Sabin Lomac and his cousin, Jim Tselikis, have learned a lot about running a company with family since they launched their own food truck business, Cousins Maine Lobster, nine years ago. Now they’re sharing those lessons with struggling entrepreneurs in a new Food Network show called “Food Truck Rehab.”
The show premiers at 11 p.m. eastern Sunday, just after the finale of “The Great Food Truck Race.” “Food Truck Rehab” follows the cousins as they try to help food truck owners who have fallen on hard times, were unable to get their food truck off the ground or outright failed in their business. The show, Tselikis said, “is not us going in and ripping things apart and yelling at food truck owners.”
“Their truck might be sitting in their back yard or at a commissary, or may have been off the road for six or 10 or 12 months, for example,” he said, “but they had a passion and an idea and a love for food and the trucking lifestyle. The other part is that oftentimes these are family-owned businesses, which is what we are, right? Obviously we’re cousins and have this long history back to Maine, but they could be father-in-law and son-in-law, they could be husband and wife, they could be any type of family dynamic.”
Lomac and Tselikis, who grew up in Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth, respectively, started Cousins Maine Lobster with a single food truck in Los Angeles in 2012 and, that year, benefited from reality TV themselves, when they struck a deal with Barbara Corcoran on “Shark Tank.” Celebrating its ninth anniversary this month, the business has grown to include 40 food trucks and 11 restaurants in 36 U.S. cities.
Lomac said they’ve been developing the new TV show for about five years. They first pitched the idea to a producer when Lomac was hosting a Cooking Channel show called “Seaside Snacks and Shacks.” That show that ranked No. 1 on the Cooking Channel, Lomac said, but ended after just one season when Discovery Inc. bought the channel, along with the Food Network and the Travel Channel, and decided to consolidate its offerings. But the change in ownership also brought both Lomac and Tselikis more opportunities to be on camera.
Lomac said second chances are rare for entrepreneurial start-ups, but in the case of the food truck businesses he and Tselikis help on Food Truck Rehab, “most of the time they really have great ideas and they’re just a couple of key moves from actually succeeding.”
But the show goes beyond just fixing a truck or changing the menu. The cousins also do their best to help repair relationships, Tselikis said.
“That family dynamic needs to be super strong to allow the business side to have a chance for success,” he said. “It’s combining those two things versus just a business show, or just a food show, which I think will resonate with people.”
The cousins also will draw on the experiences that shaped and molded them when they were growing up in Maine, Lomac said.
“We talk about the blue-collar hard work that we grew up around and grew up doing,” he said. “So it might be just a thing where you’re reminding someone, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get into the trenches and do the work.’ ”
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