At one time mobile catering consisted of almost entirely box shaped ‘burger vans’. Occasionally someone with a touch of flair, or perhaps just a bit mad, would put together something quirky. With the dawn of the instagram generation, boxy burger vans suddenly dropped out of vogue. To get ahead you really needed people to be sharing your set up. Sure, good food was important, but it was no longer the sole arbiter of success. Your food truck needed to look better.
We are going to be taking a look at some of the quirky, weird, wonderful and downright strange catering outlets around the world.
Shipping containers are ubiquitous throughout the world. A standardised method of transporting goods via road, rail and sea. Many of them however do find a second life as something totally different. From bars, to offices to mobile toilets. They have also found favour with catering vendors. The basic container is a strong watertight structure, that is built to accurate dimensions, and lends itself to conversions.
Happy as Larry is an Australian company that specialises in selling Napoli-style wood fired pizza. A nice touch in this container conversion is that they have replaced much of one side with huge glass pains to give a real contemporary feel to it.
Space Shuttle Cafe
If you are looking for something to convert into a food truck, the most obvious thing you could think of is an aeroplane. Probably not! This one was converted to a mobile eatery by GMC in 1976. But it started life as an actual flying machine in 1944.
Cotton Candy Jeep
One of our favourites this, take an iconic WWII off road vehicle, and shove a cotton candy (candy floss if you live this side of the pond) machine in the back. Oh and for good measure paint it all pink.
Walls Mini Ice Cream Truck
Walls ran a campaign called ‘Goodbye Serious’, where they built a miniaturised ice cream truck designed to drive into offices and dispense their best selling goodies. This is one seriously quirky little food truck. Though some of our taller staff might struggle to operate in this one.
K99 Ice Cream Cart
This one is notable, not for being a different type of food truck. But because of its target market. This sells ice creams for your canine companions. That’s right, doggy ice creams. Seems that scientists have discovered that gammon and chicken-flavored ice creams really hits the spot for our doggy friends.
These are gaining in popularity, and are being used for everything from a gin bar to a burger joint. The ironic thing is, was during the late 90’s, the fairground industry used these for staff quarters, then tended to scrap them at the end of the season. If they were scrapped, it wasn’t unknow to just remove all identifying marks and leave them in a layby for the council to dispose of. You try buying one now, I have seen them advertised for upwards of £30k.
Step Frame Food Truck
More of a Stateside set up, they have a plethora of large step fram delivery vehicles from the likes of Dodge, Ford, GMC etc. These are pretty near the size of a 7.5 tonne lorry in the UK and make an ideal blank canvas to fit out as a mobile eatery
Airstream Style Food Truck
Another option hailing from the good ole US of A. Airstreams were originally touring caravans. Till some adventurous soul decided to cut the side out and add a kitchen. They are now a fairly regular sight on the UK scene. With both the original Airstream brand and a number of both EU based and Chinese manufacturers building similar looking trucks.
A regular sight nowadays, horseboxes are easy to obtain, pretty easy to convert and very flexible, though a bit on the small side for some catering options. Prices are steadily rising, to the benefit of anyone needing to dispose of a horsebox that’s past it’s sell by date. What you once would have scrapped, you can now get a tidy few grand for.
Snow Mobile Food Truck
This one is as far as we know, pretty unique. A burrito joint on a tracked snow mobile platform. Great for last minute corporate jobs in the arctic. Bloody noisy if you need to take it down the M1 motorway to London.
London Red Bus Yoghurt Truck
An iconic British vehicle this time, an ex London Routemaster bus, turned into a yoghurt dispensary by Snog. A cool vehicle for a cool brand serving a cool product (literally)!
The Peanut Van
Occasionally there are totally custom built trucks out there. I’ve seen vehicles that look like hot dogs, doughnuts, oranges. This one is a peanut. Leaves you in no doubt what the product is.
