For Steve Schaefer, a food trailer was a way to expand his restaurant’s catering opportunities as well as build its brand.
“We have a catering option as part of our business plan,” says Schaefer, managing partner at MShack, a burger joint with three restaurants located in the Jacksonville, Fla., area. “We have a quest to go to different locations, and a mobile kitchen means we could take the kitchen with us to events.”
When looking to create a mobile kitchen, MShack chose M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks. Based outside of Jacksonville, M&R specializes in building custom food trucks and trailers, barbecue smokers on trailers, as well as specialty trailers for hauling motorcycles and ATVs.
M&R has more than six years of experience building mobile food units, and each food truck/trailer is designed and built to the client’s specifications. According to M&R, it usually builds three concession trucks or trailers per month.
When not serving customers at its San Marco, Fla., location, the MShack food trailer travels to cater at local businesses, parties, and other events, including the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium for home games. The trailer’s menu consists of gourmet burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes.
MShack’s Chevrolet Express 3500 van pulls the food trailer and holds additional catering supplies such as tables and chairs.
“In 12 months, we did over $300,000 in business and only paid $60,000 for the trailer and equipment,” says Schaefer, who has been running the mobile kitchen for about two years. “It’s been a fantastic business investment so far.”
To help with the layout of the mobile kitchen, MShack provided M&R with its ideas. The kitchen features two griddles to cook the burgers, refrigeration to hold 200 burger patties at one time, a freezer to store French fries and milkshake mixes, as well as a station for toasting buns and a station for packaging the food.
When on the road, the mobile kitchen gets its power from an on-board generator. But when it’s parked at its San Marcos location, the trailer can be plugged in for power — saving hours on the generator, says Schaefer.
M&R functions as a one-stop shop for creating food trucks and trailers. According to Schaefer, M&R purchased the trailer from a local dealer, helped secure the kitchen equipment, and custom built the mobile kitchen.
In addition to the food trailer, Schaefer has also purchased a custom barbecue trailer from M&R. Pulled by MShack’s Ford Transit van, the barbecue trailer holds Schaefer’s smoker. “We use the smoker for catering and everyday use. I smoke 150 pounds of pork butts each week for pulled pork menu items.”
The food trailer has served as a moving billboard for MShack as it drives around Jacksonville and nearby cities.
“People are starting to recognize our brand and are excited to get one of our burgers, some fries and a shake,” says Schaefer.
To help stand out on the road, Schaefer added a special paint on the trailer so it glows when headlights hit it.
“The trailer has helped tremendously with our business,” adds Schaefer. “People say, ‘I saw your food truck on the road.’ The trailer has opened the door for more potential catering operations and brings more people to our restaurants. It’s an extension of our business.”