Vendor Cart Operations Manual – Daily Operations Guide

Hot Dog Cart Daily Operations & Procedures Guide

Keep an information binder on hand in your cart or food stand that includes the following material: your business license, location license or location rental agreement, your health department permit, a copy of the local health codes for reference, copies of your recent food supply receipts, and this operations manual. If you are operating under HACCP regulations, your HACCP log book should also be on hand. If you are serving at a special event, have the permit with you that allows you to operate at that special event. It is best to keep all these papers in clear plastic sheet protectors so that they stay un-frayed, clean and legible.  Also keep in your binder the instruction and maintenance manuals for any of the other equipment or appliances that you are use on the cart.

Another good idea is to use a Daily Check List for the items that you use and things you need to do in order to get operating each day. Use it to do a daily check of your cart, the equipment and contents before you set out each day. This will prevent any unpleasant time wasting surprises or snags after you get started working. It is always best to work from written checklists and not from memory.

Wash the cart every day before use. First wash the cart with hot soapy water to remove any dirt or spilled food. Then use a sanitizing solution to kill any remaining bacteria.  A sanitizing solution may be made by adding 1 teaspoon (5mL) of chlorine bleach to 1 Litre of water. Wear rubber gloves as these sanitizers are very hard on the skin.

Use this same cleaning and sanitizing procedure on all surfaces and appliances used to store, prepare, cook or serve food, all utensils and containers, and  also the sinks and faucets. Even the trash container should be cleaned to prevent any undesirable odour from developing.

Fill the fresh water tanks every day with fresh potable water. Do not re-use water from one day to the next.

Always empty the waste water tanks at the end of each day or work shift. These should not be emptied onto the ground but should only be drained down an approved sewer drain. The waste water tanks should also be washed periodically to prevent undesirable odours from forming.

Make sure that the propane tanks and propane gas appliances are all in good safe working order. This is both an operational and a safety issue. Replace or repair any defective gas equipment when a problem is discovered. Do not delay! Check that hoses are free of wear and hose connections are secure and will not come loose. Always keep an extra fully filled propane tank on hand so that you never find yourself out of gas in the middle of a work day. Always turn off the tank valves at the end of each day.

Use wheel chocks to hold the cart from rolling at locations where the cart is positioned on a slope.

Arrive at your location well before you are expected to begin serving food. This will allow you plenty of time to get properly set up without rushing. Being early will avoid the temptation to cut any corners on proper start up and equipment preparation.

Have a cash float with lots of coins. This will enable you to give correct change for the entire day. Being short of correct change is time consuming and aggravating.

Be consistent and reliable. Your customers will come to rely on you as a regular source of food. This will help you to build a regular loyal customer base.

Be friendly, cheerful and smile. Greet each customer. Learn the names of your regulars and their habits as this will build customer loyalty. Happy customers will be your best advertisers to all of their friends and co-workers.

Display a menu of the food items that you serve. This will save time during the busy lunch hour rush. It will enable customers to decide before they order. A nice professional looking menu can be made for a reasonable price at a vinyl graphics sign company.

Be a good neighbor to the other businesses near your location. Never let your business interfere with or detract from theirs. Instead your business should compliment and augment their businesses. Do not block vehicle or pedestrian traffic. Clean up any litter in the area at the end of the day.

Vendor Cart Safety Guidelines

Thunder Storms and Lightning

Food vendor carts are made from steel. Therefore, it is possibe that it will attract a lightning strike. If a lightning storm is seen approaching, close down the cart immediately and seek shelter. Cart operations should only be resumed when the storm has passed and the threat of a lightning strike is not possible.


Fires in a well maintained hot dog cart are rare but can still happen.  A fire extinguisher should be kept on hand in case of such an event.

A common source of fire is grease on the barbeque. Other appliances that should be used very carefully are deep fryers. Temperature settings should be monitored carefully. Never leave the cart with propane appliances left on. Clean grease from these appliances daily so as to prevent grease fires from occurring.

Small flare ups can be contained by turning down the gas setting and spraying the fire with water from a spray bottle. Keep a spray bottle of clean water on hand for just such occurrences. Be careful of scalding by steam when spraying the barbeque grill with water.

