Winter is coming and we reached out to our readers and some in the biz for advice on how best to deal with it. This first section is a guest post from Rick Humphrey of Curtis Trailers who has helped many carts get through winter in past years.
Many carts will attempt to survive winter, others are going to close and have at it again in spring. For those carts that are going for the winter run here are some tips: (These are recommendations only.)
Carts downtown and at other locations store potable water (per code) and others are on city water (hose) – both can survive a winter. For storage tanks their options are to drain their tank nightly or install a tank heater. For the carts on city water there are 2 options; running (trickling) water won’t freeze but you need to be able to keep your grey water tank from over filling. If that is not an option then heat tape on your fresh water hose will do. Remember to have the heat on in the cart and insulate your pipes.
When it comes to your grey water tank you also have options: If you don’t dump your tanks nightly then you may either install a tank heater or add salt or other minerals to the grey water. Salt changes the boiling and freezing points of water. You can find out more information online. There are many different sites.
Carts that are closing for the winter and returning in the spring have the greatest chance of having no water damage. By performing a procedure called “blowing out” which is by attaching a blow-out plug to their city water entry hooking up compressed air regulated at 45p.s.i. and simply push the water out the faucets. Then turn on your pump for 30 seconds leave your faucets open till spring and if equipped open your low point drains for your water lines. If you don’t have city water and your only using a potable system than ARTIC BAN non-toxic antifreeze or similar product can be used. Fill fresh water tank with 2-3 gallons (save 4 cups for the end). Turn on your water pump and pump antifreeze through all faucets, close them and take the 4 cups and distribute them evenly to the drains in your sinks and we will see you in the spring when you open.
We decided to reach out to cart owners and readers alike for some input on this topic – How do you survive winter?
- Partner with a delivery service to get your product into people’s hands and in the office towers.
- Tweak the menu to offer more winter items that may appeal to a cold customer – items like free hot tea while they wait
- Announce holiday hours in advance so travelers can plan visits accordingly
- Have a great space heater – the ovens and grills aren’t enough (this one from someone who has spent a few winters inside the cart)
- Use social media to let your fans and customers know you are open and serving
- Have a spouse or partner with a good income in case the customers don’t show
- Long underwear and a warm smile!
Lastly, a note about winter from Food Carts Portland
Winter is indeed a difficult time for many carts. The customers are just not as abundant as during the sunny spring-fall months. That said, the carts adjust accordingly and many of them will be there if you venture down. Weekends downtown will have slimmer pickings, so head to the east side and try something new. Lots like Rose City Food Park, Cartopia, Kruger Farms on N Lombard, Cartlandia on 82nd, Piedmont Station on NE Killingsworth, Picnic in Sellwood will all have covered tents with heating. Mississippi Marketplace has PROST! German pub as a place out of the cold and rain.
Food cart owners are usually a one person show, so give them a break. It’s winter and sometimes you go to bed feeling fine and wake up with a nasty cold. Sometimes, you arrive at the cart and the water tank is frozen solid no matter what precautions are taken. Sometimes, after working a few hours to prep for lunch, no one comes and they decide to close early. That’s cartlife.
Thanks everyone who contributed and helped out with this post. Now, pledge to go eat at a cart in the next week.
[Updated for 2016]