A double-decker bus has been transformed into a state-of-the-art restaurant on wheels after Covid put the brakes on a new diner.
The Volvo coach has been reborn as the Romayo’s Roadster – a fully-fitted foodie venue which took the family-run chain 12 weeks to convert at a cost of €200,000.
“When the pandemic hit, opening up new outlets became very difficult because construction activity was halted,” said Romayo’s operations director, Dario Macari.
“So we thought we would create an American-style drive-in and treat it as a destination so people could escape their homes. It is still a public service vehicle – but in a very different way!”
The roadster, believed to be the largest mobile food operation in Ireland, officially launched on Bank Holiday Monday and is parked off Junction 8 of the N11 near Pluck’s in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.
Expected to create 12 full and part-time jobs, hungry punters will be able to order burgers, pizza and fresh fish and chips from 90% of the regular Romayo’s menu.
And if it takes off, the firm is considering opening a sit-down restaurant in Kilmacanogue – and using the bus to feed crowds at festivals, concerts and major sporting events.
“We were at loggerheads over whether we’d do dining on the bus, or have a bus with a full kitchen with dining outside,” says Dario.
“Covid helped us to make that decision as people eating inside was a no-no under Level 5 restrictions, but the site is fully Covid-compliant and we will have outdoor seating once guidelines allow.
“The idea is pretty simple: if people want to get out of their house and go for a walk in the mountains, they can have lunch or dinner on the way back. The good thing for us is that it’s one of the last food outlets as you come into Dublin from the south.”
The Romayo’s Roadster is fitted with a 21-appliance commercial kitchen, including pizza oven, grill for burgers and kebabs, a full frying range, chicken machine, refrigeration units and sinks, all of which have passed health and safety standards.
It takes its power from a temperature-controlled support truck which houses the water supply, refrigeration and freezers for holding stock.
But the fact that it remains a roadworthy bus rather than a large, open-plan diner came with major challenges and substantial cost, taking 2,000 hours of labour to transform.
Everything was tailor made, using 100% Irish materials.
Customers, when picking up their order at the bus, go to the front door and can either enjoy their meals in a parking bay or drive elsewhere. Deliveries are also accommodated.
The project is the realisation of a business dream for Romayo’s, which operates diners in Dublin, Meath and Offaly.
“We always wanted to have a mobile kitchen in our arsenal, something to put out at festivals, concerts or football games. Now we have it.”
And unlike a regular bus, you can’t miss it as it opens from 12-10pm Monday-Sunday.
Last year, Romayo’s announced the creation of 45 new jobs over 12 months with the opening of three new outlets in Dublin.
Established as Macari’s chip shops in 1959, the company rebranded to Romayo’s in 2012 when it opted to move increasingly towards diner-based eating and adapt to the changing needs of customers.