How to Start a Food Truck Business

Food Truck Business

The TK Burger Food Truck courtesy of OC Register

It’s hard to drive around these days without seeing a food truck business.

Food trucks have been around for ages. It’s a great way for budding restaurants to save money on a location while going right to their customers. It beats paying high prices for a physical location and doing all you can to get customers to walk through the door.

If you’re looking at starting your own food truck business you’ve come to the right place.

In this article we’re going to go over the basics and include some bonus tips for marketing your food truck with a website.

Check out Episode 2 of the Restaurant Engine Podcast:
Starting a Food Truck Business

Food Truck Business 101: The Basics

We talk about mobile business here on the blog, but food trucks are a different kind of mobile business. Food trucks get on the road and go to the customer. There is no waiting around. It’s an inspiring form of business.

Running a food truck business is different from a regular restaurant in two big ways. First, you’re mobile. You don’t have a physical location with an address. Second, you go to the customers. You don’t wait for them to come in your front door.

But food trucks are the same as restaurants in many other ways. Service still needs to be top notch. The truck needs a little niche so people have a reason to purchase. It’s also important to be consistent. People go to restaurants because they know what to expect whether that’s consistent service or consistent meals.

These basics remain important for any food truck business.

Now let’s get into some details about how to start a food truck business.

Truck and Equipment

Food Truck Financing

Bootstrapping can be better than going into debt. via Andres Rueda

Food trucks come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve seen the delivery-type trucks on TV, but trucks come in all sizes. Some are as big as a bus or semi while others are trailers pulled behind trucks or even cars.

The cost varies with the type and size of truck. A basic used food truck with bare bones equipment and lots of miles could run you as little as $10,000 while a full equipped truck could run you several hundred thousand dollars.

If you’re looking to bootstrap the business it’s best to look for a used truck. You could find one from another food truck business that is maybe moving up to the next level and getting a new truck. They probably started out just like you with a regular truck and after some success moved up to something newer and bigger.

Check below in the Resources section for more on buying a food truck.

Equipment works much the same as the actual food truck. You’ll need the equipment you need to make your food speciality and from there you have to figure out if it’s possible to put in a truck or trailer.

Most trucks run on gas just like your average outdoor grill. Your average food truck can use around 1,000 gallsons of propane a year, but it all depends on the amount of business you’re doing.

Expect to pay thousands for equipment for the truck if the truck you’re buying doesn’t already come equipped.

Licenses, Permits and Legal Requirements

First, like any vehicle, you need insurance and it can be expensive. You’re not running a typical Toyota Corolla so be prepared to insure the truck for all the equipment costs and potential loss of revenue if something were to happen. It doesn’t have to be much more than a regular vehicle, but the more you leave off the more risk you take on.

Second, there are permits. Each city or location varies in how they operate with permits (example: Boston Food Truck Permits). Some have more strict rules such as limits on the number of trucks that can operate in any given area. Check with your chamber of commerce for information in your location.

Finally, there might be local requirements for inspection and where you can park the truck. You’ll want to look for public parking areas because private parking can be tricky unless you’re buddies with the owner.

General Business Suggestions

You can go in full guns with a business, but bootstrapping might be the better option. Tweet This

You can go in full guns with a food truck, but bootstrapping might be the better option. So many businesses that fail don’t even worry about finding a customer before investing tons of cash.

Find your customers first before getting a truck or equipment. Ask a local business if you can bring some of your food to their break room for lunch. See if anybody will give you cash for your food.

Get your first few customers and build from there. There is nothing wrong with bringing food to businesses for a few months in the backseat of your minivan before finally stepping up to a truck.

Bonus: Website Marketing Tips for Food Trucks

Responsive Restaurant Website

Responsive design is a great experience on a smartphone.

Alright, let’s get into some website marketing tips.

As your food truck business grows you’ll want to start attracting more customers. After all, you’re only one truck and you can’t be in more than one place at once so eventually you’ll want to get more people to come and visit you instead of you going to them.

A website is a great way to get people to visit your truck.

As your business grows you’ll want to build on the word of mouth that’s likely building your business. When people like your food and service they’ll tell their friends. Create an area where people can leave comments on your site. Make it easy for people to email or message friends.

List your typical locations on the website so people can find you.

Have a responsive website. People looking for lunch or quick meal ideas are likely using their smartphones. Having a website that is mobile-friendly will give them a great experience on the site, which reflects well on your food truck business.

Integrate social media into your website. Include photos from Facebook and Instagram on the site. Stream tweets from your Twitter account on the website so people can see that others are buying your food.

Capture email addresses on your site with a signup form. This list is an asset you can use to bring in business on a regular basis.


Food trucks aren’t a new business idea, but there is still tons of opportunity. If you have a unique product to offer and you know there is demand you have a great chance of succeeding.

Follow the basic steps for starting your truck. Start out small if you can and build from there. When things get some momentum you can start looking to expand and that includes getting your own website.

Run a food truck?  Find out more about Restaurant Engine’s food truck website design solution.

Additional Resources

Find additional assistance on these sites for your food truck business.

Food Truck Communities


Food Truck Forum (LinkedIn)

Food Truck Row

Buy Food Trucks and Equipment

Vending Trucks

Road Stoves

Nationwide Auto Group

Food Truck Business Help

Food Trucks 101

Food Truck Laws

Starting Your Own Food Truck

Free Checklist For Your Restaurant!

5 Steps to Attract More Customers With Your Website

Get Your Free Checklist!
Restaurant Customers Dining