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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 05-15-2014, 03:54 PM   #1
early mornin' smokin'
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So I wanna start this out with "i'm not trying to be a dick".

But there is a frequent question/questions on here that infuriates me.
It often goes a little something like this;
"so i've got this catering gig this weekend, I cook out of my house for fun because everyone loves my food yada yada yada, how much should I cook for XXX amount of people?"

Now let me explain my frustration. I own, and operate a BBQ joint on Long Island, NY. And I do it completely legally, 3 food managers onsite at all times, insured, inspected by numerous agencies, list goes on(if you're in the business, you know what i'm talking about). I'm not naming names here, i'm just using it as an example.

Lets say "Fred BBQ" likes to cook up some que, his "buddies" all love it and they want to hire him to do a party. He goes to restaurant depot(sams, bj's, whatever) buys meat, doesn't understand a proper markup on product when you have to operate a real restaurant, and gives the guy a price that a real caterer can't come close to. My real problem with this is 99% of the time the people have absolutely no clue what they're getting themselves into liability wise.

a few of the common problems;
NEVER servsafe or food manager certified
have no idea why they need a 3 compartment sink
no business
no business insurance or any personal protection
not registered with the department of health
no sales tax id
cooking out of personal kitchens

the list goes on and on and on. but people still ask the same questions, and expect us(and me) to answer, when in reality we're biting our tongue because if you've actually put money on the line to pursue a career in BBQ you know how much capitol and time it really takes.

Basically, if you're not going to cater, or road side vend legally and correctly, please don't go asking on a public forum for advice. Some may say this goes against the spirit of the brethren. But I'd strongly disagree, there are plenty of brethren on here, who've poured blood sweat and tears into brick and mortar, vending, food trucks, farmers markets, and have all done it legally.

If you want to get into this, don't do it because its your hobby, do it because you're a businessman, with some sense of numbers. Every week the guys who are actually doing it put THOUSANDS of dollars on the line filling walk ins and hoping customers show up. It's a risk, but so is every other business you get yourself into. Making $100 on a catering gig, buying a 12 pack and hanging out with friends isn't catering a party.

rant over, hopefully this touched some people the right way
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Unread 05-15-2014, 04:26 PM   #2
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I hope your rant blew off some steam. Although I sympathize with what you're saying, I doubt your primary concern is the liability exposure of the ignorant.

This type of situation exists in blogs from electricians to ebayers. Most of these "fly by night" operations don't last more than a job or two. The jobs they do can be really poor and will just make the pros look better. If these people did some simple searching, they would find all the info they need on previous posts. That should tell you something about the ones posting new questions. They are either too lazy or too ignorant to search. I've also seen questionable responses to business questions by the "experienced caterers" on this board. Ignore them all and focus on more positive issues.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:15 PM   #3
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Sorry Pat, but its not why we are here... First off, this has been brought up many times here, especially by business owners.. from all the times its been discussed, it seems that individuls doing stuff on the side is an evil that will always exist to ANY business owner.. Its like Dad telling the neighborhood kids not to go around mowing lawns because it impacts the landscapers, or a friend whos a mechanic, electrician, plumber, etc... not to take on any side jobs because it hurts someones business.. its just not gonna happen..

But anyway, from the perspective of THIS forum and its intent.. Notice the title..

Catering, Vending, and cooking for the masses..

This forum is to educate folks.. period.. no other reason. We dont pick and choose who asks, what they ask and the reason why they ask. Some may be coming to get answers which may help them DECIDE if they want to open a business. No one goes into it cold, and the folks here are the ones who may help someone make an informed decisions.. The answer he gets here may make him realize what they are getting into, be it opening a business or cooking for a 200 person party.. just maybe our answers would enlighten them to say... 'no way, i cant handle that'... Dont have capicity?? refrigeration isnt available, etc.. we educate.. they decide, or act.. Even our experts here at times will tap others here to help on a job, to get ideas, or get advice. we cant decide whos legit and whos not when they post.. its not in our pay grade.

So, if Uncle Fred wants nephew Johnny, who is a member here, to cook for his daughters graduation of 100, then guess what.. we are here to help. Is Johnny supposed to tell uncle Fred to go hire a caterer? Mabe after he finds out what he needs, he may do that.... maybe not.. but he wont go in unprepared.

When brethren teams and members are going to join forces and gather at at a national guard base and feed 2500 troops.. This is where they start and we are here to help..

The past 2 years and going on the 3rd this year, we fed 800 War Veterans at the Northport VA hospital and its discussed on this forum to get quantities and ideas of how to do it. We do that becase WE want to cook for them to say thank you, and we do NOT want to hire a caterer to do it. I know these are not what you were talking about specifically, but the purpose of this forum has multiple angles..

