Editor’s Note: Ever dream of being your own boss? One man made that dream come true — but at a price. See how he does it, and follow him on the crazy road to opening his own restaurant on HLN’s American Journey, hosted by Ty Pennington, on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
One popular place for lunch in Atlanta, Georgia, these days isn’t really a place. Sometimes it’s a parking lot. MIX’d Up food truck is a big hit with the locals. That’s a relief to owner Brett Eanes, who sometimes works seven days a week to keep his business running. The hard work has paid off. MIX’d Up is so popular Brett decided to turn the formula on its head and open up a brick and mortar restaurant, too. We asked Brett what it takes to be your own boss.
HLN: Why did you want to get into the food truck business?
Brett Eanes: The fun pace, the different cuisine…
HLN: Did you have any experience in the restaurant business before this venture?
BE: Oh yeah, 15 plus years… I am a fully trained chef.
HLN: What goes into an operation such as starting a food truck business?
BE: The truck is roughly around $100,000 plus. And then you’ve got labor on the bus, depending on where you go. Then you have to have a commissary kitchen, a professional-grade kitchen, a commercial kitchen of some sort that you have to either lease [or buy to prep your food] so that’s another $100,000 right there.
HLN: Were there any surprises, like things you didn’t even think about before you started a food truck?
BE: Oh yeah, I mean there’s a lot of surprises. It’s how to pack the truck for success and how to prep for it. And how to keep products fresh and coming in without running out or going old. So there’s a lot to learn. One, the rotation of products, the licensing and figuring out how the city works with us. And figuring out how to drive this thing.
HLN: What are your hours like?
BE: We start really early in the morning. If we’re doing a double shift, it starts around 7 a.m. and we’re done probably, I’m back at home around midnight. And that generally is six to seven days a week during our peak season.
HLN: Do you have any time to spend with your family or sleep or anything?
BE: No. To be honest, no. I didn’t see my family for a year. I see my wife, yeah. Our quality time is early in the morning for about 20 minutes. Or late at night when I get home. That’s our dinner time. We don’t watch TV, we actually spend time together.
HLN: How long ago did you start the food truck?
BE: A year and a half ago.
HLN: What’s on the menu?
BE: Gourmet burgers — we really made our name with our lamb burger. We call it The Rockin’ Hero Bite.
HLN: Tell me about the restaurant. What led you to decide to open a restaurant?
BE: Because people always ask, “Where can I get your food? Because your truck is so hard to find.” Because we’re pulled in a million directions. So, when this spot came open it was a drive-thru. So I thought this is perfect. We’ve always driven to the customers, now the customers can drive to us.
HLN: How’s business going so far?
BE: Great. Every day beats the day before. It’s a lot different with a restaurant because you depend on those people to come to you, whereas [with the food truck] we go to the customer and it’s a captive audience. So it’s easier to get the flavor out, the word out, how our food is, when you go to that captive audience. When you have the restaurant, people that know about the food truck come, but the new people, once they have it, they tell others. So it’s a different kind of progression.
HLN: If you get successful enough with the restaurant, will you stop with the food truck or do you think you will always be doing that?
BE: Oh no, the food truck’s always going to stay around … I couldn’t see life without the food truck. It’s too much fun.
HLN: And for anybody out there reading this article and they’re at home and say maybe they want to do this, what would you say to them?
BE: Know what you’re doing. Got to be able to think on your feet. And you’ve got to be able to handle intense volume in a very small space. And your food has to be spot-on, because you only have one chance.