Get your eats from the streets: Ireland’s food truck revolution

Jamie Mc Carron

Earlier in 2021 it was reported by the Dublin Inquirer that over 400 businesses were waiting on trading licenses to sell their wares on Dublin’s streets and seafronts.

Some of these vendors have been waiting five years and counting for a spot on the city’s cobbles, and many of them are foodtrucks.

Like a lot of trends, the food truck craze has been a bit delayed reaching Ireland’s shores but it’s certainly made a big impression.

It makes sense for restaurateurs to try to avoid the astronomical rent that comes with starting an eatery in the city but food trucks aren’t just a fad on a few touristy streets in Dublin.

For Seány Mc Cleary and his partner Nikita, a Chinese takeaway was the most exotic food available during their childhoods in County Monaghan.

After emigrating in 2012 they spent six years travelling the world, often working in hospitality.

“We saw the great street food culture in South East Asia where it’s almost like a cultural thing for the community and families will sit out on the curb every evening eating together from all the stalls. And Melbourne and Auckland, where we lived for a while, also have a very vibrant food scene that was really inspiring,” Seány said.

Perhaps the duo’s biggest inspiration was their travels in South America; upon returning home they set up their own food truck from a renovated horse trailer and started selling tacos at local events and private parties.

They launched ‘Blasta Street Kitchen’ and their social media presence and diehard fans (calling themselves ‘Blastafarians’) mean that Seány has towed the green and white food truck as far as Kilkenny, Galway and Cork for events.

Seány puts the increase in food trucks down to two factors.

“Since 2017 loads of people like my fiancé and I have started returning to Ireland from abroad and seen how popular street food is across the world. And then the Covid impact has been huge too, it’s a quick and simple investment to make. It doesn’t take long to set up a truck if you’ve got some business sense and you’re selling a good product. It can take revenue in quite fast.”

They also own Streatschool, a company which workshops with aspiring truck owners to develop their menu, packaging and help establish a supply chain.

Since starting Streatschool in 2019, it has helped to lauch over 40 businesses across Ireland and the UK and will source a trailer with their customer’s branding on it.

One of the best things about food trucks is how visually striking most of them are designed.

‘Retro Food Trucks’ specialises in sourcing vehicles for people getting into the business, ranging from classic Volkswagen vans and vintage caravans to aluminium 1950s American style airstream trucks.

Starting in 2011 they began restoring Volkswagens and renting them to tourists on roadtrips before they began catering in 2017 and continue to operate from a workshop in Garristown in County Dublin.

Jenny from Retro Food Trucks highlighted some of their big projects to date.

“One of most notable pieces of work is in the new ESB offices in Fitzwilliam Street. We restored a 1960s Splitscreen van with the original 1960s ESB colours and displayed it in the foyer of their new headquarters.”

“We also do alot of work with advertising & brand agencies also in Dublin along with our individual customers who are either complimenting their existing business or starting a new business,” she revealed.

The company has seen a rise in sales and orders in the past two years, which they believe is due to Covid.

One of their current projects is for a gin company in Portugal, although it’s easy to see their work closer to home.

My nearest foodtruck is a black and neon-outlined setup by Retro Food Trucks that somehow doesn’t look out of place parked opposite a Tesco in Artane.

Retro Eats specialises in great burgers, buttermilk chicken and milkshakes although I don’t have enough clout yet to get a free sample.

Food trucks have grown so popular that even DCU students are getting in on the action.

Oran Ó Caolán is a third year Economics, Politics and Law student who has begun launching a truck named Bó Bainne that will sell cookie trays, crepes, hot chocolates, coffee and, once the weather is less Baltic, ice cream.

Keep an eye out for it around South Dublin in the next few months.

Glasnevin campus even had its own foodtruck at the start of the semester. But if you’re feeling a little more adventurous than goujons and chips washed down with a can of cider then at least you know about the wide variety of other options!

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: Jamie Mc Carron