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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 01-15-2013, 04:57 PM   #1
smolderingbbq
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Lightbulb New to the BBQ biz world

Hi my name is Blake and I just joined this community. I started my bbq catering business last year. I have had some success but I am looking to take my business to the next level. Any ideas on how to get more customers or any other insight into starting this type of business?

Thanks,
Blake
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Unread 01-15-2013, 09:20 PM   #2
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one word marketing. Not only are you a cook but now you are the marketing director, the janitor the CEO CFO and all wrapped up into one. us twitter, facebook, myspace local papers anything to get the word out.

oh and buy a lot of business cards. When I mean a lot I am talking atleast 1,000 or more. Give them to everyone you meet.
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Unread 01-16-2013, 12:57 AM   #3
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Social media. Search the web and you'll get a plethora of "how to's" etc...most of them are free and will save allot of money for you. You'd be surprised how many people type in "bbq caterer, spartanburg, sc" into google. If you can get it to where you pop up first, its a gold mine. I agree with grizzle though, business cards are a great investment, and guess how many you'll need and double it. The more you order the more you'll save. Also look into branding yourself and you product. Coozies are cheap and everyone loves them and depending on your budget you can do all kinds of things with shirts etc...

Good luck and have fun!
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Unread 01-16-2013, 01:12 PM   #4
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A little over 3 years ago construction tanked and I found myself out of a job. On a fluke I took $300 out of our personal checking account (mostly for paperwork) and started a small engine repair shop out of my garage. I only advertized on Craigslist. The first month was slow, the second month the shop was making just enough money to stay open and buy my smokes and beer. The third month, the largest landscape maintenance company in the US was in my driveway wanting us to repair and maintain their equipment from a new local branch. We kept that relationship for almost 2 years until they set up their own internal shop. The rest is history, good history at that. I listed us on google Places, Superpages.com, Bing, any internet resource that would serve our target market. Today, no advertisement is needed and we are 2-4 weeks behind, year around.

Getting your name out there along with a good reputation is a must. In addition to folks being able to find you, you need a "hook". Our hook is we do not charge for an estimate. Every other shop around here charges $50-75 for an estimate. Need a $2 fuel filter replaced? It will cost you the minimum $50-75 at other places. I am not joking, I witnessed it with my own eyes when I was at another shop purchasing parts in the early days before I had my wholesale suppliers set up. And there is another point to help with success/profit. Find yourself some suppliers that will cut you a better deal than you currently get on all your stuff: Meats, ingredients, serving utensils, that kind of stuff. Network, get to know people who can help you. One of my customers is currently setting me up with a 6 camera security system with a 30 day record DVR for a couple hundred bucks, because I treated him right when I worked on his stuff. If I need a new filing cabinet, i have a customer that can hook me up there too. I could write a book on what all I did to succeed. No I am not rolling in the dough yet, the shop takes care of itself as well as all the household bills. But every month it just gets a little better. Expect tough times for the first couple of years, and when you arent cooking and making money, get out there and hustle!
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Unread 01-16-2013, 04:24 PM   #5
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Promo materials, check out www.vistaprint.com they always seem to have a freebie special on something. 250 business cards are free about 3-4 times a year. List your business everywhere, google/manta/yellowpages.com
Set up a booth at bridal shows, one job from there pays for the cost of setting up.
Don't be afraid to spend money, but spend it with common sense. You'll have to learn what works for you in your area.
There is a lot of debate, more so from the side against it, about advertising in the phone book. When was the last time you actually picked it up to search for something, rather than look for an exact business number.
Think about where you go to look for something and get your name there.
There are a ton of sites that will give you marketing ideas. Just do a search. Be prepared to read and take in everything. Try every option to see what brings in the money.
Best of luck to you
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Unread 01-16-2013, 04:27 PM   #6
smolderingbbq
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Wow! Thank you all for the help.

rgrizzle- Did you use a "marketing plan" or is it more of just finding ways to tell as many people as possible?

ardorx- I am currently paying yellow pages a bleep ton of money every month. I have had my business in their top two for probably 3 months now and have not received one call. Is it the time of the year, or is yellow pages online dead? should I invest more in getting up there in the google list? I also have a facebook and twitter that have gained some interest, definitely more when I have business and something to talk about. Kind of hard to stay consistent on my posts when I'm not cooking for people.

