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Food Truck Cleaning Checklist Template: How to Clean a Food Truck

Grace JidounAuthor

Food Truck Cleaning Checklist

There’s more to a great food truck than a memorable menu and a fun atmosphere. These things are important, but there’s one area that can put the brakes on your success in the blink of an eye: cleanliness. 

Most people would agree that a letter grade below an “A”, employees with dirty hands, and weird smells are huge red flags. But the reality is that it may not be so apparent that a food truck is poorly maintained. Most customers aren’t craning their necks through the service window to spy on the condition of the sink. There are obvious paths to cleanliness and some not-so-obvious ones.  

Cleanliness has captured the public’s attention in the wake of the pandemic, and high standards can quickly translate into more business. Toast data shows that a whopping 45% of diners go out to eat multiple times a week. According to a 2021 survey by Technomic, more than 75% of those polled said that a food service establishment’s cleaning policies would impact their intent to visit. 

While many people love a food truck's casual vibe and wonderfully adventurous cuisine, once you see a bug in your food (that’s not on the menu), all bets are off. A simple mistake of cleaning up a spill with a used towel without proper disinfectant can lead to cross-contamination or, worse, the spread of bacteria and viruses. While cleaning may seem like a no-brainer, it’s surprisingly easy to mess up. 

All food trucks and carts are subject to health inspections and can often face even more scrutiny than traditional restaurants, with inspectors randomly popping in at festivals, food truck rallies, and fairs. Even if you hire a professional cleaning service for the deep cleans, you still need to be well-versed in all aspects of the day-to-day work. From front to back of the truck (and all the places in-between), we break it down with our food truck cleaning checklist. 

Food Truck Front Counter and Seating Area Cleaning Checklist

The condition of your food truck is the primary signal to customers that sanitation is taken seriously. Research from Harvard Business Review suggests that, on average, a consumer will form an impression of a retail interaction within 7 seconds. It’s essential to make sure that your public-facing areas are sparkling clean. 

Cleaning Supplies Needed 

  • Surface and glass spray cleaners

  • Disinfectants (food-grade cleaning solution or bleach)

  • High-quality cleaning rags

  • Industrial brooms

  • Disposable gloves

  • Mop and bucket of hot soapy water

  • Paper supplies such as paper towels and napkins

From cleaning up crumbs to organizing the condiments, a daily checklist can help you keep the public spaces of your food truck up to the highest standards.

Daily 

During The Shift

  • Wipe down and spray all areas that the customers touch, including high-traffic surfaces like any shelving around the order window.

  • Clean any stainless-steel surfaces that look dirty.

  • Clean any glass surfaces that look dirty. Nothing is more off-putting than an order window with smudgy fingerprints all over it.  

  • While food trucks are often at festivals and fairs with their own garbage collection team, if there is an overflowing garbage can nearby, empty it or find someone who will. Trash attracts all manner of flies and vermin — not what you want near your business.

  • Pay special attention to the condiment area, where customers rush through, leaving a trail of ketchup and ripped soy sauce packets behind them. Checking and cleaning this area every 20 minutes is not overkill. 

When Closing Out

  • Deep clean the high-traffic areas you wiped down earlier in your shift.

  • At the condiment stand, wash all dispensers, nozzles on syrups (where sugary build-up occurs), and the drip tray if you’re selling coffee.

  • Using a clean towel, wipe down condiment shakers and refill condiment packets.

  • Replenish the plastic serving ware, including forks and napkins.

  • Replenish the supply of plastic gloves for the next shift.

  • Check the area around the order window for trash and debris and clean up if needed. 

Weekly

  • Spray and clean all the glass windows and mirrors.

  • Do a 360-degree walk around your truck and clean up splatters and smudges.

  • Polish and clean any stainless-steel areas.

  • Fully disinfect areas that are frequently touched by customers, paying special attention to the order window and condiment area.

Monthly

  • Check the trucks for any dents, dings, or chipped paint.

  • Power wash the outside of your food truck with hot water, or hire a professional to do this.

