9 in-depth tips for planning your food truck wedding

August 24 | Guest post by Katie Pitta

Food truck weddingThis post is sponsored by Roaming Hunger. Want a food truck wedding? They’ll handle the booking process.
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9 in-depth tips for planning your food truck wedding as seen on @offbeatbride
Wooden Food Trucks Sign Signage

Food truck weddings are super Pinterest-board trendy right now, and if you're going for a casual, urban feel for your wedding, having great local food trucks cater your event is definitely the way to go. We did it, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat, but we encountered a number of problems that I wish someone could have warned us about that were unique to having our catering on wheels. So here are nine things to keep in mind when planning your food truck wedding.

Roaming Hunger

Food truck wedding catering is considered outside catering

Many venues won't allow outside catering, or will at least require you to choose a catering company off a list of preferred vendors. Your food trucks may not be using the venue's kitchen or prep facilities, but if they're not one of the caterers off of the approved list, you're going to receive a big "No" when you inquire. This becomes even more complicated when a venue might be open to outside catering, but requires that all alcohol served be provided by the catering company… which food trucks generally don't do.

But that's OK! You can always pick a local park to get married in, right? Well…

Your city may not allow food trucks on city property

We ran into this problem a lot when trying to locate a venue. Local city-owned spots in our area (historic houses, regional parks, etc.) often told us flat-out that they do not allow food trucks to park on their property, including in the parking lot or on the street adjacent, even when they had an open catering policy. Many of these places also required a security guard, so there was no "What they don't know can't hurt them" loophole (and even if there wasn't security, it would suck to find that your catering got shooed away by the police on your wedding day because you tried to get around it).

What if the venue is privately-owned, but the only place for the food trucks to park is on the street? Better check with the venue and the city's ordinance. One location we looked at would have been perfect for us, but the city didn't allow food trucks to park on the narrow, residential streets in the old part of town the venue was in.

Where Will the Trucks Park?

Something we hadn't initially considered was the size of the trucks, especially when their side doors are open. They're actually much bigger than they seem and most have the turning radius of a yacht, not to mention grade restrictions on the hills they can traverse. It's important to make sure that the trucks can actually get to your venue, yet alone park and leave easily.

If they can get there, they could go in the parking lot, but if your venue has a small number of spaces like ours did, and no street parking, you're sacrificing possible places for your guests to park their cars. You could encourage guests to carpool, but no one is actually going to listen to anything you say and one of your 80-year-old grandmothers is going to have to park four blocks down the street, and you'll hear about how horribly you treated her for the rest of your life.

You also don't want people to have to go too far from the reception area to get food, so if the venue's reception location is at the back of the property and the trucks are in the parking lot a three-minute walk away, you'll get a lot of complaints from guests about the distance. Especially if they have to stand around waiting in lines, only to have to walk all the way back to their tables (risking cold or spilled food).

It's a good idea to keep in mind that food trucks run off of generators, so you don't want tables right next to them either, since some can be quite loud. And you also want to make sure that there is enough room in front of them for people to queue up to order.

Speaking of lines…

You May Need More Than One Truck

Consider this: All your guests are going to head to the trucks at the same time. If you have 150 guests and one truck making food to-order, the last person in line is likely going to have to wait over an hour before they can start eating. Anyone who has ever gone to a food truck rally knows to avoid the trucks with long lines, because between waiting to order and waiting for your food to be made, you're going to get a sunburn before you get to put anything in your mouth.

One way to deal with this, and to provide a variety, is to have more than one truck. We had about 90 guests (and about 10 other mouths to feed including us, the officiant, and hired staff), so having two trucks helped us cut down on the lines during the first initial wave.

9 in-depth tips for planning your food truck wedding as seen on @offbeatbride
I love food trucks fork – stamped fork

Limit the Menu Options

Another tip to reduce lines, and something I would recommend even if you choose to have more than one truck: create a small, specific menu. It will limit the amount of prep work the staff has to do, allow them to make some things ahead of time or during slow periods, and make things a little more streamlined. When people only have five or six options (instead of ten or twelve), they'll order a little more quickly.

One of our trucks used their prep time before the reception to bust out batches of the quick and easy stuff, so they had less work to do during the rush. Having a limited menu helped them figure out which items were going to go fast and address it accordingly.

