How to Pick the Perfect Food Truck

You’re planning an event and you want to have food trucks provide their delicious and super hip fare to your guests. But how do you hire a food truck to cater your event? Flag one down? Do you need a contact in the business? Some sort of food truck Bat-Signal?

It’s nothing that complex. Any major food truck has a website and they generally have their contact info painted onto the trucks themselves. So just give your desired food truck a ring and see if they’re available on the date of your event. But to make your life–and the lives of your food truck partners–easier, read these tips for successfully running an event catered by food trucks.

How many people are eating?

You definitely want to make sure everyone gets enough to eat. Ask someone in the events industry how many trucks per people to hire and you’ll get numbers all over the place. A concert organizer will probably tell you 400 guests per truck. A wedding planner is going to say 75 guests per truck. And none of this tells you what you need for your event!

Simple solution: ask the food trucks you’re interested in hiring how many people they can feed during your event’s time frame. Is it less than your total number of guests? Hire multiple trucks.

Even if one truck can serve your entire guest list, having multiple trucks is an opportunity. Yeah, an event with a pizza truck is cool. But an event with a pizza truck AND a cotton candy food cart is amazing.

No matter how many trucks you go with, give your vendors an accurate estimate of how many guests you’ll have as far in advance as possible.

Season and weather doesn’t actually matter

Common advice is to only cater with food trucks during the spring and summer. But you know what is as unpleasant as waiting for food in the wind and cold? Waiting for food in the hot, hot sun. Truth is, there is no wrong season to hire a food truck for your event. You just need to plan accordingly. If it will be hot and sunny, give your guests some shade to stand under while waiting for food. If it’s going to be cold, rainy, or snowy, see if there is a way to provide shelter or pull the trucks inside. Some food trucks also have smaller food carts designed to serve people indoors. Ask the vendor what their weather accomodations are like. They may already have a clever solution.

Direct guests where to go

If you cater your event with food trucks, people will have to stand in line. The lines won’t be too long if you have the right number of trucks and your guests will expect to wait a bit. It’s quirky, cool, and an experience to brag about. That said, consider where and how they are standing in line.

Can you design the event layout so that each truck has a clearly defined line? How will you funnel people to the seating area? Or is there no seating area and you want people walking around while munching?

Best practice with food trucks is to have them on the perimeter of your event so that they won’t compete with the main attraction of your event. From there, have some system to direct people where to go after. Signs, event staff, or something creative will get the job done.

And please, for the love of everyone involved, have large print menus so people can make their food decisions while waiting in line. Keep it going, folks.

Hot take: some food trucks are able to cater FROM their truck. If you have an indoor venue and don’t want guests going outside to order, but you do want near unlimited fresh made food, see if the truck of your choice can run their food into your venue. Slider Shack hooks it up for Joey the Cat events. They cook up a storm and run nonstop deliciousness into our venue so that guests don’t even have to think about food. Put a hand out, grab a burger, move to mouth, chew. (Okay, maybe it isn’t quite that easy, but it’s close)

Go over the details with your vendor

This goes without saying, but food trucks can be a bit trickier to coordinate than traditional caterers. Every food truck is its own small business that operates differently and has unique needs (but no food truck ever wants to be parked on an incline, they all share that).

Read contracts. You don’t want any surprises and don’t assume one truck has the same fine print as another.

Be clear on what you want and don’t want. Maybe that dope food truck you booked has a built in karaoke set up, but you don’t want the wake that you’re catering to get wild with some R. Kelly sing along. Get a full list of a truck’s offerings in advance so that you know what you do and don’t want set up.

Double check load-in/load-out times. Most trucks will take 30 – 60 minutes to setup, but it’s an average for a reason. Some need longer and others will drive right up and start slinging snacks.

Pre-event needs like licensing, permits, and insurance generally fall on the organizer. Yes, the food trucks have their own liability insurance, but if you’re in charge of securing special insurance or permits for your event, it’s on you.

Ways to spice it up

Make one food truck the star of your event’s food offerings. Go with traditional catering for appetizers, sides, and a bar, but go all-in on a big ticket food truck. Good options here are wood fired or brick oven pizza trucks, BBQ trucks, and other hearty offerings.

Play with the timing. Rather than having people line up at food trucks to eat during your event, make it part of the after party experience. People sweaty from dancing all night? Grab a smoothie from the food truck on the way out. Donuts to go. Kettle corn while waiting for an Uber. A surprise food truck treat can be the perfect way to cap off an event so that your guests never forget about it.