  • Get your food truck detailed, including polishing any dents or dings and sealing or waxing to make your truck extra shiny.

  • Don’t forget basic truck maintenance, including rotating your tires and checking the fluid levels like engine oil and windshield fluid. 

  • Make sure your air-conditioning is working properly (food trucks get hot).

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Food Truck Grill and Prep Station Cleaning Checklist

Food trucks have a unique set of challenges when it comes to back-of-the-house cleaning, since really, it’s all one space. Operating in such a small space can be a blessing or a curse, on the one hand, making clean-up quicker, but on the other hand, things can quickly spin out of control. Without proper sanitation of the equipment and prep areas, your customers could be unknowingly exposed to dangerous pathogens. 

Following our food truck cleaning checklist can help prevent cross-contamination — one 

of the most cited food service health code violations. Cleaning as you go is essential, but some things can be done at the end of the shift, the end of the week, or monthly. Here, we itemize the tasks. 

Cleaning Supplies Needed 

  • Disinfectants (food-grade cleaning solution)

  • Dishwashing soap

  • Degreasing cleaner or vinegar for fryers and ovens

  • Dedicated cleaner for your ice machine

  • Abrasive tools and scrub pads to clean pots and pans, including coarse brushes and steel wool

  • Non-abrasive tools to remove food and oil, including cloths, sponges, and soft brushes

  • High-quality dry-cleaning rags

  • Disposable disinfecting wipes

  • Mop and bucket

  • Broom and dustpan

  • Disposable gloves

Daily

Prep Station 

During the Shift

  • Wipe down the prep areas throughout the day.

  • Wipe down and clean cutting boards and switch them out when necessary.

  • Clean cutting knives, slicers, and other food prep tools to remove food buildup and bacteria as needed.

  • Ferry dirty pots and pans to the dish pit as needed.

  • Switch out the cleaning rags during the day to ensure there’s always a fresh supply available.

  • Empty the trash throughout your shift. 

When Closing Out

  • Wash and sanitize all surfaces, including prep tables and cutting boards.

  • Cover all food with plastic wrap and write the date before storing it in the fridge.

  • Clean and sanitize the microwave (inside and out)

  • Throw all laundry, including cleaning rags, napkins, and aprons, into a bag for a restaurant laundry service to pick up.

  • Empty and disinfect the trash cans.

  • Sweep and mop the floor, including washing the floor mats. 

The Line 

During the shift

  • Brush the grill between cooking different types of meat and seafood.

  • Wipe down the cooking line frequently throughout the shift.

  • Clean up spills and puddles immediately.

  • Keep food bins covered when not in use.

  • Make sure ingredients are stored at proper temperatures. For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), foods like poultry, soft cheese, eggs, seafood, and sprouts must be refrigerated at 40 degrees or colder to minimize the risk of salmonella and other bacteria. 

When closing out 

  • Clean the fridges and freezers, including the shelves and the gaskets — and don’t forget to check underneath for crumbs.

  • Sanitize and clean out the ice bin.

  • If you have deep fryers change out the oil every day (and at least once a week).

  • If you have a steam table, empty the water wells daily so bacteria doesn’t grow.

  • Change all foil linings on your grill, range, and flattop. 

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The Dish Pit 

Thankfully, the dish pit won’t be as bottomless in a food truck as in a large full-service restaurant. That said, things can get messy quickly, so the best approach is a blend of spot-cleaning during the shift and thorough cleaning at the end.

During the Shift 

  • Empty the dishwasher from the previous night. 

  • Put away all clean dishware and tools in their proper places.

  • Wash dishes throughout the day.

  • Clean up puddles as soon as possible. 

  • Restock cleaning solutions if you’re running low.

When Closing Out 

  • Make sure all the dishware, pots, and pans from the day are cleaned in the dishwasher or thoroughly hand scrubbed.

  • Return everything to the proper places for the next shift. 

  • Wipe down and dry the entire dish pit area.  

  • Disinfect the three-compartment sink. 

