Best Generators for Food Vans revealed

Best Generators for Food Vans revealed
4.5 | 18 votes

There was a time the only food truck to jingle its way round town was Mr Whippy. Now the kids who used to run out into the streets screaming for soft serves in a cone are all grown up and now they’re chasing a new breed of food truck. From tacos to gumbo, curry to burgers, food trucks are serving up a whole menu of appetising and (sometimes) gourmet goodies. It’s turned out to be a massive business opportunity in cities and ‘burbs across Australia.

Generators for Food Vans

For anyone who wants to get on the food wagon (sorry) and is thinking about starting a food truck business, or for those who already have a food truck business, power is an important consideration. Without the right electric generator, you’ll be out of power before you can say “My Whippy’s back”.  And there’s nothing worse than making people trek all over the city for their dinner only to find there’s nothing cooking.

Generators for Food Vans

VW Kombi Food Van

What type of generator do I need for my food truck?

By far, the best type of generator for a food van is an Inverter Generator. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not. The Inverter is a lightweight microprocessor that replaces the old school heavy alternator in conventional-style generators. Inverter generators produce clean, pure power that is ideal for food vans. You get clean quality power with the peace of mind that there won’t be any spikes or surges. This means you can power the more sensitive equipment that you wouldn’t normally trust to a generator, such as laptops and mobile phone chargers or any other electrical appliances. 

The other great benefit of an inverter generator is it’s eco-throttle feature, which automatically adjusts the engine speed in accordance with the required load. This means that your inverter generator is extremely fuel efficient and won’t guzzle loads of petrol unnecessarily. You get a longer continuous running time without the need to refuel – so unless your van runs out of fuel, there’s no need for emergency refuelling stops. You ultimately enjoy more power for less money – yet another way to improve your profit margin!

Generators for Food Vans

A Portable Generator allows you to run your van just about anywhere

Another huge advantage for food vans is that inverter generators come in more portable and lightweight designs than their conventional counterparts. This means they are easy to move into and out of the van (especially because they have a fancy ergonomic handle), and won’t take up much space when you’re on the road. All the more room for burger buns, taco shells and pork rolls!

Lastly, when your business is based on residential streets, you need a generator that isn’t noisy or disruptive. Inverter Generators typically come with sound-proofed casing, insulators and mufflers for whisper quiet operation. For example, a Yamaha 2000 watt inverter generator is rated at about 52 decibels at quarter load – that is quieter than normal conversation levels! 

Generators for Food Vans

Food Van Generator Recommendations?

Like any generator, inverter generators come in a whole range of sizes to suit different uses – we recommend checking out the My Generator Buyer’s Guide to ensure you get the right sized unit for all the appliances you intend to run. It’s essential you find out the wattage draw of your particular appliances (especially the starting wattage) so you get a generator large enough to power your food van. 

So whilst it’s different for each set up, the two most popular inverter generator models for food vans, coffee carts and market stalls are:

  • Yamaha EF2000iS: delivers a maximum 2000 watts and is great for smaller requirements within your van; lights, cash registers, small fridges, blenders and other small to medium sized cooking appliances. You can also connect two of these units together via a parallel kit, to almost double the power output.

  • Yamaha EF6300iSE: the largest of inverter generators, this is the number 1 choice for mobile vans and carts that run a coffee machine, coffee grinder etc. As these appliances typically need a bit more power, you’ll need the 6300 watts that this model produces to run the coffee equipment as well as all your other associated appliances.
Generators for Food Vans

The Yamaha EF6300iS: the most popular generator for coffee carts, food trucks and mobile businesses

If you require more information on generators for food vans/coffee carts, then feel free to call us on 1300 400 122. You can also read more in the following related articles:

TWO FINAL TIPS!

