Tru Thai: A Restaurant Model for Rural America

I recommend reading my visit to Tru Thai before reading the following article.


After visiting Tru Thai, all I could keep thinking was “Why doesn't Tillman County have one of these?”. The concept was simple. Fresh food. Local ingredients. One night a week. The infrastructure was literally a barn and a mobile food truck that could roam freely the other six nights of the week if it chose to. There were a hundred barns in Southwest Oklahoma, half of them were unused. There were also dozens of start up food businesses who wanted to pursue a restaurant dream but didn't want a full-time commitment. Here lay a perfect solution.



If nothing else, Tru Thai was a place for locals to go every Thursday and relax with their community. It was food and music; the foundation for every event or opportunity. The food was made fresh by a local chef and the music was anyone willing to entertain.


Being opened one night a week was brilliant. It created a demand yet it made for easy staffing and scheduling. The food ordering was lite enough to rely on local producers but important enough to impact the local economy. Tony told us that on nights like tonight he probably served about fifty to one hundred people. It was the off-season and so that meant less plates but more local mingling. He also told us that during the height of the tourism season it was not uncommon for his restaurant to serve 300 plates per night. His business model worked. It gave him enough flexibility to spend time with his family but it was significant enough to occupy his time and give his life meaning.


Like any weekly event, it would take time to establish a restaurant like this, but with consistency it could be a local tradition that keeps the community together. Once again, Kangaroo Island shows rural communities that attractions don't have to be huge and fancy to make an impact. People are pleased with authenticity and originality and places like these are the perfect example of working with what you already have. If you build it, they will come, right