Weekly 

Prep Station 

  • Wipe down all shelving in the dry goods area.

  • Dust and sanitize all under-the-counter shelving areas and cabinets, including wiping down the outside of cabinets.

  • Empty the display case and thoroughly clean it with a food-grade cleaner.

  • Move anything with wheels and clean behind it.

  • Scrub the floors of the food truck and get all the hard-to-reach places. 

The Line

  • Sanitize and wipe all coolers and refrigerators, to remove any food scraps or mold.

  • Move any smaller equipment like barista machines, microwaves, etc., and clean under/behind them.

  • Clean the inside of all ovens, steamers, and microwaves.

  • Change out the oil in the deep fryer (if you’re not doing this daily).

  • Wipe down vents and exhaust hoods, ensuring they are dust and grease free. 

The Dish Pit

  • Thoroughly sanitize the dishwasher and sinks – they should look almost brand new. 

  • Inspect all drains for buildup, cleaning if needed.

  • Check for signs of pests, mold, and mildew.

  • Reorganize the dishes if needed.

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Monthly

Prep Station 

  • Clean any filtration systems and deep clean every spout and water tap.

  • Perform a deep cleaning of your ice machine to remove any bacteria. Take out all the ice before cleaning with a sanitizing mixture, check the drain lines, and ensure they are all clean. 

  • Sharpen all knives in the kitchen and replace any broken tools and equipment.

  • Check your first aid supplies and replace anything running low, including bandages, eye-washing solutions, burn gels, ice packs, gauze, tensor bandages, and more.

  • Check the fire extinguishers to ensure they are up to date and not damaged. 

The Line

  • Ensure all ovens and cooking equipment have been calibrated up to code and properly functioning.

  • Clean the exhaust hood and filters, and check your exhaust fan to make sure it’s working properly and free of grease.

  • Deep clean your freezers and coolers.

  • Scrub and wash all the interior walls, including the ceiling.

  • If you have a deep fryer, it should be thoroughly cleaned.

  • Inspect the grease trap and clean it if needed (or hire a professional cleaner).

  • Perform a safety walk-through checking the quality of the floor mats and any other tripping/slipping hazards.  

The Dish Pit

  • Deep clean the floor, walls, and sinks around the dish pit.

  • Check your dishwasher and sink areas for limescale buildup and de-lime if necessary.

  • Inspect all drains for buildup and clean them as necessary.

  • Clean the food trap or filter on your dishwasher (this could be weekly, depending on how many loads you do a day).

It may seem that we’ve covered all the ways you can keep your food truck sparkling clean, but there are a few additional considerations — and they’re big. Here we share strategies for preventing food-borne illness, complying with local health codes, and above all else, ensuring a wonderful experience for your guests.

Best Practice #1: Focus on Preventing Food-borne Illness. 

Food poisoning is a blanket term for any form of illness that results from eating expired or contaminated food. Food can become contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli, viruses such as hepatitis, and even some forms of parasites. 

Who can forget the 2019 outbreak at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain, where 29 diners became ill and one, sadly, died? While that’s an extreme case, no eatery — from fine dining to street carts — can underestimate the importance of combating food poisoning. Thankfully, it’s preventable if you follow some simple steps. 

  • All staff must wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water (that’s two “Happy Birthdays”) throughout the day.  

  • Keep food at safe temperatures. According to Larry Lynch, Senior Vice President for Health, Safety, and Regulatory Services at the National Restaurant Association, this is the most challenging area of the cleaning process for restaurants. “What if your thermometer is off by a little bit? It’s crucial to have the proper equipment to identify if the temperature is too high or too low. Also, you’ll have to stay on top of the science around food safety because recommendations on safe temperatures do change,” he says. The danger zone (when bacteria start to grow) is above 41 degrees and below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • Take measures to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Don’t allow sneezing, coughing, or otherwise sick staff to work.

  • Store all food items properly. 

