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-   -   Can you make money with BBQ? (

snyper77 08-04-2011 12:53 PM

Can you make money with BBQ?
I'm very new to Q. Planning to buy a really nice smoker for my 40th b-day in March '12.
I'm always on the lookout for new ways to make money (if I enjoy what I'm doing). Just wondering if there's a profit to be made in BBQ? If so, what's the basics? What are THE top producing gigs?
As you all know, a slab of ribs is $20, butts are $17 (8lbs), whole chicken is $5, and briskets are $30+. That doesn't include gasoline and time, running around everywhere, charcoal, spices, sauces, etc.
With all the high overhead, is there room for a real profit?

I live in northeast Alabama where there are lots of local sporting events, festivals, etc.
Any ideas and tips are greatly appreciated.

Sledneck 08-04-2011 01:34 PM

Jacked Up's Matt Ragusa makes crazy money with his BBQ vending and catering. He's mad loaded. Doesn't know what to do with the money. I've seen the room where he has the counting machines

Jacked UP BBQ 08-04-2011 01:38 PM

If you are paying that much for meat, no you cannot make money.

Sledneck 08-04-2011 01:41 PM

But you have to be a better businessman than a cook to be successful. Even Matt isn't that good. He owns an adult book store and sex toy shop in east Rutherford nj close to where the jets/ giants play. If I were him I would combine the businesses and sell BBQ at the sex toy shop.

snyper77 08-04-2011 02:01 PM


Originally Posted by Jacked UP BBQ (Post 1737587)
If you are paying that much for meat, no you cannot make money.

Where do you buy wholesale meat? What are "the going prices" for wholesale chicken, brisket, ribs and butts?

At an average "small town festival", what kind of gross sales can be made? $1k? $5k?

Jacked UP BBQ 08-04-2011 02:05 PM

I am in NJ so our prices and wehere to buy are completely different. Wholesale clubs are your last resort. Look for local wholesalers or a restaurant depot. I have no idea what you can sell at a small town festival.. I can tell you that if you do 1k in sales you wasted your time and better pray you had no employees. Its not just setting up and selling meat there is so much more to it. HD, insurance, etc. Its not just cooking BBQ its business.

plethoraofpinatas 08-04-2011 06:17 PM


Originally Posted by snyper77 (Post 1737626)
Where do you buy wholesale meat?

Go to some restaurants in your local area and find out where they buy their meat. In my area (suburb of a major city) there are wholesale food venders like Sysco and Adams Birch, equipment vendors like Restaurant Depot for the basics. There are also organic/sustainable farms nearby that sell to the upscale restaurants and groceries (organic, seasonal, locally grown, etc).

Also, before you commit to anything, figure out your business licensing and food safety requirements. When I started researching a BBQ business I found out it was more work than I had time (I already have a full-time job).

jbrink01 08-04-2011 06:24 PM

We make money at it. Real money. Figure 30% net allowing for debt reduction. It's hard work. We have $100k worth of equipment, paid for. Your cost assumptions are way wrong. Wanna buy all my stuff, I'm tired. That's it in a nutshell.

chad 08-04-2011 07:51 PM

Yeah, you can make money. But, it is definitely BUSINESS first. Learn what it really costs and sell to profit. Be LEGAL if you plan on making money. The state, local, and fed tax people will notice if you aren't paying "your fair share".

I pay about $7 per slab for spare ribs (just rough estimating here), $1.79 for pork, $2.39-ish for brisket, etc. That's just what I noticed wandering through Sam's and GFS the last couple of days.

Learn about the business first. Have fun cooking que then decide if you want to fark up a perfectly good hobby. :shock::mrgreen:

landarc 08-04-2011 08:12 PM

My recommendation is to consider what it is to cook in a restaurant, because making money at BBQ is going to be cooking as if you are on the line. It is not so much fun as hard work. You also need to do a lot of work on the costing, as mentioned above. It is a tough business, but, no worse than running any small business. And if working crazy hours, dealing with burns, cuts and exhaustion while still being happy and upbeat at service and living for the end of service, the adrenaline hit at the start of service and taking a few painful losses every year, it may just be for you.

For the record, I loved working the line, I left it because I was developing far too many bad habits, like drinking all night, which was not a life plan.

Matt_A 08-05-2011 12:10 AM

landarc, drinking too much too stay on the line??? How is that possible? I left being a sous chef because I got STOOPID and thought I could find a better life in the USAF. Now 12 years post USAF retirement I am insane enough to crave the mad long hours, heat, personality conflicts, burns, cuts, sore feet, knees, back and arms... and the look on the customer's face when they take that first scrumptious bite of the food you slaved over for them.

landarc 08-05-2011 12:49 AM

No, the drinking came after work. Oddly, when you get off of work at 1am, there are very few things to do but go hang out, drink and carouse with other restaurant workers.

And yes, there is nothing quite like seeing the happy eaters and the feeling of nailing a service.

goodbuddiesbbq 08-05-2011 06:48 AM

If you have another job...this can be a fun hobby that you can make money at...but make sure that you only take the jobs that are going to pay you instead of local festivals that are complete question marks. For example, find an alumni club at a local university and do caterings for football games for their alumni group.

Don't feel like you have to work all the time and if you can take a cooking class or a catering class from somebody like jbrink01 or Jacked Up...they'll take the fluff out of it and give you the real details and some tips on producing better bbq and making money when it is available.

I agree with what Matt said about's kind of like investing in make your money on the purchase. Choice briskets 1.89; Whole Chickens .89; Pork Butts 1.35; Spare Ribs 1.49 (all IBP except for the chicken).

Good luck and try to find select opportunities.

Lake Dogs 08-05-2011 08:50 AM

^^^ absolutely on the purchasing. Drive your costs down. Watch every penny. For that matter, see if you can purchase your meat through/with a local restauranteur who gets meat directly from a distributer. I do this for our whole pork shoulders that you cant purchase elsewhere. I end up paying usually around $1.10/lb (or less) for Smithfield. Cut out that middle man or two; it'll help tremendously.

My wife keeps wanting me to vend at a few local events that truly could use good barbecue. Frankly, at $5/sandwich/plate we'd work our butts off and *possibly* make a few hundred profit; possibly... And the effort that would go in to this, for a few hundred bucks? No thanks. What Jacked UP BBQ said is dead on. Hobby and a few bucks, fine. Otherwise focus on the larger guaranteed things. That way you know ahead of time whether and how much you'll profit and you can decided whether it's worth the effort.

PorkQPine 08-05-2011 09:20 AM

Start with small catering jobs. Some pit mfg. have catering and restaurant classes so I would check them out. This is a business and it requires that you never forget that, you need to do food costing and especially you need to know marketing. Get your ServSafe certification and volunteer your labor to other caterer's who are not in your marketing area before you do anything. Insurance, certified kitchen/commissary, licenses and health dept. approvals. It is hard work but if you love it you will have a job that you enjoy doing.

Most important, only invest what you can lose.

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