1) Watch this helpful video from a fellow Food Van owner demonstrating how he uses a wattage meter to measure the power draw of his kitchen appliances and to ensure he is using a generator set up with enough power:


2) An important safety point with generators and food vans is that when operating the generator it must have ventilation to draw in fresh air and for the release of exhaust fumes. Enclosing the generator and not providing sufficient ventilation during operation is unsafe and can damage the generator.  Be safe kids! 🙂

 

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly

Managing Director at My Generator
Sean is the co-founder and Managing Director of My Generator (mygenerator.com.au)
Sean Connolly

Latest posts by Sean Connolly (see all)

Comments

  • Felipe June 18, 2014, 4:34 pm

    Hi Sean,
    Thanks for this column, I was really lost about what sort of generator should I get for my food trailer. However I am still not sure if is possible to get an inverter generator capable to produce 5000 watts. All the ones I have found so far seems to be pretty bulky and they are not inverter generators.
    If someone knows please let me know.
    All the best
    Felipe
    Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

    • admin September 17, 2014, 1:27 am

      Hi Felipe,
      Thanks for your comment. We get a lot of customers inquiring about inverter generators for mobile food vans/catering business. For inverter generators producing more than 5000w, the best option is the Yamaha 6300w Inverter Generator. This generator produces a maximum of 6300w and has a continuous or rated output of 5500w. Yamaha generators come backed with a 4 year domestic warranty and a large network of approved service agents around the country.
      Regards,
      Sean

  • mark August 23, 2015, 4:52 am

    Hi. I have a 3.7 kva fuji. I run it directly to a fully auto coffee machine jura j9. Every time i run it the grinder packs up. Sensor maybe. Been through a few machines now. Why would it do this and how can i stop it from happening?

    • My Generator Admin August 23, 2015, 11:58 pm

      Hi Mark – We are aware of the generator you have. It sounds like your grinder may be drawing more power than the generator can produce, so its tripping the overload. For your kind of application, we would strongly recommend two things: 1) You use a premium brand generator such as Yamaha; they are built to handle more intensive use such as for small mobile businesses like coffee carts and food vans. The cheaper Chinese made generators are not suitable for this kind of use. 2) Typically for running coffee appliances such as coffee machines, coffee grinders etc. you will need a machine such as the Yamaha EF6300iS – this produces a maximum of 6300 watts at peak and 5500 watts continuous; this is usually the size you wil require to run your sort of appliances.
      Thanks, Steve

  • stelios October 26, 2015, 9:17 pm

    just a quick question:

    Can i connect my inverter – generator (Honda EU70Si) to a “box” where all the appliances of my van are connected?
    the maximum load on the box can be 3.6kw.

    thanks, s.

    • My Generator Admin October 26, 2015, 11:02 pm

      Hello Stelios, in this instance we would recommend you engage an electrician to inspect your electrical box and determine the suitability of connecting your generator as a power supply. It is difficult to provide all encompassing advice over this forum without knowing the full details of your particular set-up. Thanks, Steve

  • Scott Kilmartin November 1, 2015, 9:53 pm

    Hey Sean,

    Very timely and informative post for me!

    I’m restoring a retro ice cream truck.
    https://instagram.com/p/9ihV8zrdit/
    The van currently has a monstrous deep cycle battery system installed (which is what I’ve inherited it with from the previous owner).
    I’m looking to replace it with a generator that will run the two ice cream freezers we’ll be running this summer (and have enough grunt to run a coffee machine and possibly a soft serve machine which we’ll add to the truck over the winter for next year).

    I’m looking to buy a quiet – so inverter- generator that will be able to drive the freezers, soft serve machine and if we go down the coffee route be able to handle that as well.

    Do many food trucks connect their generators to the vehicles fuel tank for a constant feed?

    Cheers

    Scott Kilmartin
    Melbourne
    VintageIceCreamTruck.com
    instagram.com/vintageicecreamtruck

    • My Generator Admin November 2, 2015, 3:58 am

      Hi Scott,
      That’s a good looking truck! 🙂
      To help make your decision on a generator, the first thing you need to do is find out the peak wattage draw of your freezers; the best way to do this is use a wattage meter (available from any hardware/electronics store for around $15) – this device will give you the wattage readings you need. At the bottom of this blog article, you can watch a short video of a fellow food van operator use his wattage meter to get a reading on his electric deep fryer.
      Then if you go down the path of the coffee machine and soft serve machine as well, you’ll need to find out the same information. In our experience coffee machines and grinders will draw quite a lot of power and in almost all cases, they’ll need the Yamaha EF6300iSE Inveter Generator. In some cases, certain set ups that are running lots of appliances with high wattage requirements will require more than one generator.

