Excellent Food Truck Builders
Special note from the author: My name is Betty Truitt, and none of the food truck builders featured below are associated with me, my family members, friends or acquaintances. Furthermore, I do not receive any sort of “kick-back”, commission, or financial compensation from these manufacturers.
So which food truck builder is the best choice for your new (or established) business? You might be just starting out and you want to know who manufacturers the highest quality food trucks, or you may be an established business looking to grow your fleet.
So in an effort to help you in your research, I’ve reached out to food truck builders, operators, and some experts on the industry itself.
My two main questions were:
A.) What is the best food truck
B.) Who makes the best food truck
What have I learned?
1.) there are a lot of different opinions
2.) there’s a lot of different choices
3.) the most common answer is “it depends”
Of course, “it depends” is the only smart and educated answer an operator/vendor could give. But once I dove into my research, it became clearer and clearer to me, which companies manufacturer the best food trucks on the market.
Regardless of my opinion, or any others’ opinions, there is a list of key features the better food trucks have, and key advantages these trucks give their operators. After days of reading reviews, website pages, scholar abstracts and studies, and speaking with food truck operators in my own city, I’m confident I have provided the 4 excellent builders for you to consider.
Narrowing down the list of manufacturers was time consuming!
And even though in my study I’ve concluded the 4 manufacturers below excel in producing a high quality product, it doesn’t mean (by any stretch of the imagination) that one of these builders should be YOUR choice. There are other factors in play here (like location).
Special factors to consider:
- your menu (expansion)
- number of employees
- your City bylaws
- market competition
- coastal or non-coastal
1.) Your menu will have a lot to do with the choices you make when considering the feature list below. How many ingredients will you need onboard to create your culinary masterpieces. How many different menu items will you have, and how are you preparing those items. Are you grilling? Are you deep frying? Are you only serving soup? Maybe you’re only serving tacos, or ice cream treasts. What happens if you decide to expand your menu?
2.) How many employees are going to be cooking and serving on your truck? What if you have a huge expansion in customers served per day or event? Is there a way you can provide higher serving capacity by adding a cart or trailer?
3.) What are your city bylaws on food trucks, trailers, kiosks, and carts? Is there any restrictions on size, emissions, noise levels, or where you can park?
4.) Will you be preparing all your food items in the truck, or will you be preparing all your food (or a portion of) at a commissary base at a fixed address? Does your local licensing authority even allow 100% mobile food prep? If not, what are the limits and restrictions?
5.) Who is your competition? How much market is there exactly? Can your community even support another food truck?
6.) Are you operating in a coastal town or city? For example; if you live in a city on or near (or on an) ocean, you will be dealing with salt water corrosion issues over time. When I spoke with a friend ours who builds food trucks in Calgary, Alberta, he said this was a concern for some operators. Maintenance is a reality you have to contend with, and depending on the materials used by the food truck manufacturer, maintenance costs can be higher or lower.
During my study, I used the checklist below when evaluating trucks features and builders.
Food Truck 25 Point Checklist:
Below is a food truck checklist you’ll need to consider in regards to your unique business model. Depending on how much capacity you’ll need, your launch menu, and future menu growth.
1.) Plumbing System: Does the truck have a robust plumbing system, and are all supply lines, filters, sinks, and drainage line easily accessible?
2.) Disposal System: What is the waste disposal system like? Is it easy to move waste out of the truck? Is there a place to store waste until you get to an approved waste disposal area in your City/Town?
3.) Water Heater: what is the capacity of the hot water system? How much hot water will you need? How reliable is the heating method and equipment used to heat the water? Is the water heated with a burner, electricity, LP/Propane, etc.? Is it easily accessible for maintenance.
3.) Potable Water Tank: How big is the potable water tank, and where is located on the truck? How well is the water system filtered and purity maintained. Are the filters easily accessible for maintenance, and how easy is it to drain, refill, and disinfect with chemical treatments (such as bleaching)?
4.) Grey Water Tank: Does the grey water (not potable/not sewage) tank have enough capacity to collect all used water from your day to day operations without having to be constantly driving off to a City dump site. How is it plumbed compared to the potable water tank and system, and does it allow for easy maintenance.
5.) Exhaust System Hood/Fan: How much air do you need to be moving out of the truck during an event or work day? Who is the manufacturer of the main fan? The bearings on these fans take a beating because they may be running a lot!
6.) Electrical External/Gen: What kind of electrical connections does the truck have? Can you connect to a 30 amp or 15 amp connection? Can you connect to a typical 110 outlet and still use most of your systems? Is your generator a really solid model that can withstand a lot of running hours without a lot of maintenance? Is the gen an onboard (built in) setup, or will you be using a portable/external gen. Is it a reliable brand like Onan (Cummings)? Where does the gen exhaust? Will the exhaust be a danger to your cooks or customers? How much noise does the gen make?