Land Rover Ice Cream Truck
Another off road vehicle pressed into service. We have already had a Willy’s Jeep with a candyfloss machine. This one is the UK equivalent. In vehicles that is, not food. This is one cool ice cream truck.
Another ice cream van. This time shoehorned into a monster truck. Unless you are 6ft 6 you need step ladders to be served here.
Rocket Launcher Coffee Truck
A big boys toy this one. A coffee truck on a rocket launcher. Though it didn’t work out too well for two of the staff when they were arrested for causing panic on the streets of Malaysia. What’s next, doughnuts served from a Challenger tank?
Another paramilitary offering. Tapas from a tactical armoured car. It’s all starting to get a bit Mad Max.
The last couple of options were built on trucks designed to blow things up and start fires. These were designed to put them out. Popular both sides of the pond, though the US fire trucks just seem to be a lot more jazzy.
This time we are looking at what was once one of the biggest chains in America. At its peak they had over 1100 outlets. Now they are down to one. A number of factors came into play with this massive decline. One of which was the hugely controversial name.
Ostensibly the name was a contraction of two of the founders. Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett. However the name is also one that was offensive to a large part of the population, especially with it being linked to a book written in 1897 called The Story of Little Black Sambo. Much of the interior decor drew on illustrations from the book.
Predictably the name attracted protests, criticism and petitions for change during most of its operating life. The final remaining store changing its name after the George Lloyd protests in 2020
The first store opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1957. By 1968 it had grown to operate in 98 cities across America. It also diversified operating Red Top Hamburgers, Heidi’s Pie Shop, and the Blue Ox Steak House.
In the second half of the 70’s the chain came under increasing pressure regarding its unacceptable name. They steadfastly refused to change it, though in a number of locations they branded their eateries as Jolly Tiger, usually in locations where local laws had been passed forbidding the Sambo brand, or where they were having trouble obtaining permits due to the name.
In 1979 however the company reversed course and announced that they were dropping the Jolly Tiger brand citing poor financial performance, and would revert all restaurants to Sambo’s. They also cited a study claiming that three times as many black people ate at their chain than at other restaurants.
It was to be their peak. After 79 the company spiralled into decline. How much is down to the issues around the name isn’t clear, as a number of other corporate decisions also hastened their demise. One major issue arose when they dropped their “Fraction of the Action” scheme. This had paid the managers 20% of the outlets profits, with other staff being allowed to bid for percentages of the remaining profits.
A mere two years later the chain was filing for bankruptcy. Reorganisation and a name change to “No Place Like Sam’s” failed to help. And by 1982 all except the original diner had closed their doors. The restaurants were sold off to several operates, such as Denny’s and Baker’s square. All that now remains is the original located in Santa Barbara.
Following the riots over the George Floyd case, the owner Chad Steven, grandson of one of the original founders, finally gave in to public pressure and announced a name change, finally Christening it “Chafs” in 2020.
Happy national churros day. The delightful Spanish dessert, a bit like a doughnut, but long and fluted instead of round. Traditionally served with thick chocolate, but also perfect when filled with cream, jam or a variety of sauces.
Like many of our culinary delights, churros has a bit of an uncertain history. Thought ot have been brought from China to Europe by Portuguese merchants. The dessert resembles yóuzháguǐ a traditional Chinese recipe.
Another school of thought is that Spanish shepards made it to make up for fresh baked goods. Churros paste was easy to make and fry in the mountains where they spent most of their time.
There is also a recipe in Apicius the Roman cookbook for fritters made from flour and water, very similar to modern churros.
Whatever the true origins, churros now are a definite hit in the modern dessert world. So happy national churros day.
Out of all the various catering options we offer, our favourite is the coffee service. We use quality machines, quality beans and quality grinders that are dialled in at each event to dispense perfect coffee. We serve what we like to drink ourselves.
For a long time we have had a little coffee machine in the office, from delonghi. A bean to cup machine that needed you to froth the milk yourself, but did everything else for you.
