Interview with Billy and Zack Bauer, creators of Chicago's first Solar Powered Food Truck
By Austin Downey and Olivia Foster
Marcello’s, a Chicago pizza business that opened it’s doors in 1947 and was the first to offer delivery service in Chicago, is once again at the frontier of innovation. The father and son duo, Billy and Zack Bauer, are the third and fourth generations to be involved in the family business. Marcello’s has multiple restaurant locations throughout Chicago and the North suburbs as well as a pizza wholesale sector. Today, the family is going above and beyond, pushing the bounds of food truck sustainability with a solar powered truck designed by Zack.
The pair’s interest in protecting the environment came from their time spent in the Colorado mountains. Billy studied at Fort Lewis College in Durango and his son is now a rising senior at the school, where he studies sustainable environmental and agricultural practices. Zack has brought his passion for environmental conservation to his family’s business, working with his father to implement more green practices in their restaurants. The food truck was one of the first eco-friendly projects that the business has taken on. In the words of Billy, these new initiatives are a balance of economics, customer satisfaction, and sustainability.
The inverter, converting the energy to be ready-to-use by the lights, conveyor belts, fans, and other electrical appliances in the truck
photo by Olivia Foster
When Marcello’s purchased their first food truck three years ago, making sure the truck was environmentally friendly was a priority. The process of ordering solar panels, an inverter, and batteries was surprisingly simple. Four batteries power the lights, conveyor belts, fans, and the other electrical appliances. With only two hours needed for charging time, the truck can run up to five hours on the four batteries charged completely from solar power. All of the materials needed for the solar power system were purchased in a kit and installed by Billy, Zack, and restaurant employees.
While the pair invested about $3,000 in implementing the solar power system, Zack believes the investment will pay off. So far, they have been able to run the food truck appliances for five hours using their six solar-powered batteries. However, when the truck was entirely powered by the generator, every two hours cost them about $40. A short calculation shows that the upfront cost of the solar power system would match 150 hours of generator use. After this time, the system will be paid off and should prove to be cost effective.
The two are also looking towards the future, looking to invest in other eco-friendly projects. They are planning to purchase other food trucks, this time with electric ovens that could also be powered by the solar panels. They are also interested in composting leftover food in their restaurants and moving towards more recyclable/compostable packaging in their delivery and wholesale businesses. Further into the future, Zack is hoping to start an organic farm from which the restaurants could source their produce. However, today the pair are happy to continue learning from their endeavors and driving their family business into the future.