Food Truck Customer Etiquette 101

by in Shows, August 23rd, 2012

food truck customer etiquetteThis year’s contestants on The Great Food Truck Race are bound to learn lessons about the operational elements of a food truck that they’ll take with them and use after the show. While they’re learning lessons and taking notes, what about the other side of the truck — the customers?

We all know the rules of the game. Put your napkin on your lap, don’t eat with your hands (unless when appropriate), keep your elbows off the table and so on. But those rules apply to meals at a table. With a new generation of foodies comes an all-new set of rules for eating sans table at food trucks. You didn’t learn these tips in cotillion, no sir! So follow our guide to food truck etiquette to carve your way into the elite class of very polite food truck foodies.

1. Be patient – Eating from a food truck doesn’t make you a follower, but it does make you one of many like-minded hungry trendsetters. This can often mean long lines and even longer waits. Try to keep in mind that as hungry as you might be, the chefs on board aren’t purposely trying to lengthen your wait time. Typically, they are juggling a few hundred orders per day from a limited space filled with hot grills with a bunch of people crammed into a very small space. Gourmet food trucks may seem like fast food, but remember that a longer wait might just mean the best taco combo you ever ate. Try not to ask when order 164 is going to be ready and never go onto the truck unsolicited to let the chefs know that you’ve been waiting 25 minutes. Leave the sass in the car; they’re doing their best.

“Be patient and know what you want.” – Schmuck With A Truck

food truck customer etiquette2. Be prepared – While waiting in line, instead of starting a Words With Friends game with that Facebook friend you think you met at a party once, go ahead and read the menu. There’s nothing worse for a long line than a distracted customer who holds up the line to start pondering what to eat once at the ordering window. Most food trucks have their menus right where you can see them and they do that for good reason. Figure out what you want and stick with it. Don’t change your mind when you get there, but if you are still undecided, asking for a recommendation from the window is quite alright if you can use that info in a timely manner to move on.

“Take a good look at the menu first. Don’t ask the person taking your order everything that’s on the menu because it slows things down for everybody else.” – Lobsta Truck

3. Be trusting – Unless you’re the sole customer at the time and the folks behind the counter seem up for a challenge, try to keep your order simple and trust the menu the chefs on board have put together for you. If you’d rather leave the bun off your lobster roll, fine, but don’t go overboard by asking for half lobster half crab with butter on the side, and, oh, can you make the mayonnaise in a smiley face? Food truckers style their menu with what’s popular and what’s good, or else they wouldn’t be serving it. Have a little faith in their abilities and they won’t let you down. Trusting the chef is a major indicator of proper food truck manners.

“Don’t change the menu so much. Items on the menu were created a certain way to be a complete dish. I once had a customer ask to take three things off a menu item and then complain that it wasn’t good.” – Pigs Feet Under

4. Be efficient – A lot of food trucks accept credit cards, but an issue arises when there’s a $10 minimum and you only want one waffle or when their iPhone credit card app is in a bad mood. It’s always better to pay with cash when you go to a food truck. It’ll be quicker and easier and you won’t have to do that weird iPhone finger signature thing.

“Bring change. Paying with cash speeds things up for everyone.” – Coolhaus

food trucks5. Be generous –Tipping etiquette is a little fuzzy when it comes to food trucks. You tip at a restaurant, but not always when you’re ordering from a counter. Not only are you not in a restaurant, but you are ordering from a counter when you eat at a food truck. Technically, you don’t need to tip, but if you think about the operation of creating a gourmet meal in the confines of a truck, those folks sort of deserve a little extra praise. Tipping customers make happy chefs, and sometimes it can mean the difference between a latte and a whole breakfast.

“We tip back by giving goodies on the house” – Brasil Kiss

6. Be clean – At a food truck, you don’t have the luxury of a busboy nor is your mother there to clean up after you (unless she is). Most trucks have trash cans and recycle bins for your convenience and theirs. So please use them. Don’t leave your empty soda bottles lying around or let your cupcake wrapper wisp away in the wind. Properly dispose of your leftovers where they belong, not on the sidewalk. Make sure to ask if it is appropriate to dispose of rubbish in the on-board bin before tossing your unfinished ketchup cups into an unlined bin.

Tune in to an all-new episode of The Great Food Truck Race this Sunday at 9pm EST/ 8C.

Roaming Hunger brings you tips and tricks to navigate the world of gourmet food trucks and street food. You can find the whereabouts of food trucks near you using live maps at RoamingHunger.com or find out where your next meal is parked using the Roaming Hunger App.

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Comments (18)

  1. Ila Lewis says:

    What at great article on the need for food truck customer etiquette! The writer combines humor and excellent suggestions that can only add to a positive food truck experience for the food truck staff as well as for the customer. I hope to be able to read additional articles by this blog writer on foodnetwork.com. But, unfortunately, I could not find the name of the person who wrote this.

  2. Arthur Mintz says:

    If this writer turned her talents to politics, especially in these tempestuous times, can you imagine the result. The first article would be etiquette in the political publicity world, or, what to do about the lack of it.
    Who is this creative talent?

  3. guest says:

    I have always wanted to tell the world this…when you order from a food truck or concession vendor be sure to get your supplies, napkins, forks, cups, ice, condiments or anything you need from the place you spent your money. DO NOT ask other vendors for these items! You may think it is nothing but for vendors these things cost and can add up. We do not mind giving the folks these items IF they have spent money with us. If your vendor does not have what you need, remind them they need to carry that item. If you ask another vendor ( where you have spent no money) offer to pay for the extras. This has been a problem for us for eight years.

  4. Dannyboydannyboy says:

    Wow. Next time I see a food truck I'll make sure to skip right by it so I don't risk forgetting all 500 of these soup nazi rules.

  5. Guest says:

    overpriced food

  6. Mike McGlauchlin says:

    I would advise people to look at the tip jars. Some events require all the tips go to a charity. Thanks for a great article!!!

  7. Wow. I'm almost offended reading this article. The author clearly has no understanding of customer service. When did having conversation during your lunch or dinner experience suddenly become bad etiquette? And, why is it bad etiquette to ask questions?

    Keeping customers happy and moving along is really the responsibility of the food truck chef / owner, not the customers! Food truck owners should take lessons from customer behavior, not just the words they speak.

    A review (positive or negative) is worth its weight in gold, but don't miss opportunities to respond to customer needs by not paying attention to their actions. Customers who hover around a menu board or ask for recommendations consistently could be indicating that the menu is too complex.

    If many customers consistently ask for special preparations, a food truck chef may want to consider changes to the dishes. Successful menus are profitable, concise, and easy to prepare.

    Lines move at the rate that a food truck can put food out. A food truck can manage the length of its lines by offering concise, easy to read menus and by staffing properly.

    Never blame the customer for special requests, asking questions, or making a social experience of their meal at your truck. That just spells bad and unfriendly / unapproachable customer service!

    Someone else summed this article up perfectly – these are Soup Nazi rules. Absolute garbage. Sorry, I just can't buy it. I recently tried some food from one of the vendors quoted here. There were only two people on the truck. When I arrived, there was a huge crowd around the truck, but no one ordering. They were all waiting for their food. The average wait time was 40 minutes. I waited 47 minutes for my sandwich. The truck is a deli. Should you have to wait 40 minutes for your lunch at a deli – AFTER ordering?

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