Regulatory & Compliance

What Does It Take to Put a Gourmet Kitchen on Wheels?


Gaining regulatory approval for a new commercial vehicle

When a startup company sought to build and gain regulatory approval for a new type of food truck, they turned to Exponent for support ranging from vehicle design to assessing how people would interact with the equipment inside it.

The Challenge 

Exponent was engaged by the food-tech startup company Wonder, which had an innovative vision to pair high-quality dining with the convenience of app-based ordering and fast delivery on Wonder-designed vehicles that they refer to as "mobile restaurants." Through partnerships with renowned restaurants and chefs, Wonder developed a business model based on prepping meals in centralized kitchens to be finished by "chefs-on-the-road" aboard these mobile restaurant vehicles just outside their delivery destination.

To bring their product to life, Wonder required vehicle engineering and regulatory support to build these mobile restaurants, which are high quality restaurant-on-wheels featuring appliances similar to a stationary commercial operation — yet able to function within the confines and weight limitations of a moving vehicle.

Exponent's MULTIDISCIPLINARY Solution 

Selecting a cargo van vehicle to "upfit" was the logical choice for Wonder, as these vehicles were not traditional food trucks that have to navigate many deliveries per night throughout suburban neighborhoods. The cargo van model offered the opportunity to customize the vehicle interior while also enabling an iterative design process that leveraged intelligence gained during the pilot phase of developing its mobile restaurant. However, the company required support creating a design validation plan and report that would help scale its fleet, as well as anticipating regulatory requirements for vehicles without existing safety standards.

Exponent's Impact 

Exponent successfully supported the design development, iteration, and validation plan for Wonder's growing fleet of mobile restaurants. Immediate results include the expansion of the company's fleet from three New Jersey-based cargo vans in 2019 to the planned rollout of 530 vehicles by the end of 2022, helping enable Wonder's vision for continued growth across the United States.

Additionally, Exponent contributed to Wonder's advanced testing planning by establishing relationships between Wonder and various testing facilities. The testing facilities can now also access the outputs of Exponent's analysis to better answer questions about the performance of their products and appliances in a mobile environment, giving Wonder the information needed for future decisions about vehicle choices and lengths as its fleet, services, and geographical coverage continue to expand.

"With Exponent's expertise and guidance, Wonder was able to launch our innovative, ambitious mobile restaurant business, which customers have loved for our taste and service, and regulators have respected for our thoroughness and attention to detail. Exponent helped build Wonder's foundation so that we can scale our food delivery business in the years to come." — Andrew Gasper, Chief Governance Officer, Wonder