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smolderingbbq
01-15-2013, 04:57 PM
Hi my name is Blake and I just joined this community. I started my bbq catering business last year. I have had some success but I am looking to take my business to the next level. Any ideas on how to get more customers or any other insight into starting this type of business?:decision:

Thanks,
Blake

rgrizzle
01-15-2013, 09:20 PM
one word marketing. Not only are you a cook but now you are the marketing director, the janitor the CEO CFO and all wrapped up into one. us twitter, facebook, myspace local papers anything to get the word out.

oh and buy a lot of business cards. When I mean a lot I am talking atleast 1,000 or more. Give them to everyone you meet.

ardorx
01-16-2013, 12:57 AM
Social media. Search the web and you'll get a plethora of "how to's" etc...most of them are free and will save allot of money for you. You'd be surprised how many people type in "bbq caterer, spartanburg, sc" into google. If you can get it to where you pop up first, its a gold mine. I agree with grizzle though, business cards are a great investment, and guess how many you'll need and double it. The more you order the more you'll save. Also look into branding yourself and you product. Coozies are cheap and everyone loves them and depending on your budget you can do all kinds of things with shirts etc...

Good luck and have fun!

themidniteryder
01-16-2013, 01:12 PM
A little over 3 years ago construction tanked and I found myself out of a job. On a fluke I took $300 out of our personal checking account (mostly for paperwork) and started a small engine repair shop out of my garage. I only advertized on Craigslist. The first month was slow, the second month the shop was making just enough money to stay open and buy my smokes and beer. The third month, the largest landscape maintenance company in the US was in my driveway wanting us to repair and maintain their equipment from a new local branch. We kept that relationship for almost 2 years until they set up their own internal shop. The rest is history, good history at that. I listed us on google Places, Superpages.com, Bing, any internet resource that would serve our target market. Today, no advertisement is needed and we are 2-4 weeks behind, year around.

Getting your name out there along with a good reputation is a must. In addition to folks being able to find you, you need a "hook". Our hook is we do not charge for an estimate. Every other shop around here charges $50-75 for an estimate. Need a $2 fuel filter replaced? It will cost you the minimum $50-75 at other places. I am not joking, I witnessed it with my own eyes when I was at another shop purchasing parts in the early days before I had my wholesale suppliers set up. And there is another point to help with success/profit. Find yourself some suppliers that will cut you a better deal than you currently get on all your stuff: Meats, ingredients, serving utensils, that kind of stuff. Network, get to know people who can help you. One of my customers is currently setting me up with a 6 camera security system with a 30 day record DVR for a couple hundred bucks, because I treated him right when I worked on his stuff. If I need a new filing cabinet, i have a customer that can hook me up there too. I could write a book on what all I did to succeed. No I am not rolling in the dough yet, the shop takes care of itself as well as all the household bills. But every month it just gets a little better. Expect tough times for the first couple of years, and when you arent cooking and making money, get out there and hustle!

82's BBQ
01-16-2013, 04:24 PM
Promo materials, check out www.vistaprint.com they always seem to have a freebie special on something. 250 business cards are free about 3-4 times a year. List your business everywhere, google/manta/yellowpages.com
Set up a booth at bridal shows, one job from there pays for the cost of setting up.
Don't be afraid to spend money, but spend it with common sense. You'll have to learn what works for you in your area.
There is a lot of debate, more so from the side against it, about advertising in the phone book. When was the last time you actually picked it up to search for something, rather than look for an exact business number.
Think about where you go to look for something and get your name there.
There are a ton of sites that will give you marketing ideas. Just do a search. Be prepared to read and take in everything. Try every option to see what brings in the money.
Best of luck to you

smolderingbbq
01-16-2013, 04:27 PM
Wow! Thank you all for the help.

rgrizzle- Did you use a "marketing plan" or is it more of just finding ways to tell as many people as possible?

ardorx- I am currently paying yellow pages a bleep ton of money every month. I have had my business in their top two for probably 3 months now and have not received one call. Is it the time of the year, or is yellow pages online dead? should I invest more in getting up there in the google list? I also have a facebook and twitter that have gained some interest, definitely more when I have business and something to talk about. Kind of hard to stay consistent on my posts when I'm not cooking for people.

themidniteryder- I like the way you do business and I too have these same beliefs about how to conduct business and treat others, that is what its all about. Great info, thanks!

