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PollardsVision 02-15-2010 08:23 AM

Roadside vending. A few questions.
I've been looking into starting a roadside BBQ vending business. I've been talking with the local HD and it seems like that'll be a big help.

We still haven't decided between going with an enclosed trailer to do a larger menu or just going with a "cart & commissary" approach (any thoughts on that decision are welcome too). Won't be buying any EQ without HD input.

I just had a couple of questions for some of you guys who have made this sort of venture before. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated:

1-When/where do you do your smoking?
This may sound like a dumb question, but do you really smoke through the night every night? I can't think of any other way to have BBQ ready for a lunch crowd.
I just can't imagine the HD is okay with the idea of running a smoker while you sleep every night (not a safe idea to begin with).

2-How do you go about powering your unit?
I assume many of you are located at spots where you have a power supply negotiated from a property owner. I assume others use generators and gas. Just looking for some thoughts/ideas on how to get this done.

I have many more, but these are the burning ones right now.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

southernsmoker 02-15-2010 09:21 AM

I usually take my smoker with me, but on occasion I smoke one day and vend the next, depends on the menu of course? As for power I plug into if it's available but more often than not I use a generator and sometimes a combination of both.
Good Luck..

Ford 02-15-2010 10:57 AM

Most stuff can be cooked ahead in one cook for a week and just properly cooled and reheated each day. Ribs are little harder to reheat. But experiment with it or else get up real early to start them.

My new unit is self contained. I vent the FE's thru the roof and can cook all night if I want while sleeping.

Refrigeration is a big dollar item as it all must be NSF approved. Hot holding is another. Last year starting out I used chaffers. I just ordered the 4 well LP steam table and it should be here Wednesday or Thursday.

It's not cheap for a full concession trailer. Mine without the FE's will run about 30K. Add FE's new and it's 40k. The cart and commissary can get pretty expensive as well as you need a building for the commissary. We can't use our own kitchen here in MI. Somebody else here recently converted a garage to a commissary but not sure what it cost.

You probably need to do some more research on both options.

PollardsVision 02-15-2010 12:35 PM

Thank you for the thoughts so far, fellas.

HBMTN 02-15-2010 01:49 PM

Pollardsvision, I am across the mountion from you in Lexington, PM me your phone and I'll give you a call. I am at the end of the process you are looking to start and could help you out a lot.


FatBellyBBQ 02-15-2010 05:30 PM

I do what Ford does, I cook for a few days ahead and properly cool and reheat on site. I have a mobile vending truck that is approved for use and vent the smoke from my cookshack out the roof from an exhaust hood.

For electrical, I either plug in on site if available or I have a HUGE deep cycle battery and powerful invertor that can run all my equipment for hours.

Good luck, you will love it.

PollardsVision 02-17-2010 11:55 AM

Hey guys, I'm also looking into the possibility of using a hot dog cart type approach.

Reason being, the one thing I do have lined up is the commissary. If I could make a cart work, it seems like it would really cut down on my initial cost as well as the ongoing overhead.

Has anyone ever seen a BBQ cart work?

There is, however, already a potential roadblock for the cart approach. HD has told me that they generally only allow hotdogs, sausage products, and "prepackaged" BBQ to be sold out of a cart. It sounds like they are willing to listen though.

I'm hoping I can sell them on the safety of that approach. I see no reason that using BBQ that's been properly smoked, cooled and reheated can't be just as safe some prepackaged garbage. Not to mention real BBQ would be a much higher quality and fresher product.

There are currently a Hot dog and BBQ carts operating in town that sells the pre-made stuff that has no flavor is spit in the face of what actual BBQ is supposed to be. I'm pretty sure they pretty much buy the prepackaged stuff from the grocery store in bulk.

Do you guys think I'm fooling myself to think a BBQ cart would work?
I'm still looking into a trailer, but I'd like to explore a cart approach.

