The Best Cities in America to Start a Food Truck

So many chefs have had the idea of starting a food truck business at some point. While we stress that it is far from easy, there are some cities in America we’ve selected as being the best for food truck startups for various reasons.

Atlanta
Just a few years ago Atlanta food trucks weren’t really on the map. Food trucks have become such a popular choice for Atlanta chefs that it is difficult to find a used food truck for sale anywhere nearby. Expect to see a lot more new food truck brands in the next year or so but if you’re open to traveling out of state to buy your food truck you can get in before the rush and establish yourself early.

San Francisco
Even more of a challenge is finding a food truck for rent or a food truck for sale in San Francisco. The industry is well-developed and San Fran food truck patrons are loyal to their favorite brands. It can be a tricky city to start a food truck with the lack of used trucks and permitting rules, but if your food truck wins the heart of the people you will have it forever.

Portland
If you want to start a crazy comfort food truck with an artistic flair, you’ve come to the right place. One thing you can usually count on with Portland trucks is great food that is likely also organic and sustainable. If that’s your thing you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Speaking of which, Portland is also one of the friendliest cities to register a food truck. They even offer rush service for a nominal fee if you’re eager to get started.

Seattle
Another city that has expanded the food truck scene lately is Seattle. It’s no wonder that a city known for an outdoor market would be a great place to find food truck fare. Since new legislation was introduced in 2011, the process for starting a food truck business has been streamlined to encourage street vendors to set up shop. New food truck festivals pop up every year, including the recent Food Trucks For A Cause, which supports world hunger initiatives.

New York City

Despite having an extremely difficult permitting process (think taxi medallions), New York’s food trucks serve some of the best street food in the country and New Yorkers have embraced food trucks in recent years. These days nearly every cuisine is represented by NYC food trucks and you can sample the world on foot and without a reservation. It’s also one of the most popular cities for corporate food truck promotions.

Austin
This city was born to be a food truck hotspot. With a great music and art scene, good climate and an appreciation for both good barbecue and fine dining, the stars aligned for gourmet food trucks. SXSW is one of the best ways for new trucks to introduce themselves to the scene and many startup food trucks in the city rush to get up and running in time for their music festival debut.

Los Angeles
Where it all began. Not only did the City of Angels invent the gourmet food truck trend, it’s also home to more food trucks than any other city in America. Some of the most well-known food truck brands started here, including Kogi, Baby’s Badass Burgers and the Lobsta Truck. Even though there are a lot of trucks already on the streets there is a lot of love for street food in LA. Summer festivals like Abbot Kinney’s First Friday’s and Street Food Cinema attract record crowds. It’s even possible to lease a truck and get your own business started in a matter of weeks.

8 Things to Consider When You Lease or Rent Your Food Truck

foodtrucklawimageIf you’re not ready to get rid of your food truck but are no longer running your business, you’ll likely be considering renting your truck. Whether you are renting your truck for short or long term periods, there are quite a few things to think about:

1. Maintenance Schedule

It is typically the responsibility of the truck owner to handle the regular maintenance of the truck. Prior to renting we strongly suggest you work out a plan for the upkeep of the truck and where the work will be done. If you are drafting a lease agreement, be sure to separate the responsibility of the repairs due to wear and tear (i.e. oil changes) vs. damage caused by the lessee.

2. Insurance

It is up to you if you want to include the insurance on the food truck you are leasing. Renters often provide basic auto insurance and leave it to the lessee to obtain supplementary insurance if they wish to do so. Be sure to clearly define what you will and will not offer in the lease agreement.

3. Security Deposits

Even if insurance will cover any major damage to the truck, a security deposit can come in handy. It can be used to cover any unpaid traffic or parking violations, unpaid claim deductibles, or small repairs that may not warrant an insurance claim. It also helps to ensure renters take good care of your truck.

4. Mileage Limits

Including limits for mileage in your lease agreement helps ensure the truck will be kept local. Due to the weight of the kitchen, food trucks don’t usually do well with long haul travel. It’s up to you if you want to make exceptions for lessees who want to attend festivals and events out of town. If it is more than 50 miles we recommend shipping the truck via flatbed.

5. Alterations / Modifications

In most cases your renter will have chosen your truck because it has all the equipment he/she requires to operate. If you agree to allow modifications to the interior of the truck, be sure to check with your local health department. Changing the equipment may cause your current permits to be voided. Exterior modifications, like the installation of a graphic wrap, do not affect the permits of the truck but they can cause underlying paint damage. It’s a good idea to get a small deposit for paint touch-up if a wrap is to be installed. You can refund the money if the truck is returned with no external damage.

6. Licensing

Every city, county, and state have their own rules for licensing food truck businesses. Typically both a business license and a food truck-specific permit are required to operate. As the county operating permit is usually linked to the truck, truck owners usually take care of permits for the main county where the truck is used. Additional permits (for nearby counties or special zones) are left to the renter to secure.

7. Commissary / Parking

Some counties require that food trucks be registered with a licensed commissary. It’s a good idea to use a commissary even if it is not required by law. Commissaries are usually secured parking areas, you’ll have access to proper cleaning facilities and you typically have easy access to propane and ice to restock. This type of parking does have a cost and it may be one that your renter tries to avoid. It’s a good idea to discuss what you require for truck storage when it is not in use.

8. Lease Agreements

We always recommend you have any renter sign an agreement so that both parties can be protected and have a clear understanding of what is expected. If you’re serious about renting or leasing your food truck you can purchase a sample food truck lease and checklist for $99. This package is specific to the food truck industry and includes options for all the above categories.

If you’re looking for a place to list your truck for rent, check out foodtruckrental.com

For personal legal counsel and legal help relating to your food truck business, we recommend Hiller Counsel