Specialized ‘Mobile Kitchen’ Keep Delivery Food Warm
Phil's BBQ's delivery fleet features vans and trucks with customized bodies.
For Phil Pace, his barbecue delivery vehicles act as mobile kitchens. Ranging from full-size vans to trucks, each vehicle is on the road every day.
“During the week, we mainly deliver preordered food to businesses and commercial buildings,” says Pace, owner of San Diego-based Phil’s BBQ. “Each vehicle carries from one to three orders at a time, but all the orders must be delivered within an hour.”
In addition to food deliveries, Phil’s BBQ runs full-service restaurants and onsite catering.
Full-size vans haul all the catering equipment, including a grill, charcoal, wood, tables and the food, according to Pace.
Phil’s BBQ’s fleet is made up of 20 GM vehicles, including Chevrolet Express cutaway vans and Chevrolet Silverado and Colorado trucks with specialized bodies. These specialized bodies feature a built-in oven and refrigeration, says Pace.
The Express vans don’t contain the specialized bodies. In addition to hauling catering equipment, they are also used for local deliveries — the food is transported in Styrofoam boxes.
Since opening its first restaurant in San Diego in 1998, Phil’s BBQ has served more than one million pounds of barbecue sauce, according to the company.
Expanding from four employees to more than 400, it currently operates four full-service restaurants, as well as a location at the San Diego International Airport and two locations at Petco Park baseball stadium.
Serving the San Diego area, the fleet vehicles cover a 50-mile radius and average 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year, says Pace. But Phil’s BBQ tries not to say “no” to any order — if a catering request is made outside of 50 miles, the company charges $1 per mile and for labor hours.
Phil Pace (left) talks with Don Hughes, his Business Elite representative, near one of his fleet vehicle's built-in oven compartment.
General Motors’ Business Elite program has made it easier for Pace to order new vehicles. “When we need a new vehicle, my Business Elite rep will go out and find us a vehicle; he knows my vehicle specifications and knows exactly what we need.”
Launched in 2013, the Business Elite program is equipped to meet the needs of small fleet customers. This partnership doesn’t end with the purchase of a vehicle; it continues with regular maintenance checks through the lifecycle of the vehicle.
In addition to helping pick out vehicles, Pace’s Business Elite rep (Don Hughes from Bob Stall Chevrolet) will also orchestrate shipping each vehicle to Indiana to be upfitted by Delivery Concepts, an outfitter that specializes in designing custom vehicles for clients in the food industry.
“Phil’s BBQ buys the chassis from us,” says Hughes. “Then the chassis is shipped to Delivery Concepts, where they put on the box with built-in heating and refrigeration.”
With heated and refrigerated compartments, Pace’s customized trucks help keep the barbecue items at the proper food temperature. The driver is able to control both the oven and refrigerator by adjusting a thermostat.
One of the delivery fleet's Chevrolet Express cutaway vans.
Through Delivery Concepts’ design, the compartments function through a compressor on the engine — the oven is heated by the radiator while the refrigeration is powered by a custom bracket kit that mounts to the engine, according to Pace.
To make sure the food remains stable while on the road, both the oven and refrigeration compartments contain shelving for various sized orders; the oven side features full-size sheet pan shelving.
“When making local deliveries, the food is cooked in the restaurants and then put into the oven side of the vehicle,” says Pace. “For catering events, we use the refrigeration while driving to the event. Once we cook the food on-site, we place it in the vehicle’s oven compartment to hold hot before serving.”