Sadly this recently became a deceased machine. In truth I had repaired it a number of times, but on this occasion I decided that after making something like 10,000 coffees it was time for a new one.
One of the issues we had, was that some of the office staff weren’t very good at frothing the milk to make latte’s and the like. So we wanted something that everyone could use. To this end we finally sourced a Siemens EQ700, fully automatic machine.
This was a pearler of a machine. Not only did it offer a full range of coffees, but for the gadget freaks in the office, it as controllable not only from a phone app, but Alexa could be asked to make a ‘Latte’ and would oblige. So the less coffee savvy amongst us could make anything.
It also had what they termed coffee world, a system where additional coffee recipes could be accessed, allowing us to try coffee from all around the world.
That staple of dessert goodness, the doughnut is round right. Everyone knows that. If a lost tribe was discovered in the Amazon jungle they would know little of modern life other than Kim Kardashian has a large posterior and doughnuts are round.
Only they aren’t as I have just discovered. Seems some adventurous blasphemers have been making them square.
Actually as it turns out, the French (It would be them) have been making something called a Beignet for quite a long time. Seems it’s made from something called Pets-de-nonne, which sounds exotic and enticing, until it is translated into the English of Nun’s Fart. Lovely, so they eat frogs, horses and nun powered flatulance.
They also spread to the new world, in some of those states with French culture such as Louisiana and New Orleans. Being French they will no doubt taste fabulous.
Actual Square Doughnuts
Like many things it is arguable who made doughnuts square. Heck, people still argue over who made them round and who added the hole. The Square Doughnut Co in Terre Haute claim that their founder Richard Comer Sr. started making them in 1967. This could be true, though no doubt their will be a plethora of other claiming to have been square first.
Another in our case studies, this time providing EY waffles and smoothies on their tour of universities around the UK.
It started last summer when we were asked to provide a smoothies cart around a small tour of universities in the Yorkshire/Lancashire regions. EY were signing uni graduates up to their scheme, and thought a giveaway would be better than the usual free pen or such. It worked so well that about a month later we did it all again, this time handing waffles on a stick out.
A couple of month later we were asked to do it a third time, However after finalising that round of waffles. We were contacted by three other EY team members. It turns out that the initial team had exceeded their targets by a massive amount. The other teams looked a bit behind so decided they wanted the same advantage.
The scheme must have worked as we are just putting together the package for another round of events. This time is isn’t EY Waffles, but EY churros.
The one thing that was consistent at McDonalds was the food. All McDonalds served the same range of burgers, wraps etc. So where ever you go you have a familiar friendly menu right. Erm, no actually it isn’t. The fact is that McDonalds tailors many of its menus to suit the local market. There is no point for instance going heavy on the beef in India. Much of the population are Hindus who consider the cow a sacred animal. In fact in some parts of India it is illegal to sell beef. So lets look at some of the wonderful and weird McDonald burger options that you probably haven’t seen before.
This is the result of selling into a market that consider your main ingredient to be sacred. Well, not exactly the beef, but the cow that donated in. So in the Indian market, McD’s replaced the beef with chicken.
The Benedict Bagel
Take a strip of bacon, a slice of cheese, a nicely rounded egg, a lashing of Hollandaise sauce, and stick it inside a bagel. What you then have is a sort of eggs Benedict. Available in the New Zealand market.
Japanese Black Burger
If you want weird food then go to Japan. Between eating stuff that is raw, deadly, still alive, there is also stuff that is black. This Big Mac replacement is made using squid ink, to give it that look. Add some spicy sauce and cheese and you have something that looks like its crawled out of halloween. Of all the weird McDonald’s burgers, this is the wierdest.
Maine Lobster Roll
High end food like lobster isn’t something you normally associate with a low rent burger joint like McD’s. However in certain markets such as Maine, and indeed at one time in Italy, they have short term specials. One such example was the McLobster.
The McArabia, is available across the Arab world, and Pakistan. Two chicken patties, salad and tahini sauce, folded into a flat bread. To be fair it isn’t much different to a chicken sandwich, other than the choice of bread.
