Design

Your Guide to Food Truck Design

Check out our comprehensive guide to food truck design 101 for all the need-to-know information on getting your food truck started.

Alicia Disantis
Brand Marketing Manager

Food trucks are on the rise – and that means food truck design is a popular topic among emerging and seasoned restaurateurs alike. In fact, the American food truck industry has grown at an average annual rate of 11% since 2016. And it’s no surprise; food trucks have many benefits, from lower costs and opportunities to get creative (with a lot less risk!), to more awareness in new locations. Can you say, “mobile billboard?” 

There are over 35,000 food trucks from coast to coast, and that means you need a strong food truck design strategy to stand out from the crowd. Well, we’re serving up some quick tips for creating a solid food truck design that will set your food truck up for success and have folks keeping tabs on where you’ll be parked next! 

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Will Your Food Truck Design Stand Out? 

Rule #1: Make sure your food truck design is going to be unique! Whether you are in a crowded food truck market, like LA, Austin, or DC, or in an up-and-coming city, like Minneapolis or Atlanta, you need to think about ways to make your design different and memorable.  

There’s a few tried-and-true ways to do this:  

Think about your cuisine. What makes it different? Do you have a dish or flavor unique to your food truck? Every chef cooks differently, and no two meals are the same. Focus on what makes you different, delicious, and brings customers coming back for more.  

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Use custom artwork. Invest in local artists to design a killer piece for your food truck. Tight on dough? Try reaching out to a local college or high school to connect with student artists looking for a project. 

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Focus on location: Use community, regional, and cultural references in your food truck design. Think landmarks, nature, architecture, animals, traditions, and history.  

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Popmenu client Da Nani Pirates does a great job of showcasing what makes them unique by incorporating the regional culture of Hawaii and high-seas pirate lore. With three locations throughout Maui and lineage linking back to the “real descendants of Blackbeard the Pirate,” their food truck features an eye-catching illustration of a mermaid. 

Make your Food Truck Design Easily Recognizable 

Whether you're opening a food truck as your first culinary venture or expanding your existing restaurant business, make sure you consider how your food truck design will be recognized by hungry diners. You’ll want your logo and type of cuisine to be easily seen while in motion or from a distance. 

If you have a brick-and-mortar restaurant: 

Many established restauranteurs use their food truck as an opportunity to get creative and push the limits of their brand. Think bold colors, fonts, illustrations, and icons. You’ll still want to be mindful of your brick-and-mortar restaurant brand though.  

Our client The Freakin Incan is a great example of experimenting with a bolder design with your food truck. In their case, the food truck came first. They chose a bright, artistic design with a big mural of Machu Picchu and their llama mascot. It’s hard not to love. 

When it was time to open a brick and mortar in the greater Atlanta area a year later, The Freakin Incan incorporated a more sophisticated look, with exposed brickwork and subtle photos of llamas at every table. Read more about The Freakin Incan’s continued growth here.

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If your food truck is your first restaurant business: 

Then the sky’s the limit! Think about attention-grabbing colors that folks will recognize from across the street. You don’t want to look like a delivery or service truck, so avoid white, brown, and grey. Fun fact: Yellow is scientifically proven to be the most easily recognized color by people.  

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Also consider contrast. Use colors that are on opposite sides of the color spectrum (yellow/violet, blue/orange) and strong color values (think black and white).

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Consider Where You’ll be Parked 

The first thing to consider is whether you’ll be in a permanent location or constantly on the move. If you are going to be in a relatively permanent spot, you’ll have more opportunities for brand recognition and consistency with diners. If you will be about town, you’ll need to be a little bolder in your design so folks can recognize your truck and say “Hey! There’s a food truck over there. Let’s check it out!” 

The second thing to consider is your environment. Will you often be next to other food trucks lined up on the street? Will you be in a parking lot? An alley? A park? A beach? Will there be strong shadows on your food truck, like if a big tree or high-rise is shading it? Will you be next to a wall mural or lively area that is competing for passerby’s attention? Will your food truck have to endure harsh UV rays? You’ll need to have answers to these questions before you start working on your food truck design. 

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Is Your Cuisine Type and Signage Easy to Read? 

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is that your menu and other text is easy to read. From both up close and far away, think of how your diners will be interacting with your truck. A common mistake we see is making your food truck’s menu way too small. You’ll want them to be able to see some key dishes (either in writing or images) from a walking distance - think sidewalk to parking lot, office window to street, park bench to sidewalk. Don’t assume they know what type of cuisine you serve based on your logo or name.  

Check out Bred’s Hot Chicken for a perfect example of showcasing your dishes on your food truck. Just try not to salivate when you see this food truck from a distance. 

Get High Quality Graphics 

For restaurant owners who aren’t design savvy, it’s easy to get confused about design terminology and specs. Of course, a good design partner will guide you and work with your printer, there are two key things you should be aware of to avoid surprises (and spending extra cash on redo’s). 

CMYK vs RGB: Anything that is going to be printed uses CMYK color format (printed menus, your food truck decals), and anything digital uses RGB (website, social media). Your printer will want your design files in either mode based on the project. 

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Vector file: In simple terms, vector is a word to describe artwork that can be expanded or shrunk without losing quality. Think of a logo enlarged to sit on a billboard or reduced for an Instagram profile photo. If a file isn’t in vector format – commonly .eps or .ai file types - your artwork is likely to look pixelated or blurry when enlarged to fit on your food truck. This is a common mistake we see with food trucks and brick-and-mortars, too.  

Again, a quality designer will provide your food truck art and logo in vector form to keep the design sharp and professional. 

Are You Easy to Find? 

Lastly, make sure you are easy to find! Since you don’t have a concrete location, be sure to make it simple for diners to find where you’ll be on a certain day or time. We recommend a section on your website homepage or a big button on the top of your site encouraging visitors to find out “where we’ll be!”  

Our Rochester, NY client Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza does a great job promoting where to find their food truck, both on their website and cross-posting on multiple social media platforms. And it’s hard to miss a truck that looks like it’s made out of bricks! 

If you’re looking for the perfect website to make your food truck easy to find, The web design team at Popmenu has decades of expertise in restaurant design and search engine performance, and our Popmenu clients love that they have a tech and design partner to make sure they are getting the most impressions as possible!

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