      In relation to your question regarding connection to the vehicle fuel tank, no this is not common practice for inverter generators. There are such configurations that are more popular in other commercial industry applications, but not so much for food trucks.
      Hope that helps – just make sure to get those important peak wattage numbers of your appliances as the first step…then you’re in a position to choose the best power supply set up.
      Thanks, Steve.

  • Mathew November 17, 2015, 7:57 am

    Hello Sean,
    We own the franchise rights to a gourmet burger in K.S.A. and we are working on a food truck,
    that requires 25KW for the kitchen equipment. Would appreciate if you could get back to me with your suggestions for a appropriate generator.
    Thank you,
    Mathew

    • My Generator Admin November 17, 2015, 11:01 pm

      Hi Mathew, that seems like quite a lot of power for a food truck. Typically, most food trucks can get by on around 3 to 6kVA of power, depending on the type of appliances and how many.
      If in fact you have a particularly unique food truck set up that requires 25KW for your equipment, then you would be looking at around a 30kVA sized stationary generator, which would cost more than $20,000 and weigh over 500 kilograms, meaning you would need a separate trailer also to transport it. Again, this is not a normal generator sized used to run a food truck – I would be inclined to check the power readings of your appliances again to be certain of the required power draw.
      Hope that helps, Steve.

  • Karen November 23, 2015, 4:13 pm

    Hi, I’m a mobile food vendor and I need a generator that will hold up to my deep fryers (2) and warming steam tables (3) without tripping the generator and not noisy if possible. Any suggestions would help.

    thank you
    KAREN

    • My Generator Admin November 23, 2015, 11:34 pm

      Hi Karen, we can certainly help. First and foremost, you need to find out the peak wattage draw of your deep fryers and warming steam tables. Perhaps the best way to do this is to use a wattage meter (you can purchase one from an electronics retailer or hardware store for about $10-$15) to measure the peak watts that your particular appliances draw. Simply plug in the wattage meter to a mains power outlet, then plug in your appliances to get the watts reading. You can see at the bottom of this blog article, a video of a fellow food van operator using a wattage meter to demonstrate a watts reading on his electric deep fryer.
      Its essential you get the peak starting wattage information of your appliances first. Once you have that information, you can then select the right sized generator for you.
      However, as a general guide; our most popular generator for your type of application is the Yamaha EF6300iSE Inverter Generator – this produces 6300 watts at peak and 5500 watts continuously. It is a great fit for many food vans, coffee carts and other mobile food vendors. The other common choice is to opt for a smaller sized inverter generator (e.g. 2000 to 3500 watts) if your set up requires less power, or two of the smaller generators which can be connected together to almost double their output.
      Hope that helps, thanks – Steve.

  • Allison November 26, 2015, 3:00 am

    Hi
    I am in the process of setting up my own Coffee Van. The Coffee Machine that i have purchased needs 4300w. I noticed it has a 20 amp plug attached. Does the Inverter Generators have sockets to fit a 20 amp plug? Or can they be adapted to fit?
    Kind regards

    Allison

    • My Generator Admin November 26, 2015, 5:07 am

      Hi Allison, an inverter generator such as the Yamaha EF6300iS is most popular for your type of application. It comes with 3 x 15amp outlets. You can get an electrician to fit a 20amp outlet to suit your coffee machine. Thanks, Steve.

  • DannyBoys December 30, 2015, 10:31 am

    Hey Steve

    I am setting up a food truck and have calculated that the major equipment is as follows;
    Bain Marie = 1100 watts
    Star panini grill = 4600 watts
    Fridge = 1600 watts

    I still haven’t even calculated exhaust, lights, printer(for incoming orders from IPAD) and any other unforeseen items….

