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Daily Inspiration: Meet Roberto Huff & Tootie Byrd.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Roberto Huff & Tootie Byrd.

Hi Roberto & Tootie, please kick things off for us with an introduction of yourselves and your story.
Roberto grew up on the southside of Atlanta, in the late ’70s & ’80s, his dad’s good friend Mr. Mel Couch opened Mel’s Hoagies. They would frequent the restaurant and his favorite Hoagie was Mel’s Mamma Jamma. In the late ’80s, his dad worked in Philly and he would take him back and forth with him, and of course, they would eat at many of the Hoagies spots in south Philly in German Town. All of those great memories and special moments with his dad stuck with him all his life. Fast forward to the late ’90s, specifically 1996, The Hoagie Shack was born. The Hoagie Shack was opened near Greenbriar Flea Market down from Eddie’s Gold Teeth in Atlanta. One particular story that sticks with him is his nephew would come into the restaurant and he would always ask for this particular wing sauce mix, our homemade hot wings sauce with Lemon Pepper, calling it South Central and from that point, it was a staple flavor on the menu. Everyone came in to order a Big Poppa Steak Hoagie or The SWAT Chicken Hoagie with the South-Central Wings. Today the wing flava is called Hot with Lemon Pepper Sprinkles. Another favorite memory he had, Snoop Dogg came into the restaurant to eat and he also autographed a menu that Roberto has till this day. The Hoagie Shack remained open until 2001.

In 2009, Roberto wanted to start a food truck. Unfortunately, he was arrested for trafficking marijuana and  went to federal prison in 2011 on a 5-year sentence. While in prison, he watched the food truck industry take off. He had a good idea but the path he took to get there wasn’t the best decision.

Fast Forward to 2017, Roberto’s fiancé (Tootie Byrd) had a conversation about his dreams and he wanted to re-open The Hoagie Shack. Tootie was nothing but supportive, along with some great friends and family who also believed in their vision, The Hoagie Shack was re-imagined in the Summer of 2017 with 3 tents, flat top grill, smoker and fryer. The smoker added another element of BBQ & Soul to the already existing Hoagie Shack menu. They worked the street corners of Atlanta for about 1.5 years until those same supportive friends & family decided to help them grow the business. In the fall of 2018, The Hoagie Shack Food Truck & Catering (Sammiches. Soul. Que) was opened. They built a big smoker on the trailer porch of their 27ft trailer.

Partner Tootie Byrd, has brought a wealth of experience & knowledge with her from working years in corporate America. She graduated from the University of Georgia. She worked with her grandmother who had a food trailer, called Rosa’s Concessions in the mid to late 1990s in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward.  She also worked in the family’s Restaurant called Rosa’s Soul Food in the late 1990s to early 2000s, in Atlanta near Grant Park. This inspired them to expand The Hoagie Shack’s menu, adding the Soul food options.

As a small family-owned – business they strive to create a balance with their personal & professional lives. Fortunately, they work extremely well together. One, two punch. Tootie handles all the bookings, social media, creativity, menu creations, all the back-end business along with cooking all the sides & desserts. Roberto handles crafty seasonings, cooking and smoking all the meats. Roberto manages the upkeep of the trailer, maintenance upkeep on the trailer and the truck, bulk shopping, and maintaining inventory and stock. They compliment each other and they understand the assignment and do not have a problem checking each other if one person starts to stray from their mutual business goals.

To date, they have been blessed to work with and meet some amazing people. They have been extremely proud of the many projects they have worked on, to highlight a few below
• 2019 Democratic National Debate at Tyler Perry Studios – New York NBC News
• Featured twice on Fox 5 News Good Day Atlanta’s Food Truck Friday, we are their Fan Fav
• Link attached https://www.fox5atlanta.com/video/1077521
• Tyler Perry Studios Dream Team Celebration

• Being booked at Tyler Perry Studios for over nine months in the Bubble, living on campus and feeding thousands of people from around the world.

Currently, they are still going, grinding, glowing up! Expanding the business to include several Brands of products, including bottled & packaged seasonings called DOPE Flava’s, Lemonade Brand called Thirst Trap Beverage Company (Berry Thirsty, Skrawberry, Main Squeeze and our Dessert jars called Jarfuls ( Glam Ma Nana Puddn & Georgia Peach Cobbler).

Their journey has not been without a lot of learning lessons, trials and errors, ups & downs. Being a small business owner is super challenging, especially when you don’t have a continued support system in place, like money, credit and mentor. They have always found a way to push through and keep going. They are grateful for it all; without the challenges, struggles, and lessons learned they wouldn’t really understand the phrase  “triumph over everything”.

Their next goal is to find a small building to expand their service area. Brand expansion will include their bottled BBQ & Hot Sauces and more seasonings. For now, they will continue to feed the world one Hoagie, Sammich, Soul & Que at a time!!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been a bumpy ride & smooth sailing at times. You are never prepared for all of the issues that pop up creating a pattern of spending more money than you make. Advice, from the jump, create a what-if shit happens fund!!

Struggles:

Money,Credit, lack of restaurant & food mentors

How to market your business to the masses
Lack of restaurant business support;  there aren’t many resources that can prepare you for the food truck world, especially when we started) Now there are several support groups on social media
Trailer Mechanical Breakdowns (generator, freezer, oven, warmers)
Trailer Other Breakdowns (tires, ac unit)
Truck – new tires, maintenance
Paying all the insurances

Payroll

Finding dependable employees

Getting Permits
Paying Vendor event fees
Paying Permit Fees
Paying Taxes
Paying Employees
CPA Fees
Uniforms
Inflation

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Tootie Byrd Partner – The Hoagie Shack Food Truck & Catering

Manage the back – end of the house
Creative

Creating Brands

Cook all the sides & desserts

Manage & Handle social media
Do all the bookings
Left Corporate America in 2020 to focus full-time on the business

Roberto Huff – Partner – The Hoagie Shack Food Truck & Catering
Head Chef
Mr. Go Live on Social Media
Creates all the craft small batch Seasonings and Sauces

Go out and grow the business in the community

All the networking

Does all the major bulk shopping
Manages & maintains all vehicles & trailer
Manages the upkeep of the trailer and truck
Roberto had several small businesses (Restaurant & Construction)  before focusing on re-opening & growing The Hoagie Shack LLC

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Advice – make sure you have a great support team, more money, manage your expectations, get a mentor and get your certifications

Wish we knew – to have a plan to only be in the food truck for a year, then find a building in order to make more money in order to pay off debts faster and bring on a mentor.

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @hoagieshackatl
  • Facebook: The Hoagie Shack
  • Twitter: The Hoagie Shack
  • Google: The Hoagie Shack

 

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