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View Full Version : Just how do you guys do it?


jeffh
09-04-2013, 12:36 AM
Greetings fellow brethren! I've been lurking these forums for years now, and I have learned a lot, and BBQ is slowly becoming my passion in life, and like many of you I'm wondering "Can I somehow turn this hobby into something more?"

I am a Branch Manager for a Fortune 500 truck rental business, and the longer I work making big bux in corporate America, the more I think to myself that I would likely be a lot happier making less money doing something that I love.

So lately I've been giving some thought at putting pen to paper and working on a business plan to vend some BBQ. I'd start small, weekends at the local farmers market at first, then if that worked out try some festivals, and then eventually work my way up to a trailer, etc.

I have no doubt that I have the skill set to start slow and build a profitable business, the only thing I can not wrap my head around is how do you guys manage the your cook times?

By that I mean, my local farmers market follows my provinces HD regulations, and all food would have to prepped at a commissary (I can handle that, local church has a commercial kitchen we can rent), so I would trim my meats, and prep my sides at the commissary (heck, might not even bother with any sides right away, may just stick to sandwiches). I would then cook my meats at the farmers market.

This leads me to my problem. Set up begins at 8:00am, and we are not allowed to set up before then. Does anyone else have to operate under similar circumstances? And if so, how do you manage to have food ready to be served by 11:00 - 12:00?

Bbq Bubba
09-04-2013, 09:51 AM
Cook ahead, reheat to serve.

jeffh
09-04-2013, 12:15 PM
Cook ahead, reheat to serve.

I already thought of that, but I wouldn't be able to cook at the commisary (the chruch is in the heart of downtown).

Should I just experiment with cooking "hot & fast"?

luke duke
09-04-2013, 04:14 PM
What do you plan to cook?

landarc
09-04-2013, 05:50 PM
I you are cooking BBQ, I suggest you find a place to cook ahead. Even hot and fast, you are looking at too much time to open and do cooking on site. Commercial cooking is not about setting parameters of how you want to do things and working sideways. It is about figuring out what you need to do to get food ready for service.

If it was me, I would figure on cooking the day before, crash cooling and reheating at 8am, then serving when the market opens. What smoker are you going to use?

HBMTN
09-04-2013, 08:12 PM
It's going to be hard to do unless you get set up with a mobile set up. A trailer with smoker on it would allow you to cook at home and then pull it to the location in the morning. Even with hot and fast you are looking at being up most of the night. I light a fire 3am then meat on at 4am and butts and briskets start coming off around 10am. So if you had to go to a commissary and start prepping it means you are getting up around 2am.

I've been doing this 4 years now and on a stick burner at that. I would suggest starting out with a trailer and something like an FEC-120 so you can get some rest. But talk to the health dept 1st

Bbq Bubba
09-04-2013, 09:45 PM
. Commercial cooking is not about setting parameters of how you want to do things and working sideways. It is about figuring out what you need to do to get food ready for service.

Possibly the best quote here ever!

I already thought of that, but I wouldn't be able to cook at the commisary (the chruch is in the heart of downtown).


Who said anything about cooking at the commissary?

See above quote. :rolleyes:

jeffh
09-08-2013, 03:49 PM
Sorry guys, maybe I should have given more info as to what my situation is, and what I want to do.

I want to vend at a local farmers market. My plan is to vend Pulled Pork, Chicken, Brisket & Ribs. With some basic sides (Mac & Cheese, Potato Salad, Beans, Etc.).

I want to start real small and work my way up. My plan is to invest in a second Pit Barrel Cooker, and cook the mains at the farmers market. Since I'm starting small, I obviously won't be able to serve all those mains every week. My thought is to make and serve one or two mains per week.

Then, if I did well and made a name for myself, I could look at stepping up my game with a trailer and larger capacity smoker that I could haul to the farmers market every week, and to festivals around the province. Maybe eventually find a more permanent home and make it a full time operation.

The obvious solution would be to prepare the mains at home the day/night before and re-heat at the farmers market, but in my province you are not allowed to cook at home. I would have to use a commissary to prep and make the sides, and cook the mains at the farmers market.

So what I want to know is: Does anyone else operate this way (cooking hot and fast at their farmers market) and if yes, what do you do?

Am I just too pie in the ski?

Any advice is appreciated.

