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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 12-18-2013, 04:21 AM   #16
BigBellyBBQ
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if you want to stay partially sane, use a smoker you do not have to baby sit...offsets will tie you up..
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Unread 12-18-2013, 06:37 AM   #17
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if you want to stay partially sane, use a smoker you do not have to baby sit...offsets will tie you up..
Any suggestions?
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Unread 12-18-2013, 07:41 AM   #18
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Just some more questions for the masses. I was looking online at mobile smokers, and I came accross http://easttexassmokercompany.com// Has anyone dealt with them? I am from West Virginia, and really dont want to have to go to Texas if I dont have to, but would gladly pay for quality. Any caterers really have good suggestions on mobile rigs? Also I am applying for a business license, and I seem to think an LLC is the way to go. Any input on this with the experienced gurus? Again Thanks...
Take a look at these http://www.shirleyfabrication.com/ and PM fellow Brethren TuscaloosaQ, you won't regret it and it is a bunch closer than TX!
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Unread 12-18-2013, 09:03 AM   #19
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Take a look at these http://www.shirleyfabrication.com/ and PM fellow Brethren TuscaloosaQ, you won't regret it and it is a bunch closer than TX!
Agreed.

I am preparing to order a patio cooker from Paul.
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Unread 12-19-2013, 02:16 PM   #20
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I feel like I am beating a dead horse here, but I do really like the feedback. If I do end up with a brick and mortar type joint what are the thoughts on gravity fed, reverse flow, type smokers. I mainly cook on my UDS, and love it. However, I am starting to wonder if these types would be better for quantity, purposes. I wouldnt mind owning a fleet of UDS's, but that seems redundant...
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Unread 12-19-2013, 02:49 PM   #21
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For commercial establishments, I see a lot of Southern Prides (http://www.southern-pride.com/_new/p...p?category=gas) or Old Hickory's (http://www.olehickorypits.com/)
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Unread 12-20-2013, 01:42 PM   #22
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I am meeting with the Health department rep tomorrow to see what regulations for what business types are needed in my area. I am hoping to get involved in a catering type of business. I would love to someday acquire a southern pride, or olehickory for a brick and mortar joint. However, I am not at that level yet. I was leaning towards a towable reverse flow, or a portable gravity fed type. I do competitions, and wondered which ones would be more beneficial to both. Right now I use a UDS, and love it. But, I need to start thinking about quantity. I know the reverse flow type cooker i.e. Lang are considered stick burners, but can you use a charcoal basket, and would that make it a little more user friendly?
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Unread 12-20-2013, 01:42 PM   #23
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I am meeting with the Health department rep tomorrow to see what regulations for what business types are needed in my area. I am hoping to get involved in a catering type of business. I would love to someday acquire a southern pride, or olehickory for a brick and mortar joint. However, I am not at that level yet. I was leaning towards a towable reverse flow, or a portable gravity fed type. I do competitions, and wondered which ones would be more beneficial to both. Right now I use a UDS, and love it. But, I need to start thinking about quantity. I know the reverse flow type cooker i.e. Lang are considered stick burners, but can you use a charcoal basket, and would that make it a little more user friendly?
not tomorrow I meant Monday morning...
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Unread 12-20-2013, 09:52 PM   #24
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You'd still have to feed it wood most of the night. Have you considered a pellet cooker? Folks are coming up with ways to get more smoke flavor out of them, and they're set-it-and-forget-it, so it would be hard to go wrong there. Also, there are some good gravity-fed charcoal smokers that regulate well - according to other folks - but I don't have any experience with them. But the last thing I would want to do is tend a fire all night and run a business all day. That would get old fast! Good luck in whatever you decide to do!
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Unread 12-21-2013, 08:31 AM   #25
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Agreed.

I am preparing to order a patio cooker from Paul.
Yep i would talk to Paul first. I have a patio cooker on order from him ( 24x50 )
with warmer.

I looked a a Lang, but after talking to Paul i had to go with him.
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Unread 12-21-2013, 09:41 AM   #26
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Yep i would talk to Paul first. I have a patio cooker on order from him ( 24x50 )
with warmer.

I looked a a Lang, but after talking to Paul i had to go with him.
Certainly going to talk to him. PMd him just waiting on good time for him to chat. Looking forward to that conversation. Been really looking over his website. Looks like a good product, and the price is certainly worth considering.
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Unread 12-21-2013, 01:29 PM   #27
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If you are truly disabled you will want to honestly assess your physical ability. Food service requires long hours standing on hard floors. The commercial kitchen is a hot, greasy environment that usually is loaded with stress. Hiring staff usually creates as many issues as it solves. For example just recently our night cook on duty forgot to run pork the night before we had 80lbs to deliver for lunch the next day. Yeah, big fun.

If you have not worked in food service before, I HIGHLY recommend that you do so before you invest a bunch of money or quit your day job. Find an existing restaurant or catering outfit and go to work there for a couple months - offer to do it for free if you must. (Doesn't have to be a BBQ place) You will learn a ton about the realities of the business. This will either reassure you that you can do it better or tear down the romantic visions of "having a restaurant" that lead so many to invest their savings into a business that fails in the couple years.
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Unread 12-21-2013, 02:06 PM   #28
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If you are truly disabled you will want to honestly assess your physical ability. Food service requires long hours standing on hard floors. The commercial kitchen is a hot, greasy environment that usually is loaded with stress. Hiring staff usually creates as many issues as it solves. For example just recently our night cook on duty forgot to run pork the night before we had 80lbs to deliver for lunch the next day. Yeah, big fun.

