Today we’ll discuss how 3 simple formulas can provide just enough food truck bootstrap accounting information to help any vendor understand how their truck is performing.

Few if any food truck owners have told me that bookkeeping was among their favorite activities in running their mobile food business. The time dedicated to it seems to take away from the core activities of running their business.

But even beyond the need to file taxes, it is critical that a food truck owner understand their cash flow and financial position if they expect to run a profitable enterprise. For most vendors, there is a minimum amount of bookkeeping you need to do in order to get that information.

The most basic information is income vs. expenses. Even though that is only one part of the “big” accounting picture, it is the one that is should be the most important to each and every mobile food business owner.

You should always have some type of system in place to tally up all of your daily sales, whether it is a Point-of-Sale (POS) computer system, or a calculator to add up the cash you store in shoebox. And all expenses need to be tallied in one way or another, probably separated, at the very least, between “cost of goods sold” and “other expenses”.

The cost of goods sold (COGS) for a food truck represents the cost of the food and beverages, plus some of the incidentals like paper products or straws. The total sales minus the cost of goods sold is generally referred to as your truck’s “gross profit”.

Sales – COGS = Gross profit

Your gross profit gives you a view of whether or not your food costs are in line with your food sales. Most food trucks need to keep food costs below 30 to 35% of food sales. To determine the percentage, divide the costs by the sales, and multiply by 100.

(COGS / Sales) * 100 = Food cost percentage

Your net profit is then calculated by subtracting all the expenses from the sales. The net profit is your take (to be used to pay yourself or set aside to expand your business).

Sales – (COGS + Expenses) = Net profit


Gross profit – Expenses = Net profit

There are many more calculations your accountant will use to do your taxes, but many vendors I have spoken with do not want to invest the time to become fluent with industry accounting terminology such as amortization. Any tool that allows them to quickly add those three sets of numbers will typically meet their needs. This has led to the Excel spreadsheet being one of the most common tools used by food truck owners to keep track of their daily bookkeeping.

There are huge advantages for vendors who understand their food sales and expense figures. With a simple spreadsheet, and a little effort to categorize expenses and keeping track of things like the cash in and out, you can see the “big” picture of your food truck business.

Related: Food Truck Accounting Basics

Do you already use a food truck bootstrap accounting proceedure? Or what do you track personally and what do you leave up to your accountant?