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View Full Version : How to run a fundraiser BBQ cook off?


Harm
02-07-2014, 03:22 AM
Hello everyone. I introduced myself and family in cattle call so I will not bore you here with that.

I am a football booster VP and I would like to start an annual BBQ cook off event to raise money for our team. I could sure use all the advice I can get on how to set up the rules and what laws I need to check on and that sort of thing. How to recruit and train judges so that it is as professional or legit as possible as we want this to grow into an annual event we can be proud of.

Our community had been hosting a civic event every year (Chicken and Egg Festival) but it grew so large that the volunteer staff and small town budget couldn't maintain it. So I know that this area is ripe for such an activity and believe we can build this into a success for the team and the community.

We have loads of local singing talent and would like to have live performances at our BBQ cook offs to entertain our guest as well as provide them a friendly atmosphere as they browse the BBQ contestants and sample the food.

We have some very renown BBQ places in the area (Big Bob Gibsons) and people here love to eat and cook BBQ so I think this is a great way to provide a need in the community. I have eaten at many BBQ places around the country as I use to drive over the road in a big truck but I have never been to a cook off event. I have no experience in what the contestants are use to seeing or what they expect from the cook off officials or event planners. I have no idea what prizes are expected or what would draw more competitors. Rules, regulations, and laws are not totally foreign but not experienced when it comes to competitive cook offs.

Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Icekub
02-07-2014, 07:30 AM
Check with your local health department for their rules and regulations, because every place is a little different (your plan for everyone to sample the teams' BBQ may not fly) Contest rules - http://www.kcbs.us/pdf/2014_rules.pdf is a good start. If you want to draw more competitors, you will have to get a sanctioning body (like KCBS) to sanction your contest. Otherwise, you may have to run an unsanctioned comp and will not get more than some local teams, most likely. You may want to go to a comp first before trying to emulate one. KCBS website will let you find a comp local to you.

gmholler
02-07-2014, 08:37 AM
You might want to look at the Alabama BBQ Association website for some competitions near you:
http://www.alabamabbqassociation.com

I can rattle off some other links that might help you, but overall, reading about it isn't going to help you as much as actually GOING to a contest! You have a good idea - and you seem to have the support of the town, which can be crucial! Check out another contest, talk to the organizer and some cooks, see what goes on, and hang around for the awards. It's really best experienced.

Lynn H.

Lake Dogs
02-07-2014, 09:04 AM
Harm,

I have quite a bit of experience with this very thing over the years and I'd like to address a very key point:

> We have ... a friendly atmosphere as they browse the BBQ contestants and sample the food.

There are all types of cookoffs, but most in the south we pretty much have BBQ cookoffs and chili cookoffs. BBQ cookoffs are notorious at NOT having much (if any) BBQ available and being served to the general public.

I've been in capacities as a contest organizer, rarely but have been a sponsor, rep (of a sanctioning body), judge, head/lead judge, and contestant/competitor. While competitors are there to have fun, they're there to put forth their best product to the judges. In the case of BBQ, it's extremely expensive to buy the meat and many dont have a capacity to cook a large quantity of meat, so with those 2 factors there's usually not much remaining to be handed out. Also, from a competitor perspective, when we did this it took our focus away from the competition and we didnt fare as well as we'd wanted to, so we stopped participating in these types.

First suggestion would be perhaps to do chili vs. BBQ. Chili is almost always set up for a crowd hand-out. You can mandate that they make a minimum of X amount (run some searches, you'll see what is best). Have people buy tickets to vote for their favorite (peoples choice).

For BBQ, peoples choice is still the best way to do this. People pay to sample and vote for their favorites. The best way I've seen this work is to do it blind (not at the competitors site, but at a table removed from that area). You would supply the pork butts (much cheaper than ribs), usually 1 or 2 to each competitor, they cook them and turn them in at X time. At time+15 minutes you open it up for blind judging. Charge money. Here they charge $5 for a plate, the plate has 4 entries on it. They vote for their best. These plates, with roughly 10lbs of cooked pork each and usually having 20 competitors do this (200lbs cooked pork) usually sells out in 45 minutes. It's CRAZY.