If you have not worked in food service before, I HIGHLY recommend that you do so before you invest a bunch of money or quit your day job. Find an existing restaurant or catering outfit and go to work there for a couple months - offer to do it for free if you must. (Doesn't have to be a BBQ place) You will learn a ton about the realities of the business. This will either reassure you that you can do it better or tear down the romantic visions of "having a restaurant" that lead so many to invest their savings into a business that fails in the couple years.
This is why I love this place. That was probably the most honest answer I have read. To clarify, my left leg and hand have nerve damage. I wear a brace to walk, and my hand has about 45% of normal strength. This is one reason I am trying the competition circuit. To see if I can handle long hours, working on a schedule, and the stress. I stated earlier I can't do it alone. What I haven't stated is my brother is actively involved also. He has worked as a line cook before, and I am more managerial savvy. Hence, I'm doing all the research (licenses, business plan, health department). While he is focusing on the how's. He's more of the doer while I'm more of the thinker. One thing I've read is either people are doers, but not managers, or vice versa. I think we compliment each other well. Besides, the obvious ( never get in business with family) pitfalls. This is really the only feasible option for this to work. However , this is all in dream (planning phase) it is a real option for me. I don't have a day job, returned to school to get a management degree. So trust me I have asked myself those exact questions. My problem is I'm too stubborn to know better. However, once I get everything in paper in front of me, and a solid plan to look at, that's when the decision will be made. Thanks for the honest comment.
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Unread 12-21-2013, 11:44 PM   #29
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My pleasure. Since you gave your story, let me give you my own. Maybe it will be of some use to you.

I spent the 90's piddling around with BBQ as a hobby, creating a line of sauces made from scratch, cooking for parties, the odd fundraiser etc. "Everybody" kept telling me how great my stuff was, and how I should market my sauces, get paid to cater events, open a restaurant, etc. I admit I thought about it and how cool it would be. But my day job as a partner in a computer business demanded most of my time and paid fairly well.

At the turn of the decade things to a sudden downturn for me. The DotCom Bubble burst, the economy tanked and I fell off a scaffold working on my house and shattered a leg which took two expensive surgeries to fix and kept me in bed for six months before it began to regain some function. My computer business closed and with the job market was flooded with out of work IT people, I went on unemployment. Things were pretty grim, and I started thinking $7 an hour pulling pork at Sonny's didn't sound so bad!

During this time I met another BBQ guy though my spouse and we found we had a lot in common. He was working as a contractor, but was well-known for a big annual pig roast he held. So many people kept asking him to cook for their own parties he decided to start up a catering biz on the side: built out a commercial kitchen in his basement, got the license and HD inspection, etc. When he was overbooked I would help him out with grilling gigs and such. We started cooking a few BBQ contests together and doing a little event vending. Fast forward another ten years...

My friend and his wife now are running their second restaurant where they work seven days a week and have about 20 people on the payroll. The stress is incredible - my friend has had a couple heart attacks but thankfully survives (due mostly to his own stubbornness, I think). During the years I have had many occasions to lend a hand with their business, either by working or injecting money when cash flow didn't quite make ends meet. I run the competition team now (he had to quit after the second cardiac episode) and the restaurant stands on it's own two feet financially. I am proud to have been able to help my friend, but also very grateful for being able to vicariously experience owning a restaurant and through this discovering that it is not something I ever need to do for myself. A 50 year old fat man with a bum leg makes a lousy line cook, and working 100 hours in a week to earn what I can make in a day doing my IT job is a poor financial move. I will forever owe my friend for allowing me to see the reality of the food service business from a top-down perspective, which is very different from my previous view as a 16 year old line cook at McDonalds. All that said, my friend HAS been able to make the leap to successful restaurateur, though it has taken him fifteen years and nearly killed him at least twice.

So... what is my takeaway from this story? Pretty much the basics you'll hear from a lot of others:

1) Don't give up your current source of income to go in the food service business. Work both jobs if you must, but hold on to your reliable paycheck!

2) Don't borrow money. If you can't afford equipment, do without, rent, borrow, whatever. Recruit investors if you have to. The last place you want to be is facing a fat loan payoff with no way to pay it.

3) Go slow and keep your overhead low. 75% of all restaurants fail in the first year, so there is plenty of good used equipment out there for pennies on the dollar. Never buy new equipment. Don't hire people to watch them stand around - send them home when it's a dead shift! Don't commit to advertising, security, suppliers or any other monthly contract that you will be bound to pay for in the future when you may not have the money that month.

4) Embrace your community! You will be amazed how rarely all those friends and family who kept telling you how great your food was when it was free show up at your new place to pay for dinner. Go to every Chamber, United Way, DDA, Rotary, Charity Auction, etc. etc. gathering you can. Yes, they will hit you up for freebies, but only by priming this pump can you build loyalty with the movers and shakers in your community to drop your name when somebody asks about caterers. Let them know you are willing to help, but don't become the doormat for free food for every fundraiser either. This investment is much better than advertising and will pay good dividends, but it will take time - after all 75% of the other restaurant guys that came along before you were just a flash in the pan, so it will take a while to build trust. And of course, make every customer that walks through your door feel like this is "his" place. A few super-fans with Facebook accounts can put you on the map, conversely a couple grouchy reviewers on Yelp can dry up your profits.


In conclusion, for myself, I chose to maintain BBQ as something I did because I enjoyed it. I could see where a few years of doing it because I had to in order to pay the bills was going to take the joy out of the thing for me. My friend and his wife took the other path, and they have made it work only because they put everything they have into it every single day of their lives - 100% of their heart & soul, money & time. It's an intensely personal decision, just make sure you go into it with your eyes open and reasonable expectations.

Best of Luck!

-GF


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Unread 12-23-2013, 02:34 AM   #30
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good luck with whatever you choose and path to take. The cookers I use for comercial are Sothern Pride 700 & 500 . Old HIckory is also extre,mly good. Fill fire box full of wood turn on and check in 8 or 10 hours..
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