Unofficial Rules of Food Truck Dining
Whether you're new to LA or you've been a life long resident, food truck etiquette is important survival knowledge to have.
Photo by Justin Gerboc
With L.A. being arguably the best city in the country to experience the wheeled wonders that are food trucks, you would think everyone would be skilled at navigating them. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Here are some tips for making your experience (and others) more enjoyable.
- What do they have? - Even the most established food trucks will have menus that vary based on where else they've been that day and numerous other factors. Make sure to check the menu to be sure they have what you are looking for. When checking the menu stand back a ways so others can see as well. It's super frustrating to have someone standing 1 foot in front of the sign with five people craning their necks to try to see around you. If everyone takes one big step back, more people can see!
On Campus Note: Often when food trucks come to campus they have an even more limited menu, especially if there's a sponsor subsidizing the cost.
- Getting to the window - Fact: Food trucks are popular. That means there will be a line. It's that simple. Prepare yourself to wait. While standing there, make friends with your other dining compatriots. Check out the cool paint job on the side of the truck. If you have a smartypants phone, check out the truck's Facebook or Twitter pages. There are plenty of things to do to pass the time. Trust me, it will be worthwhile.
- What do you want? - When placing your order, be polite. Remember, the temperature inside that truck where those nice people are prepping your food is probably pretty high. That means they're tired and maybe a little cranky. While they will usually be polite to you (you are a paying customer after all) a little politeness goes a long way. Also, remember that they have limited capacity for custom orders. Keep any special requests to a minimum and simple is best.
- How much is it? - At those times when you are paying for your own food, make sure you check the methods of payment they accept. Many trucks are now using apps to take cards, but not all of them do. It's usually a good idea to have cash on you for just such an occasion (and for tipping too.)
On Campus Note: Sometimes a department will subsidize a food truck coming to campus. This can mean that the first so many people will get their food for free. Once that many people come through sometimes the truck will simply close. Other times, they will then offer food for sale. So even for on campus "free" food trucks it can be good to have some cash just in case.
- Where's my food? - When waiting for your food to come out the back of the truck apply the same logic as with the menu - stand back. That way no matter what order the food comes out, the person who needs to pick it up has the space to approach the window. And here, just like in the line, patience is key! They're working as fast as they can in their cramped kitchen. This is a great time to make sure you have napkins or any other utensils you will need. Many trucks have dispensers on the side for just such items.
- Finger-licking good! - Once you've had the chance to chow down (don't forget to grab napkins), make sure you clean up after yourself. Since it's not a brick-and-mortar restaurant, there aren't staff to clean up after you. Make sure you find a trash can to put your trash into. If the first one you find is full, find another. Don't just create a heap, that means that it will all just fall on the ground and you really haven't actually done any better.
Hopefully you'll have the chance to get out and explore the food truck scene. If nothing else, there are usually a few occasions where one will visit campus. (Rumor has it Welcome Back Weekend will feature Get Shaved this year.) And when you do, you now know how to make it a pleasant experience for all. And knowing is half the battle.
This post was inspired by Ada Walton's post on meetingsmags.com.