Everything you need to know about hiring a food truck to cater your wedding, from finding one that’s licensed to serve booze to creating a pod of multiple mobile eateries.
“We knew we had to have a food truck,” says Aly Collins, about her and her fiancée, Cece Wood’s, decision to book the wildly popular Peached Tortilla for their upcoming celebration. “It fits in with our wedding’s ‘music festival’ theme, and it’s such a great way to show our family and friends a little bit of the Austin style.”
Whether you want to bring local flair to a reception or just rein in costs, food truck weddings make for memorable out-of-the box experiences. Trucks can typically work with a variety of budgets and reception sizes, with prices running anywhere from $8 to $35 per person.
Another big advantage: with a mobile operation, you know you’re getting fresh food, since most items are prepared to order. This isn’t always the case with traditional buffet spreads and plated meals, which sometimes serve food cooked off-premises well before the event. Also, picking up your meal from a truck window is an inherently interactive experience—it encourages mingling and creates the sense of attending a big, lively party.
The Fun Factor
“It’s pretty cool to have a known local brand cater your wedding. Most catering companies aren’t recognized in the same way that a food truck might have a cult following,” says Eric Silverstein, whose Peached Tortilla truck has catered countless receptions since its inception five years ago. Austin is truly one of the nation’s food truck capitals, and many of its itinerant eateries have become so renowned they’ve opened acclaimed brick-and-mortar operations—think Franklin Barbecue, Barley Swine/Odd Duck, Dai Due, Via 313, and East Side King, to name a few. These establishments are often licensed to serve alcohol off-site, which makes them especially desirable for weddings.
Food trucks make great visuals, too. Many—
including Lick Honest Ice Creams and Oh My Gogi! BBQ—have bright, festive logos. You can also gussy them up by stringing lights or other decorations. Or arrange for a truck to appear as an unexpected surprise early or late at the reception. At one large wedding in Houston, Melange Creperie arrived at midnight, just as departing guests were awaiting valeted cars and shuttles.
Restaurants on wheels typically prepare one dish at a time, which is ideal for serving guests in small spurts, but not for accommodating a huge rush. Trucks can typically serve 60 to 100 people without having to create an alternate setup, such as a buffet table, additional servers, or even plated service.
As you work with your caterer to develop your menu, choose options that can be prepared quickly, or even partially in advance. And consider limiting how many dishes you offer during the reception. For example, Lick Ice Creams’ truck can quickly and efficiently serve up to 200 people if you opt for just two flavor options. Add just one or two more choices, however, and your guests may enjoy the variety but bemoan the extra time they must wait to tuck into their bowl of brown butter–brown sugar ice cream.
It’s pretty cool to have a known local brand cater your wedding.
If it’s important to your wedding theme that guests order directly from the truck, structure the meal so that guests are invited to order their food one or two tables at a time. If you anticipate significant wait times, arrange for cocktail and passed-appetizer service while guests queue.
For larger receptions, you might want to hire multiple trucks. Joseph Pedraza of San Antonio’s Bite Street Bistro says he can handily cater a 125-guest wedding with one truck, but having additional vehicles can greatly cut down on waits. For weddings with 100 or more guests, Tiffany Harelik—author of the Trailer Food Diaries cookbook series—recommends two different primary food trucks as well as a dessert truck. In this scenario, be sure to plan for a kitchen tent or more space to accommodate the extra roving eateries. “If you’re looking to bring in a few trucks, start with one that perhaps you’re already acquainted with,” says Mary Collazo of San Antonio’s Chocollazo dessert trolley, “and ask them for recommendations. We’re a tight-knit community and can help you find a truck that will make the perfect accompaniment.”
Wedding guests are usually super-jazzed and sometimes awestruck to see a food truck.
Depending on the venue’s access to electricity, determine early on if the food truck will require a generator, which may affect where it sets up. Collazo describes generator hum as “a symphony of lawn mowers”—if this isn’t your ideal background music, choose a venue with an electrical hookup.
As long as you iron out the logistics ahead of time, you can expect a food truck to be a major highlight of your reception. “Wedding guests are usually super-jazzed and sometimes awestruck to see a food truck,” Collazo says. “They really like getting a ‘behind the curtain’ look at the preparation. Not to mention that it’s a fantastic photo op. And in turn, we always leave with at least one good ‘drunk uncle’ story!”
Freelance writer Kate Payne (katepayne.net) is the author of Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen. She lives in Austin with her wife and teaches classes on food preservation and other topics both privately and at culinary centers across the country.