This (above) keeps the craziness away from the competitors who can focus on the competition. Also, in peoples choice competitions where the competitors get to hand out their product, everyone knows that 99.999% of the time the largest home-town team wins, regardless of how good their product was. For locals, that's GREAT. However, for a non-local competitor, it takes the competition out of it.....

From a $$$ fundraising perspective, taking my example above, if you purchase the butts at $1.50/lb, 20lbs per competitor, 20 competitors, the cost of the meat is $600. Using 1/4lb servings, 4 servings per plate, that's 1lb per plate, 200 plates at $5 each, that's only $1000 take with $600 invested, not counting all the effort. I'd see if I couldn't get the meat donated.

This (the money) gets us looking back to chili. In that case, it is customary for the contestants to foot the bill completely for peoples choice, and requiring 2 gallons is usually the bare minimum. Most make 4 gallons or much more. You can have them literally each serve hundreds of people... These are usually not done blind, so the locals have a huge edge on non-locals. That said, I've done very well non-local in these and still enjoy them. Some sell those voting tickets for $1, others $2, some $5... The cost; $0 other than the tickets... The income; how many can you sell?

Hawg Father of Seoul
02-07-2014, 09:35 AM
Sams donates chicken for the local comp. Don't do bone in chicken. Our team cooked over 200# of thighs and a case of pork butt and still ran out.

Lakedogs dropped the knowledge on you. You might consider doing chili PC on Friday and pork butt on Saturday.

BTW I would consider doing boneless chicken breast (1.88 fresh at Sams) never would I consider pork loin. Been there done that. A lot of teams can't cook it.

gooose53
02-07-2014, 03:03 PM
Lake Dogs gives good advice! In SC we have about 40 - 50 contests a year between the SCBA and the SBN. Both run on a similar format. Cooker pays about $200, we usually cook a case of butts (sometimes more) which is purchased by the organizer and given to us. The organizer sells tickets on Sat for all the bbq you can eat (given in 2 oz cups by the cook team) for anywhere between $10 - $20 per person. I'm sure that the meat is sponsored by a company so there's no cost to the organizer. Friday night there is usually a no pork contest usually judged blind so the local team has no real advantage. We have one organizer that says they raise over $20,000 for their charity. You can add craft vendor's who pay a fee to sell as well. Go to a contest or two and talk to the organizer and the cook teams. They probably would have no issues with giving you their opinions.

goodsmokebbq
02-07-2014, 03:38 PM
If you are looking to REALLY raise money stay away from a real contest...

Just run a ribfest with 6-10 vendors, music and beer :-) Let people vote during then event for their favorite, and maybe some VIP judges. Done...

Best return for your time.

Harm
02-07-2014, 05:34 PM
Wow so many options. Lots of great advice guys, thanks. At least I see that there are more options than I first thought. I like all of the ideas. I guess I will have to do some more research and check with some of the local vendors and see what they think.

We did have a great Chicken and Egg festival that kinda put us on the map. It started out as a county wide thing and grew to where people from several states were making the trip every year and this year they will not be doing it any more because it grew to be too large for the small volunteer staff and small budget so I would love to take advantage of the void and create something similar yet different that can benifit out team.

We are the largest school in the county yet we are still a county school and don't have the revenue that city schools have and I would like to create some fundraisers that can grow to really make a difference as we have a great need to upgrade in many areas.

Thank you for this start and I look forward to picking your brains for more information as I find my direction in this venture.

TooSaucedToPork
02-07-2014, 11:10 PM
You wanna make $ as a fundraiser, push as many costs off of you as possible. Invite vendors, whether they be bbq restaurants, food trucks, or local non-profits. Don't charge a fee for them to vend, charge 10% of profit. They carry their own insurance, pay their own food costs, and you can dictate a "bbq inspired" dish to turn in for judging.

