View Full Version : Soooo...you want to get into the BBQ Business

big brother smoke
01-26-2011, 04:55 PM
Hi Folks,

Recently, I have been asked by quite a few folks about how to get into the business. Most folks think if they can smoke or grill well they are ready for the business. However you will find there is much more than the cooking process. Below I will attempt to bullet other important factors:

Have the ability to drum up business or market your business. Get a decent professional looking website. Do not let your spouse talk you into doing it as a hobby.
Have the ability to research and try recipes you have never tried such as smoked tofu with raspberry chipotle sauce.
Keeping your books.
Understand your equipment needs (smoker/grills, refrigeration, etc)
Investing your initial profit back into the business. Whilst getting started plan on upgrading equipment to good chafers versus wire frames, Cambros instead of igloos, etc. Try not to use credit if possible.
Hiring and maintaining quality staff. Remember these folks represent your business.
It is just as important to clean as it is to cook. Your food will taste much better out of a clean smoker/grill than one that is used constantly with no cleaning. The little black crunchies do not make your grub better; it actually contributes to a rancid taste in your food.
Patience with clients. If you cannot take the time to go back and forth answering questions you think are dumb with a client, this business is not for you. You will re-visit your contract several times before an event, especially weddings (numbers increase, adding additional items, etc.)
Learn Serv-Safe criteria. Get to know your Health Department regulations and/or requirements.
Never think you know it all, there is always room for growth
Research good sources for procuring food items and other goods for your business.
Do not dare do this without insurance.
Be prepared to work long grueling hours.
Make sure your crew is paid before you touch the dough.

These are my initial thoughts. Feel free to add and I will make a comprehensive list.

01-26-2011, 05:00 PM
So many people have asked me why I do not open a restaurant...

^^^^^ That's Why.

I love the idea of doing it, but I wanna keep it fun, so it stays a hobby.

01-26-2011, 05:13 PM
Nice Job Steph, The hobby part I use to get from family. They don't say that anymore

Southern Home Boy
01-26-2011, 05:26 PM

Every time I think about doing Que professionally, all I have to do is look at a friend of mine who opened his own restaurant. Gruelling hours, enormous debt, and little to no take-home pay.

No thanks.

01-26-2011, 05:55 PM
I think Smokin' Aussie knows this, now that I know a little about his background. Cooking professionally is a real business and you better really have a passion for cooking, serving, hospitality and people. It is a tough job, but, a great career.

01-26-2011, 06:46 PM
Thanks steph... in reading all that "dread"..... i still feel like this is for me :D and im glad i have a good buncha guru's who can let me learn from their mistakes, and misfortunes!!

im still in the research stage, in building a business plan..in case i need a loan and so i know what to expect from myself.

i have taken to heart all the advice i have thusfar recieved, and will continue to do so.

thanks again!!


Hey mods, if this turns out to be a good informative thread.... could we sticky it for future refrence, for other businesses to input, and other business newbs, to have a firsthand insight to this world.

01-26-2011, 07:01 PM
You will also want to consider are you or your wife gonna leave your day jobs for this. Also consider health benefits, tax consequences, storage of equipment (especially the trailer), licensing etc...remember it is a business and that is where a lot of folks get tripped up.

01-26-2011, 07:16 PM
BBS filled me in on his dirty lil secret, and at first i plan to keep the day job, the wife currently cant find a job worth a chit, so she's free.

i made it down to the SBA office to get started with the baby steps into business, and the shot me a bunch of info concerning taxes, insurance, worker's comp, the actual types of business, sole prop, partnership, LLC (which i am considering) and corporations, they also gave me local govt authorities to contact such as the City, and surrounding cities i might travel to in the catering biz (ya gotta have health card that's accepted in all areas your workin, and same with bus license., the county health dept

01-26-2011, 07:20 PM
i just saw this on Facebook, talk about devine timing, (seems like that is happenin a lot for me these last few weeks...


^^^^^^these guys did this i copy and pasted, i in no way am claiming i wrote it

BBQ Essays: Some Free Advice to Barbecue Restaurateurs

1. Start slowly. I know you love the 13 appetizers, 27 entrees and 12 sides you conceived as if they're your children, and you don't want to leave any of them off your menu when you open for business. But treat them as children another way by not trying to give birth to them all on the same day. When you've mastered a core menu, maybe you can branch out and add a new item or two every week. It'll ensure higher quality and give even the most positive customers a reason to come back sooner than they would otherwise.