rgrizzle
01-16-2013, 05:44 PM
you deff. need to have a plan even if it's a simple one. Not only a marketing plan but also a business plan. Doing these will help you sell your business better to potential customers. I would also hit up some of the factories and other businesses most of them do employee lunches a couple times a year, and if they have big meetings they cater lunches. those are good to get because they are more of a drop off service.

smolderingbbq
01-18-2013, 12:50 AM
Any other ideas on how to do some low cost marketing? Should I call business's or show up in person with samples in hand? Also I have recently got my hands on a list of pharmaceutical reps that provide catered lunches for doctors, any idea on how to approach the phone conversation? Thanks!

rgrizzle
01-18-2013, 10:40 PM
I personally would go to the business first. Then I would Take samples to them if they act interested in what you have. As far as the pharmaceutical reps go I would call them and let them know about your service and try to set up a meeting the next time they are in town, maybe at your house or where ever you do your catering from and tell them lunch is on you, fix them up a sample of the meats and some sides that you offer.

Smoke House Moe
01-20-2013, 09:46 PM
Smoldering,

Tell us some of you successes from the first year.

smolderingbbq
01-21-2013, 03:18 PM
Smoke House Moe,
Last year I started doing some marketing with business cards, networking & facebook. I cooked my bbq and sauce for all of my friends and family and they loved it, said they couldn't find good barbecue like mine around our town anywhere. So, I did some road side bbq stands during the summer holidays, got a few repeat customers and did pretty well with that, on the first day I think I had $1000 in sales. One day while talking with a coworker she informed me that her mother needed a caterer for 100 people we emailed back and forth for a couple weeks. I ended up with the opportunity to give samples to her mother and she told me that she had grown up around competition bbq (I was nervous) and she knew what she was looking for. She sampled my bbq along with several well know bbq restaurants in the area and she and her entire staff loved min and picked me, they also thought my prices were great and competitive (due to low over head). I got the gig, offered to help serve and everyone loved it. So, in the last 4 months she has hired me once a month for different types of gigs...luncheons, Christmas party etc. At the luncheon when she mentioned who catered the event the 45 plus guests of doctors and nurses applauded. After that I got another luncheon off of that luncheon and people were saying it was better than arguably the best bbq joint in the next county over. I decided that I really was on to something, had formed a great relationship with my first customer and could see this being something that I can really pursue and excel at.
Now I am trying to get to the next level but this month has been very slow...I am looking forward to the spring and have a couple of bigger parties, two weddings in April and then in May and I will also compete in my first Q competition in March. Just kinda bummed right now.
Thanks for all the support from everyone!

Blake

smolderingbbq
01-21-2013, 05:06 PM
I tried to post a reply but I can't find it anywhere now...

themidniteryder
01-21-2013, 11:33 PM
Don't get bummed about it. Every startup and small business has slow times, and some are due to seasonal factors. use this time to network, search out better suppliers, develop a website complete with menu and pricing (I use webs.com for a free website for our small engine biz, works great), lots of things you can do during the slow times that will enhance your product, productivity, customer base, and most important your profit when the busy season rolls around.

BigBellyBBQ
01-22-2013, 02:42 AM
I see you tried the yellow pages..I also did not have any calls..there are some companies that claim to get your name on the search engines first page, or you dont have to pay them,,but I am cheap so I put my name out there on all the free sites and keep pluging at it...get a young person that like to play the phones / computers..keep posting ..but I found local penny saver ads , the small classified work well...like 6-7 dollars an ad per week..work better than 1/3 page ads..

PorkQPine
01-22-2013, 10:59 AM
Yellow pages is a loser. Internet presence with a website, AdWords through Google, Yelp, take pulled pork sliders around to large businesses with business cards to get your name out. Plan on 3 years of hard work before you see a return on the investment and decent profit. Find your niche, check out the competition. If you drop prices at the beginning you will always be known as the low price leader in your area and your prior clients will think you are greedy when you have to raise your prices. Either be the low price guy in town with cheap meats and sides or the top dog, being in the middle is a killer.

I'm in CA so my experiences may be different in your area.

Smoke House Moe
01-22-2013, 06:24 PM
Thanks Smoldering and everyone else. A lot of great nuggets in here.
I just sent in my catering license app today. Getting anxious to start cooking.

I am starting out in an hourly rental kitchen and can't install a smoker. Any suggestions? I will probably have to cook on my WSM's under the nose of the law.

