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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 08-04-2009, 08:48 PM   #1
Diver
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Default Be careful what you wish for...

I have loved to BBQ for as long as I can remember. I grew cooking whole hog BBQ with my Dad. A few years ago I threw a pig picken for a group of friends and co-workers. Everyone seemed pleased and I have done 5-6 cooks a year just for co-workers ranging from 30-300 people. I have been toying with catering and competing for a while now. I took the CBJ class in April and have judged 3 comps.

Well, I pitched a competition team sponsorship to our marketing VP at my office and she bit. Now we are signed up for 3 competitions this fall. To seal the deal, I agreed to package pork and brisket from the comps, pre-sell by the pound, and what ever we make will be donated to charity in the name of the company. I am very excited and quite nervous.

Then it got deeper. I was approached by a potential investor that wants to back me in a catering business. I haven't said yes or no. I have a corporate job and a non bbq related business. I am already pretty busy but I'm in the tax prep business so my busiest time coincides with the slowest catering time. This isn't new but now my wife REALLY thinks I'm crazy. I have been reading and studying everything I can about the business. I truly appreciate all of the time you all have devoted to this forum. With that said, I have a couple of questions.

1. My plan would be to start small on weekends. When creating the business plan, how many events is realistic as you are getting started? I have built relationships in my corporate position with a lot of event planners, DJs, hotels etc so I think I have a good base to start marketing but I want to be realistic/conservative in the projections.

2. Am I realistic in believing that I can get by initially with backyard equipment? I have a trailered whole hog cooker(bare bones home made style), a couple of cheap offsets and a couple of drums.

3. I saw the advice to start small and build with cash. It seems to be sound advice. I need to prepare a 5 year plan. What would a realistic growth curve look like? I was asked; "What will this business look like in 5 years?" I honestly did not have a clue.

4. I have been shopping competitors and they obviously get better pricing than I can get right now. I was thinking I would have to go to local butcher shops, explain my plans and negotiate a deal. Is that normal procedure?

I think that's all for now. I am totaly stoked and really scared by the possibility that this may really happen. Sorry about the lengthy post. Over the next few weeks, I am cooking at parties for 40, 50, and 300, all non paying events. I think it is time to start getting paid. Thanks to all!
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Unread 08-04-2009, 09:50 PM   #2
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Of course, do your legal stuff first. To develop a business plan, you need to answer the "5 year" question. I never want to get big enough to own a restaraunt, I want to gross $50,000 by 3 years, etc. And with licensing, your wholesale prices will come, bulk always gets better pricing, so buy freezers.

My biz is way young, so maybe get ahold of jbrink, or BBS, and ask specifics.
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Unread 08-04-2009, 10:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver View Post
I have loved to BBQ for as long as I can remember. I grew cooking whole hog BBQ with my Dad. A few years ago I threw a pig picken for a group of friends and co-workers. Everyone seemed pleased and I have done 5-6 cooks a year just for co-workers ranging from 30-300 people. I have been toying with catering and competing for a while now. I took the CBJ class in April and have judged 3 comps.

Well, I pitched a competition team sponsorship to our marketing VP at my office and she bit. Now we are signed up for 3 competitions this fall. To seal the deal, I agreed to package pork and brisket from the comps, pre-sell by the pound, and what ever we make will be donated to charity in the name of the company. I am very excited and quite nervous.

Then it got deeper. I was approached by a potential investor that wants to back me in a catering business. I haven't said yes or no. I have a corporate job and a non bbq related business. I am already pretty busy but I'm in the tax prep business so my busiest time coincides with the slowest catering time. This isn't new but now my wife REALLY thinks I'm crazy. I have been reading and studying everything I can about the business. I truly appreciate all of the time you all have devoted to this forum. With that said, I have a couple of questions.

1. My plan would be to start small on weekends. When creating the business plan, how many events is realistic as you are getting started? I have built relationships in my corporate position with a lot of event planners, DJs, hotels etc so I think I have a good base to start marketing but I want to be realistic/conservative in the projections.

Be careful of pooping where you currently eat. One thing if these aquaintances approach you, but pursuing them may be seen as a conflict of interest. Line between corporate and weekends could get blurred very quickly.

