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10 Tips for Booking Food Trucks

James Willamor

Points to consider if you're thinking of using a food truck at a PTO or PTA event.


Food trucks can be a fun addition to your school parent group’s family event. Here are some details to think about before hiring one.

Reservations: Many cities have services that help people find food trucks and make reservations. Look on Roaming HungerFood Trucks In, or to see if they serve your city, or do an internet search for “(your town) food trucks.”

Contracts: Read the terms carefully and don’t be afraid to negotiate. A food truck operator might ask you to put down a deposit or guarantee minimum food sales. You might be able to arrange for a portion of sales to be given back to your parent group.

If you earn a portion of sales, specify ahead of time how food sales will be tracked and ask to be paid before the vendors leave the event. One parent group had families buy food tickets from the group, then pay for food with the tickets instead of cash. At the end of the event, vendors turned over all tickets to the parent group, which counted them and paid out money to the vendors, keeping their agreed-upon percentage.

Who’s buying: You can book a truck to come to your event and sell food directly to families. Or you can prepay for food and allow families to order what they want for free. You might also give out a “ticket” for a free food item (for example, each attendee can get one free ice cream cone) and purchase more, if they want.

Parking: For each truck, set aside a space that is about three parking spaces wide. If you have more than one truck at your event, assign their parking locations ahead of time.

Timing: Ask trucks to arrive about an hour before your event starts.

Power source: Find out if a food truck will need to connect to a power source or if it will  use a generator. If a generator is required, keep in mind that it will be noisy. Set up your activities away from the noise.

Trash: Provide extra trash cans. For a large event, you might need to have someone monitor trash and empty it as needed.

Lines: You don’t want people missing the main activities at your event because they’re standing in line waiting for food. Estimate how many attendees you’ll have so you can get an idea of how many food trucks you’ll need to serve them efficiently. Most trucks can serve between 50 and 100 people per hour.

Menu: Look for simple items that can be prepared quickly, at prices families can afford. Ask the truck operator if he will add a menu item for your event at a special price—for example, a “meal deal” named after your school or mascot.

Insurance and permits: Have truck operators provide proof of insurance and health department license. Some local governments limit the number of food trucks at events or have regulations for trucks preparing food on site rather than serving food prepared elsewhere, like cupcakes. To get an idea of the rules in your area, search online for "food truck rules in (your town)."

What’s Cookin’?

When it comes to food trucks, there are many options. Check out the 20 most popular mouth-watering menu items for some inspiration. If you don’t have specific food trucks in mind, find out if favorite local restaurants operate food trucks and sample offerings from some food trucks at festivals in your area. Keep in mind that the food you choose should appeal to both kids and parents.

Popular options include:

  • Barbecue
  • Coffee and hot chocolate
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Ice cream
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches (some trucks specialize in a single type, like grilled cheese or roast beef)
  • Shaved ice
  • Smoothies
  • Street tacos and burritos
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches
  • Gyros
  • Hawaiian food
  • Chicken wings
  • Sushi
  • Crepes
  • Indian street food
  • Loaded fries

Photo credit: James Willamor/CC BY-SA 2.0

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