooking appliances, fire breakouts are always a risk. And with most food truck fires involving cooking equipment, many municipalities have made the installation of an automatic fire suppression system mandatory. Even if your municipality doesn’t, you’re better off installing one just to be safe!
This type of fire suppression system automatically releases fire-suppressing chemicals in case of fire break out. They also come with a manual switch, which you can use to cut off electricity or fuel supply to food truck appliances used for cooking in case things get dicey.
For optimal performance and safety, have your fire suppression system installed by the professionals when your food truck is being built. And since—like any other system—fire suppression systems can become unresponsive or faulty, you’ll need to schedule biannual inspections by a professional. If you can’t locate an inspector in your area, ask the system’s manufacturer to refer you to a certified distributor for routine maintenance and inspection.
2. Ensure Optimal Ventilation
A good ventilation system is the heart of every food truck business, as it keeps your kitchen free of smoke, excess steam, dust, and other debris. It also prevents the accumulation of oil droplets, which can result in greasy kitchen surfaces.
Grease, smoke, dust, steam and other debris can become safety hazards when left unchecked. Greasy surfaces can be slippery, and this can cause all kinds of accidents. Dust particles, steam, and debris can contaminate food, causing health hazards.
That’s why you need to keep your vent system in optimal condition through routine inspection and maintenance. Not only do you need to inspect the various parts for damages, but also clean them on a regular basis. The parts to pay attention to here are the food truck vent hood, exhaust fan, hood filters, grease containment system and ductwork.
Hood filters are particularly prone to wear and tear, and you need to keep an eye on them for any signs of damage. If you can’t repair them, it might be time for a replacement. Besides that, you also need to keep your exhaust fan belts in good working condition. You might want to keep a spare fan belt on hand in case of problems, as they break easily.
Also, be on the lookout for frayed wiring on your fan and motor. Ensure the upblast exhaust fan remains balanced throughout. Also, keep the bearings in optimal condition. If your fan is mounted on your truck’s roof, it’ll be vulnerable to flying debris and harsh weather conditions. As such, you’ll need to keep checking it frequently for damages.
3. Buy Portable Fire Extinguishers for Back Up
Particularly buy class K fire extinguishers. These are specifically designed to put out fires involving fats, oils, and grease. Such fires burn at high temperatures and might be hard to put out with a truck fire extinguisher of any other type. But for all other fires—electrical, paper, plastic, wood—you can use ABC extinguishers.
Keep in mind that class K fires extinguishers will work best if you use them after activating your inbuilt hood suppression system.
4. Inspect your Exhaust System for Grease Build Up
The NFPA Fire Code requires food truck owners to perform quarterly inspections of systems used in high-volume operations. For systems used in medium-volume operations, the NPFA stipulates semi-annual inspections.
In addition to these demands, the regulatory body also calls for monthly inspections for exhaust systems that serve cooking equipment that uses solid fuel. So if you’re using charcoal/wood-burning ovens or food warmer burners, you’ll need a certified inspector to take a look at your exhaust system monthly.
5. Don’t Overlook Staff Training
Staff training is important if you want to keep your food truck on the streets. Employee training will not only help you pass health inspections but also prevent fire and occupational hazards.
As such, you need to ensure that every member of your crew takes food truck safety training. There are free courses online you can use to teach your workforce the right way to handle food, equipment, and emergencies. But if you’re not a DIY enthusiast, you can outsource to an expert for a small fee.
6. Don’t Let Sick Employees Report to Work
In case a member of your staff gets sick, let them get well before resuming work. Letting sick employees prepare food is wrong for several reasons. First, they can contaminate food, especially if their symptoms include coughing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Second, a sick person is likely to be less focused when operating cooking equipment, and this can result in accidents. Also, if health inspectors find out that you’re letting sick employees prepare food, they can shut down your business.
7. Perform Self-Inspections
Twice every month, take a walk through your mobile kitchen, noting down any safety concerns. This will allow you to identify potential safety concerns early enough so you can devise an appropriate course of action before the situation develops into something more serious.
This means inspecting all your equipment for faults as well as performing self-health inspections. But for the latter, you’ll need health inspection forms so you know exactly what you’re looking for. You can download these from your health department’s website, or borrow some from your health inspector.
Where Can I Get the Best Food Truck Equipment?
Let’s face it: even with these safety tips, it can be hard to run a safe mobile kitchen without high-quality equipment. Faulty food truck equipment can cause accidents, and also put you in trouble with health inspectors.
Looking to upgrade to sleeker wheels? Custom Concessions has you covered. It doesn’t matter what type of truck you need. We have the expertise to fit it with the kitchen and operating equipment you need, with your preferred interior design.
Want more food truck advice? Check out more blog posts here!
Thinking about starting a food truck? Request a free custom quote and one of our food truck specialists will help you design the truck of your dreams.