Food trucks are essentially restaurants on wheels. When you stop and think about it, they need all the same areas that a restaurant does—storage, prep, cook line, holding, service, dishwashing, and janitorial—all in a very compact space. Since they’re mobile, food trucks also have to be self-contained and carry their own water supply, utilities, and infrastructure. This is why the right food truck equipment and layout are so crucial to ensure an efficient and profitable operation.
We’ve put together a list of considerations and recommendations for anyone aspiring to start up a food truck. Read on to learn more.
Food Truck Kitchen Equipment Required by Law
Before you create your food truck equipment list, do your homework to find out what local regulations require first. In many areas, food truck regulations differ from restaurant regulations, so it’s critical to do proactive and specific research. Health code, fire code, and other regulations will likely require you to have:
- Three-compartment sink for washing utensils and dishes
- Separate hand-washing sink
- Type I exhaust hood with a fire suppression system
- Mechanical systems (plumbing, fresh– and gray–water tanks, electrical wiring/panel, gas lines, etc.) installed to local standards
- Water heater
Many locations now require food truck operators to use a licensed commercial kitchen (a commissary or restaurant) to store and prepare ingredients, as well as provide cleaning and sanitation support for the food truck. If that’s the case, you may need less cooking equipment in your truck and more warming and holding equipment, such as convection ovens, hot boxes, and hot food wells.
Food Truck Equipment & Supplies
As with any foodservice operation, your menu dictates what kind of equipment you need. Selling burgers? You’ll want a griddle or charbroiler. Selling pizza? Then a pizza oven is probably required.
Think through your concept and operations procedures carefully before selecting equipment. For example, fryers often require special safety measures to prevent grease spills or fires in mobile kitchens. You may decide a combi oven is preferable to prepare “fried” foods. Soda fountain beverages require an ice machine and storage for carbon dioxide tanks. Canned drinks may be less hassle.
Remember that many types of equipment, such as refrigerators, need a certain amount of clearance from walls, ceilings, or other appliances to operate properly. And only certain manufacturers will warranty equipment used in food trucks, so be sure to work with an equipment expert like the product specialists at Central Restaurant Products.
It’s tough to design a food truck layout without first figuring out what equipment is essential. Once you settle on the basics, food truck manufacturers are experts at helping you decide how large your truck should be and how to create an efficient food truck equipment layout. Most manufacturers even have sample floor plans on their websites.
Basic Food Truck Equipment List
Central has thousands of pieces of food truck equipment for sale. Here are just a handful of items that you might consider getting, depending on your concept:
- Single-door reach-in refrigerator for cold food and ingredient storage
- Countertop or undercounter refrigerator for bottled or can beverages
- Stainless steel prep table
- 36-in. or 48-in. flat-top griddle, versatile enough to cook everything from eggs to burgers
- 4- or 6-burner stovetop, or range with convection oven below
- 36-in. charbroiler for burgers, chicken, ribs, etc.
- Pizza oven
- Wok range
- Salamander (cheese melter)
- Microwave or speed oven
- Toaster or bun warmer
- Hot food holding cabinet
- Rice steamer
- Stainless steel serving counter
- POS system/cashier’s station/mobile credit card reader
- Check rail to organize guest orders as they’re being prepared
- Ice machine
- Blender or shake machine
- Food processor
- Undercounter or door-type dish machine
Food Truck Supplies to Consider
In addition to equipment, it’s important to stock up on plenty of food truck supplies, as well. Here are some of our recommendations:
- Disposables (plates and bowls, utensils, napkins, containers, etc.)
- Cooking utensils and cutlery
- Pots and pans
- Food storage containers
- Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper
- Janitorial supplies (mop, broom, buckets, gloves, sponges, scouring pads, etc.)
- Janitorial chemicals (dish detergent, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, etc.)
- Condiment dispenser, spice racks, and shakers
Food Truck Power Requirements
When it comes to powering a food truck, you may be required to use a particular fuel source, depending on local regulations. So again, research the rules in your area of operation before making any major decisions. Other considerations are matters of both practical efficiency and operational preference.
To start with, you’ll need a generator for electricity to power the lights, HVAC/exhaust system, refrigeration, POS system, and appliances. The size of the generator depends on the load you need to generate. To figure out the load, total the maximum wattage of all your electrical devices and equipment. If you have a 3,000-watt griddle; 1,400-watt fridge; 1,200-watt microwave; 3,000-watt water heater, and 600 watts in lights and appliances, you need 9,200 watts output, so you should spec a 10,000-watt generator. (Read also: A Beginner’s Guide to Electricity.)
Generators can run on gasoline or propane, and many models can switch between the two. You might think that since your truck runs on gasoline you might as well get a gasoline-powered generator. But the fumes and noise might put off customers, and many locales have EVAP (Evaporative Emission Control System) standards to comply with that require gas vapor capture components on the generator, fuel tank, fuel lines, clamps, and so on.
You also might decide you want some cooking equipment, such as a stovetop or broiler, to operate with gas, not electricity. In that case, you could be better off with a propane generator, since you’ll carry tanks for cooking equipment, too.
Equipment & Supplies for the Truck Itself
Finally, don’t forget that your food truck is exactly that—a truck. It must meet all commercial vehicle licensing requirements and pass inspections, including emissions standards tests. You’ll also need to service and maintain your food truck on a regular basis to avoid costly breakdowns. As a precaution, you should have the following onboard.
- Spare tires
- Extra fuses
- Fire extinguisher
- Engine oil
- Windshield washer fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Radiator coolant/antifreeze
- Distilled water (to top off the battery and dilute antifreeze)
The expenses to operate a truck are different than those of a restaurant kitchen, so be sure to anticipate them in your planning process. For example, it could cost you about $160 to fill your truck’s 40-gallon gas tank, and at around 7 mi./gal., a tank may not last a week.
With some careful thought and attention to detail, you can equip your food truck to be a productive and efficient workspace.
Kelsey Moriarty is a Content Specialist at Central Restaurant Products. Her focus at Central is in the Food Prep and Furniture areas. Kelsey’s background is in technology and marketing with particular experience in SEO and E-Commerce. She enjoys helping customers make better decisions as well as working on her copywriting skills!