Gourmet Food Truck Design Basics

A developed food truck design is an absolute must if you want your food truck to be efficient and safe. Not every prospective vendor is going to purchase a fully designed and equipped vehicle. Others may want to build their own food truck from scratch. Careful planning in the design of the kitchen will save you money and time during the build-out phase. Over time will even increase the profitability of your food truck.

Because of this we put this article together with the basic steps of food truck design. Make sure to review these tips before you start looking for food trucks for sale or begin the process of installing your food truck equipment.

Food Truck Design Basics

Your food truck design is primarily dictated by the minimal space you have as well as your required equipment and budget. When designing your food truck kitchen, always consider function and ergonomics. This step will always be appreciated by your food truck employees.

List Your Menu Items

The first step in your food truck design should be determining your menu. Prepare a detailed list or menu of all foods you plan to prepare in the truck. Describe in detail the method of food storage and preparation. This is one of the most important steps in planning any type of kitchen and should be done prior to choosing equipment. You do not know what kind of equipment you will need until you have decided on the foods you will prepare.

Include all menu items you may wish to add in the future. Proper planning will avoid costly changes you could run into if these changes need to be made after the kitchen has been completed.

RELATED: Helpful Tips For Developing Start-Up Food Truck Menus

List Your Food Truck Equipment

Now that you know what you’ll be serving, create a complete list, including detailed measurements, of all equipment you need. This includes equipment required for food prep, refrigeration, and storage. The size and amount of equipment, plus food preparation counter surface, will dictate the amount of space your food truck kitchen must have. Please note, every single item of equipment must meet commercial health code requirements.

RELATED: Match Your Menu To Your Food Truck Equipment

If you are using a used truck be sure to take exact measurements of the size of the space set aside for the kitchen. Make note of existing service windows, doorways, and electrical outlets. Make a sketch of the existing space, making note of the present flooring material, wall and ceiling surface and all heating, exhaust or air-conditioning vents. For a new truck, draw out a rough sketch of the dimensions and special features of the proposed construction of your mobile kitchen.

RELATED: Food Truck Lighting Design

Determine How Much Water & Power Is Required

Now that you know what equipment you’ll need, now you need to determine how you’ll power the equipment. You’ll also need to calculate how much water your truck will need for service. These calculations will help you plan the size of generator, propane tanks and water holding will be required.

RELATED: Generator Maintenance Basics For Mobile Food Vendors

Plan Your Food Truck Design

Plan how you will use the space with your plan of the equipment inside your food truck. Function and ergonomics are the most important considerations in the design of kitchen space. Your food truck kitchen should be designed for maximum labor efficiency, safety and functionality.

Make sure that there is plenty of room to move about freely when carrying hot pots and bulky supplies. If employees do not have to waste time and extra movement completing a task, efficiency is increased and fatigue and workplace injuries are reduced.

RELATED: Designing Your Food Truck Kitchen Work Triangle

Setup a Review for Your Food Truck Design

Now it’s time to see if your food truck design will actually be approved. Contact your local city or state department. Find who is tasked with reviewing all mobile kitchens and make an appointment to review your preliminary plans. Remember that health and fire codes must be met.

Regulations govern how far a food preparation area must be away from any sinks or electrical outlets, the installation of vents, and the size and temperature capacity of insta-hot water units. Make sure you receive a printed copy of all rules and regulations prior to designing the trucks kitchen space. Regulations vary from state to state. City or county ordinances may also apply, so understand which apply to you.

RELATED: What Platform To Run Your Food Truck Business From

Please note. The kitchen area may need to be remodeled to satisfy requirements even if the truck had been licensed in the past.

Create Drawings For Your Food Truck Design

The final step in the food truck design process is creating drawings of your food truck. Prior to purchasing equipment or commencing construction, find out if your municipality requires the submission of design drawings for review. These detailed drawings or blueprints must be reviewed and officially approved by both the health department and fire inspector. These blueprints must include electrical wiring schematics, fire suppression equipment installation drawings, plumbing and electrical installation plans. In some cases you may need to provide a complete list of all building materials used in the completion of your food truck project.

Do you have the the skills to layout or build your kitchen yourself? If not, employ the services of a food truck builder to design the kitchen. They will incorporate all building and health department rules that apply to your area.

RELATED: United States Food Truck Builder List

The Bottom Line

Make sure you use these tips should be used when planning your food truck design. Design is not merely picking equipment that will look good in your truck. Your food truck must function effectively with employees’ comfort and health, as well as the space’s efficiency and safety in mind.

Do you have any additional food truck design tips? If so, share them in the comment section or social media. Facebook | Twitter

2017-10-15T08:53:48+00:00 By |Startup Basics|

About the Author:

Richard is an architect by degree (Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan) who began his career in real estate development and architectural planning. In September of 2010 he created Mobile Cuisine Magazine to fill an information void he found when he began researching how to start a mobile hotdog cart in Chicago. Richard found that there was no central repository of mobile street food information anywhere on the internet, and with that, the idea for MCM was born.


