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What Is a Food Truck?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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A food truck is any vehicle that prepares and sells food and beverages ranging from snacks to full meals. A segment of the market that has been experiencing rapid growth specializes in gourmet food. Frequently, a food truck has a complete mobile kitchen and prepares fresh dishes on location. Also known as a breakfast, lunch, or break truck, it often travels to varied locations throughout the day to reach a wide customer base. Some food trucks also park in specific spots each day and may let their customers know their location via the Internet or they may focus on providing concessions for events such as street fairs and carnivals.

A food truck can sell any type of edible item. The range of possibilities includes packaged or prepared foods like ice cream or chips and extends to freshly prepared specialty items such as tacos or lobster rolls. A food truck can be constructed on a variety of vehicle chassis types such as pickup trucks or vans. The type of equipment needed varies depending on the kind of food being sold. Some typical equipment includes refrigerators, sinks, ovens, and grills, and in many localities each vehicle must pass a health and safety inspection to operate.

The food truck industry has been experiencing a growth trend. This may be due to the lower operation costs when compared to a restaurant or it could be attributed to the growing popularity of street food. Many of the newer food trucks sell specialty items or even gourmet meals. Some may capitalize on food trends like cupcakes, while others focus on regional or ethnic specialties such as Chinese food or "Tex-Mex." Often these specialty food trucks come equipped with complete kitchens and prepare orders fresh for the customers.

There are several modes of operation for the food truck industry. Some trucks have a specific route that they travel, visiting parks or businesses at certain times of day to reach their customers and develop a loyal following. Food truck operators often time their visits for work breaks to maximize their profit, and customers in turn tend to count on them for snacks or meals.

Some food truck owners harness the power of the Internet to attract business. They travel through a region visiting different sites daily, parking in spots for periods of time ranging from a couple of hours to all day. They post their locations on various websites so that their customers know where to find them. Some food trucks also generate a large portion of their business by providing concessions at street fairs, carnivals, and sporting events.

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Discussion Comments

By tigers88 — On Jun 20, 2012

Unlike most food trucks, we are not open on the street for lunch time. We use our truck as a catering truck exclusivity. People hire us out for weddings, parties and other private events. We pull the truck up, serve a full menu and create a lot of smiling faces.

The major advantage to this is that we bring the kitchen with us. We have everything we need and a controlled environment to work in no matter where we are serving food. It has really helped to make our business more efficient and the food is better too.

By truman12 — On Jun 19, 2012

I have been looking to buy a food truck and set up an operation connected to my business but the cost is greater than I would have expected. There is the cost of the truck and the repairs that it will need. But there are also licenses that you have to get with the city to serve food in a mobile environment. It is more of a pain in the neck than I was planning on but I am still going to move forward with it.

There has been a huge food truck boom here in the last few years. I know guys that run them that are making as much from their truck during lunch as they make from their restaurant proper. I would be a fool not to try and tap into this market.

By backdraft — On Jun 18, 2012
I am loving the explosion of food trucks that has happened over the last decade. It used to be that they showed up almost exclusively in big cities but they are almost every where now and even in some small and mid-sized towns.

What I love about them is that they are set up so that the overhead coast is much smaller than most restaurants. That means they can offer more exotic and adventurous food without worrying about wiping out their entire savings. It is a lot easier to set up a truck than a bricks and mortar store. So food trucks have been instrumental in broadening our palettes and complicating the culinary landscape in the best way possible. Some of the most delicious and unique things I have ever eaten have come from food trucks.

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