BigBellyBBQ
01-23-2013, 02:47 AM
good point on dropped prices...bad idea...insist on quaility products and hold your price line, give a fair amount of product at a profitable price....remember the cost of insurance...taxes...help...permits...replace / repair of equipment...lost product...no one makes deliveries unless you pay them...

BigBellyBBQ
01-23-2013, 02:55 AM
Thanks Smoldering and everyone else. A lot of great nuggets in here.
I just sent in my catering license app today. Getting anxious to start cooking.

I am starting out in an hourly rental kitchen and can't install a smoker. Any suggestions? I will probably have to cook on my WSM's under the nose of the law.
I do not know the details, however how would you cook 10 or 20 pork butts to feed a cattering party?? Or, 20 racks of ribs?? If you want to go to the next level, I dont want to sound rude, but you need to be at the first level..Think about feeding a party of 1oo, 2 meats and two sides..you will need cambros, smoker area..going to be very hard working out of a rented kitchen..do you have cooler space? HD will look at that also..

PorkQPine
01-23-2013, 10:00 AM
I do not know the details, however how would you cook 10 or 20 pork butts to feed a cattering party?? Or, 20 racks of ribs?? If you want to go to the next level, I dont want to sound rude, but you need to be at the first level..Think about feeding a party of 1oo, 2 meats and two sides..you will need cambros, smoker area..going to be very hard working out of a rented kitchen..do you have cooler space? HD will look at that also..

I am not sure that with only two WSM's you can cook enough to make any money. ServSafe, Insurance, cambro's, chafers, tables, table cloth's, spices, rubs, sauces, time management for shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up after, accounting, wood, charcoal, propane, gas and time for picking up product as well as going to venue and the most important thing is marketing. Website, Adwords, SEO all cost money and have to be calculated in your costs. Before you do anything, sit down and write a business plan, there is a reason most small businesses go out of business and BBQ is one of the worst because people who think they cook great BBQ figure they can make a buck but don't have any business experience, don't know how to read a financial statement and don't know anything about marketing. Local junior colleges usually have classes at night where you can learn how to run a business.

luke duke
01-23-2013, 01:22 PM
Any other ideas on how to do some low cost marketing? Should I call business's or show up in person with samples in hand? Also I have recently got my hands on a list of pharmaceutical reps that provide catered lunches for doctors, any idea on how to approach the phone conversation? Thanks!


Get in good with the admin. Offer her a free lunch for herself with every order over $50. Usually when we have a lunch we just tell our admin to order for X number of people and she takes care of the rest. If she has to choose between a free BBQ lunch and the bologna sandwich that she brought from the house, it's a no brainer.

themidniteryder
01-23-2013, 02:43 PM
If you are having to cook out of a rented kitchen the that will probably put a quash on using your WSM's. Generally speaking, all things used in the food prep/cook/storage/serving has to be NFS approved, and the webbers aren't. Since you are also working under the kitchens HD permit, they probably aren't going to allow you to use a process that will put their facility HD permit in jeopardy. Your county MIGH have some kind of variance the will let the health official make a variance for you since BBQ isn't done in an oven

Here in Riverside County where I am at, the seem to have the most restrictive HD laws in So Cal. and they sound like they might be on par with yours. I have kicked around the idea of catering but it is going to be tough and expensive. Best I got it figured, I can cook at public events like a fair or charity event under a blanket permit from the event organizer. I still have to have my setup of fresh/gray water, triple sink, hot water, cold storage, the whole 9 yards. If I do a private event such as a wedding or BD party, then no on-site food prep. have to use a rented kitchen, all food, ingredients, and utensils have to be stored and used there. Absolutely nothing prepared or stored at home. Basically cook at the kitchen, deliver and serve at the event. Gotta be a way around it but I havent found it yet, so I plan on meeting face to face with the HD to see what we can work out. No onsite cooking takes the atmosphere out of a catered BBQ. Oh, and even with a rig permitted for on-site public events, I can not take the smoker home, it has to be stored at a county approved commissary facility, again more $$.

My wife runs dogs in AKC agility trials and 3 years ago I looked at getting a simple hot dog cart to sell hot dogs at the meets. Pretty much the same stringent rules with something so simple. We did a breakdown of just food costs: Buns, franks, serving boats, forks, napkins, salt and pepper packets, mustard, etc. Everything it would take to put a basic dog in the customers mouth. About $1.75 a dog that you might could sell for $2.75-$3.00. That didn't include commissary rental, travel, ice, equipment, insurance, permits, etc. Not a lot of profit there. From what I see out here, the successful caters also have their own restaurant to back them up. Now that I think about it, owning a BBQ shack might not be a bad idea...

