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    On Thursday, Grind Burger Kitchen announced that they would be closing and selling Grind, one of Louisville’s most popular food trucks, and instead focusing on growing their booming restaurant business.

    The restaurant opened June 5, 2014 and already boasts a fuller menu than the food truck, online ordering, a beautiful bar and, most recently, a partnership with Great Flood Brewing Co. to create a collaborative beer.

    Grind isn’t the first food truck to open a brick-and-mortar store – ‘Lil Cheezers and Taco Punk both tried before, with limited success. What is it about Grind that’s led it to a level of success that no other Louisville food truck has been able to achieve? Maybe it’s Liz Huot, one half of the husband-and-wife duo that owns the business, and her marketing background. Maybe it’s the custom, locally sourced beef blend and unique menu put together by Jesse, the other half of this dream team. Or maybe it’s in the business strategy.

    You see, the food truck was never the dream for Liz and Jesse, it was a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of owning a restaurant – something between a diner and a dive that could service not only the neighborhood, but visitors from all over the city. The food truck was a relatively safe way for the pair to break into the food business, an industry that they weren’t super familiar with. Liz comes from a marketing and retail background and Jesse was just leaving a few uncertain and tumultuous years at the Courier Journal. Using personal savings and a little help from a Kickstarter campaign, the Huots were able to open a $20,000 food truck business that paid itself off within six months.

    Even this risk was a calculated one. When they began poking around for information on the city’s ordinances concerning food trucks, there just were none. Soon after, ‘Lil Cheezers and Holy Mole´ opened, paving the way for Louisville’s new foodie obsession. Grind was able to go open and begin a legacy that now resides at 331 Preston Highway.

    The transition to brick-and-mortar was a quick one for Grind, coming just two years after the opening of the truck. The pair would have liked to wait another year to begin the next chapter of the business, but the Polar Vortex hit the food truck ‘biz hard, forcing business owners to scramble to survive for five months of inactivity, rather than three.

    “Last winter was a little brutal, so we’re a little scarred.”

    During this time, while planning for how to approach the spring, an opportunity fell into their laps.

    “We were planning on having the truck out for another year and in the meantime looking for [restaurant] space. But we live very close to where our location is now and we were driving by one day and [the for sale sign] was up and we said let’s just see and it was right and the building had a kitchen in it with most of the expensive things for opening a restaurant - vent hoods and grease traps and all those kinds of things were already there because it had been a restaurant before and it just all fell into place at the right time. We did it a little sooner than we wanted to but we were able to do it in a comfortable way.”

     

    The couple asked themselves, “If we have bare bones business, can we survive?” Ultimately, the answer was yes. The overhead was low, the food truck was paid off and the neighborhood was in desperate need of a good restaurant. With the food truck working as a way to bring in loyal customers and advertise for more, they took the leap.

    The restaurant faced its own set of challenges upon opening. Business for a food truck comes in waves of high sales while a restaurant is a slow burn, with customers stopping by throughout the week. It was a challenge to get used to for the new staff and the business owners. As business increased and became more of a steady stream, the challenge of balancing the locally sourced beef and produce became an issue, but quickly resolved itself as everyone got their bearings. Overcoming the challenges, the business has been able to embrace things that were impossible and improbable on the truck.

    Fries were added to the menu, to the delight of many burger fanatics; the kale salad took off in popularity; beer has made an appearance on the menu; and now Grind is brewing its own beer in partnership with Great Flood. To say that the transition has opened doors for Grind is an understatement.

    Grind announced their food truck closure via Facebook and it was well received by fans and followers. Many expressed disappointment over the thought of their around-the-town favorite being no more, but along with their sadness, they expressed excitement and understanding that every business has to take a big step.

     

    In the words of commenter Colby Campbell, “At least we don’t have to chase y’all down all over the place.”


    RIP




     

    Photos courtesy: Grind Burger Kitchen

    Michelle Eigenheer's picture

    About Michelle Eigenheer

    A Louisville transplant beginning to appreciate all the city's small things.

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