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Determine Your Food Truck's Staffing Needs

Unlike restaurants, food trucks are often operated by a small staff comprised of individuals working a variety of roles. The size of your truck will help you determine the number of staff members that can efficiently and comfortably work inside of it.

In some cases, food truck owners have two or three sets of employees: those who work on the truck and others who work at the commercial kitchen or in the office.

You base the number of employees you hire on the amount of people your truck can handle (most food trucks can hold two to six workers) as well as how many workers you need in the commercial kitchen to prepare the food before it makes its way onto the truck.

Even if you plan to handle many of the operational duties inside your truck, you’ll need to fill several positions to ensure smooth operation of your food truck so it can be successful in this fast-paced industry. These positions fall into two categories:

  • Front of house: In the food service industry, the term front of house (FoH) refers to the customer service that involves interacting with, serving, and cashing out your customers from the moment they approach your service window until they leave. Your FoH employees are the public face of your food truck because they’re the representatives your customers interact with in most cases.

  • Back of house: The back of house (BoH) staff performs all the other operational tasks of your food truck, such as cooking, cleaning, and even the bookkeeping. Because most trucks can house only between two and six employees comfortably, many of the BoH staff are responsible for multiple tasks.

Food truck service window attendants

Service window attendants, who are in the front of house, take customers’ orders, serve food and beverages, prepare itemized checks, and accept payments. They must be professional, polite, and reliable. These staff members need to be familiar with the menu, including how food items are prepared, what they taste like, and whether special orders are permitted.

Service window attendants should also know the daily specials, if you have any, so they can inform the customers.

Mobile food business managers

The manager or shift manager position runs the show in the back of house. Ultimately, the manager or shift manger’s responsibilities include all the functions in your food truck business, from overseeing the commercial kitchen and truck operation to filling in for last-minute absences of regular employees.

Unless you plan to hand over these responsibilities to someone else because you’re unable to cover all the shifts the truck operates or because you own more than one food truck, you (the owner) will act as the manager of your food truck.

The manager opens and closes the truck, purchases food and beverage inventory, opens the register, tracks inventory, trains and manages employees, works with suppliers, and manages your truck’s advertising. Depending on the size of your organization, a manager takes on all the administrative and managerial duties of the kitchen while maintaining a dual role as a chef or cook.

Chef and cooks for your food truck

The chef (part of the back of house) is responsible for all that goes on in your kitchens (both the truck’s kitchen and the commercial kitchen). The chef should be involved in the hiring and training process of cooks and other BoH staff, if possible.

The chef is responsible for the daily menu as well as buying supplies and equipment. One of the main differences between a chef and a cook is a culinary certification. Most food truck operations have one chef on the truck, and the remaining kitchen staff are cooks.

Cooks (also part of the back of house) are one of the most integral parts of a food truck dining experience, because, no matter how well your service is, your customers judge by the taste of their meal. A cook’s responsibility may encompass more than just cooking; a cook may also be responsible for supervising and training other kitchen staff members.

The most important factor to consider when hiring a chef or cook is his experience. The best-case scenario is to hire someone who has experience as well as an eagerness and strong knowledge of the food style your truck serves.

If a cook or chef is professionally trained, be sure he can handle the speed of a busy kitchen because food truck kitchens can run a lot faster than some styles of restaurants. Having a food safety certification, such as a ServSafe Certification, is also a plus and is normally required training for all food truck employees.

Food truck kitchen workers

Kitchen workers in the back of house weigh and measure ingredients and stir and strain soups and sauces. They also clean, peel, and slice vegetables and fruits and make salads. They may cut and grind meats, poultry, and seafood in preparation for cooking.

You may also require them to move the prepped food from the commercial kitchen to the truck, unload the truck at the end of each day, and wash the truck at the end of the day when you bring it back to the commercial kitchen for the night.

Determining how many separate kitchen workers you need depends on the amount of work you need done to prepare the food before it gets onto the truck. Although many truck owners have separate staff to take care of these tasks, it’s not uncommon for the kitchen workers to work as cooks on the truck as well.

Entry-level kitchen workers may also have the job of washing pots, pans, and utensils, keeping the kitchen equipment clean, taking out trash, cleaning the kitchen floors, and so on.

The food truck's driver

Depending on the size of your food truck and the vehicle driving requirements in your area, you may have to hire a driver for your truck who has a commercial driver’s license. Verify these requirements before you purchase a truck so you know ahead of time whether you’ll have to hire a driver separately or whether you’ll need to require a staff member to also hold a commercial driver’s license.

To prevent the need to hire a separate driver for your truck, look into the process of attaining a license in your region and, if at all possible, get licensed yourself.

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