In the case of a larger grease fire flare up, turn off the propane control valve. Let the fire burn out or douse it with water. Be very careful of scalding by steam when dousing with water. Keep your hands and face clear of the super-heated steam cloud that will rise up from the grill. The source of the grease supplying the fire, usually fatty meat, should be removed from the Barbeque grill using a pair of long handled tongs. When the fire is extinguished, the burner can then be re-lit and any remaining grease will burn off in a more controlled manner.

If a serious fire develops, turn off the propane valve at the tank, and use the fire extinguisher. Discard any food sprayed by the fire extinguisher.

A propane leak is the other potential source of fire on a food cart.  This usually occurs under the propane appliance where the gas supply lines connect to the burner control valves. In such a case, switch off the propane supply at the tank. This will cut the supply of gas to the fire and it should stop immediately. Allow the area to cool down. Then inspect and reconnect the loose gas fitting or tube. Secure the gas line so that it can not become loose again. Once repairs are complete, open the propane supply valve again and carefully re-light the burners. Check the area under the affected appliances for flame before resuming operations.

Clothing catching fire is the another area of concern. There are two main causes of clothing fire.

The first cause is clothing soaked in grease. If the grease is exposed to flame it can easily ignite. For this reason wear a clean apron each day. Keep a spare on have in case one gets badly soiled during the course of the day.

The second happens if an operator gets too close to hot burners or appliance surfaces with polyester clothing. This can cause the clothing material to melt or even ignite. This is another reason why a proper approved butcher’s apron manufactured from heat and fire resistant material should always be worn when operating a hot dog cart.

First Aid

Keep a small fully stocked first aid kit in the cart to treat small burns, nicks, cuts and abrasions that will likely occur from time to time. It should include some disinfectant and an assortment of various sized “Band-Aids”. Check the first aid kit regularly and restock it with needed items as they are used up.

Sun Safety

Prolonged sun exposure and sun burn are constant health hazards to hotdog cart operators because they operate out of doors during the peek sun periods of the day. The cart umbrella may not always be positioned so as to shade you from the direct sun so wear a hat with a broad brim.  The best hats will completely cover your head and the tops of your ears.

Use high SPF sun block on any exposed skin. Be sure to cover areas that are exposed to a lot of sun and those difficult to reach spots. These include your nose, top lip, ears, neck, chest and the  back of your neck. In the case of sun safety, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reapply throughout the day and wash your hands afterward.

Wear good quality sun glasses to prevent eye strain and headaches.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and sun stroke. Drinks with high sugar content such as sodas are okay but you will likely need to drink a lot of them which is in itself not very healthy. Drink lots of water. If your urine is dark or you did not urinate all day, then you did not drink enough water and are dehydrated which is very unhealthy.

Towing the Trailer

Before towing always ensure that the cart trailer hitch is pushed all the way down and fully locked onto the towing ball. Be sure that the towing ball is the correct size for the hitch being used.  A hitch will easily connect to an undersized ball but it will also disconnect during to tow when bumps are encountered. Always connect the safety chains between the trailer and the towing vehicle. If you have the detachable tongue option on your trailer, check that it is properly re-installed before towing the cart.

Connect the wiring harness between the trailer and the tow vehicle. Check that the signal and brake lights all work.

Remove the wheel chocks and corner jacks before driving away. Make sure all items in and on the cart are fully secured, and that loose items are stashed and ready for transport before towing.

Check the tires for proper inflation pressure. A partially deflated tire can cause control problems in the tow vehicle and will reduce gas mileage. It could even fail at highway speeds causing you to lose control of your vehicle.

Hot Dog Cart Routine Maintenance

A mobile vending cart must be maintained in top condition at all times. If not, the owner risks being unable to do business thereby losing money.

Inspect the cart daily.

Routinely check the tires for wear and correct air pressure. Inspect the wheel bearings every 6 months. Replace the tires when the treads are worn.

Check that the trailer lights (marker, brake and turn signals) are all working. Keep a set of spare light bulbs on hand to enable quick fixes.

Inspect the wiring harness that connects the  trailer lights to the tow vehicle. Some sections may become worn. Examine the areas where the wires exit the trunk of a car and where the wires rub the frame when passing through channeling. Use electrical tape or flexible plastic wire conduit to protect the wire insulation.

