On a clear and sunny Wednesday, an unassuming Advanced Auto Parts parking lot in Bloomington would become home to the hottest new restaurant on four wheels. As the crowd starts to gather, the bright red, two-story bus that they’re all here for turns the corner into the parking lot, parks, rolls out the generator and begins prepping for lunch service.
The Bustaurant is Steffan Block’s latest creation. This jolly old English double-decker bus is one part kitchen with imaginative food truck menu items down below and one part scenic dining up above. And you’ll quickly notice that Steffan, who has been in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years, still hasn’t lost his passion for delivering the best possible customer service, while retaining his sense of humor along the long and winding road. His menu changes like its location, and it’s safe to say that you’ll want to try it all.
Insider Tip: If you haven’t been, make sure your camera phone is charged… you’ll need it!
Amazingly great food and a fun atmosphere aside, the real reason PEN went to visit The Bustaurant was to learn more about the Bristol born and Bloomington bred owner. We also wanted to know how restarting his engines on a new business is rolling along, and if he had any tidbits of wisdom he could serve up to aspiring entrepreneurs.
What has the transition from Two Blokes and a Bus to the new concept The Bustaurant been like?
It’s been a little different, we were very lucky with the Two Blokes concept. It was the first food truck of its kind and the first in Central Illinois, so business was fantastic. And then as business partners we struggled and went our different ways. The business closed down shortly after I left.
Now, I’m doing what I can to get the word back out. A year of no bus in town, and people thought it was over. I’ve rebranded a new bus with a new name. I must admit, there’s some confusion out there, but I’m just excited to be back on the streets of Bloomington-Normal.
On the positive side, I’ve made several improvements in the business, on the bus, and am excited for the season to begin.
How has being one of the only food trucks in the area helped or hurt business?
Having a double-decker bus that guests can sit down and dine in on the upper-deck is something very special. It was marvelous being the first food truck operator in the area. I feel proud to see all the other businesses start up with their own concepts. Food trucks and pop-up restaurants in the community were able to learn from our lead.
Today, there’s quite a competition out there, but that’s better for the consumer, giving them better selection and choices. It’s also great for Bloomington-Normal to have a small food truck group, which not every town has.
What are some of the day-to-day challenges that you face as a food truck owner that people may not understand from the outside looking in?
Its a labor of love for sure. There’s certainly no down time! EVER! Even on days we are not out there, we still do shopping, food prepping, vehicle maintenance, etc… It’s a 24/7 kind of job.
I’ve had the privilege to run some of the finest restaurant establishments in town. This job is by far the hardest, but by far the most rewarding. There are so many other challenges, with the weather being one of the biggest factors and making sure the vehicle is in tip-top shape … No truck, no sales.
Do you have a daily routine or process that you go through in order to get ready for opening each day?
I wouldn’t be here without my team. It’s like putting on two catering events a day on each day when we’re out for service. You have to guess how many people you may serve—it’s never guaranteed. Checklists are our best friends. Organization is huge, so forget one thing and you’re in trouble. Routines and a great team are a must to win!
The best part is the joy and satisfaction of providing an impeccable service, and people raving about the food and the dining experience on a bus. The worst part, getting gutted if there is a breakdown or the weather is horrible so you can’t go out on service.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to start a food truck?
I wish everyone starting a new business all the success in the world—it’s not easy. Make sure you have a strong cash flow, as it’s tough to make any money up front. The general operating costs, plus sales and employment taxes can cripple a business up front.
For new customers trying you out for the very first time, what do you recommend they order?
They are spoiled for choice! The pleasure of a food truck like The Bustaurant, is that we only make five to six main entrees, so we make them all as best we can. There’s a lot of love put into each dish. They’re all made from scratch items, and we are very diverse in what we offer.
Don’t be afraid to try something you wouldn’t normally try, we offer a money-back guarantee on each one.
What are the best ways to find where The Bustaurant will be next?
Visit The Bustaurant on Facebook, check out Instragram for food pics, and search Yelp for reviews. Or you can call me anytime and I shall let you know personally!