Our members cook for ronald macdonald house, breast cancer organizations as well as the families and I personally have cooked to raise funds for battered woman organizations, cancer sucks, breast cancer, childrens foundations, etc.. and I never considered getting a license.. Im servsafe certified, follow all food handling procedures and even have a 3 bay sink in the trailer.. but what i, and many others here do are not to make make $$, but to help others and THIS FORUM is the first place we come to to make sure we do it right, or at least the best we can.

I understand your plight and your reasoning, but expectations to stop free flow of information here is unreasonable. Its just not why we are here.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:15 PM   #4
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I started a food business last year. I feel very fortunate that I was successful enough in another career to be able to afford all the hoops we are required to jump through to sell food. What bothers me at times is all the talented folks who do not have that opportunity.

I get protecting the public, but I also think someone using their skill to start a small business is what makes America great. I HATE all of the barriers we are erecting so it seems like the "haves" are keeping the "have nots" down. People have been cooking for each other for as long as there have been people. I think we sometimes make it way too complicated.

As far as answering their questions, I look at the alternative, which is having them fly blind and possibly hurting someone. I would rather share whatever knowledge I can, in the hopes that they do it right and perhaps turn it into something, or say it is too much work and leave it to the pros.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:31 PM   #5
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People are always free to not answer questions they don't want to answer here.

I learned a lot in this forum about doing fundraising cooks for my kids' school - I am very grateful for that and it's one of the many reasons I pay for a subscription to this site.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:42 PM   #6
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poobah, i've been there for one of your charity cooks. And the brethren do great things. It's just when I see a post that goes like "...ive been cooking meals at home to order for some time now, and i'm going to take my go at a roadside stand this weekend." As a guy who's put in months of labor, thousands of dollars to do it right. A post like that is blood boiling.

Trust me, if I could've circumnavigated the DOH, Servsafe, building and fire inspections, I would've. But the truth is, you can't without trying to get yourself shut down.

I guess it comes down to using the search function this great forum has before starting another......"how many, what if" post. There's countless threads about quantities, starting a business, catering, etc. If people looked a little before asking a lot of this frustration could be squelched.

mods, delete the thread if necessary, sorry if feathers have been ruffled. It's a free world, read it if you want, answer if you dare.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:43 PM   #7
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I sympathize with the OP - 'fly by nights' ruin the reputation of
my field (home improvement.)
However, I think the food safety reasons alone are enough for
a question here. Some lady in S. MD fed chicken to a church group
and put the chicken back on the unwashed chicken plate and EVERYone
got sick.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 05:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by early mornin' smokin' View Post
poobah, i've been there for one of your charity cooks. And the brethren do great things. It's just when I see a post that goes like "...ive been cooking meals at home to order for some time now, and i'm going to take my go at a roadside stand this weekend." As a guy who's put in months of labor, thousands of dollars to do it right. A post like that is blood boiling.

Trust me, if I could've circumnavigated the DOH, Servsafe, building and fire inspections, I would've. But the truth is, you can't without trying to get yourself shut down.

I guess it comes down to using the search function this great forum has before starting another......"how many, what if" post. There's countless threads about quantities, starting a business, catering, etc. If people looked a little before asking a lot of this frustration could be squelched.

mods, delete the thread if necessary, sorry if feathers have been ruffled. It's a free world, read it if you want, answer if you dare.
If people searched for 90% of the questions asked on this forum, and people used tags in the original threads to make the searching easier, we'd hardly see any thread activity through most of the different sections on the forum.

Every single Thanksgiving we see a slew of turkey questions in Q-Talk, and I guess we could just start telling people, "Look it up farker!" but I think it makes sense to answer the question.

I think the most important question here is: Has the catering section of the forum lost integrity?
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Unread 05-15-2014, 06:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by early mornin' smokin' View Post
poobah, i've been there for one of your charity cooks. And the brethren do great things. It's just when I see a post that goes like "...ive been cooking meals at home to order for some time now, and i'm going to take my go at a roadside stand this weekend." As a guy who's put in months of labor, thousands of dollars to do it right. A post like that is blood boiling.

Trust me, if I could've circumnavigated the DOH, Servsafe, building and fire inspections, I would've. But the truth is, you can't without trying to get yourself shut down.

I guess it comes down to using the search function this great forum has before starting another......"how many, what if" post. There's countless threads about quantities, starting a business, catering, etc. If people looked a little before asking a lot of this frustration could be squelched.

mods, delete the thread if necessary, sorry if feathers have been ruffled. It's a free world, read it if you want, answer if you dare.
I understand your points, but I think you may have missed an important point in Phil's response...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQchef33 View Post
But anyway, from the perspective of THIS forum and its intent.. Notice the title..

