This is part two of our interview with Brad and Kat Moore, the owners of Short Leash Hot Dogs and the soon-to-open brick and mortar restaurant, Sit...Stay, named after their weekly Friday night dinner events. If you missed part one, you can read it here.
"Our dogs are our kids," says Kat.
It's a sentiment that many pet owners can relate to, obviously, since she currently has enough customer-submitted dog photos for a year's worth of weekly specials. They had to take down the sign inviting customers to send in their photos because she feels so badly about the long wait.
The idea of naming their weekly specials after their customers' dogs was Kat's -- and one that Brad fought her on, she adds. It was also her idea (inspired by the local health-focused eatery, Luci's) to have a clean, well-thought-out aesthetic to everything they do -- little details like plating their hot dogs with a Dum Dum and offering unique, adorably bottled sodas or making their truck super-approachable. Kat describes it as a food truck your grandmother would be willing to eat off of.
She wasn't so excited about the idea three years ago on a lazy Sunday morning when Brad first suggested they start a food truck, but after watching a show about the fast-growing concept and seeing how unlike a roach coach food trucks can be, was convinced. The couple had recently gone through difficult losses and were facing tough times personally, but looking back, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. They caught the food truck craze in early 2010 and seen the trend blossom into a citywide movement.
For a few months, it was a two-man show and it wasn't until their first Willo Home Tour that they realized they needed help.
"We were in the weeds the entire time," laughs Kat, remembering the event, which draws hundreds of Valley residents to the historic home district one weekend each year.
Since then, they've acquired a crew that's as fun loving as their leaders. It's the magic mix of good but simple food, great service, and smart marketing that's seemed to always keep Short Leash a half-step ahead of the mobile food game. But that doesn't mean it's been easy. The couple will tell you they've been "grinding it out" for the past three years and during the summers, business wasn't great.
Do they feel burned out? If you ask, they're quick to say, no. They both insist they love their customers, their co-workers, and the business so much that it hardly feels like work.
"The joys still there -- that's the important part," Brad says.
And they aren't afraid to share the knowledge and information they've gained while doing what they love. Brad is the chairman of the Phoenix Street Food coalition, which helps increase awareness of food trucks in Phoenix and acts as a sort of food-truck owner support group. They're an open book about everything they know, even happy to share information with trucks that can't be a part of the group since trucks must meet certain criteria to join.
As for the Phoenix food truck scene, they acknowledge that Phoenix will probably never have what Los Angeles does (there's just not enough population density, says Brad) and that Phoenix is too different from cities like Portland, but both have total faith in the future of our growing street food industry.
"It's here to stay," Brad says.
Favorite thing about the Phoenix food truck scene: The collaborative element. Everyone here is willing to work with each other and it's something that we continually try to foster within the coalition.
Moment when you knew Short Leash Hot Dogs was a success: Can you ask me that question when the restaurant has been open for a few months?
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?): Peanut Butter on our Aiko combination. Yes! And it is quite delicious. It tastes like a spicy PB&J.
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Culinary-wise, Phoenix has the best: Local owned restaurants. I think Central Phoenix has a great concentration of talent and so many great restaurants.
How do you avoid burning out: I think when you truly enjoy what you are doing and who you are doing it with it is difficult to get burned out. You get tired physically and mentally but never burnt out.
Where do you see yourselves (or want to see yourselves) in five years: We are having a blast right now and we are so focused on getting the restaurant open and streamlining the operations of the food truck, that its hard to say. I could see us continuing with the growth of Short Leash, but I could also see ourselves trying something new and rolling out a new concept. Only time will tell.