Ask any successful food truck operator, and they’ll probably tell you they love what they do, but they’ll also tell you it’s no walk in the park. Like any restaurant business, operating a food truck requires long hours and hard work. But there are perks. You can work when you want to, and take your business to customers instead of waiting for customers to come to you.

While every food truck is different, here’s a day in the life of a pair of successful food truck operations to give you an idea of what to expect.

Orca Eats

Vashon Island, Wash.

Owner/operator Emily Wigley, a former restaurant cook, moved to Vashon with her husband and two children in 1992, and opened Orca Eats in 2016. Vashon’s permanent population is about 11,000, but that swells by 50 percent in the summer. Wigley’s Orca Eats food truck operates two to four days a week between April and November. She and her staff, which includes one cook, sets up at the local farmers market on days when it’s open and shows up at festivals or special events. Orca Eats also caters weddings and private parties. The menu changes weekly and features entrees, desserts and beverages made with local, farm-to-table ingredients.

One day prior. “There’s heavy prep [8-12 hours] the day before each week to shop and make items for the week,” Wigley says.

6:00 a.m. Check weekly and daily lists to see what needs to be accomplished. Head to commissary kitchen.

6:30 a.m. Heat up braises or other dishes. Check water, propane and wastewater tanks. Make sure menu and farm boards are up-to-date with new menu items and suppliers. Check service boxes and supplies of disposables, condiments, etc. Power up generator and disconnect truck from land lines.

8:30-8:45 a.m. Move out; get gas and/or propane, if necessary.

9:00 a.m. Find a place to park at farmers market. Meet staff (one cook). While cook fires up equipment, sets up mise en place and puts out utensils, condiments, etc., on service shelf, Wigley goes to grocery store for ice and fresh flowers.

10:00 a.m. Open and ready for business. “I take orders from customers, my staff person cooks and I expedite orders,” says Wigley.

2:00 p.m. Begin breaking down, putting food away and cleaning up.

3:00 p.m. Return to commissary kitchen, load out food and supplies. Clean truck kitchen and truck, clean commissary kitchen and check lists for the following day.

5:00 p.m. Head home. “Basically, it’s wash, rinse, repeat,” Wigley says. “But I love it.”

Boss Mama’s Kitchen

Tacoma, Wash.

After a long career selling telecommunication services to businesses, Jen Gustin quit and made the shift to a business she’d always wanted, opening BMK food truck in 2016. With the help of one cook (more, if needed), Gustin operates BMK year-round, usually six days a week. Rather than park someplace and take her chances, Gustin was lucky enough to establish a reputation early on for great food, and she pre-books most of her business with special events and regular appearances at local taprooms and microbreweries.

“I use travel time to answer phone calls, texts and emails, check our schedule and write checks,” she says.

Boss Mama’s Kitchen specializes in street-style comfort food, including old-fashioned burgers, grilled cheese and hot dogs. It’s known for its peanut butter bacon burger; jalapeno-cheddar burger; Mama Fratelli burger with bacon, brie, grilled onions, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese; and garlic fries. 

6:00 a.m. Shop for ingredients for the day’s schedule. Head for the commissary kitchen.

7:30 a.m. Prep ingredients, load truck, check supplies and head out.

10:30 a.m. Park at event such as Point Defiance Zoo fundraiser or Driver Appreciation Day at a local waste management company. Start cooking off bacon and caramelizing onions.

11:30 a.m. Start taking food orders.

2:30 p.m. Begin breaking down, cleaning equipment.

3:30 p.m. Leave event and replenish supplies; return to commissary for prep, if needed.

5:00 p.m. Drive to local taproom, cider house or brewery, and park.

5:30 p.m. Start cooking off more bacon and onions.

6:00 p.m. Take orders and serve customers.

8:00 p.m. Break down

9:00 p.m. Load out truck at commissary. Clean out kitchen; wash all utensils, dishes, pots, pans; wash down truck; and take inventory.

11:00 p.m. Head home.

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