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View Full Version : Can I make money as a BBQ vendor?


farklf
05-06-2009, 12:29 PM
I think I'm about to lose my job. I work from home as a computer programmer. But my work-from-home has been cancelled. I am to report to a job 6 hours away. My wife of 19 years can't come because of her elderly parents. We tried it once for a bout 6 months and I realized it sucked. That's when they offered me WFH. I jumped at it. Now, after 6 months it's being cancelled because of a bad review. The first bad review I have ever had in 26 years of programming. Anyway, I'm not going back and I have to do something. Programming jobs here are for the young kids and I really don't want to report to anyone else. I want to make a living selling BBQ and fried rice.

Can it be done? I am taking a Small Business workshop in a couple of weeks. Anybody have anymore suggestions.

Wish me luck!!!

CROSSCZEK
05-06-2009, 12:40 PM
No advise, but GOOD LUCK!

traildust
05-06-2009, 12:49 PM
farklf, I feel for you, I really do. Hang in there I wish you the best of luck!

Teleking
05-06-2009, 01:09 PM
Do some due diligence before you jump off the deep end. Do some research with the HD to see what is allowed (required) in your area for vending. Not to mention any licensing and insurance that might be needed.

barbefunkoramaque
05-06-2009, 02:45 PM
yes, note my signature line.

Divemaster
05-06-2009, 02:50 PM
I think you can do it if you are really prepared...

First, talk with the Health Department... They have very specific rules for this sort of thing...

Second, check out the forum "Catering and Cooking For The Masses. (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=62)" These are people that are doing what you're talking about...

Third, the easiest way to start is to hook up with a catering company part time... Get your feet wet with out being in over your head and still learn all the parts of vending/catering while getting paid for it.

farklf
05-06-2009, 03:57 PM
Thanks!!!!

traildust
05-06-2009, 04:39 PM
fark, it can be done if you want it. That is the key, "If you want it".
You can do it if you push yourself, I promise you!

Smoke & Beers
05-06-2009, 05:00 PM
My wife always asks why I don't do something like that...I tell her, "If I'm doing it as a job...it becomes a job. If I'm doing it because I love it, it's for the love of doing it." I seriously considered doing the local farmers market thing, but once I started checking into the HD codes and all the red tape...I quickly decided I was happy doing it in my backyard for friends and family.
I wish you the best of luck...and yes, check out the "cooking for the masses thread" before you make any quick decisions.

Bigmista
05-06-2009, 05:52 PM
It can be done but make sure you are doing it because you love doing it AND you love serving people. In my experience, programmers tend to be reclusive. You really have to like people. No matter how good your food is, you still have to sell.

Diver
05-06-2009, 06:35 PM
There has been a lot of good advice so far. I am in franchising and I have seen a lot of people make the jump to "business owner". Most do it because they love the job but being owner is much more than the "job". There is so much more than just the part they love that they get overwhelmed. You will suddenly be responsible for everything: hiring, firing, staffing efficiently, vendor relations, sales, marketing, accounting etc. Mista made a great point. Regardless of the business, you will find that you are really in sales and marketing. Be prepared. I would recommend reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It is a great read about the potential pitfalls of business ownership and how to avoid them. I have seen many new business owners start up having never owned a business before and go on to great success while others learn that the ownership aspect is just not for them. I have seen all personality types succeed. Do an honest character study of yourself and hire to your weaknesses. If you are not good with numbers, get an accountant etc. Whatever your decision, I wish you the best of luck and if you do make the jump, keep us posted on your progress.

Jester
05-06-2009, 07:42 PM
My man Bigmista is absolutely spot on. Most people overlook the fact that a big part of the product being offered is YOU. They are buying into your ability to deliver good food at a good price.

And Diver's recommendation on The E-Myth Revisited is well worth picking up. There is a lot you can learn from this little book.

Good luck with your possible venture!

