Rolling Out New Road Food

Truckers help TA design new menus, meals

Published in CSP Daily News

WESTLAKE, Ohio -- TravelCenters of America (TA) unveiled new regional menus for its sitdown restaurants.

The new menus were created with professional drivers' appetites and taste preferences in mind. We knew step one of our process was to connect with consumers on what they look for when traveling the nation's interstates, said Paul Huckelberry, vice president of restaurant marketing for TA. In order to find out, we conducted thorough focus groups. We paid particular attention to what fleet drivers and owner operators wanted. We consider them our best [image-nocss] and most hard-working customer and we wanted to make sure the new menus met their taste requirements.

TA not only worked with a culinary company to create the new tastes, but then taste-tested the new selections with professional drivers and used their feedback to finalize the new menu.

TA's new menus reflect unique regional specialties. There are versions for the Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest and Northwest. One of the first things drivers told us was they love variety with a flair toward items that are regional specialties like Chicken Gumbo in the South or Grilled Chipotle Salmon in the Northwest, said Tina Facca, TA's manager of restaurant marketing. Many professional drivers travel across the country and wanting variety makes sense. We are thrilled to offer them new dishes that are regional favorites.

New regional items compliment TA's signature menu items. Among the nearly 50 new specialties are Yankee Pot Roast and Blackberry Cobbler in the Northeast, Fried Catfish and Southern Fried Chicken in the South, Charbroiled Hamsteak and Loaded Baked Potato Soup in the Midwest, Enchiladas and Tortilla Soup in the Southwest and Grilled Salmon Salad or Grilled Chipotle Salmon in the Northwest.

By talking to truck drivers, we learned what our opportunities were. We went back to them with concepts then back again with actual test menu items for their approval, Facca added.

Westlake, Ohio-based TA is the largest network of full-service travel centers and heavy-truck repair facilities in North America, it said. The company has 159 locations in 40 states and Canada. TA Restaurants operate the Country Pride, Country Fare, Buckhorn and Fork In The Road restaurants. In addition to signature steak items, TA restaurants offer comprehensive soup and salad bars and many offer carving stations during dinner.