Opening up a food truck is an increasingly common dream. You picture lines of people forming on sunny days to hand over some green, and in exchange you treat them to your dazzlingly convenient gourmet concoctions.

You’ve looked into it, you’re ready for the long hours, and your dedication and motivation would put Bruce Lee to shame. You even have your staff already picked out, and you’re closing the deal on that renovated mail carrier truck…it’s all falling in to place!

But hold up a minute. Let me be the “bad” guy–or maybe just the “boring” guy–and bring up the need for insurance. Do you have safety nets in place for your new business? What happens if your cook falls? What if when they fall, they catch themself by putting their hand on a blade, cutting deep enough for them to bleed? What if it’s really busy and they’re just as motivated as you, so they put a bandaid on it, hope for the best, and keep working? What if a customer notices and complaints?

Look, I’m not saying that all these things will go wrong at that magnitude. But I do strongly believe that playing devils advocate and being prepared for the worst is much better than being optimistic with no back up plan. Because I don’t know your budget or where you’re living, I’m not going to pander to the national companies and list them here as the “best.” I’m simply going to arm you with an arsenal of questions to ask as you discuss a policy with whatever provider you decide is best:

1. Am I protected when I get into an auto accident?

So you’re behind the wheel. Or maybe your nephew who’s really passionate about food is behind the wheel. Some lunatic runs a red light and t-bones what is essentially your entire place of work–pans go flying, food for the day is ruined, and some of your staff are injured. This will not only ruin your day, it’s guaranteed to ruin the offending driver’s day as well, as they’ll be liable for all the damage they’ve done.

However, let’s tweak this scenario. Whoever is behind the wheel of your truck realizes that you’re late getting to this really big, crunchy granola hippy event. You’re sure to make thousands of dollars over the course of a few hours. While picturing the lines of inebriated concert go-ers begging for edibles, the second realization hits: there are three other food trucks coming, and if you’re too late, everyone will already be committed to a line. Your profits will be a fraction of what they should be.

Oh no, a yellow light! I…uh.. I can get through this!

You’ve run a red light. And guess what, it caused an accident of the same caliber as the first scenario, except it’s your fault. What now?

food truck

2. Do I have coverage for food poisoning claims?

I know, I know, you’re gonna run the cleanest joint in the world. Everything will be perfect and you’ll never skip a step towards providing the best goods to your adoring fans.

But what if the fridge goes out? What if there’s a recall? What if a customer says they’re allergic to an ingredient but they’re a mumbler?

3. What happens if the truck is stolen or vandalized?

This problem is essentially the same as #1, except there’s no one really to blame. And it may involve a police investigation, if there’s enough to go on.

Make sure that your insurance will replace your truck, all the renovations you likely will have to make to it, and everything in it. In order to really take advantage of this, make sure take pictures of the inside before you use it for the first time, but after you’ve made any and all alterations to it. Keep receipts. And of course, keep an inventory of any loose goods, such as cooking supplies (pots, pans, etc.) that you keep in it.

4. If I’m towing, do those items need their own coverage?

If you’re in the barbecue business, you’re likely towing your grill(s). Or, if you’re catering an especially large event. Or if you decide to also offer bounce houses. There are lots of reasons you may want to tow extra equipment, so make sure to ask.

What About Everything Else?

In addition to insuring your truck and supplies, you’ll also need to get:

  • Commercial Auto Liability  may be covered under your truck insurance, depending on your policy. This one can be tricky; make sure not to get “personal auto that includes business usage,” but the full commercial policy.
  • General Liability  this will be a la carte, and you can tailor it towards your specific business. Factor in everything that will happen after you’ve parked the truck and are open for business. This can cover bodily injuries and property damage, as well as many other things.
  • Business Personal Property  simply put this covers anything that isn’t bolted to your truck, but still a part of your business. Pots, industrial mixer, barbeque, smoker, anything.
  • Workers’ Compensation  This covers employees who need medical treatment because of injuries or illness while on the job. Definitely a must for a restaurant, and a double must for a mobile business. I think that makes this a … triple must? Just get it.
  • Unemployment Insurance  If you plan on having the option of firing your employees, this is a great idea to have, and legally required most places.
  • Umbrella Liability  Exactly how it sounds. Covers everything you didn’t think of so far.
  • Additional Insured Certificates  These are specifically for food trucks and event planners. Every time you park at an event, you’ll likely have to fork over some more cash to protect the venue from any damage, should your truck decide to spontaneously combust.

For a more detailed downloadable PDF listing the types of Business Insurance you should be considering, click here.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.