Check all electrical connections for corrosion. A food vending cart is regularly washed and electrical connectors can corrode. Corrosion in the electrical system will cause a serious failure. A short circuit will blow the fuse in the tow vehicle and may burn out the electrical adaptor going to the trailer. The trailer and tow vehicle lights will then not work. An open circuit due to parted wires or corroded connectors will also result in the lights not working.

Ensure that the propane tanks and propane powered appliances are all in good safe working order. Check that the propane tanks are firmly secured in place and will not shake loose when towed. Inspect the propane hoses and replace any worn hoses. Check that gas hose connections are secure and will not come loose. Propane gas leaks can be detected using soapy water. Any leaks will be evident by expanding bubbles. Do not attempt to repair hoses using electrical or duct tape to cover over the holes in the hose! Replace any defective gas equipment when a problem is detected. This is a safety issue. Do not delay!

Make sure that all the doors on the cart close and lock firmly so that they will not spring open during transport.

The tight fitting factory supplied cart cover is an excellent way to protect the trailer from rain, road dirt and other contamination during transit. It will also keep it clean during storage.

Vendor Cart Trouble Shooting

If the gas burner will not start…

  • Check that the propane tank has gas in it.
  • Check that the valve at the propane tank is open.
  • Check that the propane tank line is connected to the burner.
  • Check that the burner gas control in ON and set to MAX.
  • If  it is windy, the wind is likely blowing out the flame. Shield the burner from the wind or move the cart to an area sheltered from the wind.

If the gas burner has gone out…

  • Check that the propane tank has gas in it.
  • Check that the propane tank line is connected to the burner.
  • If it is windy, the wind is likely blowing out the flame. Shield the burner from the wind or move the cart to an area sheltered from the wind.

If flames appear under the gas appliance…

  • Shut off the propane gas supply at the tank and allow the area to cool off.
  • Check if the propane gas supply lines have become loose or disconnected from the appliance burner.

If road lights on the cart do not turn on…

  • Check that the electrical wiring harness on the cart is connected to the electrical adaptor on the towing vehicle.
  • Check to see whether the light bulbs are broken.
  • Check the fuse box in the tow vehicle to see if the fuse for the brake, signal or marker lights is blown. If it is, replace it. Then also check for a short circuit in the lighting wires on the cart that may have caused the short. The electrical adaptor leading to the cart usually has an internal fuse and this may have also blown. Test the output voltage from the towing adaptor. If it is less than 10 volts, it is likely damaged and will need to be replaced.
  • Check that the wires in the wiring harness from the tow vehicle are not severed somewhere along their length.
  • Check that the wires in the wiring harness on the cart are not severed somewhere along their length. These may be damaged by wear caused by rubbing against the chassis or steel channeling. Replace worn wires.
  • Check the electrical connectors for corrosion. Frequent washing on food carts often causes corrosion to electrical wires and connectors. Replace worn or corroded connectors. Seal them to prevent moisture from causing future corrosion. Replace corroded wire with plated marine grade wire which is corrosion resistant.
  • Check for a faulty electrical ground connection on the cart. Corrosion or a loose ground connection will prevent a good electrical return path and lights will not activate.

If the wheels squeak…

  • Have a mechanic check the wheel bearings and lubricate or replace as necessary.

If your electrical appliances will not work…

  • Extension cord from outlet may have become unplugged.
  • Fuse inside building supplying power may have blown.
  • Check the entire length of the extension cord for wear or breaks.

If your DC refrigerator is no longer keeping food cold…

  • Check the thermostat setting on fridge.
  • Check the refrigerator door seal.
  • Battery may be depleted and needs re-charging.
  • Battery internal electrolyte level may be low and needs refilling. If adding water use distilled water available from a drug store.
  • Wires from the battery to the refrigerator may have become damaged, disconnected, or the connections corroded.

If your AC refrigerator is no longer keeping food cold…

  • Check the thermostat setting on fridge.
  • Check the refrigerator door seal.
  • Extension cord from outlet may have become unplugged.
  • Fuse inside building supplying power may have blown.
  • Check the entire length of the extension cord for wear or breaks.