Best Practice #2: Check the Health Department Guidelines 

The most feared person in the restaurant world is not the food critic or the landlord but the health inspector. Health inspectors show up unannounced, record violations, and in extreme cases, can shut your truck down. Do not wait for a poor letter grade of “B” or “C” to appear in your window before taking health inspections seriously. Even though some major cities like Los Angeles have scrapped visible letter grades, the findings are still posted in an online database. Here are a few tips for navigating the health department:

  • Be proactive. Check with your city’s health department or whoever conducts health inspections to ask for a complete list of what an inspector is looking for.

  • Change your outlook: Think of the health department standards as a guide to inform you (instead of an after-the-fact punishment).

  • Once you’ve done your research, use the health department standards as the foundation of your food safety and cleaning processes.

  • Research accredited food handler training programs such as ServSafe, which offers an interactive map of regulatory requirements in all 50 states.

  • Consider running regular test inspections to prepare your staff for the real thing.

  • Most health departments will allow you to comply with their findings. Take advantage of their resources and cooperate fully with authorities to learn what systems need to be in place.

Best Practice #3: Prevent Pests

A single cockroach spotted by a customer can spell disaster for your business. Food trucks have special concerns, says Lynch. “With windows open there’s a greater risk of flies and bugs getting in there, and health inspectors will be focused on eliminating those risks. You’ll need to pay special attention to the open environment,” he advises. Here are the basics for keeping your food truck pest free: 

  • Wipe up food residue quickly.

  • Always clean equipment after use.

  • Don’t let food-contact surfaces get dirty and greasy.

  • Store food in airtight containers.

  • Move trash bags to the dumpster rather than letting them sit around the truck.

  • Capture stray fruit flies with a small cup of soap mixed with tequila or apple cider vinegar.

  • Repair or replace any cracks, crevices, or damaged areas in your trucks, as pests hide in these places.

  • Call a professional pest control company if you see clear signs of an infestation, like roach or rodent droppings, shredded cardboard, small piles of dirt (from ants), or flying insects. Unusual odors or sounds of scratching behind the wall are also red flags. 

Best Practice #4: Train Staff to Create a Culture of Food Safety 

You could have the best intentions in the world, but if your staff is not entirely with the program, it doesn’t matter. From the burger flipper to the cashier, ensuring every employee is trained and educated in proper hygiene, food safety, and cleanliness is critical to a safe and sanitary dining experience. Here are some tips to consider: 

  • Training is an ongoing endeavor and not one-and-done. You’ll need to follow up with your staff to ensure everyone complies with the system in place.

  • Post reminders about cleaning procedures in strategic places, such as above the sink or near specific machines and equipment.

  • Regularly share training videos with restaurant cleaning tips via email.

  • Put on your health department hat and spot-check your staff like an inspector would.

  • Publicly acknowledge team members doing a good job so they inspire others.

Best Practice #5: Deliver an Awesome Experience for Guests

Put yourself in your customers' shoes and imagine what it’s like to sidle up to your food truck for the first time. Is there trash on the ground nearby? A stained or sticky order window? Even the smallest oversights can make customers feel uncomfortable. Post-pandemic, people are especially attuned to cleanliness and will not hesitate to ban your truck over a strand of hair in the food. Here are strategies for making an excellent first impression. 

  • Audit your food truck’s cleanliness by having a staff member have a test meal. From the moment they order until they finish their meal, have them record any aspects of their dining experience that need attention. 

  • If an employee looks disheveled or unkempt, that can indicate an oversight on the part of management and a lack of caring on the part of the worker. We’re talking about bad hygiene, including no gloves or hair coverings (not tattoos and piercings).

  • Don’t forget to take a fresh look at the exterior of your food truck. Are the trash cans overflowing? Is the awning or sign falling down? Is the paint chipping? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, your customers may choose a truck down the road.

When you first dreamed of opening a food truck, you probably didn’t think of scrub brushes and disinfectants. But cleanliness is a key component to your success. Ideally, you want to get in front of issues instead of reacting after the fact. Our guide may not magically erase all problems, but it will help you run a more efficient, cleaner, and enjoyable business. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.