The McRice, available across the Philippines, pretty much starts out as a regular burger or chicken sandwich. Where it deviates, is in the bun. Or lack of a bun to be accurate. These are sandwiched between two slices of toasted rice.
Across some of its Asian markets, Maccy D’s have replaced the beef with shrimp. Not all the beef we hasten to add, they still sell burgers, but this is an additional line. Shrimp ground up and made into a pattie, sweet chilli sauce and a corn dusted bun.
Many people love burgers, and also love pizza. So our teutonic friends, with their world renowned efficiency, combined the two. A big mac inside a pizza bun.
If you fancy a trip to Thailand, you can indulge yourself in a pork samurai. As typical McDonalds fare such as beef isn’t as common in the country, they have switched to pork. Teriyaki sauce, lettuce and mayo completes the ensemble.
Another teutonic offering. Bratwurst sausages with mustard and onions. This one only had a brief run, but hey, nothing wrong with bratwurst.
Mashed Potato Burger
How do you improve on a Big Mac. Well, if you are part of the McDonald’s Chine team then the answer apparently, is topping it with a big dollop of mashed potato.
Our Dutch cousins came up with this concoction. A mixture of ground beef and cheese made into a fried patty. Then topped with mustard.
Another New Zealand special, the kiwiburger. A beef patty with an egg and beetroot slices.
Burger and Cheese
It would seem that our friends in Brazil are partial to cheese. Very partial. In fact your burger comes with a big tub of melted cheddar to dip into.
Crab Croquette Burger
Another entry from the land of the rising sun. This one is made from snow crab and mushrooms. Reports are it isn’t as nice as it sounds.
Cordon Bleu Burger
An entry from Poland. This one is ideal for those who can’t make their mind up. Beef, chicken and bacon.
From South Korea, comes the Bulgogi burger. A pork patty covered in sticky Bulgogi sauce a sweet, smoky, and slightly tangy concoction.
An Italian concoction, this must be the most appetizing looking piece of food ever. Did they use special software to remove all the colour from the picture? We love weird McDonalds, but not this one.
Dosa Masala Burger
A thin fermented rice and lentil pancake mixed with spicy potato. And drizzled with chutney mayo. It doesn’t really look appetizing, but the Indians must like it.
Three pieces of falafel garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, pickles and topped with Tehina sauce served in a tortilla wrap.
Turkish kebabs in a flat bread. Where else, but Turkey. Another local delicacy that should be shared with the wider McDonalds family.
When you look there are some really weird McDonald’s offering out there.
A short case study about our support for the 100% Club scheme.
About 4 or 5 years ago we supplied a single ride, a Carousel to a school in Leeds. This carried on for about three years, until they suddenly expanded the booking and starting reserving multiple rides and catering.
It turns out that they were running a 100% club. Any kid that had a 100% attendance record for that term would be entitled to spend a period of time at the mini funfair they had booked.
Suddenly we started receiving requests from other schools for the exact same thing. Turns out they were all part of an academy group of schools. We now provide attractions regularly to something like 9 different schools. This ranges from the latest thrill rides to things like burger and chips.
Talking to some of the teachers, it seems that they had posted an increase in average attendance at the schools running the scheme.
The Health and Safety team at the schools were pretty fierce at the first events, and had us jumping through hoops. Gradually they seemed to relax a little and adopt an attitude of suggesting slight improvements where necessary, rather than making a big issue of it. I think the fact that we put so much effort into doing things right, coupled with us making changes as soon as they request them, helped a lot.
This entry in our world’s burger joints is a little different. Rather than a chain this is a single location in Tempe, Arizona.
Founded in 2005 by Jon Basso with the intent of serving “nutritional pornography”. The Heart Attack Grill has one major selling point. It sells the world’s unhealthiest burgers. Ranging from a single upto a octuple heart bypass burger containing a massive 16,000 calories.
