How Do I Rent a Food Truck? Your Guide to Mobile Catering

SOHO TACO's food truck at Cismontane Brewery in Santa Ana CA.
SOHO TACO’s food truck serving up tasty delights at Cismontane Brewery in Santa Ana CA.

It’s high season for event planning and if you’re the planner, you’re in the middle of figuring out budgets and of course, the food.

If you’ve researched the cost for a formal sit-down, catered event, you’re shocked, right? Those parties can cost $120 or more per person.

Wow! And that’s for the food, not the fun a.k.a. entertainment.

Here’s another surprise. Food trucks are a trendy option for catered events. If you’re looking for fantastic food and a memorable time for your guests, rent a food truck

Read our guide to mobile catering and get ready to be the talk of the town-literally.

Are They Allowed at Your Venue?

One fun aspect of food truck catering is the freedom it allows you to hold your event in non-traditional locations.

Before you rent a food truck, check with your city and make sure you understand the rules. Some cities only allow food trucks on private property.

Prior to serving at The Hub of Costa Mesa, permission to serve at the venue was secured beforehand.
Prior to serving at The Hub of Costa Mesa, permission to serve at the venue was secured beforehand both from the owners of the bar and the City of Costa Mesa.

Most cities have rules about when, where, and for how long you can park a food truck. Your city also might require special permits. 

If you’re not sure about rules at your chosen location, ask the food truck owner. It’s likely they know all about the rules of your city. They’ll also know what permits and insurance they need.

Also, if you’re renting space at a banquet hall or other private venue, they may require you to use their preferred vendor list. Most private locations will have their own set of rules, which may be much different than what the city imposes.

The Cost to Rent a Food Truck

After you make sure your venue or location allows food trucks, it’s time to crunch the numbers.

Budgeting for food and beverage for a party depends on how much you want to spend and what you want to serve. Your budget also determines your guest list and vice versa.

All SOHO TACO food truck catering packages include making fresh, hand-pressed tortillas as part of the cost.
All SOHO TACO food truck catering packages include fresh, hand-pressed tortillas as part of the cost.

Once you’ve determined how much you can spend and the number of guests you’ll invite, meet with the caterer. A caterer can work magic with your guest list and your budget and help you come up with an appropriate menu.

When you rent a food truck, you’ll spend anywhere from $8 to $30 or more per guest. 

Go with the food truck. The food will be more fun, your guests will love it, and you can do it up well without spending a fortune.

What’s for Dinner?

Keep the menu small. When you give guests too many options they take longer to order. Limit selections to 5-6 items.

A food truck guest reaching for his order of carne asada on fresh, hand-pressed tortillas.
A food truck guest reaching for his order of carne asada on fresh, hand-pressed tortillas.

Most food truck owners have their own menu but that doesn’t mean they aren’t flexible. Some will even create a signature item just for your event.

You’ll also want to decide on drinks. Most catering companies can supply cold drinks. Think water, soft drinks, juices, etc. If you want alcoholic beverages, that’s usually an entirely different conversation.

As far as dessert goes, many food truck operators do offer a sweets menu—just ask. If your event is a wedding, you should probably get a baker involved.

If you’re feeling challenged about what to offer guests for dinner, talk to the expert you’ve hired to do the cooking. Use their expertise and let them help you design a menu that complements the theme of your event.

May I Have Seconds?

If you’ve been to a sit-down dinner lately you know the routine. You get one plate with one serving and you’re done. Unless the party is buffet-style, the host doesn’t pay for re-fills on food.

When you rent a food truck, guests can (and will) go back for seconds. There’s something about fresh, delicious food served from a truck that inspires people to let loose and eat.

Of course, make sure your caterer understands you want guests to enjoy more than one serving.

Most food trucks can handle about 75 guests. If your guest list is bigger than that, talk to the catering company about renting two trucks.

Always estimate a higher number of guests than what you’ve invited. This will help account for people who go back for second helpings. It should also cover those who stop in at the truck for a snack to-go at the end of the event (yes, people do that). 

Read the Fine Print

You’ve found your dream truck, sampled the food, and come up with a menu. Now you’re ready to sign the contract.

Food truck catering contracts are not a one size fits all document. In fact, there’s no standard contract for food truck businesses. Read the nitty-gritty details of the contract carefully.

What will the food truck owner provide for your event? Some owners bring all the tableware including plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins. If you want something special like color-coordinated linens or themed dinnerware, you may need to provide those things yourself.

Music is often part of the food truck ambiance. Make sure you clarify whether they provide music or not. If you’ve already hired a musician or DJ, you don’t want a battle of the bands.

What about electricity? If they need electric hookups it’ll be on you to make sure they’re available.

Don’t forget clean-up! Some food trucks arrive with trash cans while others don’t. Make sure you understand who is responsible for cleaning up and disposal of trash.

There’s No Party Like a Food Truck Party

Have we convinced you? Once you get permission from your venue, create a budget and come up with the menu, it’s not difficult to rent a food truck.

SOHO TACO Gourmet Taco Catering - Band On the Sand - Seal Beach - Orange County - OC - 4th of July - Independence Day Celebration
SOHO TACO’s food truck at last year’s Band On The Sand 4th of July party in Seal Beach CA.

If you want your event to be one that goes down in the memory of every one of your guests as the best time they’ve ever had, the food truck is the way to go.

It’s not just a trendy alternative, it’s one that guarantees your event is a smashing success.

If you’re ready to get the party started, contact us today. Buen Provecho.

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