C Rocke
05-06-2009, 10:22 PM
My man Bigmista is absolutely spot on. Most people overlook the fact that a big part of the product being offered is YOU. They are buying into your ability to deliver good food at a good price.

And Diver's recommendation on The E-Myth Revisited is well worth picking up. There is a lot you can learn from this little book.

Good luck with your possible venture!

Dead on, plus remember it is a business first. You need to be intimate with your cost of goods, cost of sales, and what your time is worth. And yes, customers are buying you and your product. Underpromise and overdeliver is how a small service business survives and thrives.

Jeff Hughes
05-06-2009, 11:01 PM
Are you going to just vend, or cater as well?

TN_BBQ
05-07-2009, 06:57 AM
You can do it.

Crawl, walk, then run.

Get the word out. Do some catering work (neighbors, churches, sports teams, parties, etc.).

tony76248
05-07-2009, 08:40 AM
Just get a good business plan. When I was a younger thug, I wanted to open a sub shop in the northeast part of the country. After putting the pencil to the paper I realized I needed to open three of them to make a decent living. Then I was hit with that other realization.... there are some damn good sub shops out there and I would have been competing with them. My 15 year old daughter just got her first job (other than working for me), she is a waitress in an Italian restaurant. The folks she works for actually own two restaurants just to achieve and maintain their desired standard of living. The husband runs one and the wife the other. They are there every night and definitely weekends.

The best advice I can give is to start small and grow it into a worthwhile venture. You are between a rock and a hard place in that you probably need to go from 0 to 60MPH overnight. Slow and steady can be good.

How soon do you need to be turning a profit? Have you done any catering or vending in the past?

Loving to cook and being successful in the restaurant business have nothing in common!

Here is something else you need to consider.....

Health insurance for yourself and your family. Does your wife have a job that covers you and your family? If not, you are playing with a loaded gun, sometimes self employment comes with obstacles.

farklf
05-07-2009, 10:49 AM
This is the best dang forum in the world. Thank you for your remarks. I will learn all I can and take all the advice into consideration. I have a small business workshop seminar scheduled for the 26th. I also have a Tavern owner who said I can use the facilities for preparation and maybe during the Winter. I will look into health insurance. I am nervous. It's like getting my first job right after college. But then I didn't have a wife and kids. Good thing is kids are in college and getting pretty much a free ride. A little cost but not bad. Who know, my job may decide to let me continue to work from home( I doubt it. after the email I sent , I probably embarrased some people). OK. Go slow, let the tavern do the selling and I just do the cooking. You are right. I chose programming because I didn't like dealing with other people's crap. But it turned into dealing with other peoples crap. So, I need to find a way I can cook . let somebody else deal with the customers but I get most of the money. Yeah, right. How can I do that?

Scared and excited at the same time. This is a good drug!!!!

smokinit
05-07-2009, 11:17 AM
Just get a good business plan. When I was a younger thug, I wanted to open a sub shop in the northeast part of the country. After putting the pencil to the paper I realized I needed to open three of them to make a decent living. Then I was hit with that other realization.... there are some damn good sub shops out there and I would have been competing with them. My 15 year old daughter just got her first job (other than working for me), she is a waitress in an Italian restaurant. The folks she works for actually own two restaurants just to achieve and maintain their desired standard of living. The husband runs one and the wife the other. They are there every night and definitely weekends.

The best advice I can give is to start small and grow it into a worthwhile venture. You are between a rock and a hard place in that you probably need to go from 0 to 60MPH overnight. Slow and steady can be good.

How soon do you need to be turning a profit? Have you done any catering or vending in the past?

Loving to cook and being successful in the restaurant business have nothing in common!

Here is something else you need to consider.....

Health insurance for yourself and your family. Does your wife have a job that covers you and your family? If not, you are playing with a loaded gun, sometimes self employment comes with obstacles.


