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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Unread 08-24-2009, 07:57 PM   #1
SteevieG
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Default Unique, it seems anyway, opportunity

I have no experience cooking for money. I cook for friends and family. One of my friends and business associates has recently purchased a vacant service station on about an acre of land that he plans to use as a landscape shop (mulch, fertilizer, etc.). He has been a very successful landscaper for many years.

The property he bought is on a very busy road between Atlanta and Athens Georgia and according to the survey he quoted has between 40,000 and 60,000 cars a day go by. He has asked me to have a 'roadside' barbeque stand on his property. No rent and he'll supply me with all the wood I need. He owns many acres of timber land as well. He is also the best salesman I've ever seen. He can talk to anyone about most anything and nobody doesn't like him.

One issue that concerns me is the location. It sounds great, but I don't know. On one side is a Waffle House and on the other is a Burger King. If that isn't enough there is a Shane's Rib Shack directly across the street, clearly visible, in a Kroger shopping center... Daunting competition perhaps.

Another issue is that I do have a 40 hour + per week job. Now, I live close to work and the property in question is even closer so proximity isn't really an issue.

Add to the fact that, while everyone seems to likes my 'que, I have no experience at all in the business. I have a WSM and a small off-set, that's all. I do think my food is quality and people would enjoy it, but I would definately have to upgrade my equipment. I would start smallish, but there will be, to me, a significant cash investment. I'm guessing in the $4, 000 range just to get started. My thought is 4 of the 22-1/2" WSMs and a trailer I have already. Then I'd need to get warmers, and other things. Maybe $4,000 is high but that's the number I have in my head.

My head is spinning with the fantastic possibilities, but the potential problems as well. Any advice wil be most welcomed. I'm sure there are several thousand things I haven't even thought of (I have thought of permits and licenses, etc) and need to know about.

Please help!!! Please?
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Unread 08-24-2009, 08:14 PM   #2
chambersuac
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I don't know about the other "obstacles" you mentioned, but having those other food joints won't hurt you IMO - when I see a roadside vendor on my way to a meal, I stop there! Always (well, almost) much better than the chain joints.

Let us know what you decide. God's blessings!
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Unread 08-24-2009, 08:51 PM   #3
txschutte
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Actually, the chain joint will be sick seeijng you over there across the street worse than you seeing them. If you get all the legalities, post a big sign with your phone number.
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Unread 08-24-2009, 09:13 PM   #4
C Rocke
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Look at zoning, health dept and then business license/insurances. Once you've squeezed thru these hoops, your next consideration is consistency - Nothing can make or break a business like consistentcy - Hours, product, appearance, etc. You also need to know your business partner, and his long term goals, etc. Given the info you've provided, there's a lot of work to do before considering equipment, and even some experienced folks might run the other way before going thru all the due diligence.

Agree with Shane, being across the street from a chain could be a very good thing.
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Unread 08-24-2009, 10:26 PM   #5
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I can't help you with direct advice other than to listen to the likes of C Rocke. I'd also want to get the advice of other "roadside" guys. Someone like BBQ Bubba would be good.

You appear to have a great grasp on what is a head of you. What you probably don't realize is that no matter how hard you think it's going to be, it's not as hard as it's really going to be.

Take C Rocke's advice and get all the "admin" stuff out of the way before starting to explore the other stuff.

Good luck...
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Unread 08-24-2009, 10:41 PM   #6
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I wish you the best of luck but don't quit your dayjob just yet...

try it out on weekends or on vacation days.. make sure it's what you like and worthy of your effort and abilities.
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Unread 08-25-2009, 09:33 AM   #7
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4k is way under what you will spend. Don't forget refrigeration, storage, and all other kinds of little odds and ends you will need. I think you have a great opp and would jump all over it, just make sure that you get a contract with your friend, never ever do a gentlemens agreement. Good luck.
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Unread 08-25-2009, 10:21 AM   #8
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Health Dept issues would be my biggest concern. Any food vendor in close proximity to any other food vendor is closely watched. You will be closely watched by your competition, and any small issue will be reported by them. Health Dept statistics show that a majority of "reports" come from other restaurants. Do your research.
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Unread 08-25-2009, 12:45 PM   #9
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Regardless of where you set up, you gotta serve up good food. If the food is good, you will get a reputation and business will grow. I think one thing to know is that if the place accross the street gets a good crowd, there are possible customers. But if it is too hot or too cold or raining, then the business will probably suffer due to folks having to be in the elements. Another thing to remember is that some folks like to do a sit down thing for lunch and not eat in their car or leaning up against a tree.

As far as the smokers go.... Forget the WSM's. They will not handle the capacity that you need. I mean if you want to cook enough food to make a living that is....

I wish you luck in whatever you choose to do. I would probably start with some catering first and see if you can hack cooking and cleaning all day. What is you day job anyway?
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Unread 08-25-2009, 01:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteevieG View Post
I have no experience cooking for money.

He can talk to anyone about most anything and nobody doesn't like him.


Add to the fact that, while everyone seems to likes my 'que, I have no experience at all in the business. I have a WSM and a small off-set, that's all. I do think my food is quality and people would enjoy it, but I would definately have to upgrade my equipment. I would start smallish, but there will be, to me, a significant cash investment. I'm guessing in the $4, 000 range just to get started. My thought is 4 of the 22-1/2" WSMs and a trailer I have already. Then I'd need to get warmers, and other things. Maybe $4,000 is high but that's the number I have in my head.

The other guys covered the big points such as legal etc but I have to say that unless you can build a cooker yourself then 4,000 is too low and you don't want several cookers going at the same time, one rig and a grill would be ideal IMO. Granted I startd off with 150.00 in my pocket but I had the free use of a pub kitcken and made about 40.00 on a Saturday cooking all day for customers and saved every penny I could. The family ate left over BBQ till the next weekend and so forth and so on.


All I can say is if you are going to do it then head face first and get stuck in. Remember never stop pushing forward no matter how thick that wall is!

Best of luck to you.
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Unread 08-25-2009, 02:56 PM   #11
landarc
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From the standpoint of someone that has worked on snack bar, catering hut and park buildings, I can tell you that the health department thing does not have to be horrible. We make an effort to contact the agency, honestly lay out what we are doing and get a solid list of requirements to work from. Take names and make calls, communication is gonna be key.

What C Rocke said is really important, when I was cooking is a restaurant, every day that I did not do exactly the same thing, people noticed. Consistency is really important. People who cook commercially must be able to produce the same level and taste of product or they will not develop the clientele that is crucial to success. Also, really consider sourcing of ingredients, our restaurant owner never did that and it was a problem. Often I ended up running around at 3pm looking for ingredients for the kitchen to open at 5pm. That really was bad business. Losing those two hours to shopping was bad for prep.
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