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food truck tax return

It’s tax day again and as many of you know, completing and filing a small business tax return for your food truck business is different than completing and filing your personal tax return.

The primary difference is the number of forms that must be completed and the difference of your business’ write offs and deductions.

While business tax returns are not overly complicated, ensure that you use the proper form and research any questions you have. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website is relatively easy to navigate and provides answers to most questions. If you don’t feel comfortable filing your business taxes yourself, reach out to your accountant for help.

Here are three tips to filing your food truck tax return:

Keep Your Recipes

Hopefully, you’ve collected all of the receipts related to your businesses expenses. Any expense for which you can provide a receipt if requested you can comfortably deduct, but if you lack a receipt, think twice about whether the deduction is worthwhile.

Small costs unsupported by a receipt can turn into a huge headache if the IRS decides to audit you and your return. Take a walk around your office to identify possible deductions. Miles driven on personal vehicles when doing business related driving, the mileage your drive your truck throughout the year, computer equipment and other expenses are deductible.

Don’t Forget Your Start-up Costs

The IRS allows all new businesses to deduct up to $5,000 in start-up costs. These costs can include attorney or accountant fees, training materials, employee training and other business expenses. Any personal training or education you completed for business purposes is also deductible (think culinary school).

Complete All the Forms

Unlike a personal tax return, a food truck tax return consists of several different forms. One form lists profit and losses, while another calculates the self-employment taxes. Determine which forms you must complete through the IRS website. Completing each one and submitting them together makes it less likely that you’ll be audited.

While you may have already (let’s hope you did) submitted your food truck tax return for 2015, do you have any additional tax tips for prospective food truck owners? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can share your ideas in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

Food Truck Health Inspection

Although it may be tempting to put off certain repairs to your food truck or overlook a few minor health violations in hopes that the health inspector won’t pay you a visit in the near future, a better practice is to treat every day as the day an inspector will show up.

Today we provide some tips to keep that food truck health inspections spotless and those citation costs to a minimum:

Tips For Acing Your Food Truck Health Inspection

Inspect your truck every month

The best way for you and your employees to prepare for any inspection is by performing a self-inspection on your food truck every month. The saying “practice makes perfect” fits perfectly into any conversation about the health inspections your food truck receives.

When conducting self-inspections, you should take the role of the inspector and have another staff member take your role so your employees know what will be looked at and how they can help maintain your truck with minimal assistance.

Here are some tips for conducting your own monthly food truck health inspection:

  • Surprise your employees with an inspection.
  • Arm yourself with the right tools.
  • Use the local inspection sheet.
  • Start outside.
  • Give your truck the white-glove treatment.
  • Ask “why” questions.
  • Check your records.
  • Point out the positive as well as the negative.
  • Review your findings.
  • Schedule a mandatory staff meeting to delegate tasks

Within a day of your monthly self-inspection, or an official health department inspection, schedule a staff meeting to go over the findings. Make sure your staff knows this meeting is more official than your regular meetings. Be sure to have an agenda plus a time and action plan, and assign tasks to each employee regarding what needs to be inspected and cleaned in order to comply with health department regulations.

Figure out what to fix from the past

Use your previous inspection reports, which the health department provides upon completion of its inspection, as a guide to help you and your staff clean your kitchen,service window area, storage, and cooler areas.

Before an inspector shows up, he usually does the same thing and typically makes a point of reexamining these areas to make sure you’re keeping them up to snuff. Showing that you’ve taken care of previous issues tells an inspector that you take his reports seriously. Some health officials even speed up their inspections knowing that you’re willing to listen to them and follow their advice.

Ask for an inspection by an exterminator

Nothing will shut down a food truck faster than an inspector finding a cockroach or the remains of a little critter. Because rodents, flies, cockroaches, and other pests can contaminate food and food preparation surfaces, any evidence of vermin or insects inside a food truck can cause pointdeductions.

If an active infestation is discovered, the health inspector can shut down the establishment immediately and keep it closed until the problem is resolved.

Check your refrigeration

You and your employees open and close your food truck refrigerators numerous times throughout the day, causing their internal temperature to rise several degrees. If your refrigerator is set at exactly the minimum required temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the actual temperature may be several degrees higher by the middle of the day.

Consistently check the temperature inside the refrigerators to make sure your food is being stored at the proper temperature.

Another refrigeration area to look at is the drainage. Each week, make sure your drains are flowing freely by pouring boiling water into the bottom of the appliance to find and remove any clogs.

Keep your cooler shelves clean

The bottoms of cooler shelves have a tendency to collect grime, dirt, or residue from vegetables, meat, spilled milk, and so on and are regularly missed by cleaners. A lot of fairly new restaurants are found guilty of making this mistake during the inspection following their openings.

