John and Jean Travis had run two successful restaurants, including the former Jonesville Store in Clifton Park, before getting into the food truck business three years ago with the Eat Good Food truck. The transition hasn't always been easy -- a sign on their truck reads: "The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is the joy of owning your own business."
Even so, the experience has the Travises sticking to their core principles of serving fresh food made to order -- while having fun doing so. And along the way they've found success teaming up with other food trucks.
The Eat Good Food truck -- the actual truck itself -- is a 1994 model with 160,000 miles, and has just as rich a history in the food business as the couple behind it. Originally the truck was designed for Dove Ice Cream and is equipped with a huge Dove bar that rises out of the top of the truck. It then became a candy company vehicle, and then a fish fry truck on Cape May in New Jersey. That's where the Travises found the truck when they were inspired to enter the food truck business.
Logistically, working from a truck is a bit different from a restaurant kitchen. Besides the space constraints, there are real equipment limitations. Right now the truck doesn't have a range, so the Travises bring in different pieces to cook. They use the truck's outlets for a panini press, fryer, induction unit, soup pots, or anything else as needed.
While the truck does have refrigeration, the entire thing needs to be cleaned out at the end of every service, since it's not typically connected to power. John just sees that as good practice, since it allows them to inspect every ingredient and properly deal with it -- either trashing it or re-wrapping it for storage.
John Travis has a lot of food philosophies, chief among them that he wants to offer fresh food that's made to order. As he said to me, "Being a pig-headed Scotsman, I'm not going to change."
His dedication to fresh ingredients means that the Eat Good Food menu is constantly changing, based upon what the Travises can find at local farmers' markets and what they can grow in their own garden. Jean joked that she's "not the earth mother, but you have to get back to what's real."
They're also adapting the menus based on events and themes. For example, the menu for a May 4th event was Mexican-themed for Cinco de Mayo, with tacos, burritos and jalapeno cheddar corn bread. All entrées came with a side salad.
If the food doesn't sell, they start fresh for their next service, with a new menu and new components.
The Travises say local guidelines for food trucks, which often restrict where they can operate, don't make the business any easier. "There are no food friendly cities locally," Jean said. They also say that many places or events include high fees for trucks that want to vend.
As a result, Eat Good Food and other trucks have been getting together to make their own opportunities, like the Food Truck Showcase of Upstate New York series. The coalition has already put on one event at the Saratoga Eagles parking lot earlier this month (with more to come). And this Wednesday, May 21 a group of the trucks are getting together for an afternoon/evening event at Shmaltz Brewing Co. in Clifton Park.
Whatever the complications, the Travises say they're enjoying the opportunity to take their business on the road, only accepting gigs that appeal to them. They love the entrepreneurial aspect of running a food truck.
"There's so many directions it can go in: catering, festivals, and lunch business" said John. "You just start small and then go on from there."
And their experiences have prompted them to focus on the positive, making three things a priority: "We want to enjoy where we're going, enjoy the people, and it has to be fun." Jean says "The food tastes better when you're having a good time."
Lauren writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.
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