If you manage to finish this, you are wheeled out to your car by your personal naughty nurse.
Your side order of fries are cooked in lard, tequila and beer to make sure they contain as many calories as possible. Your soft drinks are made with can sugar, and patrons can buy unfiltered cigarettes.
Big Guests Eat Free
If you happen to weigh over 25 stone, then you eat free. You do have to weigh yourself beforehand, and drinks are excluded from the deal, oh and you can’t share your food.
The whole joint is themed around nurses/doctors. Guests don hospital gowns before eating. The nurses take prescriptions (orders) from the patients (guests).
If you don’t manage to finish your food, then one of the naughty nurses will paddle you. With the option to buy the paddle afterwards.
So, not only is this a hamburger place that uses the time tested tactic of sexy ladies. It also aims to feed you the most unhealthy burgers possible.
What could possibly go wrong?
2011 the Heart Attack Grills spokesman Blair River died at the age of 29 from complications with pneumonia. Not sure if the 41 stone he weighed had any bearing on that.
2012 a customer suffered a heart attack whilst eating one of their burgers. The owner called an ambulance, whilst the other patrons took photos.
2012 A female customer fell unconscious whilst eating a double bypass burger. Though she was also drinking ans smoking.
2013 another spokesman John Alleman (bit of a dangerous job that) dropped dead outside the restaurant whilst waiting for a bus. Not sure how heavy that one was.
When worked the funfair circuit we needed a generator for powering our equipment. Well, we used four of them in fact. When we moved totally into corporate entertainment we made it a condition of the contract that the client provided power.
This work well for a number of years, as usually we were powering perhaps a candy floss and a popcorn machine, so at most a couple of 13 amp sockets were fine.
During covid we suddenly found our clients asking us to provide larger catering services, such as serving four thousand burgers for Amazon in four hours, though that is another tale lol.
We suddenly found ourselves needing sixty and seventy amp supplies. So to translate this into a format that made sense to the client we would specify that we needed like four 13 amp supplies. What would happen is that we would arrive at the venue, be handed a four way socket and told here are your four supplies. Trouble is, the four sockets joined into a single 13amp plug. And ‘Oh’ they would say, ‘your sharing with the DJ, pizza truck and rodeo bull!’
Great, we were gonna be pulling 100 amp from a single 13amp plug. So no power problems expected then.
To circumvent this, we ended up adding some generators to our line up.
This gave us the flexibility to power ourselves and some spare capacity to boot.
Initially we would fill them up from a local garage that sold red diesel. But even though it was only about 4 miles away, it was still a hassle to couple up and run down there for fuel. Additionally at the time it was about £1.40 a litre from them. The local diesel supplier quoted £0.82 a litre, which was a massive saving, but would only deliver a 1000 litres a time.
So we added a fuel bunker to take advantage of this. Other people we know had similar but owning for lift trucks, would simply lift them in the air to allow gravity to dispense the fuel. Not owning a fork lift, we added a battery powered system and a metered pump.
We installed the system in the yard and had it filled. Then had a think about security. Some people feel entitled to help themselves to whatever without legal niceties such as ownership being considered relevant.
So we set about fortifying our diesel. A wifi camera provided not only monitoring of the set up, but would automatically light up the area, sound an alarm and alert me at my phone that someone was at the bunker. We also added locks to the on/off valve, filling hole. and pump switch.
My daughter pointed out that the battery just being sat there was screaming take me take me. So we fitted a secured steel lock box with the battery inside. A jokey conversation with a friend who looked at the system ended with him saying I am surprised you haven’t electrified it.
Ha, cant do that someone might touch it accidentally. Ha, they might, ha ha that could be fun. Yeah lets do it.
The end result is that the system is now fitted with a similar energiser to what farmers use to keep cows in their field. To be fair, it is remotely controlled, and not left live all the time. But I can turn it on from anywhere in the world using my phone. We also added a solar charger to keep the whole shebang topped up.
So our fuel bunker is ready for all comers.