Baltic Food Trucks – the new mobile culinary movement in Lithuania.

The Pizzaland Food Truck on the marketplace of a Lithuanian city

Gediminas Petrikas is a food truck operator in Lithuania. He has mastered the path from a mere idea to a whole fleet of food trucks.

The longest pizza oven in Lithuania.

A city in Lithuania at lunchtime: Passers-by stroll through the streets and enjoy the sunshine of the long-awaited summer. Suddenly, a chocolate brown vehicle over nine meters long curves around the corner. A few moments later, the seductive aroma of pizza is in the air. This is "Pizzaland", a food truck belonging to the Lithuanian company Baltic Food Trucks. This truck was the first major project of the founder Gediminas Petrikas, who now wants to specialize in the conversion of all kinds of food trucks.

Customers stand in front of the counter of the food truck and order pizza

One part of the truck serves customers, while the other part is used for baking.

The right idea at the right time.

Originally, it was Gediminas’ parents who wanted to build a mobile business as an additional source of income and asked their son for support. Gediminas recognized early on the rising food truck trend initiated by the American chef Josh Henderson with his Airstream caravan "Skillet Street Food". From his time at university in Denmark, he also knew the taste of good pizza, something many of his compatriots could not claim: "The majority of people in Lithuania think that pizza needs to be eaten with tons of ketchup and garlic mayonnaise in order to taste good," says Gediminas. After a pizza baker friend in Copenhagen had shown him how to make authentic Italian pizzas, Gediminas had a business idea: A pizza food truck in Lithuania.

The Pizzaland Food Truck selling pizza on a sunny day

With his food truck Gediminas wanted to show how good pizza really tastes.

A crisis is not always a bad thing.

First, he bought an old cheese truck from Denmark and upgraded it. Then he put the project on hold because his parents had different ideas about a mobile business. In 2008 following the financial crisis, this cost him his original job, in a construction company in Denmark. Unemployed, as Gediminas was he went back to his parents' backyard where the food truck was still parked and took the project into his own hands. With success: Within a short time his pizza truck had become so well-known that he later switched to a Mercedes-Benz Vario 810 DT, which he and his team used until recently.

The truck is the most important tool in this business.

Only the best for the truck.

The van, which he found in Hanover, was already used at weekly markets as a mobile sales stand for poultry and other types of meat. However, the vehicle was not in very good condition when it was purchased, which is why Gediminas completely rebuilt it. And here he spared neither time nor money: For example, he had the subfloor overhauled in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. The paint was applied 350 kilometers further away, in another city.

Gediminas wanted to let the respective experts to do the various tasks on the vehicle. "The truck is the most important tool in this business. It is therefore of paramount importance to find reliable partners for its conversion." He chose the truck because of the easy to maintain 4.2 diesel engine and the well-known "unbreakable" chassis.

A view of the sales counter from inside

Yesterday a pizza chef, today a food truck outfitter.

The prize-worthy food truck.

All this effort was rewarded: Pizzaland prevailed over 141 other food trucks at the European Street Food Festival and finally won the European Food Truck Award. Gediminas believes that his truck was able to impress with a good mixture of functionality and chic design. In the interior, he had used only ceramic tiles, oak wood and natural stone. The sheer length of the vehicle offers space for seven employees who can produce up to 1,000 pizzas in a twelve-hour shift with the aid of four ovens.

The Pizzaland team in front of the food truck

Gediminas and his team are the proud winners of the European Food Truck Award.

Mass production with love.

These quantities can almost be measured with industrial production. The decisive difference, however, is that Gediminas’ team produces every single pizza lovingly by hand and without artificial additives. "We want to offer a product at restaurant level at a fair price," was the Lithuanian's promise. And that impresses the customers. One food truck has grown into a small fleet of food trucks, which he bundles under the label "Baltic Food Trucks". And Gediminas even owns restaurants these days.

Food trucks are ideal for trying things out.

Food Trucks are more present in Europe than ever before. But what are the reasons for the hype? Gediminas sees advantages for everyone involved: "Prospective entrepreneurs and talented chefs have the opportunity to let off steam creatively for a comparatively small budget and test the success of their products directly on the customer before they perhaps open a stationary restaurant. In addition, you travel around a lot, which makes the work varied.

Passers-by can discover different, sometimes exotic delicacies every day while outdoors. Gediminas therefore finds the lively development of the food truck culture very exciting, which is why he wants even fewer regulations for street food in Europe.

The food truck at a busy festival

Food trucks bring joy to cooks and visitors.

Back to the roots.

Now Gediminas has sold his pizza business including restaurants and he also wants to give away the award-winning truck. Why is that? He now wants to specialize in the conversion of food trucks. To a certain extent, he is thus moving back a bit from gastronomy to his original profession as a building contractor. His goal is to offer particularly exclusive and individual conversion solutions for prospective food truck entrepreneurs. And if you want to become one yourself, Gediminas has five valuable first-hand tips for you.

Gediminas Petrikas tips for a sucessful food truck business:

  1. A food truck is hard work! This is often not mentioned. But before you open a food truck business, you should know that it involves hard work.
  2. Small or big business? Where will the truck be used? Is it at festivals where thousands of visitors stroll by every day? Or tranquil places where at most a few hundred customers are to be expected? The size of the truck determines the number of customers that can be served. You should be aware of this at the time of purchase.
  3. What kind of kitchen would you like? What you should also consider in advance is what food you want to offer. Depending on whether you want to prepare Italian pizza or Asian wok vegetables, different kitchen equipment is required.
  4. The menu - brevity is the spice! With regard to the menu, it is easier for both cooks and customers if you limit yourself to a handful of tasty and freshly prepared dishes.
  5. Food Truck First: Your food truck is your workplace, your motorhome, possibly your home and much more. Maintenance and care should definitely not be sacrificed here!
The food truck is parked in front of a classical building

Gediminas wants to convert many more food trucks like these in the future.

The rear part of the open Pizzaland Food Truck

Working in a well-maintained and reliable truck is fun.

View into the driver's cab of the Mercedes-Benz Vario 810 DT

A raised seating position in the cockpit of the Vario 810 DT ensures that everything is always in view.

A view of the four ovens inside the food truck

With four ovens, pizzas can be baked like on an assembly line.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Rytis Šeškaitis, Gediminas Petrikas

More Links to explore: European Street Food Award, Baltic Food Truck @ Facebook

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