Innovative Banner Elk business owner creates solar powered food truck


Betty’s Biscuits menu displayed on the side of their food truck. Betty’s offers savory and sweet biscuits.

Savannah Nguyen, Senior A&C Reporter

Running on sunshine may not be the motto for most local food trucks, but for Betty’s Biscuits, it fits into the four pillars of service it strives to guarantee to every customer: respect, good food, community and above all innovation. In the six months the restaurant on wheels has been open, owner Tina Houston has collaborated with the Department of Sustainable Technology and graduate technology student Chris Stevens to start the transition into utilizing solar power for her business.

Houston also owns and operates Reid’s Cafe and Catering, which runs out of Banner Elk. In May she decided to expand her business on the road, and on the way picked up the truck’s manager, Abby Suggs.

Suggs was applying for a barista position when she heard that the truck was hiring. In addition to biscuits, the truck also serves coffee.

At the beginning the only operators of the truck were Houston, Suggs and a cook.

“It went like that for a while and it was sometimes difficult even without all of the truck’s kinks,” Suggs said. “But Tina’s consciousness for clean energy and a solar business kept pushing us forward.”

Stevens got involved with the project after his adviser, Brent Summerville, pitched him the idea after a conversation with Houston.

“Tina is setting an amazing example for small businesses who may think, ‘Oh, I could never do that,’” Stevens said. “In that respect, Tina is going to be a leader for this technology in the area.”

However, sometimes being a business owner with pioneering sustainable practice visions means ironing out issues from mechanical mishaps with the truck to even figuring out how to deal with shortages from solar panels.

The vehicle itself is a refurbished 1985 UPS truck now rehabilitated to give off a “boujee retro diner vibe”. Suggs said  Despite the aesthetic upgrade from its previous self, the truck has run into a few issues.

“Tina pays attention to every detail,” Suggs said. “I don’t know how she does it, but she’s a magician. At Grandfather and hopefully everywhere we go, people recognized how much dedication we put into even how we wrap our biscuits and that went a long way.”

The idea to do biscuits came from Houston’s grandmother, Betty, who was the traditional homemaker and raised five kids with Houston’s grandfather. The couple was an anchor for the family.

“So I named the truck after her after being such an influence in how much I literally love to make biscuits,” Houston said.

Betty’s Biscuits is still trying to figure out their “scene” Suggs said.  The truck has attended several local events and even volunteers its time for many of the non-profits in the area that Houston is affiliated with such as Mountain Alliance and Appalachian Voices. The team is also working on a series of dog biscuits because of Houston’s love for animals.

“We are just really excited to venture out into our community and figure out who we are, and solar power is really helping us do that despite the issues that we have run into so far,” Houston said. “Eventually we’ll bring this to the West Coast, and we’re going to show them something they’re missing.”

The next time you’re at an event, whether it be at a swanky country club or a downhill skating competition, if the sun is out you will probably find Betty’s Biscuits.

Story by Savannah Nguyen

Photo courtesy of Betty’s Biscuits

Featured photo caption: Betty’s Biscuits menu displayed on the side of their food truck. Betty’s offers savory and sweet biscuits.