Beer sales are your $$$ maker. Get the parents from the school band or football dads to man the taps. Have all tips go to the charity, or use it to fund awards. Do a chili peoples choice Cookoff, and a homebrew peoples choice. $10 entry fee and 3 gallons of chili or 5 gallons of brew.

Bbq, brew, and music...they will come.

cheapbeer
02-08-2014, 02:17 AM
A few people have suggested chili cookoffs. One of the people on our bbq team and myself just entered our first chili comp last month and won it. This was a fundraiser for the local lake association and was held just before the annual ice fishing derby. The chili cookoff required an ice cream pail or roughly a gallon for turn in amount. They used what was needed for judging and saved the rest. The winning entry was reserved for auction at the awards ceremony and the rest of the entries were combined and sold at the ice fishing derby along with burgers and brats. Our winning entry netted $120 at auction and the sales of the rest was all profit minus the cost of the trophy and operating expenses which should have been minimal due to donated facilities and labor. Also, since this is run in conjunction with a successful pre-existing event, the work and expenses being shared, this cookoff should have done very well for the lake association.

Harm
02-08-2014, 09:25 AM
Great idea but I live in the heart of the Bible Belt and even though our city did go wet a few years ago its still not a big seller. I have traveled the world and got very spoiled to good beer during my 4 year stay in Germany and have no problems sampling good brew but it would never get approved to have beer on school property or to associate beer with a football team event. I like your thinking though.


You wanna make $ as a fundraiser, push as many costs off of you as possible. Invite vendors, whether they be bbq restaurants, food trucks, or local non-profits. Don't charge a fee for them to vend, charge 10% of profit. They carry their own insurance, pay their own food costs, and you can dictate a "bbq inspired" dish to turn in for judging.

Beer sales are your $$$ maker. Get the parents from the school band or football dads to man the taps. Have all tips go to the charity, or use it to fund awards. Do a chili peoples choice Cookoff, and a homebrew peoples choice. $10 entry fee and 3 gallons of chili or 5 gallons of brew.

Bbq, brew, and music...they will come.

Harm
02-08-2014, 09:31 AM
I pride myself to be a pretty good chili cook so Im liking the chili idea and now may be looking at having a BBQ in the Summer and a Chili in the winter. Our desire is to have several fundraisers a year. We currently make pretty good selling adds for the football program sold at the games and Gold Cards (which are coupon cards for local eateries and other service companies that give discounts to the card holder).

Gowan
02-10-2014, 12:06 PM
I've helped produce several KCBS Sanctioned events and consulted with many other groups who have not gone that way, so I believe I can pass along a few proven nuggets to set you in the right direction.

I am a football booster VP and I would like to start an annual BBQ cook off event to raise money for our team.

This is a red flag for me right away. If your primary purpose is to raise money for a charity, don't do a professional BBQ contest. The simple fact is you can get a much higher return for less time and expense with less demanding fundraisers like golf tournaments, pancake breakfasts and silent auctions.

I could sure use all the advice I can get on how to set up the rules and what laws I need to check on and that sort of thing. How to recruit and train judges so that it is as professional or legit as possible as we want this to grow into an annual event we can be proud of.

Another red flag. Don't try to invent your own contest. Pay a sanctioning body and let them take care of all this. Yes it will cost you a bit of coin, but the sanctioning organization will bring legitimacy to your event that will automatically deliver judges and teams that you will have a difficult time attracting with a "roll your own" approach.

Our community had been hosting a civic event every year (Chicken and Egg Festival) but it grew so large that the volunteer staff and small town budget couldn't maintain it.

Ack! Strike three. A Professional BBQ contest has voracious appetites for both volunteers and funding. Only with a large team of dedicated volunteers and a good pool of generous corporate sponsors does a contest prosper and last more than a year or two. If your previous festival ran out of steam, what reason do you have to believe another food festival will succeed?