themidniteryder- I like the way you do business and I too have these same beliefs about how to conduct business and treat others, that is what its all about. Great info, thanks!
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Unread 01-16-2013, 05:44 PM   #7
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you deff. need to have a plan even if it's a simple one. Not only a marketing plan but also a business plan. Doing these will help you sell your business better to potential customers. I would also hit up some of the factories and other businesses most of them do employee lunches a couple times a year, and if they have big meetings they cater lunches. those are good to get because they are more of a drop off service.
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Unread 01-18-2013, 12:50 AM   #8
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Any other ideas on how to do some low cost marketing? Should I call business's or show up in person with samples in hand? Also I have recently got my hands on a list of pharmaceutical reps that provide catered lunches for doctors, any idea on how to approach the phone conversation? Thanks!
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Unread 01-18-2013, 10:40 PM   #9
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I personally would go to the business first. Then I would Take samples to them if they act interested in what you have. As far as the pharmaceutical reps go I would call them and let them know about your service and try to set up a meeting the next time they are in town, maybe at your house or where ever you do your catering from and tell them lunch is on you, fix them up a sample of the meats and some sides that you offer.
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Unread 01-20-2013, 09:46 PM   #10
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Smoldering,

Tell us some of you successes from the first year.
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Unread 01-21-2013, 03:18 PM   #11
smolderingbbq
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Smoke House Moe,
Last year I started doing some marketing with business cards, networking & facebook. I cooked my bbq and sauce for all of my friends and family and they loved it, said they couldn't find good barbecue like mine around our town anywhere. So, I did some road side bbq stands during the summer holidays, got a few repeat customers and did pretty well with that, on the first day I think I had $1000 in sales. One day while talking with a coworker she informed me that her mother needed a caterer for 100 people we emailed back and forth for a couple weeks. I ended up with the opportunity to give samples to her mother and she told me that she had grown up around competition bbq (I was nervous) and she knew what she was looking for. She sampled my bbq along with several well know bbq restaurants in the area and she and her entire staff loved min and picked me, they also thought my prices were great and competitive (due to low over head). I got the gig, offered to help serve and everyone loved it. So, in the last 4 months she has hired me once a month for different types of gigs...luncheons, Christmas party etc. At the luncheon when she mentioned who catered the event the 45 plus guests of doctors and nurses applauded. After that I got another luncheon off of that luncheon and people were saying it was better than arguably the best bbq joint in the next county over. I decided that I really was on to something, had formed a great relationship with my first customer and could see this being something that I can really pursue and excel at.
Now I am trying to get to the next level but this month has been very slow...I am looking forward to the spring and have a couple of bigger parties, two weddings in April and then in May and I will also compete in my first Q competition in March. Just kinda bummed right now.
Thanks for all the support from everyone!

Blake
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Unread 01-21-2013, 05:06 PM   #12
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I tried to post a reply but I can't find it anywhere now...
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Unread 01-21-2013, 11:33 PM   #13
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Don't get bummed about it. Every startup and small business has slow times, and some are due to seasonal factors. use this time to network, search out better suppliers, develop a website complete with menu and pricing (I use webs.com for a free website for our small engine biz, works great), lots of things you can do during the slow times that will enhance your product, productivity, customer base, and most important your profit when the busy season rolls around.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 02:42 AM   #14
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I see you tried the yellow pages..I also did not have any calls..there are some companies that claim to get your name on the search engines first page, or you dont have to pay them,,but I am cheap so I put my name out there on all the free sites and keep pluging at it...get a young person that like to play the phones / computers..keep posting ..but I found local penny saver ads , the small classified work well...like 6-7 dollars an ad per week..work better than 1/3 page ads..
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:59 AM   #15
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Yellow pages is a loser. Internet presence with a website, AdWords through Google, Yelp, take pulled pork sliders around to large businesses with business cards to get your name out. Plan on 3 years of hard work before you see a return on the investment and decent profit. Find your niche, check out the competition. If you drop prices at the beginning you will always be known as the low price leader in your area and your prior clients will think you are greedy when you have to raise your prices. Either be the low price guy in town with cheap meats and sides or the top dog, being in the middle is a killer.

I'm in CA so my experiences may be different in your area.
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