Growing business on the road
Bryan Byrd started his seasonal “under a tent” restaurant in an Irvington vineyard in 2015. Two years later, with assistance from the University of Mary Washington SBDC and the Northern Neck Planning District Commission (NNPDC), Bryan’s Seafood was on the road in a food truck trailer. “Food has been my passion since I was a teenager,” Chef Bryan says.
In Virginia’s Northern Neck, the restaurant industry is all about seafood. “My vision was to offer ‘fresh out of the water’ oysters along with other local fresh seafood items like soft crabs and fish,” Bryan says. He created his menu with farm-raised oysters from Windmill Point Oyster Company and wild-caught oysters from W.E. Kellum Seafood in Weems. Specialties include fried oyster tacos with sriracha key-lime slaw and soft-crab bites with caper remoulade. “I support the local industry as much as possible by selling fresh local oysters and seafood along with fresh local produce,” Bryan adds.
In early 2016, Bryan received numerous catering requests. “I started with weddings and other venues,” Bryan says. “For each event I would load up my tent, grill, and other equipment. By the end of the year, my business had really grown.”
A mobile food truck made sense for Bryan’s business, but he needed help. “Like so many small business owners, I needed advice and support to realize my dream,” he says.
Bryan contacted Joy Corprew, Director of the University of Mary Washington SBDC in Warsaw. “Ms. Corprew helped me develop a business plan, financial reports, and other information to apply for a nano loan through NNPDC,” Bryan explains. “I was granted the loan to purchase my mobile food truck and other equipment.” Bryan’s Seafood officially became mobile in April 2017. Since then, he has catered weddings and numerous other events and has already made bookings for 2018.
“In May we were voted ‘No. 3 Seafood Restaurant in Eastern Virginia’ by Virginia Living magazine,” he adds. “We’ve been filmed by the Virginia Tourism Department and were featured in the PBS documentary Journey on the Chesapeake. We’ve also been visited by food writers from all over the world.”
“I credit NNPDC and the SBDC for our success,” Bryan concludes. “I’m very grateful for their help.”