  1. Doc Hoy Sep 17, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    I am starting a build on my second truck. First one started life as a Corbiel 16 pax bus in 2002. It is on a GMC diesel chassis and I find that a former bus works out real well. I have about 12,000 in the first bus but that is only because right after I bought it I learned it needed about 3,000 in work on the brakes.

    The newer bus is a 2003 Ford E350 16 pax with a a spot for a wheelchair lift (which has been removed). This bus has pushout windows that are hinged at the top as emergency exits. There are two of these windows in the bus, one on either side. I moved the emergency exit from the left side to the right side so that now both of these windows are on the "curb" side. One will be an order window, and the other is a serving.pay window.

    These trucks are used to serve hot soup, deli sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, and dessert. We do no frying on the truck hence, no hood or fire suppression is needed.

    The soup kettle draw 400 watts each. We have a heat lamp that pulls 500 watts. Sink with water heater runs about 1100 watts. Lights are all LED so they don't even draw one amp. I am working on a design for solar power.

    I would love to chronicle the progress on this build along with photos but haven't yet figured out how.

  2. Doc Hoy Sep 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Finished the support struts for the serving windows today. Fairly please with the way they turned out. Easy to use. Won't collapse on a customer.

    Now pondering electrics. I am going to divide the load into two halves. One will be 1600 watts total for kettles. (four and 400 watts each) and LED lighting. The other circuit will be sink at 1100 plus the heat lamp at 500. Each side will have extra 110 VAC utility outlets for convenience. All fixtures and conduit will be PVC. A little more expensive but pleasing to the eye and easy to work with.

    More later.

  3. Doc Hoy Sep 21, 2017 at 2:24 am

    Finished internal electrics today. How outlets for four kettles plus lights on one circuit. Will draw about 13 amps at 110VAC. Other circuit is water heater and heat lamp. Also about 13 amps.

  4. Doc Hoy Sep 25, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Completed sink installation. Purchased a sink kit from "Concession Sinks". This sink would not likely tolerate long hard use but if you keep in mind that my application requires very little washing of utensils and really is limited to washing hands, and cleaning just soup ladles and tongs at the end of the service assignment, this sink is all I need. It is less expensive than installation of separate water system and all steel sinks. It more than satisfies health department requirements. It goes together easily and It works very well.

    I also put the kettle station together. The station accommodates four kettles plus storage under the station. There is space at the side of the kettles for soup cups, lids, bags and spoons.

  5. Doc Hoy Sep 25, 2017 at 5:21 am

    An additional comment regarding my choice of platform……

    I started with a Ford Transit Connect which I used mainly as a mobile platform to sell "from". Hot and cold boxes were passive rather than powered. Our business primarily centered on service to businesses, schools, shipyards and such. We would arrive for the service about ten minutes prior to selling so that we could set up and be ready when the first customers arrived. Set up time was very short at three to four minutes. We were selling hot soup, sandwiches, wraps, salads plus sides and drinks. The process was nearly identical to that of a classic mobile canteen. Using this technique our business thrived and we came to accept that we needed a larger platform. I looked at food trucks available and considered food truck builders. Available used trucks were all too extensively fitted and were in poor condition for the cost involved (Average was 15k to purchase and then another 8k to modify and decorate the truck.), and custom build was too expensive starting generally at 30k. That is very inexpensive for a RTR food truck but please keep in mind that we do very little in the way of prep on the truck. We do (or did) no prepping or cooking at the service site. So we don't need a hood or fire suppression. The vertices of the work triangle are: the "Order here" station, the "meal assembly station" and the "pick up and pay here station". This triangle could be very small at not more than 15 feet. So we settled on a used short bus, a 16 passenger former school bus on a GMC chassis. Interior dimensions are roughly 11' by 8'. I have a total of about $12k in this bus which included a lot of hidden repairs which were needed before we could field the platform. Our brick and mortar restaurant is the commissary for the truck. Parenthetically, I made a mistake in the layout of the truck in that a required employee movement in the truck crosses one of the sides of the triangle. Anyway, I figured that I would be satisfied if the truck had a one year payout. Indeed the truck paid for itself within about five months. The truck did well enough that for two reasons I opted to add a second truck. For one thing, I wanted a back up truck in case the existing truck needed maintenance taking it off the road. Additionally, we are getting enough business that I am confident we can field two trucks. So we bought the second bus about three weeks ago and it it is now nearly ready for the marketplace. at 2003 this bus is a year younger than the GMC. It is a Ford E350 chassis modified by Startrans as a wheel chair and light transit bus (about ten passengers plus four wheel chair stations). Interior dimensions are about 12' by 8, Even with more space, the internal layout produces a triangle which is actually smaller than the original bus. There is plenty of room for two employees to work without breaching the triangle. On employee is order and meal assembly. The other is service and transaction completion.

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