DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.
It’s no secret that food trucks are small – so rather than stuffing all your kitchen equipment into a truck, you might operate out of a commissary or restaurant kitchen and put the finishing touches on dishes in the truck.
As part of your food truck’s business plan, figure out what equipment you’ll need to operate. Consider the costs of buying equipment, maintaining crucial machines, and replacing fragile or single-use items. This guide provides everything you need to starting building your ultimate list.
Restaurant Business Plan Template
No matter where you’re at in your restaurant ownership journey, a business plan will be your north star. Organize your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked with this free template.
What Equipment do You Need in a Food Truck
Food trucks are mobile service stations; everything you need for serving customers is essential equipment, of course. The other equipment you’ll need for your food truck depends on the kind of food you’re making and, more importantly, what steps of preparation and cooking you will do in the food truck.
2. Ranges, Grills, and Ventilation
- Gas range
- Flat range
- Small-space ventilation
4. Freezers and refrigerators
- Ice maker
5. Food prep surfaces
6. Food prep equipment
- Cutting boards
- Pots and pans
- Mixing bowls
- Food processors
- Storage containers and shelving
7. Safety equipment
- First Aid Kit
- Date Labels
- Bar rags
- Food grade chemical supplies
- Chemical Safety Data Sheets
- Compartment sinks
- Disposal sinks
- Handwashing sink
- Table service essentials
- Paper boats, plates, or clamshells
Who hasn’t dreamed of taking their favorite recipe on the road? Start to realize your food truck dreams with this business plan template.
How Much is Equipment for a Food Truck
It can cost anywhere from $25,000-$100,000 to furnish your new food truck with all the right equipment. Buying used equipment and investing in maintenance might lower your overhead and recurring equipment expenses. Consider your restaurant financing options to keep your finances flexible.
Whether you’re opening a new restaurant, expanding your concept, or renovating within your existing four-walls, you’re going to need capital to make it all happen.
Things to Consider Before Buying Restaurant Equipment
Before you can sling lobster rolls all along the coast, you have to outfit a truck with everything you need to assemble those buttery rolls and fresh cut fries on the go. Imagine yourself making your dishes on a commercial scale and write down all the equipment you’ll need from start to finish.
Take a measured approach to selecting and purchasing equipment for your food truck – being careful here will save you time and effort down the line as your equipment keeps your business running smoothly. It's a good idea to choose high-quality equipment that is reliable and easy to maintain.
Your kitchen equipment is one of your biggest investments – remember that your kitchen equipment is essential for your food truck’s operation and ability to generate profit. Select equipment that is high-quality and durable. Consider researching high-dollar purchases like mixers, ovens, and knives. Evaluate new and used equipment with the same exacting scrutiny to be sure of your investment.
Consider the space that you have available in your food truck is a crucial factor in deciding what equipment to buy and where it will stay. You won’t be able to build a full industrial kitchen in your food truck. Pick only the equipment that is necessary for preparing the items on your menu and be sure that the models you buy will fit into your plan.
3. Planning Your Kitchen
Working in a kitchen that hasn’t been designed for the cooking that you do there is frustrating, time-consuming, and can harm service quality and profit. Kitchen planning is intricate for food truck equipment. Consider seeking the advice of a kitchen planning consultant who will help you to plan the space according to your menu and service style so that it will all run smoothly. They might also provide valuable advice about selecting only the necessary kitchen equipment for the space.
4. Use and Cleaning
Equipment is only durable and worthwhile if it's both easy to use and maintain. Consider how comfortable the piece of equipment is to use, how well it performs its function, and how you would get it clean. Train staff on how to clean and maintain equipment daily, weekly, and monthly to ensure their maximum use. The NSF symbol on food equipment ensures that meets food safety certification standards.
As with any business, food trucks are built on relationships. Your relationship with an equipment supplier is a crucial one. Many towns and cities have local restaurant supply stores that, for a membership fee, offer premium ranges of equipment at near-wholesale prices. The best suppliers will be honest about the technology, engineering, and safety of the products they sell and provide installation, maintenance, and repair services.