Smoke House Moe
01-23-2013, 04:37 PM
Thanks for the replies Midnite, PorkQPine, and Bib Belly.

gaspipe1
01-23-2013, 07:18 PM
I have zero experience in catering or the restaurant biz but I will say this regarding Internet and social media. You want to use them all Facebook, FourSquare, Tumblr, Pinterest and every other site that comes out.

A good website will work wonders if people can find it. Regarding yelp I would ask people to post what they thought of the food/experience.

It's kind of hard to offer freebies like a restaurant when people check in (4Square) but I would tell the host if X amount of people check in to my catered event on FB or FourSquare I'll take off X%the bill.

You want people liking your biz on FB and have then tweet pictures via twitter.

I would perhaps offer a small size of your secret rub to anyone at your event that posts it on a social media site.

Also what I would do is get a smartphone and do a search for social media apps. Then install one at a time and register your biz on it.

And have those SM sites icons printed on your biz cards.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

BigBellyBBQ
01-24-2013, 12:21 AM
Due to a death of the property owner I had to close my restuarant, I had a GREAT spot, however if I dont own it I am not going to rent it...SO, I built my mobile kitchen....I do catering on the spot..fridge, freezer, spices, hot plates and even BEER are always on board..Cooker on the back, but the biggest thing I have is cooking space, I can time my cooks in my southern pride, so everything gets done...meats a few hours before, chciken right on, sides before or right on..cooolers or cambros will hold for several hours...hell I had briskets done at 8 am, wraped put in cooler and sliced at 5 pm and I still could not hold on to them with gloves...but cooking space is you problem the way I see it with what you have...then you have to be prepared to delay diner a few hours, as customers also have delays, even if they are suppose to pick up at 2, and dont show up till 5....and you have the stuff ready at 1 30...

TailGateJoecom
01-24-2013, 06:32 AM
If you need a website set up I can help you out, looking to build up my portfolio with some bbq sites so I'll hook ya up with a great price, pm me. Check out my personal site, tailgatejoe.com. I get great exposure, pulling people all over the world to my parties every week.

Not trying to spam the thread, just trying to help out a member here. :wink:

BigBellyBBQ
01-25-2013, 10:40 AM
Trust Joe..he knows the biz

mikeleonard81
01-25-2013, 09:46 PM
Smolderin,
I'm new to this also. When you say road side what do you mean?

smolderingbbq
01-28-2013, 04:38 AM
Thanks for all the information everybody. This will definitely help me out!!

bam
02-10-2013, 09:24 AM
[QUOTE=smolderingbbq;2329883]Hi my name is Blake and I just joined this community. I started my bbq catering business last year. I have had some success but I am looking to take my business to the next level. Any ideas on how to get more customers or any other insight into starting this type of business?:decision:

Thanks,
Blake[/QUOTE

Start here if a brethren was looking to hire you how would they reach you?

BBQCookin
02-11-2013, 09:09 PM
Thanks for all the information everybody. This will definitely help me out!!

Smolderingbbq, I'm just a simple 'ol backyard BBQ guy, but for 20+ years I've worked in the marketing and PR industry. Feel free to email me (michael@headlineinc.com) some questions/thoughts, and I'd be happy to respond to them.

cynfulsmokersbbq
02-13-2013, 11:53 AM
I have zero experience in catering or the restaurant biz but I will say this regarding Internet and social media. You want to use them all Facebook, FourSquare, Tumblr, Pinterest and every other site that comes out.

A good website will work wonders if people can find it. Regarding yelp I would ask people to post what they thought of the food/experience.

It's kind of hard to offer freebies like a restaurant when people check in (4Square) but I would tell the host if X amount of people check in to my catered event on FB or FourSquare I'll take off X%the bill.

You want people liking your biz on FB and have then tweet pictures via twitter.

I would perhaps offer a small size of your secret rub to anyone at your event that posts it on a social media site.

Also what I would do is get a smartphone and do a search for social media apps. Then install one at a time and register your biz on it.

And have those SM sites icons printed on your biz cards.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Gaspipe,

You seem to know a lot about the different social medias, for those of us that remember the world before digital watches and the abacus, could you please give a brief summary of the ones you mentioned above.