The Urban Lobster Shack opened its first food truck late last month. We caught up with Susan Austin, owner of the restaurant, to talk about her new business on wheels, the truck design, and the challenges on managing a seafood business.
There are tons of lobster shops in the city. What distinguishes yours?
We were the first ones to come out with the market-price lobster roll and to make it much more accessible to the public. I’m also not a big fan of cold-lobster-meat pieces. When I order a lobster roll, I want a whole lobster. I’ve been cooking all my life, and I like to think of myself as a self-taught chef. And to me, there is a lot of love and care that’s done when we’re making a roll. It should be the best, and it should be accessible. That’s why we have our price point.
You guys are constantly serving lobster rolls. How do you keep the seafood fresh?
We never produce too much. Everything is done in very small batches, and we work really fast. I never have anything left over at the end of the day. And in terms of our fries, we cut our fries as we need them. I believe that every part of the production process needs to be fresh from point A to point B. Nothing should be sitting around. We produce in very small batches.
What’s your advice for someone trying to get into the food-truck business?
There are two key things that every food truck owner should know before getting into it. Number one is the food. I think it’s really important to have a brick-and-mortar place first and really know how to operate a kitchen. Number two is the business side. I happen to have a very good business partner who is my husband. He’s someone who knows the numbers, knows how to do the inventory, knows how to purchase properly, and also has my back.
How did you come up with the design of the truck?
My kids actually designed it. Three of them are under the age of 20. I have two six-year-olds and a 17-year-old. They said, “Mom, you’re a dinosaur.” I got some sketches from people who were known to do food trucks, and my kids said they were not right for our truck. But my son, who is 17, said he’d play with the design on one of his programs. It’s nice to see that they’re passionate about it in different ways. They’re not passionate in the food aspect–they just like to eat at their ages, but in terms of the social media aspect, it’s something they grew up with. I see sometimes even the blasé New Yorkers taking pictures of the truck, and it’s like, my kids made that truck. I’m driving in a truck my kids made.