Where do food trucks park at night?

For the more suburban or decidedly rural entrepreneur the question seems redundant at first – you park your truck on your property every night, right? Unfortunately not.

Even in the case of suburbia and counties as remote as Gilpin, CO there can be rules, regulations and home owners associations getting in the way. Follow our list of tips below and you will have a convenient, dry, safe and legal way to park your food truck near you every night. 

Am I legally allowed to park my food truck on my own property?

In many cities mobile food vendors are required by law to be serviced and parked in a designated lot. Meaning that even if you have the proper stuff at home, the law might get in the way of that idea. 

Your council.gov or in Europe: council.tld ( e.g. ColoradoSprings.gov or Antwerpen.be ) website will have a section for these licenses.

Government websites and their search engines are usually not the best and terms used differ from place to place. If you put in a combination of: mobile food license, mobile food permit, food vendor license, food truck license, mobile food vendor license/permit, etc.. our research has found it usually generates the correct result.

Alternatively call them. Be aware that verbal information is often not binding and not every call operator is aware of or will be correct on all the details and regulations. Get any information obtained by phone confirmed in e-mail rather than trusting in the call and later getting a fine.

Known cities and jurisdictions where parking your food truck at home is forbidden (updated May 2020)

  • New York, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Columbus, OH
  • Washington, DC
  • Boston, MA
  • Florida – statewide
 
Are we missing one or more that you know of? Let us know over the chat in the bottom right corner and we’ll add it as soon as possible.

Am I allowed to park my food truck at the concession vending location?

Many seasonal and tourist oriented food trucks and concession stands are simply locked up at night and left where they are. Not to mention if there are limited rotating spaces like the famous hot dog situation at The Met in NY – or your local watered down version of it – where squatting that spot guarantees your revenue. 

If your insurance covers theft and damages, you are a daring risktaker or you live in a nice place with nice people that respect the public space (i.e. not Amsterdam or Philadelphia) then you can consider leaving it overnight if zoning allows. Checking the zoning information is the same process as above for verifying if you can park at your own property – check your council website and call to follow up. 

 

Commissaries - Private commercial alternatives

In states with limitations on private parking for food trucks you will find food truck commissaries. These generally act as the fully licensed space for parking, cleaning, cooking and storage of all things food truck related although not all commissaries also have a kitchen space. 

A commissary can take a big chunk out of your monthly budget but if you have to use one by law – that’s it – and you are now a proud participant in a legal protection racket. For all you need to know about commissaries and their pro’s and cons, we have a separate guide – click here.  

Loopholes

Loopholes

Now, you may have a food truck – but does that mean you are a food truck business? Of course not. 

A registered food truck with a mobile food vendors license that has the necessary permits to operate in the city’s food truck parks and other public vending locations certainly is a food truck that must comply with all parking and other food truck specific restrictions and regulations.

However, should you operate as a catering company where the truck or trailer is simply a part of your materials or decor, you are not a food truck company. At food truck festivals, private and corporate functions no such requirements exist. Other terms and conditions will apply, but you can slip out from under the most restrictive food truck specific ones in this manner. 

Similarly not all top vending spots are publicly owned – the parking lot of a construction market or mall comes to mind, and depending on the council you could be exempt from food truck license requirements there, being allowed to operate as a kiosk-concession stand on private property. 

If you slipped through one of these holes you can park right on your driveway and do all commissary activities in your garage. Even if you do intend on becoming a fully licensed food truck, the above is a great way to soft launch and get your foot in the door of the food truck world. 

Summarized

In a large urban metro area you will most likely park your food truck at a commissary or keep it at the vending location. If lucky, suburban or rural there are options to park it at home or a friendly commercial location. 

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