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Essential Food Truck Suppliers and Where to Find Them

Nick PerryAuthor

Food trucks are a flexible, affordable way to open a restaurant that costs significantly less to open than brick-and-mortar restaurant. Popularity has soared in the over the past few years — building into a $2B industry in the United States. And analysts predict the food truck industry to continue to grow throughout the decade.

It may still cost up to $175,000 to get a food truck up and running. Then there are food truck operating expenses that can be several thousand each month.

These recurring expenses make it essential to manage as many expenses as you can. That means finding the best and most affordable food truck suppliers for the various aspects of your business. You won’t be able to knock prices off permits and licenses, but there is flexibility in other areas.

Read on to learn how to find the best food truck suppliers to keep costs in check while maintaining high-quality ingredients and service.

The importance of great food truck suppliers

Suppliers are, in many ways, the lifeblood of your food truck business. When you’re just starting out, high-quality suppliers will ensure you have the best ingredients and supplies at the best price possible. 

Through suppliers, you’ll get the equipment you need to make great food in a tight space, and maybe even some technological support for your business, too.

Your food truck has many recurring costs every month, and suppliers play a big role in keeping those costs down without sacrificing service or food quality.

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Essential food truck suppliers

Every restaurant needs suppliers, but there’s more than just one supplier for everything your food truck needs.

Food and beverage suppliers

Of course, your food and beverage service is the most important element of your food truck. The quality of your food is going to be what keeps people coming back. When looking for a food and beverage supplier keep these three things in mind.

Menu needs

Most food trucks have a specific lane. Mac n’ cheese, Thai street food, burritos — the whole point of focusing a food truck menu is to be able to offer outstanding food while operating out of an enclosed, mobile space. 

Most food trucks probably aren’t changing the menu very frequently or offering completely new specials every day. That’s a good thing, because it will make your supplier orders more regular. But, if you are changing out your menu often, make sure this is something your supplier can keep up with. 

Sales volume

Over-ordering food and beverage supplies is a big no-no for food trucks unless you have a brick-and-mortar location to store those supplies. If you don’t, you have to think carefully about how much storage the truck has, and how much you can reasonably sell without wasting any supplies.

Delivery requirements

Based on sales volume and storage capacity, how often do you need deliveries? The ingredients you’re using play a part in this, as well. If you use a lot of eggs, you probably need to order more frequently to avoid eggs going bad. Likewise, if you sell out regularly, it might not be a bad idea to set up a more frequent delivery schedule.

Equipment suppliers

Food trucks are like any other kitchen: they require equipment to make food on the go. Keep these things in mind when looking for an equipment supplier.

Consult your menu

Again, everything comes back to your menu when you’re thinking about suppliers. Depending on what you’re making, you may need a grill, a multi-burner stovetop, a fryer, a refrigerator, or even a freezer in a very enclosed space. For food trucks, you really need to maximize your space, so consider what equipment is and is not essential.

Measure your space

Just like when you move into a new apartment, you need to measure your food truck space to understand what will fit in there. You definitely don’t want to purchase a grill without knowing exact measurements. Some suppliers will cater more to brick-and-mortar kitchens and not have the leaner equipment you need for your food truck.

Consider new vs. used

A lot of kitchen equipment is built to last. Food trucks often thrive on the strength of their food and branding, so if you can deliver that high-quality food on more budget-friendly equipment, why wouldn’t you?

You’ll also probably have to lease new equipment, which tacks onto your monthly fixed expenses. Alternatively, you may have to pay more upfront, but you could buy used equipment outright, which will lower your monthly expenses.

Laundry suppliers

Laundry is an easy thing for food truck operators to overlook. You might not have a uniformed staff like other restaurants, but you do have towels, rags, and an assortment of other cloth in the truck that needs to be washed for health purposes. You might not need a full-scale restaurant laundry supplier, but if you do consider it, keep these things in mind.