People Are Going to Want Second Helpings

Most food trucks will estimate the cost of their services based on how many heads they have to feed, just like your typical catering company. They usually factor in the overhead cost of operating into this price per head as well (which includes cost of travel, diesel to run their generators, and any other things like plates and utensils they need to provide). It's a good idea to estimate a higher number than the actual number of guests you have, to account for people going back for a second round.

For example, if you have 100 guests and two trucks, make sure each truck can feed about 75% of those guests (instead of splitting it 50/50). The extra 50% will help cover anyone going back a second time or splitting their order (ordering an entrée from one truck and an appetizer from the other). This will also help cover anyone who goes back to the trucks for food to-go on their way out.

Food Trucks Will Require More Planning

When we started thinking about the logistics of the food trucks, we realized that there was so much more going into our decision than what type of food to serve. What would the food be served on? My personality wouldn't stand for having two different sets of plates, and many food trucks use to-go boxes during their normal operations, which didn't feel "wedding" enough for me. We ended up supplying the trucks with matching plant-based plates, bowls, utensils, and napkins (which someone had to give to them when they arrived).

How would the guests receive the food? The location at our venue where the two trucks were parked was too narrow for people to be loitering around waiting for their orders, so we ended up hiring waitstaff to ferry food from the trucks to the tables. We gave guests toothpick flags with their name and table number (these doubled as escort cards), which they gave to the trucks when they ordered. The truck staff then stuck the toothpick into the completed food, and a waiter picked it up and delivered it to the correct table.

Food Trucks Probably Won't Be Cheaper

There is a bit of a misconception floating around the internet that having food trucks at your wedding is cheaper than traditional catering. Sure, on paper, the catering company looks more expensive, but many of the catering companies in our area also supply the linens, dishes, silverware, and staff. We had to locate all of these things ourselves, and even going the route of white, polyester tablecloths, disposable stuff to eat off of, and hiring our own staff, we actually spent more than we would have had we gone with traditional catering.

And that's not even taking supplying alcohol and the necessary things for a bar into account. Not to mention, the more guests you have, the more expensive all the extra costs are going to be, on top of the cost of the food.

Food Trucks Don't Operate Like Traditional Caterers

Wedding planning puts you in a mode of getting all the vendors secured as soon as possible so that no one else snatches them up. However, food trucks don't operate that way, and probably don't plan events more than a month or two ahead. We initially reached out to our favorite trucks more than six months out from our April wedding date, and their reactions were super laid-back: "Sure, let me pencil you in. Email me again February and we'll get a menu set up."

This ended up backfiring on us, because one of the trucks went out of business during that four-month period and didn't think to contact us to let us know that they could no longer cater our wedding. However, it also meant that finding a replacement within a week was completely doable, and we ended up with another of our favorite trucks who hadn't responded to our initial email months before.

The contracts were also basically non-existent. Once we had a menu and a headcount, they gave us a total (and an invoice), asked for a deposit, and that was it. They got paid the week before, showed up right on time, and did their thing.

And they were amazing. If there's one thing food trucks do well, it's make great, offbeat street food. We will forever be the wedding with the chicken tikka masala burritos and the mac n' cheese stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches, and we're totally OK with that. Having food trucks cater our wedding was one of the best decisions we made about our "big day," and even the little, old Portuguese grandmothers commented on how great the food was, despite not knowing what a food truck was before they arrived.


Sponsor

Want a food truck wedding?
Meet Roaming Hunger

Food truck weddingFood truck catering isn’t like normal catering, and that’s where we come in. So get ready to see grandma’s face (along with your friends) buried in some gourmet street food. We’ll help you navigate the entire booking process like it’s the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field, and we’ve been doing it for nearly a decade. Whether you want a savory gourmet meal for your wedding reception, a sweet late night snack, or a day-after brunch for your crew, we’re here to make sure you get the perfect food truck for your special day. Here’s a few of the ways we make your life more delicious:

  • Finding the perfect food truck(s)
  • Coordinating all logistics
  • Menu creation
  • Protected payments and contracts
  • Flexible serving styles
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Want a food truck wedding? They’ll handle the booking process. Learn More.

