At festivals and special events throughout Indianapolis, the owners of Brozinni Pizzeria has started arriving in a rolling pizza-serving fortress.
The 28-feet-long custom truck features a flashy graphics job with noted New York landmarks — the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Wall Street.
Two double conveyor pizza ovens make sure that a constant stream of pizza is ready for waiting customers.
“It’s more like a mobile kitchen than a food truck,” owner James Cross said.
Brozinni’s owners have realized food trucks have become a way for restauranteurs to take their creations to the masses.
Some have become extensions of existing restaurants. Others provide the freedom of going where the people are, instead of waiting for them to come to you.
The cost of buying and outfitting a truck is worth it in order to sell to customers that you otherwise wouldn’t reach.
“With a food truck, there is more control,” said Jennie Reinacker, owner of the Kitchen Little food truck. “At this point in our lives, we don’t want to work 70 hours a week. And with the food truck, you don’t have.”
Over the past five years, food trucks and other food vendors have grown into a $650 million business. More than 30,000 trucks and street vendors are registered in the U.S., and a report by financial company Intuit projects food truck sales will grow to as much as $2.7 billion by 2017.
In central Indiana, people can find food trucks specializing in Caribbean jerk chicken, vegan Indian aloo gobi and Cajun crawfish étouffée.
Reinacker and her husband, George, have seen both the mobile and fixed sides of the restaurant business.
The couple owned the Courthouse Saloon in downtown Franklin until 2006.
They were getting older and wanted to spent their winters in Florida, which they couldn’t do with a restaurant.
“We couldn’t do it all, and we couldn’t find anybody who cared about the place as much as we did,” Jennie Reinacker said.
But after being out of the food service industry for seven years, they realized they missed cooking, interacting with other people and being out in the community.
Discussing their options, the Reinackers toyed around with the idea of a truck or trailer they could take to events such as Friday nights at the Franklin Elks Lodge and Greenwood’s Touch-A-Truck.
They found a truck that had the stove, sink, freezer storage for food and other features required by health code regulations.
Now, they serve everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to their signature mahi sandwich at community events.
“We both love to cook, and we love people,” Jennie Reinacker said. “At some functions, people want hot dogs and hamburgers, and some people want something more. We just consider the function.”
But established restaurants are also finding a food truck is a good way to get out in the community and spread their name.
Mrs. Curl has been a Greenwood staple for more than 40 years, selling ice cream, chili dogs and other treats during the summer months. But this year, they’ve added a mobile unit to sell cones.
The Mini Curl is a 1959 Mr. Softee truck that has been repurposed to sell the store’s own ice cream out of. Employees can take the truck to special events.
The truck had formerly been used by Brozinni’s as an advertising tool. But Cross wanted a larger truck they could make and sell pizza from.
As Cross saw the popularity of food trucks across the country, he thought a pizza-place-on-wheels would be a boost for the restaurant’s sales.
“We don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, because it’s tough to find what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “But a food truck works because we can prepare the product, taste it and see it.”
Taking an old delivery truck, he worked with Jezroc Metalworks to have it completely redone inside.
A 15,000-watt diesel-powered generator runs off of the truck’s fuel supply to provide power. The ovens run off of a separate propane tank.
Plumbing and electrical systems were installed and passed rigorous inspection by health boards. Stainless steel counters, floor plating and preparation tables meet the requirements for a commercial kitchen.
Racks allow them to get pizzas ready to bake, as well as keep finished pizzas ready to be warmed up once someone orders. The two conveyor belt, 500-degree ovens let them cook a pie in five minutes.
“It’s built for speed,” Cross said. “Once you place your order, we can get you your pizza in two minutes or less.”
The food truck has been featured at everything from food truck festivals in downtown Indianapolis to special concerts at Mallow Run Winery to pulling up to office buildings for lunchtime.
The truck is all-weather, so they can take it out to Indianapolis Colts tailgate events, Christmas activies and other cold-weather activities.
“It drives business in for sure. A lot of people who didn’t know about us now know about us,” Cross said. “It really is rolling advertising.”