    But I think thats pretty much it. I’m assuming its going to anywhere from 7000watts up…What sort of generator do you recommend? Note that all these items will be running at full power during lunch or dinner service. So I can’t be turning certain things off to accomodate other appliances. Thanks for your time Steve…hope to hear from you soon.
    Dan

    • My Generator Admin January 4, 2016, 6:56 am

      Hi Dan, thanks for your question. That’s quite a bit of power. Most Inverter Generators max out at around the 6000 – 7000 watts mark. People with food vans that require more power than this tend to look at gas as an option to power some of their appliances, or look at reducing some of their equipment requirements so the power draw is within 6000 – 7000 watts. There are some less common examples of larger stationary/specialised generators (8kVA and above) built into larger food van / ice cream trailers, but these are quite expensive. Please feel free to give us a call on 1300 400 122 to discuss more if you need. Cheers, Steve.

  • Onix Lopez February 8, 2016, 2:32 pm

    Hello, I am in the process of starting a juice truck. do you think The Yamaha 6000 is enough to power the following ?

    1 Commercial Juicer
    2 “Blender
    3 “Coffee machine
    4 Fridge
    5 Freezer

    Also can 2 generators be combined ?

    Thanks in advance.

    • My Generator Admin February 9, 2016, 2:24 am

      Hi Onix, in order to find the right sized generator for your juice truck, you need to find out the starting and running wattage numbers for all of your particular appliances. The starting wattage is the most important, as some appliances like juicers, blenders etc. will have quite a high power surge when they first start up. To get these wattage draw details for your appliances, you can either contact the manufacturer, or use a wattage meter to get a reading, like a food truck owner does in this video HERE
      We find that the Yamaha EF6300iSE is one of the most popular mobile food van generators. It is particularly popular with food van/truck set-ups that have coffee machines and coffee grinders as these appliances will often draw quite a bit of power so the 5500 watts of continuous power that this generator produces is required. Again, you will need to find out the wattage draw of your particular appliances first.
      Lastly, yes there are some generator models that can be connected to almost double the power output, such as the Yamaha EF2000iS. This is a popular option for smaller food van set ups that can get away with only needing around 2000 watts of power, or around 3600 watts when two of the generators are connected.
      Do your sums on the power you require first, then you can select the generator size you need. Cheers, Steve

      • Filippo February 13, 2016, 3:53 pm

        Hi,

        My enquiry is about the best generator for my need. I would like to make a portable gelateria in a food truck using my ice cream maker: a 3 phase( Telme Combigel 14 A – 5,6 kW V 400 – 50 – 3) plus I need to fit fridge ,freezer, batch freezer and other appliances. I would need 10 hours and more autonomy. What type of generator should I go for?

        Thanks

        Filippo

        • My Generator Admin February 15, 2016, 1:04 am

          Hi Filippo,

          At your required size (5-6kVA), the most popular generator for food trucks is the Yamaha EF6300iSE Inverter Generator. Inverter generators are the most popular option for your type of application as they are quiet, fuel efficient and provide clean, stable power.
          However, that generator (the Yamaha EF6300iSE) is a single phase generator – we are not aware of any three phase inverter generators. So you can look at options such as the Honda Powered 8kVA Powerlite Three Phase Generator and then add an Automatic Voltage Regulator as an additional accessory to provide cleaner power. This is a high quality, very reliable unit, but it will be noisier than an inverter generator and likely less fuel efficient.
          Hope that helps, thanks – Steve

  • Allan February 18, 2016, 11:13 am

    Hello! Great thread, great read. I am interested in your knowledge of powering the following…

    Coffee machine 3600w 20a peak
    Grinder 610w 2.5a
    Sandwich press 2200w 8.7a
    Hot plate 2400w 10a
    Fridge 360w 1.5a
    Aircon 3600w 5.6a
    Hot water 3500w 15a

    All inside a truck!
    Do you recommend 2x yamaha EF6300iSE?

