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How to keep the inside of a food truck cool?

Key tactics include strategic placement for shade, installing roof vents and larger service windows for improved ventilation, and choosing the right air conditioning unit. Considerations such as power requirements, noise level, and regular maintenance of AC units are crucial. Additionally, using cooling accessories like cool rags, neck fans, and Frog Togs can provide personal relief without compromising food safety or professionalism.

Surviving the Sizzle: Tips and Tricks for Cooling Down Your Food Truck

If you're a food truck owner, you know the struggle of keeping your cool (literally) when the heat cranks up. While the business might be booming with folks enjoying the outdoors, inside the truck, it can feel like a sauna.


From the heat off the grill, the fryer and the asphalt food truck operators worldwide face the fiery challenge of working in oven-like conditions. But like any good business owner, we have a couple good tips to stay cool as best as possible. Roll up your sleeves, Here are some strategies from our community...

Picking Your Food Truck Placement

In a busy street festival downtown you might not have the luxury of picking your spot... but in some case think ahead. When you get there in the morning, think through where will you have some shade and where will the sun be beating down. Consider the path of the sun throughout the day: where will you have some shade, and where will the sun be at its most intense?

Don't forget about external solutions. Setting up awnings or canopies to provide shade not only for your customers but also for the side of your truck can reduce internal temperatures.

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Roof Vents and Larger Service Windows

When it comes to keeping your food truck cool, effective ventilation is key, and this is where roof vents and larger service windows come into play. Installing roof vents is a strategic move that can significantly enhance cross ventilation. These vents help expel the hot air rising from your grill or stove, preventing it from stagnating inside the truck. By positioning these vents strategically, you can create a flow of air that draws in cooler outside air, effectively moving the heat generated by cooking appliances outside. This not only keeps the interior cooler but also improves air quality, making it more comfortable for you and your team.

Larger service windows complement roof vents by providing additional air circulation and an escape route for hot air. When opened, these windows can create a cross breeze that channels fresh air directly towards your staff, keeping them cooler as they interact with customers. However, it's crucial to balance this with sun exposure. Consider the direction of sunlight throughout the day and how it impacts your service window. In some cases, adding a retractable awning or sunshade over the window can provide the necessary protection from direct sunlight, ensuring your employees are not overwhelmed by the heat while serving customers. This thoughtful arrangement not only keeps your team cool but also helps in maintaining the freshness of your food by keeping it away from direct sun exposure, an essential aspect of food safety and quality.

While focusing on ventilation, it’s equally important to consider the impact of sunlight on both your staff and your fresh food products. Direct sunlight not only raises the temperature inside the truck but can also be a risk to food safety. To mitigate this, position your refrigeration units and food prep areas away from direct sun exposure. Utilizing insulated covers or reflective materials on windows and walls can further help in keeping the sun’s heat at bay, ensuring that your perishables stay at a safe temperature.

food truck shade and ventilation _edited

Custom AC Unit Installs on a Food Truck

For many food truck owners, installing an air conditioning unit is a game-changer in battling the summer heat. While this comes as an additional expense, the comfort and efficiency it brings can be well worth the investment. There are several options to consider: rooftop air conditioners, portable air conditioners, and wall-hung split air conditioners. Rooftop units are especially popular among food truck operators due to their efficient cooling capabilities and compact design, which is a significant advantage in the limited space of a food truck. Portable units offer flexibility and are easier to install, while wall-hung splits provide efficient cooling and can be a good choice if your truck layout allows for it.


When choosing an AC unit, consider factors like the size of your truck, power requirements, and your budget to find the best fit for your needs.

  • Most commercial AC units for food trucks will run between $800 - $1,200 (new) (not including installation).

  • Keep sound in mind. Most people stress about the sound of their generator but also forget that AC will bring some noise. You want something under 70 decibels.

  • Sticky weather? Some food truck

  • Think through the power draw... The wattage of the AC unit (generally between 1,200 and 1,600 watts) will significantly impact the generator's load. You need to ensure that your generator can handle this additional demand without overloading.

AC unit on top of food truck .jpg

Once you've installed an AC unit, regular maintenance is crucial to ensure its efficiency and longevity. One of the most important components to maintain is the air filter. This part plays a critical role in preventing dust and other air contaminants from entering and damaging the delicate parts of the AC, such as the coil. A clean filter also ensures optimal air flow and cooling efficiency. Depending on usage, filters should be cleaned or replaced regularly, following the manufacturer's recommendations. This simple maintenance step can greatly impact the performance of your AC unit and prevent costly repairs down the line.

The installation and ongoing care of your AC unit are vital to its performance. Most air conditioning units in food trucks are mounted using bolts that penetrate the wall or roof. It's essential to ensure that these bolts are properly tightened during installation to avoid any movement or damage while the truck is in transit. Regular inspections of the mounting bolts are also necessary, as they can loosen over time with the constant movement of the truck. Additionally, the placement of the thermostat is critical. Avoid installing it in areas prone to temperature extremes, such as near cooking appliances or windows. The ideal location for a thermostat is on an interior wall, in the middle of the truck, where it can accurately gauge the overall temperature and adjust the cooling accordingly. Proper installation and maintenance of your AC unit will not only enhance its performance but also contribute to a more comfortable and productive work environment inside your food truck.

Other Food Truck Cooling Accessories

Cool rags or Frog Togs are simple, efficient ways to keep body temperatures down. These items can be soaked in water, wrung out, and then draped around the neck or over the head. They provide instant relief from the heat by leveraging the cooling effect of evaporation. When selecting these products, opt for ones that are lightweight and stay cool for extended periods without needing a re-soak. It's important to ensure they're securely fastened to prevent them from falling into food or obstructing your movements.

Portable neck fans are an excellent accessory for food truck staff. They're worn around the neck and provide a personal breeze that helps to reduce the overall feeling of heat. Modern versions are lightweight, have adjustable speeds, and are rechargeable, making them very convenient for on-the-go use. Be sure to choose a model that is quiet, to not interfere with communication with customers, and one that won’t cause hair or loose clothing to get caught in the fan blades.

While these cooling accessories can significantly improve comfort, it’s crucial to use them in a way that maintains professionalism and food safety. They should not interfere with the cooking process, pose a contamination risk to the food, or hinder interactions with customers. Accessories should be clean, inconspicuous, and securely positioned to avoid any accidents. Remember, the goal is to stay cool while still presenting a professional image and ensuring the safety and quality of your food.

food truck owner staying cool with a frog tog .jpg

Plan (and hire) for the suck...

Let's acknowledge the obvious: summer in a food truck is hot. Accepting this reality is the first step. The warmer months are prime business time, so strategizing to work efficiently during the hottest parts of the day is crucial. It’s all about balancing the discomfort with the understanding that this is a key season for revenue. When hiring your seasonal workers, make sure they know what they are getting into. Nothing is more frustrating that spending a nice cool morning training someone and by the end of their first day working they quit because they (literally) can't handle the heat in the kitchen. 

profit drivers for food truck owners_edi
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