Don't get me wrong - I love BBQ festivals, especially those connected with a sanctioned contest, my favorite flavor being KCBS. However, so many folks seem to be na´ve about what it takes to produce these events and what the balance sheet really looks like. The honest truth is for a small group with a small budget, a Pro BBQ Contest is a lousy choice for a fundraiser.

All that said, if you have a passion for BBQ and are willing to invest a giant-sized portion of energy to get your event off the ground then go for it! I might even pull my own trailer over the ridge and cook it myself. :)

Lake Dogs
02-10-2014, 02:48 PM
Thanks Gowan. I couldn't agree more. Mind you, my preference is slightly different, but you're right on the mark. Sanctioned (and even unsanctioned) BBQ contests are LOUSY fund raisers, and I LOVE BBQ!!!!!

Lake Dogs
02-10-2014, 04:00 PM
Harm,

Have a group of guys cook a **** load of pork butts and sell them as a fund raiser. Around here they pre-sell them and take the money up front with an assigned pick-up window. This way they know exactly how many to cook. You should be able to pick up the butts for under $1.50/lb, hopefully closer to $1.00. Selling them for $25 each, you have about $9 in the meat and other $0.50 -$1.00 in fuel, spices, foil, etc. You should net $15 each.

Even if you took this approach and made a little competition between 3 or 4 guys, who wants to buy one of the "losing" butts?... I'm thinking the competition defeats the purpose.

Firefighter
02-10-2014, 04:29 PM
Harm,

Have a group of guys cook a **** load of pork butts and sell them as a fund raiser. Around here they pre-sell them and take the money up front with an assigned pick-up window. This way they know exactly how many to cook. You should be able to pick up the butts for under $1.50/lb, hopefully closer to $1.00. Selling them for $25 each, you have about $9 in the meat and other $0.50 -$1.00 in fuel, spices, foil, etc. You should net $15 each.

Even if you took this approach and made a little competition between 3 or 4 guys, who wants to buy one of the "losing" butts?... I'm thinking the competition defeats the purpose.

We have a small back yard competition every year that is part of a much larger event. Our Fire Dept. has a family fun day to raise money for our Realy For Life team. We have rides a dunk tank and many games for the kids to particapate in. Live music and arts and crafts vendors for the adults. We also have a pulled pork throw down BBQ contest. Our Fire Dept issues a throw down challenge to anyone that would like to enter the contest. This is a charity event so in lue of an entry fee we ask that all entrants provide 2 nine pound pork butts that they cook on site. We do blind box juding so it is a fair contest and we give trophies to the top 3 teems. All the pork cooked for the contest is sold as pulled pork sammies.
How we make our money is by charging a gate fee to get into the event and then we sell all of the donated pork as a sandwich meal.
Even though there is no prize money at stake we still have a good turn out for teams because it is for a good cause.

Harm
03-07-2014, 07:56 PM
I got the go ahead to do the Summer Feast. I like the throw down challenge. Our coach wants to cook some butts so I might make it a beat the coaches challenge. Should I charge the cooking teams an entrance fee? If so I think a prize is in order. If I just do a challenge I wont ask for an entrance fee but just use them to help me cook the butts.

Im currently digging out 2 propane tanks from my yard and have plans to build a double tank (I hope they are 500 gallon monsters) trailer mounted smokers for us to cook the for sale buts and make this an open amateur cookoff competition in the future.

Firefighter
03-07-2014, 08:48 PM
We don't charge an entry fee because they are donating the meat. We do give trophies for the top 3 places.

landarc
03-07-2014, 09:52 PM
The biggest fundraisers we have out here are straight out BBQ sales. The trick is to get someone with a cool rig, and some experience to cook the meat. Then sell plates and sandwiches. I found competitions to be tricky, and while I am a very friendly person, when we did a combined comp, the people wandering through become annoyances, and they just don't understand the issue.

On the other hand, with a smoker rolling, and the smell and look of great BBQ, people will part with their money right away, combine it with a social event, you are golden. One of the great fundraisers out here is tri-tip sandwiches associated with Little League games.