A business plan is essential and the proper funding to get you going. Most businesses fail due to lack of funding. There are good posts in this section for everything you are looking for. Good luck bud and we are all here to help.

michiana mark
05-07-2009, 12:23 PM
good luck to you farklf, whichever way you go. I would check into some catering companies locally. Sometimes they get request for bbq that they can't fulfill. Take them in a sample for lunch. I could probably do a lot more of this, then I'd care to. Get your feelers out and see what's out there. Heads up to any situation that arises.:-D

My wife has said that I should open up a vending stand on the weekends, seems like a lot of work, as that I already work 10-12 hr days as it is. But it's always an option. I have a oppurtunity to cook for a local restaurant that wants to do an authentic bbq on a sat night. Working out the details, we'll see.

Marsha
05-07-2009, 12:51 PM
I agree whole-heartedly with those who suggested you do research, talk to the HD for all information they can give you on their requirements, consult the city for any permits you might need from them, write up a good business plan, attend those small business seminars, find a good accountant, talk to other caterers and vendors. Definitely try to learn as much as possible before you jump in. You will work your bum off, but remember not to burn yourself out either.

bbqbandit
05-07-2009, 07:34 PM
My husband was laid off in January and we decided to go into the BBQ Vendor/Catering business. We just did our first catering gig last weekend, and this weekend we're opening up in our state park (Cedar Hill State Park in DFW area). They want us every weekend if we're available. No other food in park except the marina store that sells chips and microwave meals. The park has 355 campsites, 200 picnic table, and a marina. I can't wait! We're getting excited. I'm hoping it'll provid a living for us. It's tough at there looking for work.

ThomEmery
05-07-2009, 10:47 PM
Good advise here from Guys who are out there doing it
We cater part time and only for people we like
Because it is work if we don't like the people we are serving

Dr_KY
05-08-2009, 02:39 AM
I agree with all of the above. I lost my job in December and with nothing out there I have picked up on starting a business in vending BBQ. Granted we did get a taste of what it would be like by hooking up with the local pub/bar an did a bit of Q on sunny weekends. We are now to the point where I have built a cooker, passed the food handling, safety and awareness class and booked a few gigs.

If you want it then it's out there you just need to dig deep and listen to the advice these brothers and sisters are passing along.

I wish you the best and remember to pass along what you learn from your experiences.

Doc

Bigdog
05-08-2009, 08:47 AM
As a former owner of their own business, I would like to add that you should not expect to make money right away. Start up costs are always more than you expect so have a reserve. But also remember, too little money can also be a good thing. If you have to work hard to stay afloat, you will work hard and you will make the money.

hossrocks
05-08-2009, 09:28 AM
Las year we jumped into the vending/concessions world to supplement our catering biz. I found there to be a wicked learning curve when trying to find what to serve and where. Last summer we took our hits with having way to much for some vends and way to little for others. Setting up and marketing our butts off only to find little interest. Best advice is to do your homework. We are now a little more than a year into our adventure and things are looking up.
Last year we focused on small events, auctions and farmers markets. This year I’m finding that people are calling us to vend their events large and small.
Don’t expect to make a ton of cash at first and don’t bite off more than you can chew and let it grow on its own.
If you like being in front of people and you have a passion for what you are doing the sky is the limit.

Dr_KY
05-08-2009, 09:38 AM
Last summer we took our hits with having way to much for some vends and way to little for others.


This has to be one of the toughest parts! I'm struggling to estimate numbers for our big event.
You guys have the added pleasure to have a streak of good weather where as here a sunny day it often tough to come by. This is why i have gone the route of larger events. It could pay off but then again...

oceanpigassassins
05-12-2009, 11:20 PM
Good luck it's always worth a shot

Arthur D
05-13-2009, 04:36 PM
I'm not a BBQ expert, but numbers and entrepreneurship are a passion of mine. I write a lot of business plans for large and small efforts, my focus being the financials.

I would never bet against you.

