From Firefighter to Foodpreneur: The Rise of Food Trucks in Repurposed Firetrucks
The food truck fad is no longer just a phase. Walk the streets of nearly any large city, and you’ll see one of these machines on every corner. From New York to Los Angeles, food trucks serve tacos, pizza, burgers and much more.
Most restaurateurs use box trucks for their operations, but they’re getting more creative nowadays with their vehicles. One unique option on the rise is repurposed firetrucks. How did this idea become popular?
Here’s a closer look at the increase in food trucks in repurposed firetrucks.
Why Are Restaurateurs Using Firetrucks?
First, let’s look at the food truck industry in its entirety. Since 2020, this quick-service restaurant (QSR) form has become more popular because of its convenience. Many businesses had to close their doors temporarily during the pandemic, so they turned to other service methods like food trucks to stay in business.
Acquiring a food truck can get expensive, especially for small restaurants and businesses with tight budgets. Kelley Blue Book data shows new cars cost around $48,000 — nearly $11,000 more than the average before the pandemic. Supply chain disruptions have caused new and used vehicle prices to skyrocket, forcing those in the food truck market to get creative.
Box trucks are the most convenient way to start a food truck business. Still, the costs may require you to look elsewhere — such as a firetruck — to begin serving those tasty pizza pies at festivals, street corners, business parks, colleges and more.
Firetrucks are a good route for retired firefighters who want to enter the QSR industry. For example, a firefighter in Massachusetts retrofitted a 1968 Mack firetruck to start a pizza business. The firefighter, Kevin Doherty, drives the truck to community events like graduations and block parties to serve wood-fired pizza to guests.
What Are Firetrucks Suitable to Be Food Trucks?
So, what makes firetrucks unique? How can these large machines meet the demands of the food truck industry? Here are four reasons why repurposed firetrucks are suitable for serving street food.
Small food trucks are convenient for maneuvering the city streets but can quickly become cramped with the employees inside. These QSR businesses need cooks, cashiers and more. Some workers can have multiple roles, but they need space to operate. Employees bumping into each other can be detrimental to their safety.
Luckily, repurposed firetrucks solve the space issue. Your average food truck ranges from 10 to 25 feet long, whereas firetrucks start around 24 feet and can extend past 60 feet.
In the restaurant industry, capturing people’s attention is essential. When walking the street, people won’t think twice when seeing vans and box trucks. However, large red firetrucks have all eyes on them as they travel down the road. You won’t get to use sirens for your food truck, but you’ll have little issue with visibility due to the sheer size of these machines.
Firetrucks can also bring nostalgia to the community. For example, the 1968 Mack firetruck appeals to the older generations who grew up seeing those designs. They may have been a firefighter themselves or had a loved one who worked with the local fire department. A firetruck can be a terrific way to establish a positive connection with the community.
Manufacturers build their cars to last, but firetrucks separate themselves with their durability. Converted firetrucks make awesome food trucks because they can withstand high temperatures and fire — excellent considering for fryers and grills churning out hot food to your happy customers.
Do you want to start a pizza truck? Your refurbished firetruck can withstand the temperatures when the oven hits nearly 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The everyday wear and tear is light work for the firetruck, leading to less maintenance costs and headaches from upkeeping the vehicles.
Some people underestimate the demand food trucks put on their vehicles. You need high power to ensure all the appliances work properly. Most food trucks require refrigerators, freezers, grills, and fryers, depending on the food you prepare. Luckily, firetrucks are ready to take on the tall task.
Firetrucks have powerful engines because of their weight, with horsepower as high as 600 for the big red machines marching down the road.
The horses under the hood resemble the Porsche Panamera and Ferrari GTO, but they’re more for engine power instead of speed. A steady power supply is necessary to run your appliances all day. Otherwise, you’ll need at least one backup generator to supplement the electricity.
How Can You Join the Firetruck Craze?
Food trucks are an excellent way to enter the QSR industry because it’s generally cheaper to operate a vehicle than an in-person restaurant. Plus, you get the flexibility of choosing what size vehicle you need.
Fire departments nationwide use various vehicles for their jobs that you can repurpose. For example, a smaller operation could acquire a mini pumper because they’re easy to maneuver and cost less than the big red rigs you’re accustomed to seeing. Alternatively, you could get creative with fire rescue trucks, fire safety trailers and more.
What Other Vehicles Are People Repurposing?
Firetrucks are a unique way for entrepreneurs to enter the QSR industry. However, they’re only one part of the unconventional food truck craze in the United States. For example, a burger restaurant in Houston repurposed a yellow school bus to serve savory treats to Space City residents.
There’s hardly a limit to what you’ll see on the road. Restaurant owners use shipping containers, Airstream trailers, ambulances, trolleys and more. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Evolving the Restaurant Industry
Food trucks from Miami to Seattle have become integral to American cuisine. When you’re out late at night, what sounds better than street tacos or a hot pizza from a food truck? You’ll usually order from a conventional food truck — but modern problems require modern solutions. Don’t be surprised if you see a firetruck serving food next time you hit the town.