Monday, September 22, 2008

Army mobile kitchen trailer for catering?

I'm not aware of anyone who's purchased an U.S. Army surplus mobile kitchen trailer (MKT in army parlance) to use in a commercial venture. The design of the culinary war-fighting platform makes conversion to civilian use a difficult issue.

Like military collectors who've restored vintage Army mess trucks, I'm sure there are collectors who've bought the MKT as a collectible. It makes sense when you consider the thousands of trailers that were in service from the 1970s on.

Last week, Ron, a retired U.S. serviceman, posted a comment to an article I wrote on the MKT in June 2006. Although Ron doesn't say so, I suspect that he's a retired Army cook. Here's his question:

May name is Ron I am retired military and currently reside in SC. My dream is to Someday open my own restaurant. I am planning on starting small, with a on the go (type) menu that hopefully will lead to catering, and ultimately a restaurant in 5-10 years.

I was hoping to buy at DRMO a used MKT. Has any one done this before? Would like to know what the drawbacks and positives my be.
Thank you for writing Ron. Your plans are certainly ambitious. But with skill and drive, you should be able to bring you idea to fruition.

You might want to reconsider your plans to use a MKT for street-side vending. I don't believe the trailer will meet code in most U.S. locations without extensive conversion. An used commercial catering trailer or van would serve you better.

Although I'm guessing that you might have more experience on the MKT than I do, the platform wasn't designed with civilian food service in mind. The Army took the existing 2-1/2-ton trailer and added field cooking equipment (mainly the M59 field range outfit with the M2 burner), built in few storage cabinets and and put a collapsing roof over the top.

The lack of on-board lighting, plumbing, ventilation and water storage systems will certainly hinder your plans. The South Carolina health code is going to require on-board lighting, sufficient water storage capacity, sewage holding tanks, hand-washing and food-preparation sinks and adequate refrigeration.

I certainly don't want to discourage you. Your business plans are intriguing. I'd be there to help if I lived in South Carolina.

Talk to your local county environmental health inspectors. They'll be able to guide you in the right direction. It's always helpful to have the local authorities involved in the process from the beginning since they're going to issue the permit.

South Carolina Regulation 61-25, Retail Food Establishments, should help. While I don't know the how South Carolina regulations function in the working world, this paragraph will give you a starting place. Click here to reach the South Carolina food protection program website.
Mobile food units preparing food shall have preparation and display areas completely enclosed with a solid material, and doors shall be kept closed when not in use. These units shall be provided with a handwashing lavatory equipped with hot and cold water under pressure, soap and disposable towels, an approved waste water tank, and may prepare such foods as hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza, soft ice cream, and other similar foods approved by the health authority. (Chapter X, Mobile Food Units, page 43.)
While you should be able to move forward from mobile vending to catering to a restaurant, I don't think a MKT is the way to go.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. drmo no longer sells to the public you have two choices :goverment liquidators" who i personaly will not do business with and the "gsa auction" service who are great people to work with.

  3. If you are interested in purchasing 1 or more MKT's , my fiance' has 3 and I'm sure I can convince him to part with at least 2.

  4. No thanks ... like you, I don't need one in the driveway!

  5. Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. I tried to add your RSS to my feed reader and it a few. take a look at it, hopefully I can add you and follow.

  6. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Catering Equipment

  7. I worked on the MKT for many years and yes you may have to modify it I would love to have one.I worked on the MKT many times in Germany and most of the time I enjoyed it.. There are some Dangers with the M2 Burner but Just like any piece of Equipment you need to know what you are doing with it. I had some close calls but I would not trade my Experience on it for nothing. In fact I was Field Feeding with one of my Units and We Won the PHILLIP A. CONNOLLY AWARD for Field Feeding .I wish I had at least a half dozen of them but My health has put a stop to that.. Good luck on your Future Endevers and if you need some help getting your burners give me a holler, I would like to help. Mr Oscar F. Toce (Russ) SGT Retired 24 Years. U.S. ARNG U.S, ARMY U.S.A.R You can E-Mail me @