Bbq Bubba
09-08-2013, 05:29 PM
The short answer is that you can't start small and expect to do anything but lose money.
You need permits for the mkt. which will require a large expense for everything they require.
You need liability insurance.
You need smokers large enough to cook AND hold product while its sold.
When i began i had a licensed trailer, a Lang 84 and everything in between that required me to be legal. ANYTHING but starting small.

Cook for friends and family and do some off the books catering to get your feet wet and then decide if your ready to make the next step.

speers90
09-08-2013, 06:25 PM
The short answer is that you can't start small and expect to do anything but lose money.
You need permits for the mkt. which will require a large expense for everything they require.
You need liability insurance.
You need smokers large enough to cook AND hold product while its sold.
When i began i had a licensed trailer, a Lang 84 and everything in between that required me to be legal. ANYTHING but starting small.

Cook for friends and family and do some off the books catering to get your feet wet and then decide if your ready to make the next step.

Great advice!

DGFirehouseBBQ
09-08-2013, 07:01 PM
Hi Ryan, what is the FEC 120? Thanks.. DG

Lake Dogs
09-08-2013, 08:15 PM
Jeff, these guys are straight up. You might get the cook time down to perhaps 6 to 7 hours hot-n-fast, but faster will be at a huge sacrifice, and frankly you wont sell much because word-of-mouth will tell folks that your product isn't good. Your briskets and pork butts are going to take 8-11 hours; they just are. You can hold them and not have to re-heat them. I've held both for 12 hours and still had them burn my fingers when pulling. You can cram ribs in 4 hours without a problem. Chicken can be 30 minutes, or an hour, depending on how you do it, temps, etc.

Dont underestimate the insurance.

speers90
09-08-2013, 08:57 PM
Hi Ryan, what is the FEC 120? Thanks.. DG

A small commercial cooker (nsf approved)

http://www.cookshack.com/store/Smokers_3/Fast-Eddys-by-Cookshack-Model-FEC120

jeffh
09-08-2013, 09:28 PM
Guys, thanks for the frank advice, this is an eye opener.

Very obviously I will need to do much more homework.

roychopper
09-09-2013, 12:13 AM
It's the best idea to start a business, but planning is essential for it to succeed. :clap: Here is a sample. Dickey’s BBQ, a nationwide chain based in Texas, is having a big day. Today only, Dickey's BBQ (http://personalmoneynetwork.com/moneyblog/2010/10/19/dickeys-bbq-offering-1-sandwiches-on-october-19/) is offering its Pulled Pork Big BBQ Sandwiches for $1. There is a limit of two per customer, but that’s enough to fill up just about anyone.

RangerJ
09-12-2013, 08:53 AM
It's the best idea to start a business, but planning is essential for it to succeed. :clap: Here is a sample. Dickey’s BBQ, a nationwide chain based in Texas, is having a big day. Today only, Dickey's BBQ (http://personalmoneynetwork.com/moneyblog/2010/10/19/dickeys-bbq-offering-1-sandwiches-on-october-19/) is offering its Pulled Pork Big BBQ Sandwiches for $1. There is a limit of two per customer, but that’s enough to fill up just about anyone.

Please elaborate on how exactly this applies to what the OP was asking? Because I must be missing how this information helps him.

@jeffh - since I recently took this plunge and we don't have a permanent site for our trailer yet, we have to cook prior and reheat. It's not what I had in mind when I started but its what I currently have to do to keep from working 24 x 7.

BruceB
09-12-2013, 10:04 AM
The short answer is that you can't start small and expect to do anything but lose money.
You need permits for the mkt. which will require a large expense for everything they require.
You need liability insurance.
You need smokers large enough to cook AND hold product while its sold.
When i began i had a licensed trailer, a Lang 84 and everything in between that required me to be legal. ANYTHING but starting small.

Cook for friends and family and do some off the books catering to get your feet wet and then decide if your ready to make the next step.

Ahhh.....the good old days!!!!!!!!

PanamaExpat
09-13-2013, 10:50 AM
Jeff...
Jump in with both feet if you plan to do this. Not having the proper gear to meet the volume is a sure fire way to end before you get started. Don't fast cook.... Like was said... QUALITY product.. You serve chewy greasy product you won't get gigs. Also ... 2 pulled pork for a buck.... that sounds like a recipe for disaster... to your wallet. Don't sell too cheap... try starting at FC of 25% and work down to 35 to 33% if you need to to be competitive... People don't mind paying a bit more for a superior sandwich.

toadhunter911
09-13-2013, 03:12 PM
Jeff...
Jump in with both feet if you plan to do this. Not having the proper gear to meet the volume is a sure fire way to end before you get started. Don't fast cook.... Like was said... QUALITY product.. You serve chewy greasy product you won't get gigs. Also ... 2 pulled pork for a buck.... that sounds like a recipe for disaster... to your wallet. Don't sell too cheap... try starting at FC of 25% and work down to 35 to 33% if you need to to be competitive... People don't mind paying a bit more for a superior sandwich.