7.) Fire Expulsion System: Is there an adequate fire expulsion system build in, or are you just using handheld extinguishers?
8.) Grease Trap System: What is the capacity of the grease trap system. How easily can you drain and clean the grease traps?
9.) Garbage Disposal: Is the disposal of waste easily dealt with? Is the proximity of equipment, tubs, etc., ideal so that you can remove waste on the go; in a way that doesn’t slow down food production?
10.) Easy Cleaning: How is the food truck set up for cleaning? Can you close up shop for the day, and do your cleaning and disinfecting routine without spending hours of your off time. This is a daily process that has to be carried out perfectly and consistently. Can you satisfy all your local bylaws for cleanliness and pass any surprise inspection by your local health and safety representatives?
11.) Heating/Air Conditioning: What is your local climate like? Are you dealing with extreme cold, extreme heat? Does the air conditioner pop breakers when it’s running for extended periods of time. Is the heating system electric or LP or propane? How big is your propane/LP tank. Will you be constantly driving off to get your tanks serviced?
12.) Storage for Ingredients: How much storage space do you have for your ingredients, and does the cooler and freezer space allow for safe storage? How reliable is the freezer and fridge? Did the truck builder go cheap on these critical items? How much power and what kind of energy is used to for the freezer and fridge (examples: gen electrical power, external connection power, or onboard propane).
Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, because if you choose the right truck, most all of these concerns will be looked after. If you’re new to running your own business, you will get into a routine eventually. You’ll find looking after all these concerns just becomes a way of life.
13.) Grills, Fryers, and Stoves: This will depend on your menu plans. Maybe you don’t need a stove, or a fryer. Maybe you only require a good grill. Make sure you don’t go cheap on these items because the flow of service for your customers will depend on how much capacity your food preparation system has.
14.) Warming and Cooling Capacity: Will you need warming lamps, cooling areas? How much room will you need? Are you serving ice cream on your menu (dishes that have to be served piping hot, or just warm)? Is there anything on your menu that requires a lot of heat for it to be served safely to your customers?
15.) Prep Space Capacity: Is there enough room for a prep cook to be working in the background, keeping the fresh ingredients flowing to the main cook; critical in busy times when you feel you’re being literally overrun with customers lining up down the street.
16.) Exterior/Interior Appearance: Is your food truck attractive and easy to keep clean. What color is the exterior paint? What kind of paint is it? Will you have to strip and repaint very often? How does the truck look in the light of day and at night? What do customers see when they’re waiting to make their order? Is the truck setup to show off how clean it is when customers are waiting for their food? Can the see waste, grease, messy areas, etc., from the order window?
17.) Wash Up Sink Area: Is the wash up sink well located to enable easy cleaning of utensils, bowls, whiskers, ladles, forks, knives, plates, bowls, etc.? Where do the hot water and cold water lines run? Are they easily accessible for maintenance and repair?
18.) Drain Board System: Does the drain board system have enough capacity to handle to the flow from your menu choices? Does it drain from a manageable point of exit on the truck (grey water, black water, etc.)?
19.) Engine Reliability: What manufacturer is the engine made by? What kind of fuel does it use? How much power does it have, and what is the service schedule like. How do you avoid a lemon? How much will repair costs and service costs be? Does the engine model have a solid track record for low maintenance?
20.) Awning Durability: If you need/want an awning system, can it withstand wind gusts? How easy is the awning to extend and retract? Awnings are notorious for failing and causing a lot of grief, so consider not having one at all. You may HAVE to have an awning just to keep the elements off your food.
21.) Theft Proof: Is the truck hard to break in to? Is there a good alarm system? Are there external things (like generators) that can easily be stolen? My son has two friends that had their portable gen stolen TWICE in the first year of their food truck business!
22.) Bylaw Adherence: Is the truck too big for you local bylaws. Is all the onboard and external equipment set up in a way that satisfies your local health and safety inspectors?
23.) Maintenance Accessibility: I’ve been hammering home the importance of maintenance, and for GOOD reason. A thorough maintenance schedule is critical. You need to protect you investment and protect your customers. By choosing a well thought out and well designed food truck, your maintenance costs and time consumption can be greatly reduced.
My Research Limitations:
My research had it’s limitations. I chose to base all my research on North American based manufacturers and fabrication companies, outfits, and sub-contractors. There are some food truck builders in Europe, South America, and Australia that easily rival (and sometimes out-perform) their North American counterparts, but that is for another study on another website.
North America was big enough for this girl. 😉
Criteria for Builders:
This is the basic list of criteria I ultimately used to narrow down my list(s) of builders, manufacturers, and/or fabricators in North America (as it turned out, it was the United States only).
