With five years under its belt and looking to the future, a local husband-and-wife barbecue team is betting on North Georgia’s food truck craze.
Used as a bit of a billboard on Dawsonville Highway for Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue, the Sherry’s Barbecue food truck sits outside the restaurant when it isn’t parked elsewhere serving the people of Hall County.
In an unconventional move, the food truck came after the brick-and-mortar shop, which opened just more than five years ago. From its first day of business, Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue had requests for catering, but owners Terry and Sherry Richards weren’t quite ready for it until about a year ago.
“Since the day we opened, we were being asked to serve 100, 150, 200 people in a catering format, and we really weren’t set up or staffed for it,” said Terry, while sitting at a table wearing a black apron and the smell of barbecue filling his restaurant.
The need was there. The Richards both saw that, and with the growing popularity of food trucks in the state and the need for the business to expand, the Richards put together Sherry’s Barbecue.
“Everybody loves a food truck,” Terry said.
On the food truck — a 24-foot trailer that includes an 8-foot porch with the original 150-pound smoker Terry opened the brick-and-mortar shop with — the menu is much like it is at the shop.
Pork is the most popular option. Ribs and chicken are smoked on the truck, and coleslaw, Brunswick stew and macaroni and cheese sides are also served from the truck.
They’ve taken that menu all over Hall County and don’t feel the need to go much farther. Advertising in cities outside of Hall doesn’t give the “mom-and-pop” restaurant much of a boost in traffic.
“We did some festivals this year, just kind of feeling our way through the food truck culture,”
“We wanted to expand, so having a food trailer was doing that,” Sherry said, fresh from handling a catering order over the phone. “It’s our restaurant on wheels. So we can take it anywhere we want.”
And they can make whatever barbecue they want. Georgia doesn't have a particular style of barbecue like some other states and regions in the U.S., so Sherry’s Barbecue brings in styles from around the country and takes those flavors on the food truck.
Terry said the brisket is Texas-style while the tri-tip is inspired by the West Coast. There are plenty of sauces to choose from, too.
Sherry’s Barbecue got running toward the end of summer 2018 — meaning the couple will stretch their legs this year to see how barbecue-via-truck works in North Georgia. Their busiest event was at Christmas on Green Street where Terry said the truck held its own.
“We banged out a lot of meals, really fast,” he said. “It was one of those things where there was nothing happening until the end of the parade, and we were at the end of the parade where they lit the tree, and hundreds and hundreds of people just descended on the food trucks there.”
Although the three-person operation in the truck was hectic, Terry said it showed him they’re able to do a lot more than he thought. The success of the truck has surprised him, so going into this summer, he’s excited to see the possibilities.
Sherry said they were conservative in their hopes for the food truck, hoping to book just two events each month. But once the food truck was up and running, it ended up being four or five events each month through the fall.
“I think that it’s going to be busier than what we could even imagine,” Sherry said. “I see it being as busy as this restaurant is right now.”
One major thing that took the Richards so long to start up Sherry’s Barbecue was food quality. Terry said he didn’t want to do it if he couldn’t do it well, and whether he could fit a full-sized smoker on a truck for long-haul cooking on the road was an open question.
That’s why he likes doing his catering from the food truck as opposed to cooking in the restaurant for delivery and carryout.
“When people pick up the food and it leaves the restaurant, I've lost control of how it’s served, when it’s served,” Terry said. “I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with that. When we take the trailer, I know when I put it through the window, it’s hot, it’s fresh, it’s not dried out. So we’ve got better control of the end product and the way it’s served when we do it on the trailer.”
Sherry’s Barbecue would like to become a more established food truck over the next few years: showing up consistently in the same location.
Even if that doesn’t happen — which the Richards think it will as food trucks become more common in Gainesville and Hall County — Terry believes Sherry’s Barbecue will be just fine.
“We sense this swell coming,” Terry said. “We don’t quite have our arms around it yet, and I can’t quite predict it, but there’s this sense that it’s swelling. And we’ve only been doing it six months.”