Consultant Q&A with Orlando Espinosa, principal, Orlando Espinosa + Associates LLC, Glen Mills, Pa.

FE&S: What are the most important questions to ask when purchasing a meal delivery cart?

OE: It’s first important to determine the type of foodservice operation the cart will be used in, such as a hospital, school, corrections, B&I, or sports and entertainment venue. This equipment also is commonly used for special applications, such as catering, camps, rec centers and with food trucks.

FE&S: What considerations are there in terms of the menu?

OE: Once an operator has identified the type of foodservice operation the cart will be used for, it’s key to look at the items currently on the menu that can be transported either hot and/or cold. This includes determining the portion size, whether food will be prepackaged for self-serve or bulk for either self-serve or attendant serve, and the time and distance the cart will be traveling to the point of service.

FE&S: How does capacity impact which meal delivery cart to select?

OE: Selecting the proper capacity for the transport cart in order to support the menu and operation is key. Operators need to determine how many shelves or universal pan slides are required per compartment to handle the number of portions/servings per pan.

FE&S: What are the differences between electric and non-electric carts?

OE: Both types of units come insulated and will maintain proper temperature for a period of time. The electric unit requires power at the point of origination and at the final destination in order to hold proper temperatures for an extended time. Non-electric carts working in conjunction with hot or cold pellets and can maintain temperatures for a limited period of time.

FE&S: What are the advantages and disadvantages of these carts?

OE: Electric models can maintain a consistent temperature over a longer period of time. In some models with compartments, multiple temperatures can be used for different types of products to be held. These carts also can hold products for multiple dayparts without deterioration of food products, depending on the menu offering. These are mainly used with refrigerated food items. In terms of disadvantages, these carts require electrical connections at the point of origin and final destination. These models also have slightly smaller holding capacities because of heating and cooling elements and are pricier. Non-electric carts don’t require utility connections, can be transported to any location without damaging electrical components, are more affordable to purchase and operate, and can maintain necessary temperatures for a limited time with proper temperature maintenance pellets.