Every week, or as needed, fill a sink with warm soapy water, remove all trays and racks from the inside of the cooler, and wash them in the sink. Wash the inside of the cooler along the sides and bottom with the warm soapy water, too.

Check your water temperature

Over time, the water heaters used in food trucks can fail to reach their maximum water temperature. Although the water may feel hot to your touch, it may not meet your health department’s standard.

Why risk a mark against you during your inspection — or even a fine — if using a thermometer under your water tap monthly can help you avoid it? If you determine that your water heater isn’t producing water at its maximum temperature (check the manufacture’s guide for the specific data for your equipment), contact a licensed plumber to repair or replace the unit.

Clean your coffee mugs

Your personal coffee mugs or water cups that you have sitting around while you’re busy working the grill can be inspected, too. The problem probably isn’t a citable one, but any significant sign of dirt and wear can affect the way the inspector perceives your entire operation.

Make an appointment for an inspection

After you and your team have completed a thorough cleaning of the truck, call your health inspector and ask him to schedule your vehicle for an inspection. Let him know that you’re attempting to achieve a high health department score and that you’d like an inspection in the near future.

Due to their tight schedules, many inspectors will fit you in as soon as possible because they know they’ll be busy later in the year as new inspections, reinspections, and follow-up inspections are called for. And that way, you’ll know that your truck is as clean as possible during the inspection.

Inform your staff that the health inspector is coming

Make sure every one of your employees knows that the inspector may show up. Even if it’s a week before the scheduled inspection, make sure your employees are on their toes by monitoring the truck’s cleanliness and pointing out issues that need correction immediately.

Remind everyone to wash his hands frequently, and keep water splashed in the hand sinks. Nothing is worse than having your hand sinks dry when the inspector shows up. Also make sure you have hand sanitizer in the truck.

We hope these tips help you breeze by your next Food Truck Health Inspection. If you happen to have any additional tips that you have found helpful, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

A lot about the white-hot food truck industry might seem inherently greener. Trucks are smaller than restaurants, go directly to their customers, and often source local ingredients. But is buying your lunch from a truck really better for the environment than buying it from a bricks-and-mortar restaurant? Might it, in fact, be worse?

union kitchen commercial kitchen
Washington, D.C.’s Union Kitchen, a commissary used by Curbside Cupcakes and TaKorean food trucks. (Sara Johnson)

Pitting food trucks against bricks-and-mortar lunch spots on their relative greenness isn’t a simple task. Food trucks tend to operate for only a few hours a day and focus on just one meal, while bricks-and-mortar locations generally offer a wider menu, stay open longer and can see several surges of customers throughout the day. Location and corresponding foot traffic also play a role, as trucks have the ability to drive — on-demand — to their customers, while traditional restaurants must rely on traffic from a set location.

Further complicating the comparison is that many cities require truck operators to prepare their food out of a commissary or approved shared kitchen facility. In Washington, D.C., for example, truck owner Che Ruddell-Tabisola of BBQ Bus cooks out of a catering kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia, which means he drives his truck to and from downtown D.C. each day.

Perhaps the biggest eco-con for food trucks is the amount of off-the-grid fuel needed for both running the truck itself and powering the generator to run any on-board cooking equipment. But the degree of on-board power use can vary widely depending on the food served and what type of cooking is done on the truck itself. Kim Ima, owner of New York City’s The Treats Truck, bakes all of her cookies, cupcakes, and other baked sweets in her bricks-and-mortar shop in Brooklyn, so her generator only needs to power a hand washing sink, lights, and the cash register on the truck itself.

There are other factors that contribute to environmental footprints that are shared by both standing and moving restaurants. To-go containers and corresponding trash, for instance.

As for bricks-and-mortar restaurants on their own, a 2011 report [PDF] on restaurant energy benchmarking by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory notes a variety of factors that influence their energy consumption:

Over the past 20 years, the typical floor plate size has changed (often shrinking), and the number of meals served at each store has increased. Hours of operation, operational practices, and the number and type of appliances also have a discernable influence on energy use. The authors’ experience has shown that the absence or presence of seating in conditioned space, location and customer traffic patterns, climate zone, absence or presence of automated control systems (time clocks, building energy management systems), facility type (stand-alone building, interior space in a larger building, etc.), type of walk-in refrigeration, and the amount of outside and parking lot lighting included in the utility bill are also factors.

Find the entire article by Sara Johnson at The Atlantic Cities <here>

LAS VEGAS, NV – How to regulate food trucks that are popular in downtown Vegas has generated hours of discussion among the Las Vegas City Council over the last several months. But on Tuesday, a new program giving the mobile food vendors more room to operate downtown cruised through the council with no discussion.

las vegas food trucks parking
Photo by: LasVegas360.com

The issue: A pilot program that would designate three parking spots downtown as “food-truck only.”