Sourcing Restaurant Equipment
Sourcing restaurant equipment is half the battle. Once you have a comprehensive list and a vision of your fully equipped food truck, start shopping around. Local restaurant wholesalers often have good deals, or you might buy from a reputable online retailer, or you can lease equipment until you can afford to invest.
New vs. Used Equipment
New equipment might always seem like the best choice, but some expensive (and essential) pieces of equipment might be better bought used. Consider finding an oven or deep freezer that has been maintained over the years and make a plan to keep it up – you’ll save up front and over the course of your venture.
When budgeting to buy food truck equipment, prioritize quality by how important the equipment is to your process. If you’re making pastry, a dough sheeter might be your expensive best friend. The most important equipment warrants the highest quality which often comes at the highest investment – and secures returns on that investment. Buying used equipment might save you some money up front but could cost more in maintenance and repairs later.
7. Financing or Leasing
If this article is making you anxious about affording all the nice food truck equipment, financing or leasing equipment can be a good option to get your business started and take on less risk until you’re sure the model will succeed.
Restaurant Opening Calculator
This calculator lays out some of the fundamental financial costs of opening a restaurant, so you can start planning and bring your dream restaurant to life.
Ultimate Food Truck Equipment Checklist
While not all kitchens use ovens, quality commercial ovens are crucial for many restaurant business models. As you plan to buy equipment for your food truck, you might ask yourself if it is the smartest move to keep a potentially 400°F oven in your truck. If the summers are hot in your area, anything you need to bake might best be produced in a commissary kitchen.
Not only are ovens hot, but they are also large and bulky, which is inconvenient in and cumbersome a food truck. Of course, if it's essential for your business that you must have an oven in your truck, then you’ve got to find a way to make it work.
Commercial convection ovens use powerful fans to circulate heat around the food so that it cooks quickly and evenly. Convection ovens are great for baked goods and roasting. Combination ovens use steam and circulated heat and are perfect for baking bread, steaming, or roasting. Wood-fired and pizza ovens can be used as versatile tools, but you’d only want one for a specialized product.
2. Ranges, Grills, and Ventilation
Taking a heat source on the road is a crucial decision for your food truck equipment list. Factor in the kind of food you’ll be making and how you can provide yourself or cooks with the best kitchen experience.
A butane-powered range will likely be your first choice for a heat source on the go, and gas is an efficient method to cook food. It’s easy to control, versatile, and reliable. Induction might be more sustainable and a flat range better for a certain kind of cooking, but a gas range is a solid investment.
Flat ranges are sustainable, requiring very little electricity to operate for a long time and are perfect for cooking certain kinds of food – for finishing burritos and sandwiches, or cooking eggs, pancakes, and bacon.
Induction burners generate an electromagnetic current to heat a surface. Magnetic metals transfer heat the best and can be used to heat glass or other surfaces. Induction is a sustainable, versatile, space-conscious, and cost effective option for food truck equipment.
Smokers cook meats or vegetables by exposing them to low heats and curing them with smoke over a long time. Some food trucks are dedicated to smokers or BBQ pits and often have custom equipment built for their trucks.
Gas or electric ranges and ovens that generate a lot of heat or steam require proper ventilation and installing a commercial system into a food truck is a difficult, but necessary, step. Be sure to budget realistically for ventilation and sprinklers over gas ranges or deep fryers.
Think about the size and space of your kitchen and ensure that your ventilation system has enough power to keep smoke and hot air out of the space you or your cooks have to work in. Ventilation is crucial for providing a safe kitchen environment.
Microwaves are staple kitchen tools that are great for cooking certain foods in a fraction of the time as others. They can also be valuable, safe-saving equipment for a food truck.
4. Freezers and refrigerators
These monster machines are necessities in food trucks. Designing your space for all the refrigeration and freezing that you’ll need to store food at the proper temperature is a crucial consideration for your food truck equipment list.
If you intend to serve drinks from anything except a bottle, an ice maker is a necessity for your food truck – there are lots of other things that also require ice like smoothies or iced coffee.
