Although food trucks might be mobile, they can’t park just anywhere. Note that most areas in the United States limit food trucks, trailers, buses and carts to specific locations. Nonetheless, a list of places you can and can’t park should be available from your county clerk. You may also have to adhere to two-hour parking restrictions and pay for parking meters.
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Can Food Trucks Park in Front of a Restaurant?
Towns, cities and counties tend to have specific zoning restrictions, designating commercial and non-commercial zones. For instance, Baltimore City Code Article 15, Section 17-33 sets a restriction that:
“A mobile vendor may not park a vendor truck within 300 feet of any retail business establishment that is primarily engaged in selling the same type of food product, other merchandise, or service as that offered by the mobile vendor.”
In addition, you should be careful not to park as close to the curb as possible—and never double-park. You should also take your time to research and find out about other, lesser-known parking restrictions.
Can Food Trucks Park in Front of Schools?
It is always advisable you contact your local motor vehicle department or look for a local website online with city or town ordinances. For instance, some areas have laws restricting a food truck or cart cannot park within a school zone or within X blocks of a school during school hours. Nonetheless, here are places you should never park your food truck:
7 Places You Should Never Park your Food Truck
- Never park in “no parking” zones. Always pay attention to the posted signs and obey the parking restrictions in regards to stopping, loading and parking.
- Never park in a food truck park if you haven’t paid to lease the spot. This is a quick way to get a fine and earn the anger of other food truck owners.
- Always remember not to park with your food truck service window facing the street, and you are meant to park your truck facing the sidewalk side. Aside the fact that parking with your service window facing the street breaks the law, you want to keep your customers safe by offering your food facing the sidewalk side of the street.
- Always check your city’s laws for restrictions, but you should never park your food truck outside a brick-and-mortar restaurant. You might be breaking the law, and it is not using the best judgement. Many cities require you to park a specific distance away from a restaurant (500-600 feet is normal).
- Never park your food truck on private property without the owner’s permission.
- You also want to check your city’s metered parking rules. Some cities prohibit food trucks from parking in metered spaces, while others allow it with some restrictions.
- You should never park your food truck near a fire hydrant, bus stop or cross-walk.
6 Best Places to Park Your Food Truck
The ideal location for your food truck depends in part on your menu, your city and the traffic in the area. However, these are the top spots to park your food truck in the United States:
1. Truck Parks
Over the years, the food-truck revolution has grown in popularity. As a by product of the increased exposure in the industry, more food trucks have popped up and owners have started to work together for the common good.
Note that one of the effect of this team work has been multiple trucks parking in a single location on an agreed upon day and time. Normally, a group of food trucks coming together in the same area will attract more attention than a lonely vehicle.
Another benefit of networking with other owners is that you’ll become aware of the location and time of these truck parks. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but try to keep a professional relationship with your “competitors” to ensure you get invited to these lucrative events.
2. Business Districts
Working a typical 9-5 can get very daunting, especially when those hours are being spent indoors on a beautiful summer day. As a Food Trucker, note that all your city’s corporate workers will be looking for an excuse to get outside and enjoy the warm weather over their lunch break.
With little time to spare, you just have to ensure your truck is prepared for the large crowd of customers that will be running out of their office between noon and two for a quick bite to eat.
Busy districts of white-collar workers like this often exist in downtown areas of larger cities. If you can secure a parking spot that isn’t already taken by another concession stand, these areas can provide a consistent stream of customers for a mobile restaurant.
3. Farmer’s Markets
Note that markets popup all across the United States from spring – fall months, which can vary in length depending on where in the country you live. Farmer’s Markets are more or less held in a recurring location 1 – 2 times per week and provide an ample supply of foot traffic.
However, note that these markets work better for some types of menus better than others. If you decide to test a market in your area, try to play up the any ingredients or menu items that are sourced locally. Serving products that are purchased locally and responsibly produced can make your truck more attractive to this market.
4. Festivals/Special Events
Concerts, children’s festivals, and other special events can offer nice one-time gains for your truck. Also note that you usually don’t need to invest much energy in promoting yourself at these events since there’s usually a built in audience that’s ready to spend.
Notably, if you find a festival or event that has yielded a strong payday be sure to stay in touch with the organizer of the event. Moreover, popular events are held once per year. But by staying friendly with the organizer you’ll grow your chances of being invited back next year.
5. Bars and Nightclubs
When folks drink, they get hungry and don’t mind paying for food. It is been a slow day and you’re looking to make some last minute cash. But it is 11pm! Hit up your city’s hottest nightlife district to feed all those hungry bar crawlers.
After a night out of drinking and dancing, there’s nothing clubbers want more than to get their hands on some quick eats. However, you just can’t depend on the tipsy bar crawlers to simply stumble upon your truck. Remember to make it known!
Talk to the bars in your area and have them promote your truck. You can also get bartenders to hand out coupons for your food truck with the purchase of a drink or partner up with a company like Uber by offering your customers $5 off a safe ride home with a minimum purchase.
6. Gas Stations
Believe it or not, gas stations can be a very a wonderful place to setup shop. Sometimes, workers that are employed in construction, shipping, or law enforcement end up purchasing a 5-hour old hot dog or microwaveable sandwich from a convenience store for lunch while filling up with gas. However, with better alternatives, most will often fork over a few extra dollars in return for a decent meal.
In addition, gas station owners and managers appreciate having these food trucks around too since trucks can draw more attention to their businesses and keep people in the area longer. Just remember to get approval from the business before showing up and this can be a win-win scenario both for you and the gas station.
As a Food trucker, always keep your mind and eyes open to new and profitable locations to park your vehicle. Also consider asking other mobile entrepreneurs where they feel the best spots are. If they’re not willing to share their favourite locations just follow their Twitter feed to monitor where successful food trucks like to frequent. Nonetheless, the longer you stay in business and remain friendly with other business owners, event organizers, and continue to network, you’ll eventually find the most profitable spots in your area.