As others have said, write a plan. Write a few plans with different scenarios. An income statement will reveal many things over time, especially run many different scenarios (best to worst). Quickbooks is easy enough for you to learn how to manipulate the data. It takes time and no one else can do this for you. Going back to the data every day with new ideas will help formulate a more realistic (accurate) plan.

Strategies for tax planning are essential. You may overcook for example, but can donate to charities. There may be better ideas also to capture a 1 to 1 in losses (in-kind donations to non-for-profit corporation).

Do market studies to estimate sales variables. Most studies seem like common sense, but sometimes you will discover a jewel that was not previously realized. Gather population, demographics, competition, and all the other socio data. The data will give you confidence.

I like cash plans. Buy your assets with cash, earn dollars, and then buy more assets for bigger equipment. While this is not always possible, borrowing or credit is a slipperly slope that may sneak up on you later. Borrowing is a heck of a lot more stressful also.

Best of luck and keep us up to date. If I can be of help, just let me know. I think its an interesting project.

Terry, CPA

leanza
05-13-2009, 10:24 PM
Man what an awesome thread. Prepare to work hard. Chase dream.

Gowan
05-14-2009, 12:38 AM
...she is a waitress in an Italian restaurant. The folks she works for actually own two restaurants just to achieve and maintain their desired standard of living. The husband runs one and the wife the other. They are there every night and definitely weekends.


This is probably the most important truth you have to come to grips with.

As a programmer, you get paid regularly regardless. You can have days where you are sick, unproductive, cranky or whatever and that check still arrives. The food business is NOT A JOB, it is a LIFESTYLE. You will be married to it. You will spend more time at your restaurant/vending booth then you spend at home. If you take a day off, everything grinds to a halt and you will lose money. (Yes, even if you have employees, unless you can afford to pay somebody the $30K a year it takes to get somebody who cares about your business)

I know what I am talking about - I work as a programmer and am a partner in a BBQ Restaurant. My partner and/or his wife are there six days a week, 52 weeks a year. There is no way I would choose to quit my IT job and work in the food business full time - it requires a tremendous commitment for a marginal return in addition to great financial risk to capitalize a business with the highest probability of failure of any start up.

All that said, go for it if preparing food is such an overwhelming passion that you think about it all the time and you reap great satisfaction from doing the hands on work. However, if you are looking at this move as an easy alternative for providing for your family you would be making a huge mistake; better to figure out how to become more competitive in your field and keep BBQ as a fun hobby.

I'm not trying to discourage you, just to help make you aware of the reality of the biz.

EDIT - Oh and one other thing: If you don't like dealing with the public, don't even think about it! Folks have many choices when they to go out eat, and the one thing a small operator can offer that the franchises can't is personalized service. Your customers will return to dine because of YOU. If schmoozing with customers doesn't sound like something you want to do you're in big trouble before you start. Only you can be the owner - you can't hire a stand-in.

jbrink01
05-14-2009, 07:40 AM
I have what I deem to be a successful BBQ vending and catering business in addition to my career. My wife essentially runs the catering business in that she doesn't have a "real" job. I'm so freaking tired of it right now, I'd kill for 2 consecutive days off. Write me a check and the whole ball of wax is yours........

cjcullom
05-23-2009, 11:34 AM
Serving food needs to be a passion first and a business second! One must have a tolerance for the public(especially the bitchy ones) and not mind spending 8-14 hours on your feet.
Know your region and what people like in that area. I hail from Va. and a "country" ham is a standard at many meals there but now live outside of Philly and most people here have never heard of it. Here, cheesesteaks and pretzels rule, but there can be a niche that works, you just have to find and market it.
Also, make sure your immediate family is on board! I am a restaurant widower(about 7 days a week) and have been for a decade; I knew the deal when I married but some days it is tough.
Lastly, never trust your purveyors...if you dont shop them weekly your pricing will always start to creep up. Reviewing your receipts also keeps you aware of seasonal market trends.
There is a couple of cents of info and feel free to pm me if I can help with any other food biz ??? The best of luck to you if you do start up and remember passion is the key....to most things!!