Ford 02-17-2010 12:39 PM

Capacity would be my concern. If you just sell pulled pork maybe it would be OK. But without smoke it's hard to convince people it's really BBQ. And if you want to sell more there's no space. And sausage and hot dogs have a lot of preservitives in them whereas fresh BBQ doesn't. And cart cleanup will be a bigger job for sure with BBQ.

PollardsVision 02-17-2010 01:20 PM


Originally Posted by Ford (Post 1185425)
Capacity would be my concern. If you just sell pulled pork maybe it would be OK. But without smoke it's hard to convince people it's really BBQ. And if you want to sell more there's no space. And sausage and hot dogs have a lot of preservitives in them whereas fresh BBQ doesn't. And cart cleanup will be a bigger job for sure with BBQ.

Yeah, capacity and cleanup would be a concern. I'm sure the lack of preservatives would be the HD's concern (still somewhat maddening that they'd rather you sell food stuffed with chemicals that's not fresh at all and is mislabeled as BBQ when it's not).

I absolutely won't sell something that's not smoked and call it BBQ. That's what is currently happening here with existing carts and what I'm trying to get around.

I sent an email to the HD and we'll see what we can do. If the cart approach gets axed, we'll continue with another approach.

Here is a copy of the email I sent:
Hi [HD person],

I appreciate you getting the Food Regulations booklet and applications out to me so quickly. We spoke briefly on the phone and I wanted to go over some general ideas we had to get some feedback.

As we discussed, we are looking to start a Mobile BBQ Vending venture here in Lynchburg. We are still very much in the exploratory phase, trying to find the best approach. We are exploring both an enclosed trailer approach and a cart-type approach. We have a couple of promising options to use a commissary, so we've begun exploring more closely a cart-type approach. Reason being, that it would be far more cost effective in the inital start-up costs as well as the ongoing overhead. We'd like to be able to provide high quality, fresh, and safe pork BBQ sandwiches at an affordable cost for consumers.

You mentioned, on the phone, that you typically allow only pre-packaged BBQ products to be sold from vending carts. I'd like to explain the general methods that we are considering, in the hopes that we can work together to find an approach that will ensure a safe product.

Our procedures would be somewhat similar to existing units that sell commercial, pre-packaged BBQ, but we'd like to make fresh BBQ for sandwiches. Our hope is that we can provide a safe product that is also fresher and of higher quality than what consumers currently have access to.

Our plan is to:
1. Use shoulder/boston butt cuts of pork from an approved supplier, refrigerated at a safe temperature until it's time to cook.
2. Cook the pork to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F, using a smoker at the commissary.
3. The pork will then be "pulled".
4. Pork will then be labeled, dated, and refrigerated overnight at a temperature below 40 degrees.
5. Utensils properly cleaned, sanitized, and stored for future use.
6. In the morning, the pork will be reheated to a temperature of at least 165 degrees.
7. The pork will be transferred to covered steamer pans on the mobile unit, where it will be held at a temperature of at least 140 degrees.
8. The pork will be sold on a bun for consumption.
9. With our goal being to offer a high-quality, fresh, and most importantly, safe product, all pork will be sold or discarded within 3 days of being cooked (while being properly refrigerated each afternoon and properly reheated each morning).

Obviously, these are very general plans and I appreciate any input to help improve the procedures to ensure high quality and safety. I just wanted to give you an idea of what we have in mind.

As mentioned, our goal is be able to provide the public with high quality, fresh, and safe BBQ sandwiches in a convenient manner. I appreciate your help thus far and hope you'll continue to help us find a way to make this happen.

I look forward to your feedback and will keep you apprised of any developments on our end.



Ford 02-17-2010 01:26 PM

for reheating 165 is the minimum but I assume you will go higher to try to keep it hot until sale. Problem is you can't reheat multiple times. Even with adding liquid it does lose quality and start to get mushy. I'd reheat only what you plan to sell and if you have leftover freeze it for beans or something else.

I wish ou good luck with the HD. Keep us updated.

HHpepper 03-02-2010 10:07 PM

Well any updates?

BBQ-Jim 07-27-2010 01:40 PM

What about something like this.... seems like it would be the best of both worlds...

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