Catering, Vending, and cooking for the masses..

This forum is to educate folks.. period.. no other reason. We dont pick and choose who asks, what they ask and the reason why they ask. Some may be coming to get answers which may help them DECIDE if they want to open a business. No one goes into it cold, and the folks here are the ones who may help someone make an informed decisions.. The answer he gets here may make him realize what they are getting into, be it opening a business or cooking for a 200 person party.. just maybe our answers would enlighten them to say... 'no way, i cant handle that'... Dont have capicity?? refrigeration isnt available, etc.. we educate.. they decide, or act.. Even our experts here at times will tap others here to help on a job, to get ideas, or get advice. we cant decide whos legit and whos not when they post.. its not in our pay grade.
Your experience is exactly what these folks need. Educate them and help them understand what they are getting into and what it takes to do it right. They can learn from your experience.

As far as using the search function, that is a common complaint of every forum I have ever visited. And it will never change. As pointed out, if everyone searched, our traffic would drop considerably. But, to me, worse than that, we'd end up being BBQ-pedia instead of The BBQ Brethren. Yes, folks could look up the answer, but here they get more than the answer (sometimes way too much more ). They get advice and help and, best of all, the make some friends.

Oh yeah... About this...

Quote:
Originally Posted by early mornin' smokin' View Post

mods, delete the thread if necessary, sorry if feathers have been ruffled. It's a free world, read it if you want, answer if you dare.
If we deleted posts just because of a little feather-rustling, half of the forum would be gone
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Unread 05-15-2014, 06:27 PM   #10
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If we deleted posts just because of a little feather-rustling, half of the forum would be gone
My usual haunt wouldn't even exist.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 06:39 PM   #11
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I have been catering for 25 years, and do not reply to posts that ask questions that should have been answered before accepting a "catering" job.

I think that with today's BBQ television programs, and numerous BBQ Forums, that many folks want to attempt to make money with their hobby. It all sounds like making money while having fun, however sooner or later it still becomes "work" with a little "fun" thrown in.

I like to reply to posts where another BBQer has a problem that I can help solve. Sometimes when posting I feel like a "3rd base coach" because I am saying "Run, run, run fast." but it is great when a problem is solved.

Business minded people will always rise above hobbyists, although sometimes it is frustrating to be under bid by someone that is not business minded. There are enough good jobs out there to keep us all busy
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Unread 05-15-2014, 06:54 PM   #12
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I guess what really got me up in arms was someone local to the area, freely posting that they cook at home, and they're gonna go setup a roadside stand. I'll be the first to chime in if there's something I can legitimately help with. Too much, not enough, charge more. sure. But when I read someone who's clearly making numerous health code violations when I have to stand there in my own store wondering when is the next time my health inspector is going to walk thru the backdoor.

Live and learn. I wouldn't be bbq'ing today without the brethren.

Sometimes I get a little lost in the business end of things and let things like legalities frustrate me. Maybe it's a bit of jealousy that someones getting away with it, and I probably could've too if I took the chance.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 06:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by early mornin' smokin' View Post
I guess what really got me up in arms was someone local to the area, freely posting that they cook at home, and they're gonna go setup a roadside stand. I'll be the first to chime in if there's something I can legitimately help with. Too much, not enough, charge more. sure. But when I read someone who's clearly making numerous health code violations when I have to stand there in my own store wondering when is the next time my health inspector is going to walk thru the backdoor.
Why not help him understand where he is violating health codes or breaking the law. He may not be aware. That's part of eduction as much as helping with costs, how much to cook, etc.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 07:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Why not help him understand where he is violating health codes or breaking the law. He may not be aware. That's part of eduction as much as helping with costs, how much to cook, etc.
I agree with you Ron. This forum has helped me make the decision to throw my hat in the ring as a caterer.

I am just starting out, have not done any advertising yet, because I did want to learn how to do it the right way but there are times when people on this forum make it seem so daunting that it discourages people.

For me, this forum is helpful and I think if people provide honest insight about the ups and downs of catering then we all are better for it. And the truth is that when my cigar buddies ask me to "cater" an event for them, it's because (1) they trust me, (2) they like my food and (3) they want to help me succeed. And probably they would rather have me there to hang out with around the smoker than a stuffy, non-involved person.

Some of us have no desire to open a B&M, this is a hobby for us and we get all the legal/health stuff taken care of as protection but it's not going to replace our 9to5.
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Unread 05-15-2014, 07:50 PM   #15
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As a fully licensed and insured ninja I don't even consider Shinobi who aren't. My clients won't even consider them so we are not even competing.
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