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Moving from Food Truck to Full-Fledged Restaurant

2 minutes Read


We were recently inspired by the stories of two food stand owners: one in Austin, Texas, who’s moved from a food truck to brick-and-mortar space and another in New York hoping to make the move soon.

In the first of two posts, we talk to Sue Davis of Austin-based Counter Culture about her journey from food truck to full-fledged restaurant.

Sue started her vegan food truck in 2009, kicking things off in the heat of a Texas summer and working alone in her trailer for 9 months. Business was slow at first, but Sue stayed busy handling everything from prep and cleaning to social media.
As Sue built up her business, a few things were in her favor. One, she was thrifty with every purchase she made. She financed her startup with her savings, tapped a few investors, and bought a used trailer (which she eventually passed to another food truck business). Impressively, she started the business for about $25,000.

Building the business

Two, she researched and understood her market. As a vegan herself, she was aware of the demand in Austin and knew that the city lacked options.

Three, she made a huge social media push, getting the word out on Facebook and Twitter and contacting blogs and media with press releases about specials and events. Sue also donated gift certificates to non-profits for their fundraisers and gave food to community radio stations as part of their pledge drives, a strategy also used by CapTap customer Kelly Jordy at Perfextions Tanning.

Finally, Sue worked to build a community around her food truck by reaching out to vegan, animal rights, local food, and organic food communities and encouraging meet-ups at her trailer and restaurant.
The move to her restaurant happened in February 2012, after two and half years of testing the waters in her food truck. She told us it’s a lot of work. “A restaurant is a lot more complicated,” she explained. “You have more people to manage along with building maintenance and various city codes. [But] with a restaurant, you [also] have more storage and more freedom to expand a menu. You can do a lot more with the atmosphere in a building and, of course, weather doesn’t affect you as much.”

Changing spaces

Like other restauranteurs we’ve talked to, Sue emphasized the amount of work and energy that goes into managing a restaurant. “Personally, I work 80 plus hours a week, every week,” she said. “I love it, but there is a lot more to maintain.”

She does, however, encourage food truck owners to get into the restaurant business if it’s right for them. “If [food truck owners] stay in a trailer, that’s great. If they move into a space, that’s great, too. No one model fits everyone.”

In a future post, we’ll speak to the owners of a New York-based taco stand who’ve decided a restaurant is the right move for them. We’ll follow their story soon.