The Business News
June 17, 2014
For Jay and Kelly Barnes, their restaurant is more than a business. It’s a commitment to community.
The Kaukauna couple own and operate Kangaroostaurant Cookery on Wheels and Kangaroost, a restaurant at 313 Dodge St., Kaukauna. They look for the best ingredients for their ever-changing menu, buy from local growers and businesses and believe in paying their employees a little more than the going rate. “Our profit may be a little less,” Jay said, but they feel it is worth it.
They also believe in giving young people a chance. Many of their cooks come from Fox Valley Technical College’s culinary program.
Both Jay and Kelly left corporate jobs to move into this new line of work. “Neither of us were really happy in our jobs,” Jay said. “Kelly wanted to do a restaurant and one day she googled ‘low-cost restaurant.’ Food trucks came up.”
They did their research and went through the E-Seed program at Fox Valley Technical College, a program that helps people start their own businesses. At the end of the program, they had a business plan.
Using their savings, they funded a truck, which became Kangaroostaurant, and travel around the Fox Valley, serving lunches and sometimes dinner at various spots. They began in July 2011.
“We ran the truck through the winter,” Jay said. “We only closed two days during the winter because it was a mild winter.” This past winter was more of a challenge. “One Sunday night, we had a discussion about knocking off the truck and getting jobs,” he said.
They continued a catering business through all of this and that’s how they me Dave Klister, who owns the building that houses their restaurant. He was closing his Plum Hill Restaurant in Kaukauna. This enabled the Barnes to open Kangaroost on Feb. 19, 2013. They made some adjustments to the kitchen, hired more people and hung some picture before opening.
Both eateries are committed to serving freshly prepared items from burger and sandwiches to pastas. Their menus change frequently to make the best use of local resources. They buy locally-grown or produced ingredients. Most of them come from within 40 miles of Kaukauna, Jay said.
There are gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well. They even make their own veggie burgers. The gluten-free products come from Rustic Kitchens. The Barnes work with Great Harvest for their breads, and they partner with Riverview Gardens for greens and other garden products. (Riverview Gardens is a non-profit venture in Appleton, dedicated to fighting the root causes of poverty, homelessness and unemployment.)
Other suppliers include Olden Produce CSA, Good Grief Market Gardens, Sun Brothers Naturals, Trust Local Foods, Venneford Farm Country Meats, Golden Bear Farms, Red Barn Family Farms.
Their menu won a Golden Fork award for the best hamburger last year.
Naming the restaurant was an adventure in itself, according to the story on their Website (kangaroostaurant.com). They wanted something unique and memorable. “An important aspect of food trucking is social media,” they wrote, and social media marketing. As we threw around different possibilities, we kept running into copyright and domain name issues.”
After weeks of discussion, Jay “walked past a picture (his daughter Emma) painted in 7th grade art class and aid ‘we should call it the Kangaroostaurant.”
Since nothing came to them, they researched kangaroos on the Internet to see if it would fit their business model. They decide that kangaroos move around a lot and are flexible herbivores. “They will eat most any plant they can find. Much like us, they eat what’s available.”
So, Kangaroostaurant was born. Even though the truck-food business is self-contained and everything is cooked on the truck, they needed a base kitchen. They have a contract with Riverview Gardens until the end of June, when they will transfer it to their own restaurant.
The truck moves daily, so the easiest way to find it is I to follow it on Facebook or Twitter. They also post a weekly schedule on Mondays on the website. The truck is primarily at Fox Valley or Oshkosh sites. They have gone as far as Delavan and Wauwatosa, and their goal is to get up to Green Bay more often. Businesses can invite them to come to their parking lots, or the truck finds a spot in an Appleton park or College Avenue.
“Appleton is our most common spot right now,” Jay said. They have a license to park on College Avenue or Franklin Street. “We follow all the parking rules. We need two parking spots to accommodate the truck. We park at least 50 feet from any restaurant. We don’t want to promote any bad blood.”
Kangaroost, the stationary restaurant, is a CSR (community-share restaurant). Kelly invited people to buy shares in the restaurant as a way to get new capital for their move into the Kaukauna building.
The Barnes have 23 employees in the two businesses. Five are full-time. They also are helped by their children, Emma and Loudon.
The restaurant includes an outside eating area, surrounded by planters with edible flowers and herbs that are used in some of their menu items.
Both Jay and Kelly are excited about their new venture and the possibilities the future may hold.
“My favorite part is the interaction with the customers,” said Jay, who has a background in retail and insurance. His strength is customer service; Kelly handles the menu and food preparations. “I like working with people, he said.
Kelly likes “the chance to be creating new stuff and working with young people, who are always teaching me new things. And, our customers are nice.”