How To Start A Food Catering Truck Business: Is A Food Truck Catering Business Right For You?

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Looking for a fun way to pick up the slack and increase the paycheck during these tough economic times?

Why not try a simple service business — such as driving a food catering truck?

catering truck businesses can be found for sale online

My first exposure to the tasty delights that can be found on a catering truck was on a military base overseas. Every noon hour, the chow wagon (affectionately referred to as the “roach coach”) rolled onto the tarmac in front of the hanger where our two C-123B cargo planes were based.

This was almost 40 years ago and I can still recall the taste of their Asian fried chicken lying on top of a bed of fried rice — all packaged up in a neat little box that served as both a delivery container and serving bowl.

Over the years, I’ve worked at many different locations that were faithfully serviced by a shiny chrome truck. They always brought snacks, quick meals, and often local specialty dishes that you just couldn’t get anywhere else.

One thing that all work sites have in common is hungry workers! No matter if it’s a construction site, a sales lot, or even a multi-story office building — wherever more than a dozen people are employed, a catering truck of some sort is likely to include those locations on their daily route.


How To Get Started With A Food Truck

Catering trucks that service job sites throughout the work day usually come in 2 styles:

  1. The lunch truck a stainless steel catering unit, mounted on a pickup truck cab and chassis. The vendor stands alongside and the truck’s sides — which are open like wings to display the products. (Sometimes, hot dog vendors use this type of set up.) Usually, one side of the truck is the cold side with the display case filled with ice, sandwiches, cold drinks, fruit, and anything else that requires refrigeration. The other side of the truck would likely be equipped with a large coffee urn and a warming oven — to keep heated items ready to serve.
  2. The catering truck a full service stand-up rolling kitchen. Usually, this type of catering truck is manned by 2 to 3 people. One may work the crowd outside collecting money and passing orders to those inside who are doing the cooking and packaging. This is where burgers, fries, breakfast specials, and other specialty items are cooked to order on the spot.


Food Truck Rules & Regulations

Getting into the catering truck business requires a close relationship with:

In most instances, you’ll be required to provide a business plan and submit plans for the type of equipment you intend to use, as well as the type of food you plan on selling.

a food truck business can bring in a lot of money

Depending on your particular state, you may also be required to have a certified commercial kitchen for food storage, as well as to cook any products you intend to sell.

Mobile catering isn’t something you can get into without considerable research and asking a lot of questions. Getting off on the right foot is very important because if the Health Department doesn’t approve your business, you’ll be shut down before you even get started.

Be sure to check out Mobile Catering & Food Concession Businesses — the only website and online forum exclusively devoted to mobile catering, food concession, and vending cart businesses.


Food Catering Truck Products

The equipment you will need for a food truck business depends greatly on what you will be selling.

food catering truck - food cart business ideas

For example, if you only plan on reselling snacks, soft drinks, and sandwiches which have been purchased from a wholesale distributor pre-packaged (and thus require no actual cooking), then you may only need a permit from your state Department of Agriculture to open your business.

On the other hand, if you’ll be making food from raw ingredients, then the requirements will be considerably more complex.

Here are some additional considerations for starting a catering truck business:

  • Every state (and even every city) may have different permit and licensing requirements. If you think you found the perfect deal on items for your business on eBay, just make sure the Health Department is on the same page as you… first!
  • Buying something from out of state may not meet the requirements of your location. You could be making a very expensive mistake if you don’t get your plans pre-approved by the correct departments.
  • I also strongly recommended that you do your research — so you know what’s really involved in setting up a food truck business.

See how to plan a menu for a food catering truck.


More About The Catering Truck Business

In addition to the links I’ve included above, these links can help you find more information about starting a food truck catering business:


I’ve been involved in RVing for 50 years now -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

34 thoughts on “How To Start A Food Catering Truck Business: Is A Food Truck Catering Business Right For You?

  1. Contact the DMV for info on legal places to store your truck. If that don’t help contact local parking lots and businesses ask them for a space to park it work out a deal with them to maybe pay X amount of dollars per month to store it.

  2. We have a like new Catering Truck it’s a Hot Cold Food Coffee Lunch Truck it’s a 2006 Mitsubishi FE 145 check it out on

  3. RoadStoves is where its at. I would also check for inspiration on types of trucks which are doing well.

  4. i have a 27ft r v would like to use for a food truck can i .use lp plumbing and electric /replace with new walls and ceilings / have a bbq place want to use it for catering / have most the stuff already/ to put in it/ if built to code / will the old stuff still work / want bath still /and gut the rest for remodel to my layout / can do most my self

  5. I have various step vans available that are perfect for customizing your own food truck.
    Anyone interested feel free to call. 516-782-7087 we always have a couple different makes and models to choose from.

  6. we are starting a gourmet food truck in santa barbara ca. check out our website.
    o street truck

    wish us luck!

  7. Great article Curtis. If any of your readers are interested is an online magazine that covers all aspects of the mobile food industry.

  8. Great article Curtis. If any of your readers are interested is an online magazine that covers all aspects of the mobile food industry.

  9. that is very nice post ,, good ,, good information . i am sure that everyone can have a idea through this things.also it can be a good strategy to apply in truck rentals.

  10. This is awesome info. Thanks so much for posting this. I’m starting a Fudge Trolley in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads area in Virginia… It’s been interesting trying to find equipment for the renovation. I’m hoping some of your pointers will help us out. 🙂

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    1. jerry – here are some good basic tips for cleaning a stainless steel grill:

  13. Good info, one obstacle though which keeps popping up for how to start a food truck businessis is financing a mobile asset like a food catering truck. What are your thoughts on that? Also, it should be noted that a retired person is most likely going to need some help in running a food truck! You really need a lot of energy, so you do need some young blood helping!

  14. This information is very helpful, the restaraunt that I was running and head Chef in had just closed down due to the owner’s family issues. So I now am looking into getting my own Catering business on wheels going. So I am looking into trucks and equipment for in the truck. The info def helps…..

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