2. Don't just buy the smallest, cheapest smoker you can find, or your barbecue will suck. Okay, so maybe it won't suck, but if you buy a Cookshack, it'll stand a good chance of being a notch below what comes out of a Southern Pride, Ole Hickory or J&R. At least do yourself (and your business) the favor of tasting barbecue at different joints produced by different smokers, and if you believe smaller and cheaper is the way to go, you've done your due dilligence.

3. Use an answering machine and have a recorded message on it. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should at least state the name of your restaurant, with operating hours a bonus. Believe it or not, potential customers will call you during off hours to make sure you still exist or to see if you are open on Sundays.

4. List your hours on your website. You can reduce those off-hours calls by simply declaring when you're open on your website. For those of you who say you can't update this information because you have a web guru who charges $75 per hour to make the change, I say hogwash. You might not be technically savvy enough to create your website, but you should be able to change "11:30" to "12:00" fairly easily. Rather than lumping "Tuesday through Thursday" and "Friday and Saturday" together with common stated hours, have your web guru list every day separately, so you can make changes without having to worry about adding a new line.

5. Use Facebook. I know many restaurants are on Facebook, but how many use Facebook? Some of the restaurants I've friended or liked haven't posted a thing since the summer of 2009. Others go through long stretches of posting nothing, then on a snowy day dust off the "Come on in, it's warm in here!" chestnut. The masters of Facebook have figured out that by announcing entertainment ("Right here on our stage... The Meatles!"), food specials ("Today's guest chili is serrano elk stew!"), pricing specials ("Mullet Mondays! Mullets eat free!") or other enticements ("Tank Top Tuesdays! Come see Brianna!"), they're doing something much cheaper and easier than drumming up new customers: they're getting more repeat business from their existing customers. Note that exclamation points are not required but seem to be the general practice. And adding "Woot woot!" at the end of your Facebook post seems to somehow add some hipster cred.

6. In your website or Facebook photo gallery, show pics of the food, not the drunks, fatties and hotties who frequent your place. Okay, maybe keep the hotties. But show the food too. You're not ashamed of your own food, are you?

7. Selling T shirts is cool. Selling them for $20 or more is not cool. I guess it all depends on whether you want to treat T shirts as a profit center or as a break-even proposition that ups your cool quotient and effectively gets you free advertising. For a juggernaut like Redbones (Boston) or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (NYC), the first approach makes sense. If you're struggling to make a name for yourself, stick with the groundswell approach.

8. Rethink your "no substitutions" policy. Yes, I know the organic vegetables cost a lot more than the dirty rice. And yes, I know substituting tater tots for the cous cous compromises your chef's artistic vision. But regardless of facts, logic and artistry, many customers will just think you're an *******. And many customers will ask if they can substitute anyway (even if you change "no substitutions" to "No substitutions under no circumstances ever ever ever" [which makes you look like even more of an *******]). The money you save by restricting your customers to the el cheapo sides is lost—and then some—by the wasted energy your servers will have to go through explaining your policy, asking a manager to overrule your policy, explaining why your manager didn't overrule your policy, etc. And by losing customers unhappy with your policy. And even by the customers at the next table, who had no problem with no substitutions and never thought you were an *******—instead, they'll simply think the service sucked, because their server was too tied up and never got around to their table.

9. Don't badmouth your competition. It makes you look petty. Most towns are big enough to support both you and your top competitor, so there's no need to take the low road.

10. Taste your food and taste it often. Taste your competition's food too. But don't compare the two unless you're tasting under the same conditions. Sure, your brisket right out of the smoker is going to taste a hundred times better than someone else's reheated brisket that sat sealed in a container on a counter ten minutes, in your car another ten minutes and on your own table another five minutes before you finally dug in. Ever wonder how your own stuff fares after it's been reheated and sitting? You ought to.

big brother smoke
01-28-2011, 11:13 AM
Some good points in your post/thread, though subjective. :thumb:

01-28-2011, 02:36 PM
I would also suggest you consider the importance of maintaining a separate existence for you and your business in terms of social media. I really dislike, and will generally stop going to a business that tries to ram their ideal political world down my throat. This goes either way in terms of political thought. The exception is gun shops, don't ask me why.

I also agree with not talking down the competition, not because it makes you look petty, but, everything you say about other places could insult your customers who just might like the other place too. There is nothing like telling someone that their current go to place sucks and only a moron would eat their swill.

01-28-2011, 02:58 PM
that makes sense, perfect sense i know i would not like goin to a place that touts thier politico one way or the other... even if it's in line with my own beliefs, i go for the food, and i'd hope that i can do that too