See a comprehensive guide of all the food truck equipment you need to get started in the mobile catering industry
Food trucks are a good business model because the start-up costs are relatively low compared to restaurants or cafes and they are mobile which means you can go where the footfall is.
However, getting started can be a little overwhelming especially if you don’t have any commercial catering experience.
One of the main questions most people ask is what equipment does a food truck need?
The main type of food truck equipment needed is a three-compartment sink for washing equipment and a separate sink for handwashing; work surfaces for prepping and serving; a boiler system for hot & cold running water; shelves for storage; fridges/freezers; and a power source such as LPG gas or a generator to power equipment.
There are a few more general items to consider and depending on what type of food you intend to sell will influence your final equipment list.
Below is a full list of general and specific food truck equipment along with catering supplies such as disposable packaging and cleaning products.
- Food truck equipment: Buying tips
- General food truck equipment list
- Specialized food truck equipment
- Food truck supplies & disposables
- Where to buy food truck equipment
- Food truck equipment layout (example)
- Related questions
Food truck equipment: Buying tips
Before we dive in it’s worth considering a few important things before buying food truck equipment.
- Equipment Quality – You will potentially be cooking for large numbers of people which means you need commercial catering equipment that is durable and up to the task. Go for recognised manufacturers and brands as they will stand less chance of breaking down (at critical moments), compared to cheaper versions.
- New vs. Used – Commercial catering equipment can be very expensive to buy brand new and will definitely be a consideration, especially if you have a small budget. You, therefore, may want to consider buying used equipment which is perfectly fine as long as it’s been maintained over time.
- Unit Space – Before buying catering equipment you will need to consider how much space you have available in your catering unit. Buying too much equipment can limit your ability to manoeuvre within the truck and hinder your processes of prepping and serving.
- Eco-friendly disposables – When it comes to buying disposables such as cups, trays and cutlery go for products with eco-friendly credentials such as bio-degradable or 100% recyclable packaging. The world is moving towards a more sustainable future and customers and event organisers will expect this as standard practice.
General Food truck equipment list
Here is a general list of food truck catering equipment that most food trucks use for their day-to-day operations.
- Stainless steel tables – You will need easy-to-clean work surfaces to prepare, cook and serve your products.
- Shutter-mounted extractor fan – Also known as a cooker hood, an extractor fan sits above a cooker and removes airborne grease, smoke and fumes. This is needed especially when you cook greasy foods like burgers and hotdogs.
- Gas ranges – Very useful for cooking a wide range of food products such as stews, curries and soups.
- Under counter & tabletop fridge – Like any commercial kitchen, food will need to be kept chilled. However, space is at a premium in a food truck which means you may want to consider an under-counter or tabletop fridge.
- Under-counter freezer – You will also need to keep foodstuffs frozen to extend the shelf life, which means again considering a space-saving freezer that fits under the counter.
- Generator – Needed to power all of your equipment when there isn’t a fixed power source on site. It’s a good idea to go for a silent/quiet generator that is over 4kva to keep up with the power demands of your truck.
- Menu boards – A space attached to each side of your food truck helps you showcase your tasty cuisine to the public. Kerbside menu boards are also useful for driving footfall towards your truck from a distance.
- Thermometers – Serving food that is safe to consume is important for both your consumers and your business reputation. So thermometers will be needed to check the temperature of your food.
- Chopping boards (different colours) – Different coloured chopping boards are needed for food preparation and separating out different types of food products such as fruit/veg and uncooked fish and red meats.
- Knives & utensils – Again needed for food chopping, slicing and serving.
- Fire safety system – Cooking with gas can be hazardous which means you will need (by law) a fire safety system in place. This can include things like an extinguisher/fire blanket/Automatic fire suppression system. However, check your local state authority to check the exact requirements.
- Sinks – A food truck needs 4 sinks in total. A three-compartment sink for washing, rinsing and sanitizing food and equipment and a separate sink for handwashing.
- Boiler system – Needed to supply hot/warm running water to your food truck for hand washing and cleaning equipment.
- Payment system (cash & card) – You will need a way to take payment for your products. A combination of a cash register to take cash and a mobile payment system is recommended to give your customers the option of both.
- Gas bottles (propane) – If you use a lot of gas-powered equipment such as cooker ranges, griddles and fryers then you will need gas propane bottles (also known as LPG) to power them.
