Food trucks have become trendy and popular vendors for busy people on city streets, and offer unique alternatives to restaurants. Many food truck operators often have experience in the restaurant industry and cooking, and find that food trucks are less expensive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Other food truck operators are just great cooks, and their family and friends encouraged them to get into the business!

Both the food service and transportation industries are regulated, and food trucks meet at the intersection of those regulations. Operating a food truck requires the operator to comply with both with transportation and food safety laws at the same time, while also addressing the rules that govern food truck operation. Not only does the operator need to receive and maintain the appropriate licensing for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, but the operator also needs to comply with the specific operating rules.  Please visit the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at for requirements for your business. 

Successful operators should consider the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal issues that stem from their industry and should take time to examine the critical success factors and cost-drivers that impact the amount of revenue required to maintain the business.

The tables below depict the common issues and costs associated with operating a food truck.

Political Heavily regulated, varies by location
Labor laws – ensuring that customer care rep is eligible to work in the US. Maintaining a safe work environment and compensating legally
Economic People spending more or less money on going out for food
Prices of food stock and produce
Fuel prices
Social Food trucks are trendy but trends change by nature
Brick and mortar restaurants can be unfriendly to mobile vendors
Competing for limited locations with other vendors
Technological Food inventory management
Handling money using different software applications
Advertising online/Using social media
Environmental Waste must be disposed of properly, including water
Fuel types for driving and cooking
Different fuel types for driving and cooking
The state of Maryland expects a statement from the operator about environmentally sustainable practices
Legal Maintaining safe food handling practices
Vehicle up to code
Baltimore City Street vendor license
Baltimore City Health Department food permit
Special events need additional licenses
Maryland State Motor Truck Peddler’s license
Operating in designated areas with sufficient distance from restaurants and space for pedestrians
Compliance with a variety of specific rules, such as parking and business hours
Parking and storage of vehicle outside of business hours
Critical Success Factors Vehicle up to code, including sink for handwashing, waste water tank, refrigerator, adequate cooking space, and safety features
Acquiring and complying multiple licenses and stringent regulatory standards
Major Activities Associated Costs Cost Driver
Cooking and preparing food Wages for labor; cost of ingredients Number of meals or food items prepared
Cleaning and maintaining storage and preparation areas Wages for labor; cost of cleaning supplies Number of food items to be stored
Storing food Storage facilities (not on truck) Number of meals or food items to be prepared
Maintaining vehicle(s) Vehicle repairs (oil changes, etc). Cooking areas Miles driven
Fuel for vehicle Cost of driving and idling vehicle Miles driven; gas prices
Fuel for cooking if not electric Cost of other fuels not for driving Number of meals or food items prepared; fuel prices (propane)


Employee Costs including benefits Year One Cost per month
Owner $          3,500
Book Keeper – Outsourced $              800
Legal – Outsourced $              800
Tech Support – Outsourced $              250
Assistant $          2,400
Wages Subtotal $          7,750
Taxes, Fees $          1,163
Subtotal $          8,913
Food & Beverage $          1,500
Cleaning Supplies $              100
Napkins/Paper Towels/Straws $              100
Subtotal $          1,700
Vehicle Payment/Maintenance $              800
Gasoline $              500
Gas/Electric (deductible part of home) $              200
Water (deductible part of home) $              100
Internet/Telephone (deductible part of home $              100
Office supplies $                50
Automotive and Liability Insurance $              250
Computers/Hardware $              100
Vehicle Parking/Storage $              250
Subtotal $          2,350
Marketing Costs
Web site hosting and advertising $              200
Web site updates $              100
Business Cards, Swag $                50
Subtotal $              350
Projected Monthly Costs  $        13,313