    Thank you in advance!

    • My Generator Admin February 19, 2016, 3:32 am

      G’Day Allan – many thanks for your inquiry.
      With your list of appliances, you just want to be sure that you know the peak wattage demand of each item. I can see you have listed the peak draw for the coffee machine at 20 amps, which for a single phase machine is 4800 watts. You need to know this peak surge for the other appliances also, like your grinder, sandwich press, hot plate, fridge etc. What you have listed appears to possibly be the rated draw, not the peak draw when starting up.
      Once you have that information, you’ll be better equipped to make your decision. You can get this peak wattage number for your appliances by either speaking to the manufacturer of the appliance, or using a wattage meter to take reading, like this fellow food truck owner does in this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSoM3GODJxo
      Overall, I suspect you’ll need at least one Yamaha 6300iSE generator as your coffee machine surges to 4800 watts alone – add on one or two more appliances and you’ve maxed out your 6300 watts peak capacity on that generator…so then you’ll need another generator to run the remaining appliances – the sizing of which again comes down to getting those peak wattage numbers for every one of the items you need to run! Cheers, Steve

  • t.kapla April 27, 2016, 1:59 am

    HI there , ive recently started food stall and want to purchase the generator, but until then is it possible to use my generator 1800w , and still get power to all my appliances??
    running x2 240 w fryers
    x1 240 w warmer
    1 240 w cooker??
    pls advise
    thnks

    • Lachlan Adams April 27, 2016, 10:55 pm

      Hi – It appears you are referring to 240 volts for your appliances. Not watts. You need to know how much power (in Watts) your appliances draw at both start up and when running. Any appliance with a heating element or a motor will have a peak start up draw which is usually multiple times the running draw – to find out the starting wattages for your particular appliances, it is often best to contact the manufacturer of your appliances and speak to their technical department, or you could use a wattage meter like this fellow food stall operator does here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSoM3GODJxo
      Once you know how much power you need (in Watts) to start and run your appliances, then you’ll know what size generator you need. Thanks.

  • Glenn June 22, 2016, 11:56 am

    Hi Sean,

    I am looking at the power supply for my ice cream truck. I am going to be using a fresh fruit ice cream machine which runs at 1400w when blending the ice cream but the surge start power is 7000w but for only 0.02 of a second. Does this mean I would need a generator 7000w plus my other appliances.

    Cheers

    • Lachlan June 23, 2016, 3:20 am

      Hi Glenn – the short answer is yes. To start your ice cream machine you would need a generator that has a maximum output of 7000 watts or more. When you add more appliances, obviously this will add to the required power.
      You could look at staggering the start of your appliances (although be conscious of appliances that will also intermittently surge to their maximum draw during operation) or perhaps what would be best is to get an electrician to take a power reading of all your appliances operating in your truck to find out your overall maximum power requirements.
      We have sold generators to customers with Ice Cream Trucks and often they are around 12 to 15kVA in size (compared to standard food trucks and coffee vans which will often only need around 4 to 7kVA)…So a generator for some ice cream set ups can be quite large and there are challenges with reducing noise but also importantly ensuring the generator has fresh air intake and can safely emit fumes. However, once again, your first step is getting the overall required power details for running all your appliances in your ice cream truck.
      Feel free to give us a call on 1300 400 122 if you’d like to discuss further. Thanks.

  • Jeremy L Frice October 7, 2016, 8:47 pm

    Hi,

    I’m looking for a generator to power my Carpigiani LB 502 and I’m pretty lost on where to start. The electrical requirements are as follows:

    Voltage 208-230
    Phase 1/3
    Cycle 60Hz
    Breaker Size 50 Amps/40
    Running Amps: 39/31
    Number of Feeders: 1

    Any information on a generator would be much appreciated.

    Jeremy

    • L Adams October 9, 2016, 11:54 pm

      Hi Jeremy, thanks for your inquiry and the info. We have sold many generators for your type of mobile food/desert/catering application. I would strongly recommend you contact Carpigiani and speak to their technical department and ask them what the maximum power draw (peak power requirement) for your particular model. Almost always, the important peak (starting) power requirement of the machine is not stated on the data plate or in the product manual… only the running power requirement is stated. So you need to find out that starting power number of your machine in order to get the right sized generator. Thank you.

