Food Truck Basics: Selecting a Food Truck

You are excited! You have scrimped and saved and have done all your homework and now you are ready to be a food truck owner. It is an exciting adventure you are about to go off on. To ensure success though, you want to make sure you are thoroughly prepared for each step of the process before you finally get your truck out on the road.

Learning your food truck basics is a must. Today, we are going to start with tips for selecting a food truck.

Where Will You Be Taking Your Food Truck?

The size of your truck is crucial to the success of your food truck so pick it carefully. Too big and it will be hard to drive and maneuver around, not to mention making parking on city streets a nightmare. Too small and you and your staff will be crowded together like sardines and it will be hard to keep everything sanitary and working in an efficient manner.

Experts recommend that you take into consideration what you will use the truck for when making your decision to buy a food truck. If you are going to be parking your truck on the streets and vending out of it, then a smaller truck about 14 to 16 foot would probably be best.

On the other hand, if you plan on catering parties and special events as well as vending then a bigger truck will be necessary. It is also a good idea to talk to some current food truck owners to get advice on picking the right size food truck.

How Much Staff Will You Need?

Another thing you should consider when selecting a food truck, is how many staff will be on the truck at any given time. To answer this you really need to figure out your work flow and be honest about how many staff it will take to run your operations efficiently. If you only really need two to three people then fitting into a smaller bus won’t be a problem, but if you need more than 3 people and you require several work stations to prepare and cook all the food then a bigger truck makes more sense.

Also don’t forget that your truck needs to have enough seats with seatbelts for all your staff members that will be driving around in the food truck. It is required by law for the safety of everyone involved. Your only other option is to have some of your staff drive separately to each location. Generally the rule of thumb is to only have as many staff on board that are truly necessary to handle all aspects of cooking and serving your customers.


Zac’s owner Pete Politarhos talking about choosing the right food truck.

How Much Equipment and Inventory Will You Need?

You should also factor in how much equipment and inventory you will need. Do you just need a grill and a couple of fryers and some refrigerator space and storage or does your menu require a lot of specialty equipment that you will need room for?

The best way to make sure you have considered everything is to think about how you prepare each dish on your menu and then make a list of all the tools and supplies you will need. Then consider how you will store everything.

Even if you think you will start out initially with a smaller menu, if you plan on expanding it at any time make sure you have the space for it from the start. Trying to upgrade space and equipment later on will get really costly.

The first thing you should always do is flesh out your menu first because not all menus are suited for a food truck. If you have a lot of complicated recipes that need a lot of work and storage space, then a brick and mortar restaurant might be better for you.

Will You Have a Commissary?

Knowing the health code laws in your city is important. Many cities require you to prepare and store your food at a commissary instead of on your truck. This can be a factor in your choice of size and layout of your truck. You can get away with a smaller truck if you are doing most of your prep and storage in a commercial kitchen. Of course, you will need to factor in the cost of renting a commissary into your budget.

How Many Customers Will I Serve Daily?

Another big question you should ask yourself is how many customers do I want to serve each day. This will influence the size of the truck you will need and how much storage space you will need. There is a lot of number crunching that has to happen. First, calculate how many customers do you need to serve a day to make a profit and then determine if that will be feasible with the type of food truck you are planning to buy.

Start Thinking about Design and Layout Now

While you will be doing the actual design of your food truck after you have settled on the size and purchased it, you should have an idea of what you want early on before you buy a food truck because it will help you decide on a size.

Give yourself time to visualize what the inside of the truck will look like and how you see the work flowing. Where do you see the grill? Where makes the most sense to have the prep area? Where will the service window go? A bad layout can cause a lot of bottlenecking inside the truck. How much space you have will affect how you can lay everything out.

Is My Food Truck Road Ready?

Before you take your food truck out on the road for the first time, remember that you need to make sure it is road ready. Even if you bought it brand new, there could be potential problems lurking between the surface that could affect not only you and your staff’s safety, but the success of your business.

We advise that you have a food truck mechanic inspect prior to purchase even when you are buying brand new. While it may seem like just an extra cost that you don’t need, it is an important step. Imagine losing days of work because your truck is sidelined because it needs repairs? Or not being able to get your truck out on bad winter days because it is not properly outfitted for it.

Don’t take any chances. Always get your food truck inspected by a food truck mechanic regularly.

Make Sure You Are Prepared for the Cost of Buying a Food Truck

With all these element of buying a food truck, don’t forget the most important: Do you have enough money to finance this venture? While a street kiosk can probably be started for only a few thousand dollars, for a full-fledged food truck it will cost you in the tens of thousands. Experts say expect to spend between 50,000 and 70,000, anything lower and you might have concerns about the reliability of the transportation or the quality of the preparation equipment inside the truck.

When putting together your overall budget, don’t forget to include fuel and maintenance, business permits, kitchen equipment purchases, food supplies, insurance, advertising dollars and any employee expenses.

Here are a few other things you should consider when selecting a food truck:

  • Look & Feel of Bus. You will want the aesthetics of the truck to match your brand.
  • New vs. Retrofitted. Do you have the money to build a brand new bus to your exact specifications or do you want to retrofit an older bus? If you go with retrofit, make sure the bus is still in good conditions so it won’t cause you a lot of problems.
  • How Are You Going to Power Your Truck? You want to look for an economical and efficient way to power your bus so take the time to explore all your options. If practicing sustainability is important to you, then you should take that into consideration as well.

It can all seem a little overwhelming but with the right knowledge and support, you will be on your way to running a successful food truck business in no time. If you join Zac’s Burgers’ burger bus licensing program they will help you every step of the way, from selecting your food truck to buying equipment and laying it out and of course the daily running of the bus. They want you to be successful so they will make sure you have all the resources to do so.

Become a Part of the Zac’s Family

If you are interested in joining the Zac’s Burgers family, contact us today to learn more about our burger bus food trucks.

Zacs Food Truck

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