How to Start a Catering Truck

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How to Start a Catering Truck
A catering truck business is a good way to step into the food industry. (Hot Dog image by Yvonne Bogdanski from

The catering truck business is a great business for those who love food, cooking and serving others. Starting a catering truck is also a low-investment way to break into the food service industry. The key is to serve food on the go. You have the advantage of being able to change the location and menu as frequently as you want to. Moreover, you can charge different prices to different customer bases. For example, in a high-income area, you may charge slightly more than you would be in a middle-income neighbourhood.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Business license
  • Catering truck
  • Location
  • Planned menu
  • Food supplies
  • Cooking/heating equipment
  • Serving supplies
  • Cleaning supplies

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  1. 1

    Get the required business licenses and permits. Apart from the usual local business licenses that all business need, the catering truck business would also have to get a permit for the food business from the Department of Health. The basic requirements to receive this permit are safety and hygiene of food for human consumption. However, other requirements vary from state to state.

  2. 2

    Purchase or rent a catering truck. The truck would serve the purpose of a stationary restaurant or location. You could consider purchasing a new truck or buy a second-hand one. If you buy a simple truck, you may have to get it altered and designed to accommodate the needs of a catering truck. When buying a truck, consider your budget. Speak to other owners of such trucks and ask them where they bought their trucks from. They may already know of reliable dealers. If purchasing a used vehicle, consider getting it inspected by a mechanic for safety features and working condition. If purchasing a new vehicle, find out about the warranty cover, the insurance and the financing modes. If the truck is fully furnished with catering equipment, try out each appliance including the fans, coffee machine, heating equipment, grill, etc. Ensure the chosen vehicle is comfortable. Test-drive it.

  3. 3

    Decorate the catering truck. To do so, firstly, clean the vehicle interiors. Remove the seats, carpets and all other equipment. Use a degreaser, cleaning solution, bleach, soap and water to clean all used equipment. Install the equipment that you need. The basics of a catering truck are a refrigerator, food warmer, utensils, serving cutlery, etc. The equipment must be arranged in a way that makes it easy for the server to reach everything. The equipment must run on propane that is mounted on the outside for safety purposes. This is important, as you will not be able to have an electrical connection everywhere.

  4. 4

    Get the vehicle registered and get the Vehicle Identification Number. This is extremely important. The vehicle may be inspected by the local food service officials. This is because a catering truck must pass certain basic requirements like cleanliness, hygiene, safety, etc.

  5. 5

    Consider where you would be placing the catering truck. The location of the catering truck will be an important factor in deciding other things like the menu, prices and advertising strategy. Ensure the chosen location has lot of foot traffic. Moreover, be there at times when people are most hungry, such as early breakfast or lunch hours. It is also a good idea to check beforehand if there is any existing competition in the area.

  6. 6

    Plan the menu. Decide what you will be serving through the catering truck. Deciding this is not easy and may require some trial and error. After all, you can stock up the catering truck with many items, but if none sell, there is no point in going out each day. The items sold can be a combination of many different items or just one item. The choice of menu would depend on the target market and location. For example, if you plan to operate your truck during lunch hours in an office area, consider selling quick food like sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, etc. that people can consume in a limited amount of time. However, if you plan to serve around beaches and school, consider selling candies, ice creams, crisps, chocolates, etc.

  7. 7

    Stock the truck with extras like soda, diet drinks, fruit drinks, iced teas, water, packaged snacks, crisps, chocolates and cookies. These items have long shelf lives and can be sold as complementary items. Stock high-quality hot beverages like coffee, hot chocolate and tea.

  8. 8

    Purchase serving equipment like serving plates, plastic containers, spoons, forks and napkins. Other equipment that is needed is needed are cleaning supplies to ensure hygiene in the truck.

  9. 9

    Decide how you will get the food. You will have to consider the source from where the food would be availed. Do you plan to cook the food on your own? If you do, you may have to invest in the right equipment. Moreover, it may require you to do some extra work before actually selling the food. You will have to find a supplier to sell you the ingredients, find time to complete the cooking, find appropriate packaging or serving plates. If you plan to purchase ready-made foods, you will have to find a supplier to do so. The local commissary is a good place to check out.

  10. 10

    Consider doing a daily special. It is very likely that people on the route would know about your daily special and wait for it. You could do specials like Chinese delicacies, spaghetti or Indian curry on specific days of the week or dates of the month.

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