Please keep in mind that I’m not saying these are the BEST food truck builders in the United States – these are just four really good ones. If you are a builder and want to be added to my next addendum, please contact me. There is a dozen or so other great builders to consider in your research and I will list those at the bottom of the page. Perhaps none of the four builders featured here are close enough to your location.
- How long have they been in business
- How many food trucks have they made
- How much capacity can they handle
- Level of professionalism
- Sheet metal fabrication expertise
- Frame to finish attention to detail
- Overall quality of their work
- How custom – same vans, or varied
- Which operators use their trucks
- On time completion reputation
- Customer service reputation
- Product support / warranty etc.
- Price vs quality / value
- Online reviews (maps, sites, forums)
- User/Operator outreach
- Website quality
Food Truck vs Trailer/Cart
Before you choose a builder decide if a truck is the best choice for your business.
Your Locals Laws
Your choice of food truck may depend on your local bylaws so check first.
Types by Application
With a mobile food truck you move from location to location faster. Don’t have to have a truck for hauling. You don’t lose time fussing around with sometimes awkward trailer or car hook-ups and disconnects.
More expensive, and once parked you no longer have another vehicle to do supply runs.
Usually less cost, can be parked in smaller spaces. Usually more sizes to choose from and you may be able to get multiple trailers or carts for the price of a mobile all-in-one food truck.
Requires a hauling vehicle and a much slower relocation (less mobility). So you can’t take advantage of a fast relocation in an efffort to capitalize on a random opportunity that may arise. Less choices for parking in some cities (permits and licensing).
Food Truck Experts
Food Truck Builders
Mile High Custom Food Trucks
Mile High Custom Food Trucks opened their doors for business on the 31st of July, 2016 and was launched by Jeanette Mungia. They have an A+ rating so far with the Better Business Bureau.
They manufacturer and fabricate custom food trucks, carts, kiosks, and trailers. They are based in Englewood Colorado, which for all intents and purposes is South Denver.
As of this writing they only serve operators in the United States, but in my outreach with them they told me they can build food trucks for delivery to Canada as well. Main crew members are Thomas, Omar, Hugo, and Fernando.
3320 S. Quivas Street, Englewood, CO 80110
Phone #1: 303.269.9636
Phone #2: 720.340.7505
Hours: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Google: 5 Stars 21 Reviews
Facebook: 5/5 with 6 Reviews
Yelp: 5 Stars 1 Review
“Their work and dedication far exceeded our expectations” – Natasha Johnson
“You guys delivered above and beyond with my truck” – Shaun Riz
Yes. Mile High Custom Food Trucks does custom fabrication and design.
Inquire by calling them or emailing them.
Mile High Custom Food Trucks:
From my own phone call and texts with Mile High Custom Food Trucks, I can personally vouch for their communication and outreach. I was called back within 30 minutes and had my questions answered. I only ask these builders how much a finished custom food truck starts at ($$), and how long it takes for delivery (ballpark numbers). I don’t ask them more than that because I don’t want to waste their time (even if my research gives them some good PR).
Nevertheless, I was impressed how they got back to me so quickly and gave me my answers without having to quiz me further. So many companies won’t give you just a ballpark idea of completion and cost.
During my outreach process it was clear early on that MHCFT was very likely going to end up in my list of 4. Every person I contacted by phone, email, and text spoke highly of their service. They were especially happy with the crew of employees that go above and beyond to help their customers.
A common thread in all of this outreach was “attention to detail”. Obviously, the owners of Mile High are careful to only hire (and keep) top notch employees. These past customers commented on how Thomas, Hugo, Fernando, and Omar were able to customize their truck or kiosk for any configuration; that their sheet metal fabrication skills were exceptional.
It’s clear to me now that sheet metal fabrication and custom food truck builders are truly artists.
El Monte Food Truck MFG
San Jose, California
El Monte Catering Truck MFG has been around a long time. On their website they let us know that they’ve been manufacturing custom food trucks for thirty years now.
They pride themselves on their ability to fabricate and design a custom food truck from the frame up, and they make it clear they can customize your truck in order to comply with all your local State and/or City bylaws.
They’re base of operations is located in beautiful San Jose, California and they’ve produced A LOT of units in their long practice.
1067 S 5th St, San Jose, CA 95112
Phone #1: 408.286.6213
Phone #2: 408.209.3328
Hours: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm
Google: 5 Stars 3 Reviews
Facebook: 4.9/5 with 8 Reviews
Yelp: 5 Stars 1 Review
“…a beautiful food truck, in a short period of time, for a great price… ” – Pedro G
“…they are very helpful people – owner Jorge Gomez helped me…” – Mamacitas Tacos
Yes. El Monte Food Truck MFG does custom fabrication and design.
Inquire by calling them or emailing them.
El Monte Custom Food Trucks:
Just off Keyes Street on 5th (just west of the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo) exists a very busy shop where the crew and management of El Monte Custom Food Truck MFG create their masterpieces for their customers.