The vote: Passed 6-0, with Mayor Carolyn Goodman absent.

What it means: Food trucks will be able to lease one of three reserved parking spaces downtown from the city for $5 per hour.

Operating a food truck legally in the city can be challenging because the trucks only are allowed to park at a meter for 30 minutes at a time, even though setting up the kitchen often takes half an hour.

To complicate the issue further, the city council passed a new ordinance in October prohibiting food trucks from operating within 150 feet of any brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The city would begin planning a lottery for the parking spaces next week and the program should be running by March.

The pilot program will run for six months, at which time the council can decide to continue, expand or do away with the parking spaces.

Click the link for the entire article about Las Vegas Food Truck Parking Spaces by Connor Shine of the Las Vegas Sun.

More on Las Vegas Food Trucks


TALLAHASSEE, FL – Before John, my husband-to-be, and I started our food truck in 2010, I cyber-stalked food trucks on the West Coast and in New York City to find out how they were using Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.


For the most part, they posted their daily routes and specials of the day, and while that alone attracted them hundreds of customers, I knew that wouldn’t fly for us.

Our town, Tallahassee, is mostly known for politics and football, and certainly doesn’t have the population of cities like Los Angeles and NYC. We knew we were going to have to get creative.

Though we were early adopters of Twitter and used Facebook when it was just a site for college students (the wonder years), up until 2010 we were merely bystanders of the social media sphere. But the food truck forced us to not only become active participants, but content creators, too. Here are four of the most valuable lessons Lazarus, our food truck, taught us about social media.

1. SoLo is the Motto

SoLo (not to be confused with YOLO), a combination of social media and location-based technology, is the motto for food trucks.

2. Get Creative

Most brands recognize that a part of the whole social media strategy is to engage fans — and that often means getting their feedback or crowdsourcing.

3. Nail Customer Service

“The wait for @CravingsTruck is ridiculous!!!! I’m never coming back here again.” “@CravingsTruck gave me a chargrilled red velvet waffle.” I remember seeing tweets like this and panicking.

4. Tell Your Story

I think everyone can relate to having an old, beat-up car that you love.

To find the entire article by Kianta Key at the Daily Muse <here>



OAKLAND, CA – The Oakland City Council showed its support for food trucks Tuesday when it approved modified ordinances reducing daily site operation fees from $100 to $50 and extending the program which allows group mobile food vending to July 2013.

Oakland Food Truck Map

Since January 2012, the city has allowed food trucks to do business along public streets provided that at least three trucks form a cluster together on a single, temporary site. Prior to that, food trucks were only permitted on private property.

Contrary to initial expectations, the majority of the food vending sites have materialized in and around the downtown area, with five out of seven located within a half-mile radius from City Hall. At the time of the program’s introduction, it was hoped that it might help restore active street life to areas of the city where parking lots dominate the landscape.

According to vendors and their supporters, the appearance of the trucks has contributed improvements in neighborhood vitality, additions to the city’s culinary and cultural offerings, and new opportunities for small business owners.

Opposition to the food truck program has come mainly from the owners of nearby restaurants, who voice concerns over the effects of street vending on their business.

Find the entire article by Carsten Rodin at Oakland Local <here>


ST LOUIS, MO – Roaming Hunger, a website and iPhone app that tracks food-truck locations, has added St. Louis to its lengthening list of cities and vendors.

roaming hunger

The site is the brainchild of Ross Resnick, a 28-year old with a background in marketing and a profound love of street food.

Resnick, who lives in Los Angeles, launched Roaming Hunger back in 2009 with maps and information about food trucks in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Today the site maps more than 2,800 trucks in 30 cities. St. Louis is slated to join the list on Wednesday, January 23, with Honolulu, Sacramento and Kansas City close behind.

“We’re really excited about adding St. Louis to the site,” Resnick says by phone from LA. “There are some great vendors there. We wait until there are about 25 to 30 vendors to add a city to the site, and St. Louis has been a slow creep up. Once a city reaches that point, though, it’s really possible for it to explode from there.”

In order to map a city’s food trucks (which in some cases number in the hundreds), Roaming Hunger scours social-media sites, extrapolates location data and plots it on Google maps. The St. Louis page is tracking 30 vendors, and as more food trucks pop up, they’ll be added to the list.

Resnick says his list has become a rite of passage for food trucks, whose operators often request to be added before they’re actually up and running. (He’ll add food trucks to Roaming Hunger’s radar when eaters suggest them as well.)

“We get so many letters and praise for the service,” he says. “It’s bigger than the individual vendor — it’s about creating a lifestyle and an entirely new way of eating that’s happening nationally and in pockets locally. We have these amazing trucks individually, but together it creates a really, really nice portfolio.”

Find the entire article by Kaitlin Steinberg at the Riverside Times <here>


ARLINGTON, TX – Oh Kwon loves eating. “I told myself if I learned to cook, I would never starve,” Kwon said.