Who wouldn't be this happy with food trucks at a wedding? Photo by LR Photography
  1. My sister's wedding ran over two days, so she and her husband arranged for a pizza truck to come the night in between for people camping over. Despite booking in advance, ringing the week before to confirm, and ringing on the day of the wedding, they still forgot to come! There was actually a small group of pizza trucks, each one run by someone separate, so the guy they spoke to wasn't the guy who was going to be turning up. And he just… forgot to remind that guy.

    …little surprised they're still in business, tbh.

  2. "There is a bit of a misconception floating around the internet that having food trucks at your wedding is cheaper than traditional catering."
    For what it's worth, this was not our experience. We found a lauded, well-established crepe truck in Seattle that supplies linens, plates, and utensils as part of their charge. Food, misc., travel fee, and tip came to HALF what the least expensive caterer we could find charged. Does Seattle just have outrageously pricey catering, or super reasonable food trucks? I don't know, but I don't think a blanket statement can be made about either one.

    • That's fair! If there's one thing I've learned about wedding planning is that most advice is circumstantial and very dependent on location and perception. Everything we saw on the internet told us we would definitely save money with food trucks, but from our experience that's not what we found, and I wanted to try to voice a different opinion to encourage others to do their own research.

      For a Silicon Valley wedding, with two trucks serving 100 guests (we paid for 150, however, to compensate to second runs) for four hours, with the added cost of linens, dinnerware/silverware, staff, and bar set-up and supply, we paid more than what we were quoted for by the caterers that we approached. But your milage may vary! 🙂

  3. Yay Katie! This is such a great post! I would never in a million years have thought about half the stuff you brought up. I always thought a wedding (or any large event) with food trucks would be super easy and cheap. Like "Hey food truck, here's where the event is, show up at x time and do your thing!" Glad to know there's way more to it than that.

  4. No kidding about making sure the truck can get to the venue. Went to a wedding last year at a venue with a very long, very steep driveway. The truck almost didn't make it up the hill–had to empty their water tanks or something like that so they could get up to the site. Because of that delay, they started serving an hour behind schedule, and it took about an hour to get everyone served. I was at that last table, and it was rough. (Overall, a lovely wedding, though, and a great story eventually.)

  5. A quick note on the initial rush – we found a decent solution to prevent long lines. At our celebration in Scotland, the main course was a hog roast; as it was huge, unwieldy, and steaming madly, it had to be just outside the marquee tent under a separate roof – and as it was Scotland, rain was spattering throughout the day.

    We wanted to avoid long lines stuck in the rain at all costs! So we had each table number called up in turn (the officiant clinked a glass and said "table 1, please help yourselves" sort of thing), with the next table called up when the line for roast pork was down to two or three people. So people could go, brave the outdoors briefly (we were lucky, as the rain mostly held off during dinner), then return to the marquee to help themselves to salad & sides, then sit back down.

    People liked being able to wait comfortably seated and next to their full wine/water glasses rather than having to stand and scootch along inch by inch in a long line – I had several guests come up and say it was the most sensible way they'd seen to deal with a buffet in a while.

    If you have more than ten tables, you could send two up at a time ("Tables 1 and 11, please!" "Tables 3 and 7, please!") so that people at Table 17 don't all groan at once when table 1 only is called. 😀

    • This is what we did too! We had 17 tables and while we had a buffet it was one sided so less people could get through at once. We had our DJ announce the table names two at a time and when the last person in line picked up a plate he'd announce the next two. It still took way longer than we anticipated initially for everyone to get served at eat but like you said at least people didn't spend an hour waiting in line. They were happily sitting at their tables chatting, drinking, and in some cases snacking on their candy favors!

  6. Hey Katie! Mind if I ask which food trucks you used? I'm currently researching food trucks for our wedding outside of the bay area, and chicken tikka masala burritos an mac n' cheese stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches sounds AMAZING!!!

    • We had Curry Up Now (www.curryupnow.com) and Cheese Gone Wild (www.cheesegonewild.com), two of the many, many trucks we love from the SF area's Off the Grid rallies (offthegrid.com). I would 100% recommend using the Off the Grid list to locate trucks that fit the food vibe you're looking for (if I had to pick one amazing thing about the SF Bay Area is that there's such a variety of food styles it's impossible to decide what you want to eat).

      Choosing our trucks from the list ensured two things: (1) we could easily locate them to look at their menu and try different items, and (2) the vendors are usually familiar with each other, or if they aren't, are used to working side-by-side with other trucks and coordinators.

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