View Full Version : I would love to hear how you got your catering business going!

JT's Smokehouse
01-25-2014, 06:51 AM
Hello Brethren,

I've seen many pics from various threads of some pretty awesome BBQ setups and its obvious that a lot of you guys are pretty well established. I guess my question is how YOU were able to get started. Asside from the obviously delicious Q which would be the prerequisite, what kind of venues did you start with and what was your equipment like and lastly what do you think is the bare minimum for startup equipment. In my area there are very few true BBQ joints... just about all of them really do lack that true smoked flavor so I'm sure if someone where to put out some true southern BBQ it would catch on like a wildfire! I would love to hear your perspective, so fire away!

01-25-2014, 09:09 AM
Me too lol. I am flirting with the idea of starting a business, and i am finding out from several threads on here that its not so easy peasy 123. Just to put it into perspective in my experience all roads go through the health department in your area. First you need to find out what exactly you need to be legit. Second really coming up with a good business plan is essential. You cant really know what you are doing unless you have a well thought out plan. Heres two threads that I recommend looking over.

01-25-2014, 12:40 PM
Here is how I started my BBQ shack (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=157607&highlight=pulled+trigger). We are still open and still cooking.

01-25-2014, 08:12 PM
We started with doing fundraisers for the local schools. Which gets your name out there. Then started to do corporate events.

01-25-2014, 09:19 PM
The minimum equipment is going to vary a lot based upon what you intend to cook, how much you are inclined to rent as needed, how much you can charge and what venue you intend to sell. If I was going to do it...

1 large smoker, capable of at least 250 pounds of meat at one time.
2 electric cambros, with enough service pans to fill them.
4 tables, with extensions
2 canopies with one complete set of sidewalls
4 large ice chests
1 SUV/Van
chafing pans, service bins, lots of cooking utensils
fire extinguisher
portable triple sink

Those items will makes life a lot easier. Get a trailer unit with a large gas burner for frying, boiling or beans. Makes life easier. Gas assist in fire box is real nice too.

01-27-2014, 08:20 PM
Here is how I started my BBQ shack (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=157607&highlight=pulled+trigger). We are still open and still cooking.

Just read that entire thread. Amazing, Congrats to you !

C Rocke
01-27-2014, 08:23 PM
Contacted people who had been to parties at our house, old clients, etc. Used a couple of lead generation services, flyers, menus, and visited a lot of local businesses in person. Now we us social media, Google, and Thumbtack.com.

Started with a stick burner trailer, then an 18' open trailer with a Large Spicewine, then an 18' Extreme trailer, then food trucks (and a restaurant). Sold the food trucks and restaurant, lol.

Now back to an open trailer with a Large Spicewine, a 3 foot Santa Maria BBQ, and my Nissan NV 1500. We use 4-6 Cambros, 2 150 Igloo Coolers, wire chafing dishes, 2 EZ ups with walls/screens, propane pot boiler, 2 Butane table top stoves, and a LOT of aluminum trays (lol).

01-29-2014, 12:58 PM
Hi, I might be able to give you some info.

In early 2010 I started a catering company in Northern, VA. There has been a steep learning curve but it's going very well. I may have a different perspective than some of other people you get responses from or speak with and I'm happy to answer any questions you might have...just too much to type right now and nobody wants to read through all that!

But in short, I started with a WSM 22" and quickly picked up a pretty good size trailer mounted 4860 smoker from Heartland Cookers in Sikeston, MO. If I've got a big event I use the 4860, if I need less I'll use the WSM. I rent a commercial kitchen from a local church so I'm legal (licensed, insured, etc.) as far as other equipment, I had almost none, but would buy things as I could, here and there. Usually at Restaurant Depot.

Let me know if I can help.

01-29-2014, 01:00 PM
Oh, also I really like the a site called Restaurant Owner ro.com. It's a paid site but has great info and some of it is free!

02-06-2014, 11:42 PM
I was asked to fill in for a guy who cooked chicken at a charity golf event. He got sick and couldn't be there. He had a rep for having some of the best chicken around. I stepped in and killed it. People went crazy for the food I was putting out. People started asking if I had a catering business and that got the ball rolling. Got the licenses needed to start up and went at it. Bought a large Santa Maria style grill, an FEC-100 and started small. We are still small as my partner and I work full time for an oil company, but we get enough business to buy new equipment and it pays for itself. We only do private gigs and no vending. Biggest gig to date was 500 people for a church function and our average gig is about 80-125 people. Our best gig is for a local golf course. We cater a lunch for the staff a coupe times a year and cater their Christmas party. They pay us and give us a membership to the course. Nothing beats free golf!

02-20-2014, 01:50 PM
We started pursuing 2 different avenues. First I called the local dept of health and found out what would make them happy to satisfy the caterers permit. After the initial call we had built a relationship with them. They are not all monsters looking to shut down your business. Some are helpful and pointed me in the right direction of events we should attend. At the same time we began to market our services to the larger more well known caterers in the area, why? Becuase they do not have the time, resources or skill to do real BBQ. Your product gives them something to offer that they couldn't previously. We sold our product to another caterer at wholesale during the summer for her events. This led to an opportunity where they wanted the smoker on site, so we jumped on the opportunity to show what we could do. The one thing you will have to be willing to do is to reinvest every dollar you make back into the business. It takes money to make money. Your first year plan on being a loss, do it right and it will probably be a big loss, like tax shelter big. There is money to be made but if you want to be around you have to build your brand, grow and sacrifice. Also surround yourself with good people. Customers are going to see, talk and interact with your staff well before they ever try the food. I am most uncomfortable talking about our accomplishments but in 2 years we have gone from an ez-up tent to a custom designed catering/concession trailer to our 1st restaurant. It has been a ton of sleepless nights, stress and good times. The events we do now are larger in scale then I would have dreamed. It is February 20th and starting april 12 through Sept 27th we have at least 1 event booked every weekend except for 3 weekends. Events and festivals now call us to be a part of their event. Our restaurant has been open 8 weeks, already have been approached by a property owner to open #2. Keep those fires burning and good luck.

Smoke House Moe
02-23-2014, 11:05 AM
I posted on another thread my short story:

-Basically, I bought a Pitmaker trailer Vault, catering license, website, business cards, minimal equipment, and insurance.
-Secured a spot at two "blossoming" farmers markets. *Large, established markets usually have a waiting list and larger booth fee's or revenue sharing.
- Built a small following of "candied bacon" freaks. *If candied bacon is not on your menu, get it on there.
- Got three catering gigs for the year from the markets.
- promoted the biz through FB and Twitter.
- As of now, I already have three gigs lined up for 2014.

- Small, humble beginnings, but I am on my way.

- 95% of what you need to know is in this Catering thread. The other 5% is what hangs up most people, and that is just doing the steps necessary.

- Good luck and keep us updated