The other side of the Food Truck window: A typical day


 "How Food Trucks Roll™"

How cool is it that a food truck pulls up to where you work, live, play or visit and you have some of the best LOCAL food to enjoy.  Besides the simple convenience of the truck being “right there” its definitely a nice break from the typical chain restaurants we see everyday.  What if you wanted to hire your own food truck to serve your event?  Actually it would be really awesome to hire several food trucks for your event…all of your guests would have a great variety of food trucks to choose from…besides, the food trucks just pull up and serve right? 

Here is where I share The Other Side of the Food Truck Window: A Typical Day.  Absolutely, food trucks just pull up and serve.  They’re restaurants on wheels.  They can venture where they want to; park their truck; sell food; then drive home and take the rest of the day off.  This is a very common view of how food trucks operate.  Just as anyone who has never made a commercial video or movie would think…all you do is hit the record button and you’re done.  There is so much behind-the-scenes work and preparation to make the video and movie.  Similarly, there is so much behind-the scenes work and preparation to make food trucks work.  So what does it take to make the food truck roll each day? 

Preparation:  Before the food truck can even pull out and head to an event, the truck must be loaded with supplies, product and utilities.  Having enough of the right supplies and product require time to purchase, prepare and load into the truck for each event.  You also need to make sure you have plenty of water in the tank, fuel for the truck and generator plus propane for your cooking equipment.  All of the preparations can amount to hours before an event; some operators take an entire day off each week from accepting events just to make preparations to launch their food truck business for the week.

Execution: This is the part where we just pull up and sell…Don’t forget it’s like driving to and from work.  Many working professionals will drive upwards of 1 hour or more each day venturing to and from their job.  Food truck operators do the same driving to and from an event.  Some days a food truck will go to 2-3 events per day.  Serving at an event may be as short as a couple hours for a lunch service or last all day for 8+ hours for special festivals and events.  At the end of the event the food truck gets to venture back to its commercial kitchen to begin the next segment of the day…Closing

Closing:  After working a nice long event or multiple events, that drive back to the commercial kitchen (aka Commissary) seems to take longer than normal…may have something to do with having worked a 12+ hour day already and dreading the additional hours of unloading and clean up. Closing involves cleaning up the truck, unloading all trash, restocking supplies, closing down your food products to the kitchen coolers and making a final inspection of what is needed for the morning.  Now it’s time to head home…and work?

Financials:  After each event, we have to count the successes of our food truck day.  I’m tired, but the longer this part takes the better I feel.  This includes sorting tickets and credit card receipts, counting the cash and making sure everything adds up.  Then comes getting the sales ready for the bank deposit and for proper bookkeeping.  Of course when you go to the bank in the morning, you have to remember to pick up some change for your starting bank.  This process repeats the next day…yes, but there is more!

Research and Book events:  Somewhere outside of the daily hustle of food truck operation, you have to have your events booked on your calendar.  The whole time we are under the impression food trucks just venture anywhere they please…some areas allow that but still requires research to finding the best spots, who to contact and get the right permissions to sell.  You venture to local schools, businesses, offices and apartments that would enjoy a food truck stop.  You entertain bringing the food truck to different festivals in your area just to find out they all have applications to complete for consideration.  All of this takes time in addition to the 15-16 hour workday you just completed.  So you’re finally done right?  There is always more! 

Maintenance and repairs:  Your food truck is your business and livelihood.  It will take care of you if you take care of it.  Maintenance may not be needed on a daily basis but needs to be on your radar and scheduled when needed.  Food trucks require oil service, tire rotation, tires replaced, transmission service just like any other vehicles.  Don’t forget to take care of the generator as well.  It is tough to work at an event without electricity.  The tough parts are the repairs…typically they occur when you least expect it.  Many common ones include water pumps burning out, transmission issues, engine issues, flat tires…these usually happen during the busiest times of the year when you’re on your way to a large event.  The cost of the repairs is usually the smaller portion of your cost…you also have a cost due to the loss of the event, labor costs incurred while waiting for assistance, plus the long term relationship that may be damaged due to your food truck not showing up for an important event.  Is there anymore to the food truck business?  Absolutely.

Marketing:  Social media is huge for all businesses today.  It is just as important for the food truck operator to keep their social media current and active; telling their customers and followers where they’ll be each day.  Don’t forget to update that website with this information as well. Again, additional work that supports a successful food truck business.

Personal life outside the food truck:  Whether you’re in the food truck by yourself as a single entrepreneur, teaming up with working partners or have your spouse riding along the side with you to events, somewhere outside of the food truck day, you need to have personal time.  Time is needed to rest, handle family obligations, but more importantly recharge and getting ready for the next day.  If you’re lucky, you get to squeeze in some hobbies, personal development or just hanging out with friends in what limited time you have remaining outside of sleep.  All of the above repeats itself while you juggle the many hats of entrepreneurship.

As a food truck owner/entrepreneur you have to be able to manage all of the supporting pieces of making your business work.  You have to have the support system in place to ensure everything is taken cared of so your food truck is able to run each day.  This system includes your friends, neighbors, business partners, family, spouse…more importantly, other food truck owners.  Who else would have a better understanding of what your day is like than another food truck owner?  Chances are they’re going thru the same fun (chaos) you’re experiencing each day.  They understand the other side of the food truck window: a typical day.


Ray Chow
CFTO (Chief Food Truck Officer)