jbrink01
05-23-2009, 04:58 PM
BTW - Food is a passion as cjcullom states. My whole family is on board with the plan, but it's like being a dairy farmer (i grew up on a beef operation) and the cows need milked every day x2.

farklf
05-05-2011, 04:18 PM
I'm on in. Couldn't keep doing the 6 hour commute each way on weekends. Don't want to program computers anymore. Joining a taco stand to do work with them for HD reasons. I'll get my feet wet and go from there. I hear a little voice saying' Get in where you fit in'. I will give it all I got and will be smart about. Got enough to allow the wife to let me try it.


I got figure what it will take for me to make 100$ a day. I know if this works . me and the taco owner gonna have to talk! I have no agreement with him now and he has no financial obligation at the moment. he will propotion and add sides and price adjust as he see's fit. He will be paying me a % + cost of all products. We'll see. I could use some advice on BBQ and such. But not my programming loss because this is a new season and I am all in. Can't go back to that job and don't want to leave my wife anymore and she can't go because of her family is here.

So, Here i go!!

Arlin_MacRae
05-05-2011, 04:20 PM
Good luck!!!!

boogiesnap
05-05-2011, 09:50 PM
yes, note my signature line.

i haven't read the whole thread, but, if the sig line is serious jump on this.

barbefunkoramaque had some serious skills. i'm sure his disciple pitmaster t learned a few things from him....:becky:

never ate his Q, but made his recipes, and they are G. U. D.!

shoulda maybe read the date at least!

but, good luck my friend! ask away, this community is always there to help!

and keep sharing your experience to help others.

Dyce51
05-07-2011, 08:25 PM
I'm on in. Couldn't keep doing the 6 hour commute each way on weekends. Don't want to program computers anymore. Joining a taco stand to do work with them for HD reasons. I'll get my feet wet and go from there. I hear a little voice saying' Get in where you fit in'. I will give it all I got and will be smart about. Got enough to allow the wife to let me try it.


I got figure what it will take for me to make 100$ a day. I know if this works . me and the taco owner gonna have to talk! I have no agreement with him now and he has no financial obligation at the moment. he will propotion and add sides and price adjust as he see's fit. He will be paying me a % + cost of all products. We'll see. I could use some advice on BBQ and such. But not my programming loss because this is a new season and I am all in. Can't go back to that job and don't want to leave my wife anymore and she can't go because of her family is here.

So, Here i go!!


Good Luck To You!!!!! I hope it all works out well for you!!!!

Panther5150
05-10-2011, 12:35 AM
Been there myself. Had a small restraunt with my wife at one point and it can be difficult at best. Remember unless you have a load of cash to blow, which you will if your not careful, YOU are responsible for everything. That means being there every day, starting early and finishing late.
Unless you really love the business you will probably find that within six months you will either love it or hate it. The other aspect is cash. How much do you have to start, how much do you have to pay YOUR bills while the business makes little money.
On the up side if you love it and you have a good product and price you probably will do fine. Just be aware of the old saying: The best way to make a large amount of money into a small amount of money is to open a restraunt.
Be prepared for the initial investment also. I think we spent about $5000.00 in City, state and county fees, inspections, LLC, insurance, rent etc... the list goes on and on.
Good Luck

Sammy
05-18-2011, 11:06 PM
Panther5150 "I think we spent about $5000.00 in City, state and county fees, inspections, LLC, insurance, rent etc... the list goes on and on."

This is the problem with any small biz, very heart breakin

Bama Q
05-22-2011, 12:40 AM
You are in a hard spot, Catering is a great bus., getting the reparation and in with the company's that spend the bucks. Takes time, You will spend a lot of time selling your self and product. Don't be the cheapest, sell Quality and service. Don't run out of food. the Big boss like a little something to take home, Find your allies, take care of them
Good luck
Big Jim