  • Elena December 6, 2016, 1:05 pm

    Hi,

    I’m looking to buy a generator for my food van, at the moment lm hiring generator to use. I used 3 x 15amp, do you think the Yamaha is enough to supply power for my food van? Thank you

    • L Adams December 6, 2016, 11:15 pm

      Hi Elena, The Yamaha EF6300iSE Inverter Generator is certainly our most popular generator for food vans and coffee carts and it comes with 3 x 15 amp outlets. In terms of power, it delivers 6300 watts maximum and 5500 watts continuously.
      To know how much power you require for your food van, you need to know how much power all of your appliances draw (at both start up and when running continuously) – you can either engage an electrician to take this reading, or use a wattage meter (available at hardware stores for around $15) to take a reading yourself: this youtube video shows one of our food van customers demonstrating the use of a wattage meter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSoM3GODJxo
      Most food vans/coffee carts can operate within 6000-7000 watts total, but for set ups that require more than this, often operators can look at alternative power sources such as gas, in addition to having generator(s).
      Many thanks.

  • Ian January 16, 2017, 1:05 pm

    Hello,

    After reading some of the above comments, i am now looking at the Yamaha EF6300iSE to power a La Marzocco 2 group machine. The fact sheets states it requires a 3 phase with element wattage of 3600w – 4600w and from digging it takes 20amps. Would re configuring the generator to a 20amp plug void the warranty ? And what impact would 3 phase have on the overall system.

    Thank you

    • L Adams January 16, 2017, 10:55 pm

      Hi Ian, thanks for your question – if you have 3 phase appliances, then you need a 3 phase generator. The Yamaha EF6300iSE is a single phase generator.
      In terms of re-configuring the standard plugs to a 20amp outlet, this is quite common (especially for food van owners) and it is a simple undertaking for an electrician.
      Many thanks.

  • Heather Millington April 13, 2017, 7:10 am

    Hi
    We’re running a mobile wood-fired pizza oven business and up to now we have only done events which supplied power. We are going to need a generator this year to run the dough roller and maybe a light in the evening.
    I’ve attached the spec of the roller. Could you tell me which generator I could use to power these. Many thanks
    Heather
    Specifications

    * Automatic start when dough is loaded into hopper
    * Automatically feels the dough weight and the rollers start
    * Touch sensitive, automatic when it detects dough
    * produces a pizza base between 260 – 400mm
    * Dough weight that can be loaded 210 – 700g
    * Timer 10 to 35 seconds – shuts off automatically
    * Machine can be set to continuous mode
    * Rollers can be adjusted to set different pizza base thickness
    * Weight 36kg, packed 43kg
    * Electric 13A, 0.25kW, 230V, UK plug
    * H720 x W540 x D410mm

    • L Adams April 18, 2017, 1:26 am

      Hi Heather, thanks for your inquiry and providing the specification information. Regarding the Electric data from your specs, you’ll need to find out whether the “13A” relates to the continuous running watts, or the maximum starting watts of your roller appliance. 13A refers to 13 Amps which equates to 3,120 watts on Single Phase (230-240V) appliances. So, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer of your roller (and speak to their technical dept.) and inquire as to what the maximum starting power draw is… Most electrical appliances will have a maximum starting wattage and this amount is not typically displayed on the data plate or in the product manual, so you’re best to contact the manufacturer. Once you have that information, you can then correctly size the generator for your needs.
      For your general benefit, the most popular generator model that we supply for your type of application (mobile pizza business, coffee vans/carts, food stalls etc.) is the Yamaha EF6300ISE Inverter Generator. This is an excellent generator for mobile businesses such as yours. Some operators can get away with smaller generator models but once again, you need to know the power requirements (both running and max starting power) for all of your particular appliances to get the right sized generator. Thank you.

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