I want to start a taco truck. How?
January 21, 2010 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I want to start a taco truck. How?

I know how to make really good tacos, but beyond that, I'm lost.

I know, it probably has a lot to do with the regulations in my city (smallish, Midwestern USA), but where do I begin? Where do you get a taco truck? What sort of regulations are typical for this type of venture? Who in the city do I talk to? Do taco trucks typically run their kitchens off propane? What else on earth do I need to know?

There are no other taco trucks in my town FWIW.
posted by c:\awesome to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: These guys look like they list a lot of used food trucks for sale.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2010

Also, I believe that most of these types of trucks have some kind of conventional prep kitchen they use to prepare most of the food before they go out on the road, and that space would also need to meet health department regulations.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:44 PM on January 21, 2010

I would recommend taking a trip to your local public library and telling your friendly librarian that you are looking to start a business. This is a question they have heard before and they probably have a list of helpful references. In addition to a health certificate you will most likely also need a business permit. You will likely also need a small business loan to help with start-up and to cover expenses while you are still growing a customer base. You will also need to investigate and see if your city allows for you to park on a public street and serve food. Mine doesn't and so all the taco trucks rent space in dirt lots or parking lots.

Please don't forget to have both flour and corn tortillas. Also, quality carnitas are the true test of a taco truck.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2010

I have a friend who just finished baking school and much of what she told us about starting a cupcake business on wheels applies I think.

First, check with your local dept. of health office. They can guide you in the right direction as far as health and food prep stuff. Your town/city hall can guide you on what needs to be done to register your business and you might want to talk to a lawyer/accountant or do some research to determine what type of entity makes the most sense since you'll probably want some form of liability protection.

In terms of food prep, while you might have a final prep area in the truck, if you don't own your own licensed and up-to-code food prep space, there are places that let you rent them by the hour and also have rental space for ingredients. These places are NOT cheap and you need to know exactly how long it takes you to make what you need so you can budget accordingly.

Now, all that said, here in Chicago there is this guy who goes around to bars with a food delivery type backpack that retains heat and he sells tamales that are absolutely amazing for dirt cheap. I hate to make assumptions, but I'd be willing to put money on the fact that he is not using a licensed prep area, is not reporting the income, is not paying any fees/taxes, etc. Everybody loves him but I'm sure he must get hassled by cops.
posted by Elminster24 at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2010

Best answer: I'm in LA which is in the throes of a gourmet food truck love affair right now, so I have seen a few articles on this very question. Sadly I can't find the one I was thinking at the moment, but the following links might help you.
How to start a food catering truck business
New York article on starting your own foodtruck
An LA based business that helps people start their own food truck businesses
posted by Joh at 2:01 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to the health department regs mentioned above, check to see if food trucks are even permitted period. I know that here in my smallish midwestern city, there's been an attempt to crackdown on "taco trucks" through the use of local ordinances to bar them outright. Not sure if it's motivated by racial undercurrents or if it's being pushed by restaurants who see mobile restaurants as a threat to business (or both). FWIW, I think it's a great concept and always salivate like Pavlov's dogs when I read about the incredible goodies served up by NY & LA food trucks (the London UK trucks are really great, too).
posted by webhund at 4:36 PM on January 21, 2010

There's a great new-ish food truck here in Cambridge, MA called Clover that has chronicled its development via blog. Might give you an idea of issues you would face.
posted by supramarginal at 5:13 PM on January 21, 2010

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