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.
Harnessing the spark behind your food truck concept or theme — while staying true to your values — will allow you to create a concept that pulls in new customers wherever you go.
Food trucks have been around for a long time. But they’ve seen a real increase in popularity over the last few decades. Raul Martinez is credited with opening the first taco truck in 1974. He undoubtedly noticed the popularity of tacos in California and took inspiration from that idea. He converted an old ice cream truck into what we now know as a food truck, and eventually went on to open an extremely successful chain of restaurants, King Taco.
Today, food trucks have only grown in popularity, and there’s no shortage of space for unique ideas to take hold. Whether you’re offering a highly specialized menu or providing a cost-effective food option for your neighborhood, pinning down the concepts and themes you’d like to move forward with is key. This will also entail understanding how to bring those ideas to life.
If you have dreams of starting your own food truck, here’s a list of inspirational restaurant ideas to get your gears turning.
Real Inspiration for Food Truck Owners
Ideas can be pulled from anywhere…although it certainly doesn’t hurt to research restaurant and food trends. Here are some other things that commonly inspire budding restaurateurs.
- Creating opportunities for employment in the community
- Filling a hole in the market or community
- A deep love of food
- Building a legacy for friends and family
- Bringing a much-loved theme to life
- Identifying a really great food pun that deserves to shine
- Creating a partnership between food identities or cultures
Before you can get to the opening of your food truck, it’s important to nail down the overall identity and concept you have in mind.
25 Food Truck Ideas, Themes and Concepts
Let’s take a look at 25 real-life examples of ideas, concepts, and themes that have all made it into the final phase: the actual opening of a food truck.
1. Sweet Mexican street foods
Churro Co. provides churros made from scratch to diners in Austin, Texas. Started by childhood friends, this food truck aims to pay homage to traditional Mexican street foods.
2. Gourmet burgers with a Japanese fusion twist
FukuBurger has the distinction of being Las Vegas’ first gourmet burger truck...with a Japanese twist. For instance, the Tamago features an all-beef patty topped with a fried egg, wasabi mayo, and furikake.
3. Indian cuisine featuring local Ingredients
Roti Rolls has consistently been lauded as Charleston’s best food truck. Nicknamed the “Green Machine”, it’s known for using locally grown ingredients from farmers in their roti parathas.
4. Mobile wood-fired pizza with a look at the process
Del Popolo is a mobile pizzeria situated in a glass-encased shipping container, that brings wood-fired pizza to the customers of San Francisco.
5. A focus on Native cuisines
Described as “Seattle’s First Native Food Truck”, Off the Rez was started to address Seattle’s lack of Native cuisine offerings. Their menu includes Indian tacos, sweet fry bread, and kale salad.
6. BBQ for any occasion
BBQ is all the rage at Oink & Moo BBQ, which was named the #1 food truck in America by the Daily Meal in 2016.
7. Hot dogs with everything on ‘em
Based out of Anchorage, Alaska, Yeti Dogs leans into local offerings unique to Alaska, including reindeer sausage and an elk jalapeno cheddar dog.
8. Korean BBQ reimagined
Kogi BBQ expertly serves up Korean BBQ on the streets of LA. Owner Roy Choi started Kogi BBQ in 2008, and his operation has since expanded into four food trucks and a full catering operation.
9. Donut sandwiches + burgers
Gourdough's Donut's serves sweets such as Donut Ruin My Jam and Gotchie Yo Kolache — served out of an old Airstream.
10. Treats for humans and their fur babies
The Barkery's primary location is outside of a dog park. They offer treats for both dog owners and their 4-legged friends, including custom cakes for birthdays.
11. Treats for humans and their fur babies
The Barkery’s primary location is outside of a dog park. They offer treats for both dog owners and their 4-legged friends, including custom cakes for birthdays.
12. Fine dining on the go
Initially opened in 2009 as a small lobster shack, Luke’s Lobster has expanded into a multi-location restaurant with a grocery brand.
12. Shrimp, shrimp, and more shrimp
Launched in 1993 out of a converted 1950’s bread truck, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck has become a staple in North Shore, Hawaii.
13. Gourmet grilled cheese, any way you like it
Grilled Cheeserie has been serving up gourmet grilled cheese since 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. With a schedule that changes on a weekly basis, their menu features specialty melts like the Turkey B&B of TN, and they also have the option for customers to “Make Your Own Melt.”
14. Two cultures, blended
The Blaxican opened in Atlanta in 2010. Mexican soul food is on the menu, with dishes like drunken pork tacos, “soulsa” and chips, and shrimp and grits tostadas.
15. A local cuisine from far away
The Kilted Kod was inspired by the owner’s trip to Scotland, when he realized his native Idaho would embrace the British dish of fish and chips.
16. A treat for rural populations
Misunderstood Heron brings fresh and local food to the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. Essentially based in the middle of nowhere, this food truck serves local delicacies in an area that doesn’t exactly offer up a massive amount of food options.
17. A bananas idea
Bananarchy uses ethically-sourced bananas for their signature treat on a stick.
18. A coffee shop on wheels
The Bean Bar Co. is a mobile coffee bar making the rounds in Tampa, Florida.
19. Jewish deli staples and food delivery
Caplansky’s brings Jewish deli staples like lox, matzo ball soup, and sandwiches to the appetizing enthusiasts of Toronto.
20. A vegan Jamaican menu
Ras Rody’s serves a rotating roster of vegan Jamaican options to their customers in Santa Fe including black bean stew, smoothies, and a variety of juices.
21. Everything’s on tap
The Bubble Tap is based in New Orleans, and consists of a trailer loaded with a number of different wines that are all on tap.
22. Hawaiian-style desserts
Dakota Snow serves rolled ice cream and shaved ice around Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
23. Craveable vegan fare
KraVegan serves 100% vegan dishes from a menu that’s small but mighty.
24. Dumplings, classes, and community
Mei Mei Boston is a woman-owned, community-oriented restaurant that started as a brick-and-mortar location, and pivoted to offer dumpling-making classes. Now, they ship their dumplings nationally.
25. Cornering outdoor markets
The Chubby Chickpea incorporates hummus into everything. They’ve also developed a great distribution strategy – they serve up their bowls at the Charles River Speedway along with a food hall, as well as partner up with local breweries.
Ready to put your idea on wheels?
Now that you have some solid inspiration to help get you started, it’s time to get cracking on bringing your food truck to life.
Next steps include putting together a food truck business plan, determining your restaurant startup costs, and exploring what technology like a restaurant point of sale system can help your business thrive. Then, you can seek out funding to secure a food truck, hire staff, and get out there!
Many food trucks partner together and seek out events and the best locations to set up. So introduce yourself to the restaurateur community, and follow @toasttab on social media.
Related Food Truck Resources
- How Much Does it Cost to Start a Food Truck
- Food Truck POS Comparison Tool
- How to Start a Food Truck Business
- Best Food Truck Ideas
- Food Truck POS System
- Food Truck Name Ideas
- Food Truck Equipment
- Food Truck Design Ideas
- Food Truck Websites
- Food Truck Marketing Ideas
- Food Truck Menu Ideas
- How Much Do Food Trucks Make
- How to Do Food Truck Branding
- How to Write a Food Truck Business Plan
- Food Truck Business Plan Template
- Food Truck Design Ideas
- Food Truck Licenses and Permits
- Best Food Truck POS Systems