This seems to be the hardest concept for alot of folks starting out to understand. What everyone else charges only plays a small role in what you should charge. Do your math, pay yourself, and make a superior product. You'll have a better shot at success, and ultimately making money...

landarc
09-13-2013, 03:24 PM
Back when I did vending, I NEVER did BBQ, because I couldn't cook on site, and I didn't want to ask my mentor for cooker time (after all, he had a restaurant to cook for). But, running with 4 square feet of grill, and direct cooking of meats, it was madness. 4 people in a booth was barely able to keep up. It was hot, I got burned a lot, people had to wait anyways, and that was for grilled sticks of meat.

If you want to cook on site, a PBC is just not going to work. Especially for ribs, which take up an unbelievable amount of space for very little meat. Most of the folks I know who vend ribs and chicken are running 84" or 120" cookers, and they are still precooking the larger meats. Vending pulled pork is the easy thing to do.

Arlin_MacRae
09-13-2013, 05:00 PM
We had a new BBQ joint open up in town that served really, really good BBQ, but they consistently ran out of food in the middle of, or just before, dinner time. In less than six months they're just about done, and it's sad.
The point I'm making is make sure you've got the capacity to cook and hold food so you have something to serve when people start lining up to eat your food.
Good luck!!!
Arlin

cynfulsmokersbbq
09-16-2013, 03:18 PM
We had a new BBQ joint open up in town that served really, really good BBQ, but they consistently ran out of food in the middle of, or just before, dinner time. In less than six months they're just about done, and it's sad.
The point I'm making is make sure you've got the capacity to cook and hold food so you have something to serve when people start lining up to eat your food.
Good luck!!!
Arlin

Bad timing by that place. That is a shame, Running out isn't a bad thing, but the timing of when you run out sure can be!

There are places around the country that run out everyday and it is a lunch time race to get a spot at the counter. And they continue to cook the same way. But they are very established BBQ joints.

When we vend, we would rather run out, than take food home. Taking food home will be one of your biggest expenses. You can't reuse it if you don't have proper storage. But again, we would rather run out at the end of the day, vs. during the prime serving time.

We have found in our four years on the trail that if you run out of something, they will order something else. 98% of the time it is BBQ they want. The type of meat isn't as important as the type of food.

The opposite can be true as well. Some BBQ joints will get a reputation of having flavorless, dry meat. This comes from reheating or reserving the previous days product.

gaspipe1
09-26-2013, 10:52 AM
Arlin I ask with the utmost respect (meaning I'm not try'n to be a wise ass or doubt what you are saying), but how does a place close shop b/c they sell out everyday? Sounds like Yogi Berra "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

To correct this issue create more product to keep up with the demand or raise the prices. Perhaps the prices were too low.

We had a new BBQ joint open up in town that served really, really good BBQ, but they consistently ran out of food in the middle of, or just before, dinner time. In less than six months they're just about done, and it's sad.
The point I'm making is make sure you've got the capacity to cook and hold food so you have something to serve when people start lining up to eat your food.
Good luck!!!
Arlin

smokeitupbbq
09-30-2013, 12:14 AM
Great Advice !!!
This is what your getting into if your selling to the public..
+1

The short answer is that you can't start small and expect to do anything but lose money.
You need permits for the mkt. which will require a large expense for everything they require.
You need liability insurance.
You need smokers large enough to cook AND hold product while its sold.
When i began i had a licensed trailer, a Lang 84 and everything in between that required me to be legal. ANYTHING but starting small.

Cook for friends and family and do some off the books catering to get your feet wet and then decide if your ready to make the next step.