- Storage shelves – A place to keep stock and other miscellaneous items.
- Additional commercial storage and kitchen space – This can be an afterthought when deciding what a food truck needs because it’s separate from the actual food truck. However, you may find you need additional preparation and storage space away from your food truck to keep up with demand.
- 5 Best Silent Generators for food trucks 2023
- 5 Best Mobile Pizza Ovens For Food Trucks
- What Food Has The Highest Profit Margin?
Specialized Food truck equipment
Food truck operators tend to create niche food and drink concepts which means they use specialized food truck equipment to produce their products.
Below is a list of specialized equipment:
- Espresso machines – Commonly used in coffee trucks to make espressos, lattes and cappuccinos
- Juicers and blenders – Commonly used in mobile juice trucks to make juices and smoothies
- Rice cooker – For making large quantities of rice for curries etc
- Sandwich press – Commonly used for grilled cheese sandwich trucks
- Microwave – For general use to reheat food products
- Bain Marie – For keeping cooked food warm
- Food warmer – To keep cooked food warm and at a safe temperature
- Griddle – for cooking things like bacon, sausages, pancakes, home fries, french toast, and eggs
- Soup urn – For keeping warm soups, broths and stews
- Hot water urn – For teas and coffee
- Charbroiler – Used to chargrill, char-broiler or broiler foods such as ribs and steaks
- Ice cream display freezer – Designed to store and display ice cream and other frozen products
- Ice cream dispenser – Used for dispensing whipped ice cream onto a cone or tub
- Ice roll machine – Used to create rolled ice cream which is a popular dish in Thailand and gaining popularity in Western countries
- Churros machine – a piece of equipment used to make churros, which are a type of fried dough pastry which is dipped in chocolate sauce
- Kebab grills – Used to grill meats such as chicken and lamb
- Deep fryer – Used to cook a range of foods that include chips, chicken wings, fish and cheese sticks
Food truck supplies & disposables
Aside from food truck catering equipment, you will also need to consider food truck supplies such as disposable packaging to serve your products and cleaning equipment to maintain hygiene standards.
- Coffee stirrers
- Disposable gloves
- Disposable food packaging (takeaway & onsite eating)
- Disposable cutlery
- Paper napkins & dispensers
- Condiment bottles (sauces)
- Order forms
- Bins (food waste, recycling, general)
- Anti-slip mats
- Sanitizing products (hands, surfaces & floors)
- Sponges and cloths
- Sweeping brush
- Mop & bucket
- What Insurance Does A Food Truck Need In The UK?
- What Equipment Do I Need For A Mobile Coffee Truck?
- 12 Types of Vehicles Used for Food Trucks
Where to buy food truck equipment
The food truck industry is large which means there is a wide range of manufacturers and websites where you can source both new and used commercial catering equipment.
Here are just a few places among many where you can get both new and used food truck equipment.
Websites for new catering equipment:
- Webstaurant Store
- Restaurant Equippers
- Catering Appliance
Websites for used/second-hand catering equipment:
- Facebook Marketplace – Facebook marketplace, as the name implies, is a marketplace where people sell all types of used items which includes a wide range of used restaurant and food truck equipment
- Facebook groups – Facebook groups are a good resource for finding second-hand food truck equipment. There are niche groups within the main Facebook platform, where food truck trader advertise their second food truck equipment, food trucks or trailers.
- Craigslist – I’ve never actually brought used food truck equipment from craigslist but doing research for second-hand food truck equipment I was surprised by the number of advertisements for used catering equipment.
- eBay – Probably the best-known auction site, eBay offers a wide range of used food truck equipment that you can either bid on or buy now for a set price. You can also contact the seller directly to see if they are willing to negotiate on the price.
For a more comprehensive list of where to find used food truck equipment check out this related article.
Food truck equipment layout (example)
How does a food truck get water?
Food trucks generally get their water supply from a 30-35 gallon clean water container, which is connected to a subversive water pump, which pumps the water through a boiler system to produce hot and cold running water. A food truck also needs a 50-55 gallon wastewater container to collect dirty water.
Gavin D is the founder of Street Food Central and Tru Foo Juice Bar Co. and has worked in the mobile catering industry for over 7 years.