Of course, like all of my main featured builders they can create almost any possible configuration you require.
This includes (and not limited to just catering trucks, ice cream trucks, or taco trucks so popular in California), trailers, carts, and kiosks.
Special note that El Monte provides financing for those operators who can’t pay for their truck(s) with cash money.
In the case with this company, there really wasn’t a lot of review material to go on, so my customer outreach was critical in getting an idea on how their services were judged by customers.
I had a few customers who provided me with a lot of praise for their food trucks, crew, staff, and management. One phone call lasted over 15 minutes which is a long call compared to most of my outreach calls.
American Built Food Trucks
American Built Food Trucks is now located just North of Orlando, Florida in Apopka FL.
At the time of this writing they’ve been building food trucks for over 9 years and they’ve built over 40 different trucks.
They were chosen for my list because of my outreach calls to customers, and because they excel at customization.
Basically, you could bring to their team almost any kind of truck and they can customize it’s build for your business model and menu.
135 Sheeler Ave, Apopka, FL 32703
Phone #1: 407.960.2632
Phone #2: 407.928.4120
Hours: Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm
Facebook: 5 stars 1 Review
Facebook: 5/5 with 11 Reviews
“Quality product, detailed work, ethical business, and overall just a great bunch” – Jason A
“Fast building quality work going on at ABFT. Working hard” – Gonzales AE
Yes. American Built Food Trucks does custom fabrication and design.
Inquire by calling them or emailing them.
American Build Food Trucks:
ABFT is owned and operated by a popular figure in the Florida food truck industry, who goes by the nickname “Big Al”.
From what I found in my outreach, Big Al’s best skill is finding and keeping a great crew.
American Built Food Trucks has a talented in-house crew of sheet metal and interior/exterior fabrication artists.
Because of this, and because of their track record, they can create a real masterpiece for your business model.
Regardless of your menu, and your vision, they have the people to help you see your vision become reality.
We did find one bad review on Yellow Pages, but after investigating with email and text I found out the review was bogus. It was created by, and promoted by a competitor in the area.
Chef Units Food Truck Builder
In Houston Texas there is a great food truck builder known as Chefs Units.
They build food trucks, trailers, and carts. Feedback from those I contacted was also excellent.
With financing and an extremely talented crew of builders, repair technicians, and fabricators, they can build a food truck from scratch, or they can customize a vehicle you already own.
They were highly recommended by the “word on the street” in Houston.
2501 Karbach St C, Houston, TX 77092
Phone #1: 713.589.2613
Hours: Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm
Saturday: 9am – 6pm
Google: 4.8 Stars 36 Reviews
Facebook: 4.6/5 from 88 people
“…excellent customer service and an excellent product…” – Tiffany Spraggins
“…great company and great people. I definitely recommend this company..” – Cacky Isidore
Yes. Chefs Units Food Trucks does custom fabrication and design.
Inquire by calling them or emailing them.
Chefs Units Food Trucks:
Chefs Units was launched by Marco and Luis Novo in Houston Texas, and they have been building food trucks since 2011.
They have become one of the best food truck builders in American, and arguably the best food truck company in all of Texas.
They’ve done a ton of work so they’ve had a lot of customers. We did see some negative reviews on Facebook, but after we tracked down and made some phone calls regarding these complaints, we discovered there were ulterior motives behind them. 99% of all the people we contacted gave glowing testimonials.
They have one of the most impressive websites in the food truck building arena, with a 3D truck builder app (which can be used on a mobile device or a desktop device) and a thorough breakdown of ballpark pricing. They also had a really good FAQ page. Once you’re done with their site you’ll have all most of your questions answered.
Like all of the builders listed on this page, Chef Units has a dedicated crew of sheet metal fabricators, electricians, welders, fitters, and assembly technicians. They will make sure your truck is built in way that it will pass the licensing and permit hurdles in your area.
When we spoke with some of their past customers we only heard praise, and that is not an easy thing to accomplish.
I would like all of the scholars and food truck publishers for their hard work and information (see expert roundup).
I also want to thank the food truck builders who answered my questions, and all of the people who were willing to take my calls, emails, and texts. Without their input there is no way I could have finished this study.
My apologies to all the other excellent food truck builders who I didn’t include in this study. Below I’ve listed all of the other great manufacturers I researched on my journey. If you would like your company featured, please contact me so I can include your team in my next update.
Other Excellent Builders
It was surprising to see how many food truck builders’ websites were either down, abandoned, or not secured with an SSL certificate. And even if they had those things covered, many were extremely slow to load. The list of builders below have functioning websites, and good track record in the custom fabrication and design industry.
About the Author
My name is Betty Truitt and I’m a writer and research specialist. I am passionate about researching, writing, and publishing. You can connect with me on Twitter.
About The Owner