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February 21, 2016 Staff

Food Truck Exterior Lighting Options and Examples

Keeping a light on in a food truck means more than just being able to see what you’re cutting, in fact it can majorly impact your business in both garnering profits and making sure they’re not lost. Inner illumination doesn’t really apply of course, it’s a given that one is going to have it and enough of it to do their jobs. What we’re talking about today is EXTERIOR illumination; the things that kick on at night because, let’s face it, as a food truck you’re going to be spending a lot of business hours when it’s dark out.

Being able to light the outside of your truck, and light it RIGHT, will make sure of a couple important things. Obviously the first is letting people know that you’re THERE and open, drawing their attention from elsewhere. Once the attention is drawn, it needs to be kept; thus the lighting should be done in an attractive way, or in a way to make sure the attractive parts of your truck are shown. Of course this also means making sure the MENU is visible too, the final part in ensuring customers are likely to come up, be entranced, and make an order seamlessly.

food truck lighting options

Not to mention the intense need to prevent theft at night; as we’ve covered in a Previous Article, if you’re unable to find a locked an enclosed space for the truck to part between shifts, it’s imperative that you at least keep it well illuminated.

Though to be fair that can be accomplished by the lighting in that area, but truck illumination could help or, in the worst case scenario, provide that effect if little to no ulterior source of brightness is available. It sounds rather weak, but time and time again it’s been proved that attempts on theft are made at un-illuminated targets at a higher percentage than otherwise.

So since we know we need it, now it’s just figuring out HOW one wants to add that brightness to the outside of their vehicle. There are a few interesting options to pick between.

Fixed LED

The simplest and most versatile option on the table, this is all the easy-to-attach covered lights that shine bright. LED provides good illumination at the voltage and wattage that work well with truck electricity sources. What’s nice is that they come in various formats: dome/license plate lights, spotlights, ‘swivel’ [those long light poles that are great for hanging horizontally above a menu, covered], multi-light strips, even some interesting fold-up styles. All of which can be found big or small. These provide fixed, bright illumination over their intended areas, but otherwise aren’t adding in anything else particularly interesting or exciting.

Rope and String Lights

Food Truck String Lights

Great for a bit of old-school flair, we’re all familiar with these kinds of lights, attached to the side of houses during the holidays and decorating the booths of many a carnival/fair vendor. The ropes are extremely flexible, being able to easily attach and wrap all around the truck to frame, highlight, or just design however you wish. The string lights are just that… lights on strings, and can also be tightly fastened into place or hung in lazy curves for rustic feel. They don’t have as MUCH illumination power as LEDs, so will need more of it to provide the same level of light as needed, but visually can be distinctly striking.

Blue Lights and similar

Not the best in CLEAR illumination, but the effects can be distinct and brilliant. I know a certain coffee trailer that doesn’t have any exterior lights [that I’m away,] but packed their inside with various hidden colored LEDs so that when darkness come they just create this hip, cool effect that I still can’t wait to see in person. Now, for best effect, these colored lights should likely be used alongside regular to make sure menu and truck name can be clearly read, but at the end of the day the final desired effect is up to you.

Flood or other Standing lights

They’re tall and bulky and may be a pain to transport and set-up in different locations, but darn if they’re not great at creating an ‘area’ and ‘atmosphere’ to draw focus to your operation. Not to mention they illuminate EVERYTHING completely, even if there’s no fun design aspects to them. And if you NEED so, probably the best option for full overnight storage lighting should your area of parking be insufficient. Though I imagine they take up quite a bit of power compared to the truck-attached-options.


It’s weird to say, but if your truck has a lot of windows and large, open service space/s to take advantage of natural light during the day, the bright lights from inside which one turns on at night might actually be able to extend outside enough to provide all that one needs to make sure the truck is visible [while also acting as a distinct drawing point]. Of course this will never be AS effective as any of the other options on its own, so the strategy only really works if one often parks outside an already well-lit area, like various taproom patios.


Or we could take a cue from brick-and-mortar businesses and just get a sign, or multiple signs/placards, that light up themselves. Maybe even the kind that’s made up of multiple little lights, you know like Broadway! This idea definitely hits the top of attractive/distinctive style, though rarely light up much of the area around them.

No matter what one chooses, whether it be focusing on a single light sort or a combination of a few, so long as the final result is true to your business [and stays within budget] then you are golden. Feel free to explore even further beyond the options listed here; if there are other ideas out there that appeal to you, pursue it!

And always remember to talk to your Truck Builder/source about this; a good builder will likely deal with not only installation but have some fantastic ideas of themselves to offer and source so that you don’t even have to deal with the annoyance and time wasting of researching every single thing yourself just to get a few light bulbs on the outside of the truck.

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