FlavorSavor
09-30-2013, 08:55 AM
You tell the health department what they want to hear, not what you're doing. ;)

Bbq Bubba
09-30-2013, 05:51 PM
You tell the health department what they want to hear, not what you're doing. ;)

Standard Operating Procedure :wink:

JazzyBadger
09-30-2013, 08:07 PM
I'm sort of in the same boat. They're opening up this chicken processing plant in Texas in the near future, and I'm really tempted to work there. Tired of all this sitting on my ass typing at the keyboard for my paycheck. Also tired of Skyping for hours out of the freaking day for 'meetings.' It's not a farking meeting, it's a damn Skype conference. Don't tell me it's a meeting. I don't get to sit in my boxers at a real meeting. Wanna actually talk to people. Plus I miss cutting things off of other things, and getting paid for it.

landarc
09-30-2013, 11:43 PM
Arlin I ask with the utmost respect (meaning I'm not try'n to be a wise ass or doubt what you are saying), but how does a place close shop b/c they sell out everyday? Sounds like Yogi Berra "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

To correct this issue create more product to keep up with the demand or raise the prices. Perhaps the prices were too low.
This can happen if a place does not have the reputation to make getting the food desirable. If you can gain the reputation of being something worth having, and sacrificing at any cost to get, then you can stay in business. But, if you are selling out before dinner consistently, then people will stop coming. Eventually, you no longer sell out, but, you can't draw people back to your restaurant.

This is actually far more common in the restaurant business than you might think. People who do not have the capital, or experience, have a great product, but, cannot deliver is consistently. The market will work away from you. Now, you could talk Franklin's, or any number of older establishments, but, the older places had great reputations. Franklin's, quite honestly, went viral. He managed both his pits and his press in such a way, that people came to desire his product beyond what reason would dictate.

I would add, that some restaurants simply cannot scale up, either because the owner's do not want to allocate responsibility, or their building does not allow for growth. These are real issues, especially if you create a situation where the food is hard to get.

Bigmista
10-01-2013, 12:11 AM
You need a bigger cooker.
You will always need a bigger cooker. Whatever you were planing on buying, get the next biggest size. I started with a medium Spicewine and needed a Large within the 1st year.

One thing you could hypothetically use to your advantage: HD Inspectors have no idea how long it takes to cook a brisket or a pork butt. They also don't come to your house to see if you are cooking there. I'm not telling you what to do. Just sharing a few facts.

Everyone says to get insurance. I disagree.

Get MORE Insurance.

mikeleonard81
10-01-2013, 12:30 AM
You tell the health department what they want to hear, not what you're doing. ;)


"One thing you could hypothetically use to your advantage: HD Inspectors have no idea how long it takes to cook a brisket or a pork butt. They also don't come to your house to see if you are cooking there. I'm not telling you what to do. Just sharing a few facts."


I've heard this a few times:wink: Let's say the earliest time you can get into the event is to set up by is 8am and you have your cook time down to 7/8 hours just have that much pre cooked to cover you til 4/5pm. You'd still be cooking on sight for the most part.

EDIT: For some reason the quotes went away from Bigmista's statement???

bizznessman
10-01-2013, 07:11 PM
"One thing you could hypothetically use to your advantage: HD Inspectors have no idea how long it takes to cook a brisket or a pork butt. They also don't come to your house to see if you are cooking there. I'm not telling you what to do. Just sharing a few facts."


I've heard this a few times:wink: Let's say the earliest time you can get into the event is to set up by is 8am and you have your cook time down to 7/8 hours just have that much pre cooked to cover you til 4/5pm. You'd still be cooking on sight for the most part.

EDIT: For some reason the quotes went away from Bigmista's statement???



Wink, Wink......Nudge, Nudge..........(shhhhhhhhhhh) :biggrin1:

bizznessman
10-01-2013, 07:14 PM
This can happen if a place does not have the reputation to make getting the food desirable. If you can gain the reputation of being something worth having, and sacrificing at any cost to get, then you can stay in business. But, if you are selling out before dinner consistently, then people will stop coming. Eventually, you no longer sell out, but, you can't draw people back to your restaurant.

This is actually far more common in the restaurant business than you might think. People who do not have the capital, or experience, have a great product, but, cannot deliver is consistently. The market will work away from you. Now, you could talk Franklin's, or any number of older establishments, but, the older places had great reputations. Franklin's, quite honestly, went viral. He managed both his pits and his press in such a way, that people came to desire his product beyond what reason would dictate.

I would add, that some restaurants simply cannot scale up, either because the owner's do not want to allocate responsibility, or their building does not allow for growth. These are real issues, especially if you create a situation where the food is hard to get.


GREAT post landarc!!!! No truer words were ever spoken. The BBQ biz is a fickle thing (at times). :icon_smil