Laundry requirements

Again, your food truck’s laundry requirements are probably geared toward towels and kitchen fabric more than uniforms and linens. You likely don’t need to find a high-end laundry supplier, but one that will be able to quickly and efficiently launder these items. 

Budget

Considering the laundry requirements of food trucks, budget should be your primary focus. Costs can vary greatly among laundry suppliers, so who can do the job as affordably as possible?

Reputation

Finally, when you shop for anything you want to consider a company’s reputation. Don’t just dive in with the first supplier you talk to, look for reviews and first-hand testimonials to understand their reputation.

Repair suppliers

It’s possible that your equipment supplier also has a maintenance service, but if not, you need to find a quality repair supplier. Given the bumpy, mobile nature of food truck kitchens, things break a lot, so you need a great maintenance resource. When looking for a repair supplier, keep the following in mind.

Equipment expertise

Food truck equipment is similar to kitchen equipment, but it’s not the same and you shouldn’t assume every repair supplier will have the expertise to work with food truck equipment. Verify that any repair supplier has worked with food trucks before hiring anyone.

Reputation

Looking at reviews and gathering as many first-hand testimonials about a repair supplier is crucial. You don’t want to hire a repairperson who is going to charge you a bundle to not fix the problem.

Reliability and speed

Food trucks make an average of $20,000 - $42,000 in revenue per month, but that’s wholly dependent on how active they can be. You need to be hitting the streets every day to maximize your profit potential, and a faulty piece of equipment could cost you big in lost revenue opportunities. As such, a repair supplier that is quick to respond, reliable, and efficient in their work is absolutely essential.

Technology suppliers

Technology is essential in the modern restaurant industry, and that goes double for food trucks. Trucks have to process many orders quickly without a host or waitstaff. Front and back-of-house are in the same small space. Restaurant technology can help you manage the chaos of a high-speed, high-pressure business operating in the back of a truck.

From QR code generators for quick and easy ordering, to an efficient point-of-sale system, and software to manage staff schedules, payroll, and finances, a technology supplier can not only make life easier on restaurant managers, but it can also help your food truck scale.

With Toast’s restaurant-first platform, you can keep everything running as smoothly as possible, from staffing to accounting. Resources like a food truck business plan template, self-service ordering via kiosks or mobile services, best-in-class hardware to support staff, multi-location management, and more can all help you get a head start on your food truck business.

How to find food truck suppliers

You know what to look for, but how do you actually find them? Even with a great food truck marketing strategy, suppliers probably aren’t going to be knocking down your door without knowing your needs. There are a number of great places to look for supplier information and guidance.

Online directories and marketplaces

Just Google “restaurant suppliers” and you’ll realize how many online directories and marketplaces there are. With so many suppliers in the industry, they’re dealing with competitors just like you are. Any respectable supplier will make a point to be listed on as many directories and marketplaces as possible, both local and national.

Most directories and marketplaces will let you sort by location, specialization, budget, and more to find exactly what you need.

Industry associations and trade shows

Food trucks have become practically an industry of their own over the past decade. The National Food Truck Association is an excellent resource to find guidance and support from local food truck associations who will have plenty of tips on quality suppliers.

Likewise, food and beverage trade shows tend to be more focused toward brick-and-mortar restaurants but they’re still a great resource for food truck operators to find suppliers.

Referrals from other food truck owners

We’ve mentioned how important it is to get first-hand testimonials about suppliers throughout this piece. Well, you can also get recommendations from a fellow food truck operator before you have to ask them what they think about a particular supplier.

Cold-calling and prospecting

Most suppliers need your business just as much as you need theirs. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find the right supplier for your needs, even if that means calling several suppliers to ask for quotes.

Find the right suppliers to fuel up your food truck

Your food truck suppliers will have a significant impact on your profit margin and the quality of your food and service. Finding the right partners for your truck is absolutely essential to strike the right balance of high-quality ingredients and equipment at a good price point. Remember to shop around, always prioritize your biggest needs and budget, and don’t rush into signing any contracts.

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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.