5. Food prep surfaces
The professional kitchen setup comes with stainless steel counters and cooking surfaces. They are easy to sanitize and ensure that you don’t transfer unwanted extra heat at crucial steps in the preparation process. Wood surfaces are cost effective and can be refinished, concrete countertops are durable, and granite is cooler than even stainless – each has their benefits, but stainless steel works just fine for most operations.
6. Food prep equipment
All the small appliances, utensils, mixing bowls, and microplanes that are necessary for your production process will need to stay stocked in your food truck – you don’t want to be caught in a rush without a necessary piece of equipment.
Knives are a central part of cooking and prep, and a good chef and their knife move as one – invest in a set of knives and learn how to keep them sharp for both safety and efficiency in the kitchen. You’ll also want a sharpening stone to keep your investment in good condition.
Quality cutting boards make a noticeable difference in the prep experience – boards with lips or grooves around the edge to keep liquid on the board, or those that have handles for easy handling are restaurant equipment favorites. Make sure to buy various colors for different types of prepped food, like red for meat, blue for fish, green for veggies, and yellow for chicken.
Pots and pans
The kinds of pots and pans you use will likely be decided by personal preference and necessity, but consider choosing quality pieces that will become assets to your food truck. Pots and pans are valuable, essential equipment that lasts a long time when maintained properly.
Mixing bowls come in a variety of materials that each have benefits and setbacks – plastic, stainless, ceramic, or glass. Decide which combination works for your food truck’s equipment list.
Food processors are great for soups and sauces and for ensuring that you get an even chop or mince during prep – a worthwhile investment.
Certain businesses – smoothie shops and juice bars in particular – rely on quality blenders as essential equipment. While they can be expensive, commercial blenders are reliable.
Stand mixers and hand mixers are invaluable time saving equipment for bakeries and some other business models and might be a necessity for your food truck or commissary kitchen.
Storage containers and shelving
Storage is always a must, for safety and organization, and the cost can add up quickly. Don’t forget to budget both space and money for storage.
This is probably the most important category – the rest. All the stirring spoons, whisks, rolling pins, spatulas, piping bags, silicone pads, or anything else you’ll need to outfit your food truck for operation. The little things add up so it’s crucial to plan and budget for them — and for small pieces that are easily misplaced, be sure to buy backups.
7. Safety equipment
All restaurants are held to food safety standards and must have certain equipment on hand. Restaurant supply services provide restaurants with the range of necessities on a regular order, including but not limited to:
First Aid Kit
Food grade chemical supplies
Chemical Safety Data Sheets
In kitchens, sinks must be dedicated for use, meaning that you'll likely have to find space for two or three in your food truck’s layout.
Three compartment sinks are a common way to meet food safety standards for washing and sanitation – wash, rinse, sanitize.
Disposal sinks are for liquid waste or greywater from washing.
Dedicated handwashing sinks must be available for employees in a kitchen space.
The restaurant point of sale system provides a technological answer for a lot of the complexities of operating a food truck or any restaurant business from the past. Crucially, they also provide a way to integrate inventory management and online orders to the normal POS flow of operations — and they do it all while tracking sales and the performance of your menu.
Learn how a better point of sale system can help you run your restaurant.
While you might have a romantic vision of yelling orders to your fry cook in a clever shorthand, kitchen display systems that are integrated with your food truck’s point-of-sale system will result in a much more smooth, efficient, and quiet service.
The serviceware that you choose for your food truck, or any restaurant, is a big part of the experience and aesthetic of your brand. Make choices that are true to your style while being sustainable for your business model.
Table service essentials
Not usually a concern for food trucks, you might find yourself with the opportunity to set a few tables. Consider durable plates and utensils and decide about salt and pepper shakers and condiment dispensers.
Paper boats, plates, or clamshells
The real choice here is one of budget and it’s a critical one for food trucks and other take-out heavy restaurant models. To-go servicewear is costly and buying eco-friendly even more so but looks great for your brand.
Napkins or Linen
Linen might be a bit…ostentatious for a food truck but it’s important to provide, and budget for, the paper or cloth napkins that your customers will use.
Related Food Truck Resources
This template will help you create SOPs for your entire business, so you can create consistency and easily train employees.