Common Challenges of Owning a Food Truck

Owning a food truck can be a bit more complex than a brick and mortar for several reasons. Let’s explore five common challenges of owning a food truck that many owners/operators should keep in mind.

Challenge #1: Government Regulations, City Licenses, Permits, etc.

Food is one of the most regulated industry in the United States, and selling and preparing food is even more stringent. If you are planning to begin a food truck business, or are an existing restaurant owner with a brick and mortar location planning to expand, it’s important to learn and understand the process of taking your concept mobile. Not only does the layout differ from a brick and mortar, but the permits, licenses, and regulations are different as well. A mobile kitchen is essentially a restaurant on wheels, so the owner or operator not only needs to have the items of a functional restaurant kitchen, but also the necessities to operate/drive the truck. Here are a few items food truck owners and operators should always carry in the food truck:

  • A seller’s permit
  • Health department certification
  • Food safety training licenses/certifications
  • Permits and licenses for the truck (vehicle registration and driver’s license)
  • Liability insurance
  • A print off about your area’s mobile vending laws. Each state is different!
Related: How to Start a Food Truck 19: Organize Your Licenses and Permits (

Challenge #2: Parking 

One of the biggest challenges of owning and operating a food truck is parking. Not many cities will allow a food truck to pull into a space and open up shop to the public. It’s very important to have a schedule of events, each event’s parking requirements and restrictions, and permit information gathered in a folder on your laptop, or printed out and placed in the truck. All cities have differing requirements, so never assume anything! Call around and make sure you have the proper permits and licenses in place before setting up.

Challenge #3: List and Prep

Food trucks require less upfront cost and typically have a lower operating budget compared to brick and mortar restaurants. This is appealing to many, but is a tricky situation because storage can be an issue. Most of the food prep is done before traveling to a destination, so buying in bulk is nearly impossible. Consequently, the food truck crew is frequenting the grocery store often. 

Also, going back to the government red tape, some cities require the food prep be done in a commercial kitchen. This translates to extra time, costs (renting a commercially approved kitchen), and scheduling nightmares for the food truck owners, but it’s a challenge that should be considered.

Challenge #4: Operating and Driving the Food Truck

What type of license do I need to drive this step van? What kind of gas does it take? Is it hard to park? Where are all of the features?
A food truck is first and foremost a vehicle. The person operating the food truck should be fully trained on each aspect of the food truck. Sure, a step van will get you from point a to point b, but like any other vehicle, you need to keep up with regular maintenance, like oil changes, tire pressure and rotations, gas, etc. This truck is also your business and if you want to keep making money, then it’s imperative that you keep up with the maintenance. 

Challenge #5: Payment

Gone are the days where cash is king, now it is all about the plastic, Venmo, Google Pay, etc….. If you are a cash-only business then chances are you will lose business. Not everyone carries cash on them anymore, so it helps to give your customer options. The options should expand beyond cash or card, and include options for Venmo, PayPal, Google Pay, etc… You want to put the least amount of limitation on your customers as possible.

Owning a food truck is an ever-changing business venture. Day to day duties, locations, and events can dictate a success or failure of each business. Custom food truck builders like APEX Specialty Vehicles partner with hundreds and hundreds of restaurants, catering companies, top brands, and entrepreneurs to design, engineer, and build the highest ROI producing food trucks on the road. Let APEX’s team of experienced design and engineers help answer your questions. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to help out! 800-259-4804