Local Biz Tricks Out Food Trucks

Chameleon Concessions designs and builds many popular food trucks.
When you see Hot Indian's new food truck in downtown Minneapolis this summer, you'll know where it came from, and that makes owner Amol Dixit, left, and executive chef Janene Holig, right, very happy.

Chameleon Concessions helps restaurant owners, food service entrepreneurs and celebrity chefs serve up fabulous food truck cuisine. Years of experience have prepared Chameleon Concessions owner Mark Palm to capitalize on the Twin Cities food truck craze. Before launching Chameleon Concessions 12 years ago, Palm was selling pots and pans nationwide for Palm Brothers Inc., a family restaurant equipment business that has been around since 1910. While there, Palm learned of big box retailers that wanted to sell hotdogs, so he began building hotdog stands on the side. This led to expansion into tow-behind concession trailers. Eventually, Palm exited the family business to build concessions full-time. His expertise would later make him the go-to guy for designing and building food trucks. Chameleon Concessions operates out of a warehouse in Plymouth similar to an oversized garage with an overhead door for driving trucks inside. Palm and his twin brother Rick manage entire food truck projects from start to finish and also modify pre-owned trucks brought to them by clients. Chameleon Concessions often works on three or more food trucks at a time. From gutting to wall coverings, trucks move through various stages of production. Electricians, pipe fitters and other licensed professionals are sub-contracted to ensure every truck meets code requirements. And Chameleon Concessions knows exactly what each food truck needs, like heavy duty springs on the side of the truck where equipment sits and food service happens. Palm partners with another Plymouth company, Pixelwerx LLC, for design and graphic artwork application to food truck exteriors. Business boomed for Chameleon Concessions all winter in preparation for food truck season. Warmer weather now means some trucks can be moved outside for completion. There are no approved food truck locations in Plymouth except during one-day special events; as such, most food trucks operate in downtown Minneapolis during lunchtime. The addition of more approved lunchtime locations and the recent appeal of Minneapolis taprooms provide increased opportunity for food truck vendors. “Theirs is a competitive business,” says Palm. “If food truck operators don’t get to an approved spot right away, they must set up shop at an alternate location. That can mean needing the ability to serve food from both sides of the truck. We are now adding windows and awnings to the second side of trucks we’ve previously built.” Palm enjoys the food truck business because every truck is different. He’s built food trucks that serve tacos, tater tots, falafels and candy. Variety keeps the work interesting. “I’ve enjoyed working with people from many ethnic backgrounds and have been introduced to lots of fun menus,” Palm says. Chameleon Concessions built a food truck for Life Time Fitness to serve smoothies and other food items offered in their Life Café. Palm says, “We did that one because we appreciate all the great events Life Time Fitness sponsors. That truck is built it to be really dependable because it travels nationwide to bike races and many other events.” One of Palm’s favorite projects was building the AZ Canteen food truck for celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame. Palm says, “Zimmern’s team understands restaurant equipment and had no barriers to making everything in his truck absolutely perfect for serving Zimmern specialties like oyster crab gumbo or crispy pork bellies.” Zimmern says, “We couldn't have done the AZ Canteen without Chameleon Concessions. They are the gold standard and I would recommend them without equivocation.” The opportunity to work with Zimmern has opened doors for Chameleon Concessions. Palm says more celebrity chefs are now coming to him with food truck projects. Palm has many ideas for future food trucks. He envisions a truck for self-serve frozen yogurt sold by weight. “That could be fun for ballparks or other events where there are lots of kids,” says Palm, “or maybe a take-and-bake pizza truck at a park-and-ride where commuters could pick up dinner on their way home from work. The food truck possibilities are endless.”&Five Trucks You May Know1. AZ Canteen: azcanteen.com 2. Get Sauced: roaminghunger.com/get-sauced3. Anchor Fish & Chips: theanchorfishandchips.com4. Rusy Taco: rustytacomn.com5. Tot Boss: totboss.comchameleonconcessions.com