Pivoting to food truck service, Roz's Diner is going mobile

Like many other restaurants, Roz’s Diner transitioned to takeout service only when COVID-19 hit in March, but it wasn’t to last.


“Partial dining wasn't something we were comfortable with, or was economically feasible,” says Chris Bair, chef and owner of Roz’s Diner. “We lost as much money as we could afford, and now we're trying to balance the bills and come back with a food truck.”


The cozy 27-chair capacity diner, located on the corner of E. Rosebush Road and N. Mission Road in Rosebush, opened in 2015 and is owned and operated by Chris Bair and his wife Megan. Before the restrictions to in-person dining due to COVID-19, Megan ran Roz’s dining room while Chris worked in the restaurant’s kitchen. The diner’s popular menu featured many fresh and locally-sourced ingredients.


“With our kids not going to daycare anymore, I had to stay home and that was a lot on our family with just one of us working all the time. It was difficult for our staff also, working in such an unpredictable setting. We had no idea when the restaurant was going to close and for how long,” says Megan. “People were doing as much as they possibly could to make sure we were able to stick it out. It was wonderful and appreciated, but as much as we tried, it just wasn't working. We kind of had to call it before we couldn't, I think.”


Though not out of business, Roz’s Diner has been closed since Oct. 22. The next day, the couple’s daughter, Margot, was born.


“He's had the dream of a food truck for a long time and it just became more and more feasible to go that route than the restaurant,” says Megan. “As soon as she was born, we were like you know what, I don't want to be in a restaurant 14 hours a day, six days a week — food truck it is.”


With a fully-operational kitchen and no dine-in service, Megan says the addition of the food truck gives them more workspace and that catering may be a great option.


Chris says that they are still working on the configuration of the equipment in the food truck. but that he’d like to have a griddle or a deep fryer.


“It all depends on what we can afford to put in there, and what we can support from the existing restaurant too,” says Chris. “Some of it can be prepared at the restaurant, loaded into the food truck, and then be the special of the day maybe.”


Days after returning home from the hospital after Margot’s birth, Chris made the trip to pick up the box truck.


“Operating a full-size restaurant isn't really an option these days,” says Chris. “I watched all the different business models throughout the past year and people with fast food and drive-thru windows seemed to be doing pretty good. Food truck sales appeared to be up all summer because of outdoor dining.”


The 1995 Chevrolet Grumman was donated to the couple by a friend to use for their business.


“He had a box truck that he had planned to use for his plumbing business, and wasn't, so that was his way of helping us to keep the Roz’s dream alive,” says Megan. “It’s amazing because it's a perfectly good truck, it runs, and we wouldn't be even halfway to our goal if we didn’t have the truck already.”


Megan says they set up a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000 to help with costs such as equipment, labor, and inventory for startup.


“With the diner’s sudden shut down we really had to put everything we had towards keeping those people paid,” says Megan. “So the idea for the fundraiser was for all of that to go directly to the food truck.”


Those that are interested in contributing to the project may make a donation by mailing a check to P.O. Box 41, Rosebush, MI, or online via PayPal to rozsdiner@gmail.com.


The couple hopes that the mobile version of Roz’s Diner will be ready for business by the spring.


“We’re hoping to grow out a catering menu this summer to go along with the food truck and keep the restaurant as a state-licensed kitchen,” says Chris. “We don't know exactly what the future holds. Maybe we'll do the food truck and some catering, finish out our expansion and reopen the restaurant, but it all depends on if we can pay the bills.”


“It may have to start as cold sandwiches, and that's it,” says Megan. “It really depends on the equipment and the time that is able to go into it until we really get going — just like the diner was.”

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Read more articles by Liz Fredendall.

Liz Fredendall is a photojournalist and communications professional with experience working with nonprofits. In addition to her work with Epicenter, Liz manages communications for the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, runs her own photography business, and writes for several publications. During her free time, Liz enjoys reading and exploring with her husband Erick and their Corgi, Nori. Contact editor@epicentermtpleasant.com or follow her on social media @lizfredendallphoto.