Get Ssahm BBQKwon now has a food truck which specializes in gourmet Korean tacos. His truck, SsahmBBQ, was on the Central Library mall for the first time from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.

SsahmBBQ is one of three food trucks that will be on campus this semester. SsahmBBQ, Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Easy Slider will set up their food trucks on a rotational basis from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Central Library mall Monday through Thursday, said David Albart, University Center operations director.

Aerospace engineering freshman Sara Walker said she liked the “asian flair” to her beef tacos. Normally tacos have ground beef, lettuce, cheese and tomato, but these tacos were different, she said. The sauces and spices are what drew her in, she said.

Find the entire article by Vallari Gupte  at The Shorthorn <here>


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – As we reported last week, MELT is planning on a rapid expansion into the mobile food industry. According to the company, the first MELT “Bus Stop” will be at the center of the historic San Francisco landmark Ghirardelli Square and is scheduled to open today Thursday, September 13. The MELT Bus fleet plans to expand to 15 new locations by year-end.

The Melt

“We see a future of ‘wheels and walls,’ the convergence of brick-and-mortar retail and mobile food trucks,” said Jonathan Kaplan, founder and CEO of The MELT. “Our new MELT Bus fleet now gives us the ability to bring happiness anywhere, from airports to zoos and everywhere in between.”

Unlike traditional food trucks, The MELT Bus will have fixed Bus Stops with specific hours of operation in high-traffic locations that maximize day-part revenue. The MELT Bus will offer 100% of the same focused menu and high quality customer experience of a 2,000 square foot MELT Store in a 200 square foot MELT Bus. Bus Stops will also feature potable patios complete with music, signature orange umbrellas and schoolyard seating.

The MELT Bus will also leverage the company’s innovative mobile ordering technology that enables online order and pay at melt.com. Customers can scan their QR code and skip the line at any MELT Store or Bus Stop. Like all MELT retail locations, The MELT Bus will provide a free WiFi hotspot to all customers.

Consistent with The MELT’s eco-friendly values, the new bus fleet and its generators are powered by biodiesel. Visit melt.com for a complete list of their retail locations, including all Bus Stops, and operating hours.

Do you think this new approach to mobile food will be mimicked by non-corporate sponsored mobile food vendors? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


There aren’t many situations much more infuriating to a food truck owner who is in a rush to hit the streets than when their mobile kitchen won’t start. Engine problems are actually more common than the majority of food truck owners think. Even though you may stick to a regular vehicle maintenance schedule, you can still encounter a breakdown at any given time.

food truck engine compartment

While having your engine die on you is incredibly annoying, it can be an issue that can be easily resolved. Just as any other problem you run into, the very first thing you should do to fix it is to determine what the cause is.

To be able to troubleshoot the reason why your truck’s engine won’t start, it is important that you know how it starts in the first place. When you turn your key in the ignition, voltage in your battery travels to your ignition switch. The voltage then moves towards the starter relay and starter motor. If the starter motor receives the voltage, it spins to start the engine. If there is sufficient spark in the cylinders, compression, and of course, fuel, your food truck’s engine will start.

You should know that there are a lot of possible reasons as to why your truck will die on you. To narrow this list down, pay close attention to the sounds produced once you turn the key in the ignition.

If you don’t hear any sound from the truck, the issue can be the battery. It could be dead or perhaps seriously corroded.

If you’ll hear a ticking sound, then it’s 1 of 2 things. It can be your battery or the starter motor. If it’s not the battery, then there might be an issue with the ignition system not getting enough voltage.

When you hear your engine turn over yet still will not start, the most probable causes may be:

• Wires connecting the battery to the starter may be frayed or loose, and thus blocking the motor from getting voltage

• Insufficient spark in the cylinders

If your engine turns over yet still won’t start, the very first thing you should look for is a spark.

A smart food truck owner should have a spark tester kept in their truck’s tool box. If there is no spark, the problem lies with the ignition system.

• Inadequate fuel

When there is a spark and your issue is yet to be resolved, the next step is to check your fuel system. If the fuel gauge reading shows that there is still enough fuel in your tank but your truck still doesn’t start, it’s time to look at the fuel pump, the pressure in the fuel lines, the fuel filter, and the fuel injectors.

• Inadequate compression

If your truck has an adequate supply of fuel, then the issue may be caused by lack of compression, which in turn can be caused by a timing belt that has loosened.

When you’ve determined the reason why your vehicle won’t start, you may proceed to perform minor repairs if you are confident in your mechanical ability. If you find yourself clueless on how to go about fixing the issue, then it’s time for you to seek the assistance of a trusted mechanic.

We hope this article helps you in diagnosing your food truck’s engine problems and allows you to get it back on the road, sooner than later.


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