Food Truck Commissaries: What You Need To Know

If you’re thinking about getting into the food truck business, you’ve likely heard the term food truck commissary’ thrown around. A commissary is an important part of your mobile business, so here’s a look at commonly asked questions to help you understand what a food truck commissary is all about.

food truck commissary

What is a food truck commissary?

Think of a commissary as your food truck’s home base. When your truck isn’t out serving the public, it’s at a commissary. A commissary offers a designated parking spot, hook ups for electricity to charge your vehicle, water and propane refills, and grey water disposal.
 
Many commissaries also offer additional services that you can pay for as needed, like kitchen space to make and prepare food, cold storage space, an area for truck maintenance, a mailing address for inventory, and ice refills. In one of our previous posts, Tips And Tricks to Make It In The Industry, we mention cleanliness and equipment maintenance as being key factors in the success of your food truck. Keeping your truck at a commissary is one way to ensure both of those things happen.
build a custom food truck

What are the benefits of a food truck commissary?

There are a lot of advantages to commissaries. Here are a few perks:
 

Compliance with health codes and laws
For starters, your state’s health department or city laws may require that your food truck belong to a commissary. In some cities like Los Angeles, for example, food trucks must park at a commissary because parking is such a problem. Commissaries keep food trucks off the roads and in a safe spot. 

In some cities like Boston, food truck operators have to work out of a licensed food establishment, like a commercial kitchen at a commissary that provides a clean environment.
 

You’ll want to check your state and local laws to make sure you’re in compliance.

Access to food storage
Buying and storing all of the ingredients to make your signature food is costly and takes up space. Commissaries often offer storage space, so you can buy in bulk and save some cash.

 
Access to food prep areas
It might be easier to make and prepare your food in an assembly-line fashion rather than in the confines of your truck. A commissary can provide that extra elbow room to make sure your food looks as good as it tastes.
 
Supplies available
The kitchen space inside commissaries offers access to cooking equipment and supplies. Ovens, refrigerators, utensils, cleaning supplies they’re all on site and ready for you to use.
 
Networking opportunities
Whether you cook alongside fellow food truckers or just park next to them, you’ll be part of a unique community. It’s a great networking space, and gives you access to experienced food truckers that can answer questions and provide guidance. You might even learn a few things people wish they knew before starting a food truck.

Herbert Tinjaca, owner of Guacamoli Co. in Orlando, says I can’t imagine conducting our business without [a commissary]. They provide so many amenities that facilitate our day to day business. Our commissary offers amenities such as gated parking, storage, refrigeration, prep kitchen, cooking oil disposal, potable water, grey water disposal, cardboard recycling, and trash disposal. They are working on getting an ice machine soon. I’m really looking forward to that. Not having to go out to fetch ice anymore? That is a game changer!” 

What kind of pricing should you expect?

The cost of food truck commissaries varies, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $250-750 a month. In cities where parking is at a premium, like Los Angeles or New York City, you may see rates as high as $1000-1250.
 
Additionally, you’ll pay extra for a la carte services that are offered. If you find yourself wanting to become part of a commissary but feel overwhelmed with all the costs associated with running your own mobile business, Kiva offers loans to food truck entrepreneurs. With help from Kiva, you may be able to utilize some commissary amenities you need that would otherwise be too costly.
build a custom food truck

What kind of kitchen space is available in commissaries?

There are typically two kinds of kitchen spaces that are available at commissaries:
 
Shared kitchen space
A number of food truckers rely on shared kitchen space, which as the name implies, means you’ll be working alongside other people in the kitchen.
 
Shared kitchen space typically runs between $10-35 an hour, which is cheaper than a private kitchen. While the price may be right, you will have to coordinate your schedule with others to make sure you have the equipment and space available when you need it.
 
Private kitchen space
Private kitchen space allows you to work in a kitchen on your own, but it comes at a price. Costs vary based on location, but it may be a steep price to pay for people that are just starting out in the business.

How can the design of your truck cut down on commissary costs?

By making smart design choices, you could be able to limit the amount of amenities you need at a commissary.
 

If your area allows you to prep food in the truck, for example, you won’t need to use commercial kitchen space at the commissary if your truck is designed properly. Your truck can serve as both as kitchen and serving space, but you have to invest in a design that maximizes space on your truck. 

Roaming Hunger has access to a network of the best food truck builders in the country that can help you customize your truck to fit your every need. Learn more about building your food truck on the Roaming Hunger website.

-Guest Contributor Lisa Furgison