Authentic southern BBQ seems to be a fine segue from the typical coastal fare of Santa Barbara, and the lines at Georgia’s Smokehouse Food Truck prove that customers are willing to stand in line for the finger-licking, comfort food of Owner and Chef, Brian Park’s food truck.
Rolling up to high-density business office parks and well-traveled areas of downtown Santa Barbara, Georgia’s Smokehouse is a 25-foot wafting advertisement, filling a quarter-mile radius with sweet smokiness.
We caught up with Brian on the BBQ Sabbath (Mondays), a day of non-carnivorous rest for the truck, its employees, and his wife Alissa Parks, co-owner, social media guru and customer service manager for Georgia’s.
Have truck, will travel
Brian and Alissa began operating Georgia’s Smokehouse gourmet food truck last March, a risky venture recalls Brian, after stepping away from his executive chef role at Coast Restaurant at the Canary Hotel. The shift from managing hotel foodservice for 2,500 people, to the tight kitchen and southern smokehouse cuisine actually enhances the experience for his customers. Brian, who has family roots in Alabama, blends his sophisticated culinary experience to his southern dishes. House-made smoked sausages, watermelon salads and a coleslaw made with Brussels sprouts and granny smith apples puts a gourmet California twist on southern food fare.
Ninety percent of the food prep occurs offsite in a rented commissary kitchen where pork, chicken and beef are carefully rubbed, rested, smoked and low-temp finished. Briskets get the most attention being prepared in an eight-hour smoking process and additional four-hour low temp oven.
“The first month was about getting exposure and getting the word out and we did a good job of it because we’re busy six to seven days a week with two to three different stops a day,” says Brian who admits he worried about whether a smaller city like Goleta could sustain a food truck.
From high standards and quality food to targeting the right customers with social media updates and great customer service, Georgia’s succeeds.
“We run this just like a brick and mortar restaurant, addressing every customer who comes to the truck and ensuring the quality of the product is always the same,” Brian says.
The truck accommodates two chefs and a cashier, but Alissa multitasks, serving the crowd by prepping long lines of patrons on the menu, running out orders, or simply buying Brian and his crew a little time by talking with the customers during long-ticket times.
“We went into this together, feet first and we both love what we do. But it’s not for the faint of heart,” Brian admits.
Thinking food truck?
They both caution operators who are considering a food truck venture to be prepared for the hours and the hard work. Like the amount of work done behind the scenes and moving food to numerous locations throughout the day.
Brian’s operation demands flexibility. He leans on Jordano’s Foodservice to make his job easier.
“I’ve worked with them for five years and appreciate that I can get second-run deliveries or will call orders. The warehouse is between my kitchen and my house, so I can swing in and grab items as needed. That flexibility makes it so easy to operate a business,” says Brian who also rolls his food truck out to catering events.
Catering, he says, is easier with his food truck. With the equipment all contained on the truck, pulling up to events and immediately being able to execute without renting equipment is far simpler.
With only half a year of mileage on the food truck business, the two are strategizing how they’ll market themselves and keep as busy through the holidays and winter months, but with the tantalizing smell of Georgia’s comfort food, the menu and service may be all they need.
Who is Georgia?
Created as a part of the brand, Georgia is the southern belle fictional character representing the Smokehouse on the food truck and as the voice on their social media. “She started as a figment of our imagination and her character evolved into the personality we put on temporary tattoos for patrons and stickers we give out to customers,” says Brian.
Check out their website www.georgias-smokehouse.com for daily locations and special events. Grab quick updates on Facebook and Twitter (@georgiastruck).