2. Am I realistic in believing that I can get by initially with backyard equipment? I have a trailered whole hog cooker(bare bones home made style), a couple of cheap offsets and a couple of drums.

Maybe, depends on size of the gig. Your image is what you project to your customers. What do you want them to see/perceive?

3. I saw the advice to start small and build with cash. It seems to be sound advice. I need to prepare a 5 year plan. What would a realistic growth curve look like? I was asked; "What will this business look like in 5 years?" I honestly did not have a clue.

Build with cash is the best advice. Ask your potential backer what he is looking for as a return on the money he is "investing" and then work backwards (Like a backup calendar) and set milestones that you both can agree on and track progress. Underpromise and overdeliver should be the watchwords in the 5 year plan, and don't forget contingency and exit plans.

4. I have been shopping competitors and they obviously get better pricing than I can get right now. I was thinking I would have to go to local butcher shops, explain my plans and negotiate a deal. Is that normal procedure?

Price is not a measure of quality, and there is no shame to saying "no" to potentially unprofitable, or even low profit prospects. Quality=Value=Price. Business license and Tax ID can open the door to Restaurant Depot. Smart and Final, Costco and Sam's are all options shorter term. Local butcher may be cost prohibitive in order to make margin.

I think that's all for now. I am totaly stoked and really scared by the possibility that this may really happen. Sorry about the lengthy post. Over the next few weeks, I am cooking at parties for 40, 50, and 300, all non paying events. I think it is time to start getting paid. Thanks to all!
Best of luck.
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Unread 08-07-2009, 07:44 AM   #4
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You are putting the cart in front of the horse. I would definitely start small and make sure that you remain passionate about what you are doing. Sounds like you have a good corporate job in a tough job market. I am in the same boat.... I think anyway. While catering these jobs can be fun, you have to make sure they stay that way.

I do a couple jobs a month mostly on weekends and it does interfere with the family life as well as competitions. My wife and my oldest daughter help and we get some pretty good gigs where they sort of treat us like celebrities, which is great. As far as the competitions go, with the money we make off of the catering gig it is like getting a GC every week, but it still isn’t the same as taking that walk.

Also being in Texas, I do not do any catering (or comps) in the heat of summer if I can help it. I always tell my family, we will do this until it isn’t fun.

Remember if you are doing this as a business, no more vacations, and no more late nights if you plan on an early morning. Hence, the passion statement. My thoughts are if you like your job, do this on the side and you will be in the bonus round. Also employees are like ….. Well you know.

As far as what type of cooker to buy…. That is where you need to plan. I use a Stumps GF224 and my oven. At this time, I am looking to buy a rotisserie type cooker, because it will minimize my time devoted to tending to food rotation, paying attention to the airflow etc... When cooking at full capacity. Having been doing this for the 2 years plus, I would definitely recommend a good commercial convection oven in addition to the smoker. You can pick up a used one for next to nothing with all of the restaurants that have been closing.

My only beef I have at this time with what I am doing is that I want to try and get away from traditional BBQ and go more exotic but unfortunately that is not why I get the jobs, so I need to stick to what works. I have been getting more creative with the sides though. So far it is working. But with BBQ the traditional sides make sense because they are bulk fillers. Taters, beans and salads, all are easy to calculate and prepare.

Keep us posted and stop doing those catering gigs for free, because you are taking food out of the mouths of folks who do this for a living. Remain competitive and charge what your food is worth, if you cook bad, be cheap, but if you cook well and know it, charge a lot. Never take a job cheap in hope that you will get more work, because you are only as good as your last low bid.
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Unread 08-07-2009, 12:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver View Post
I have loved to BBQ for as long as I can remember. I grew cooking whole hog BBQ with my Dad. A few years ago I threw a pig picken for a group of friends and co-workers. Everyone seemed pleased and I have done 5-6 cooks a year just for co-workers ranging from 30-300 people. I have been toying with catering and competing for a while now. I took the CBJ class in April and have judged 3 comps.

Well, I pitched a competition team sponsorship to our marketing VP at my office and she bit. Now we are signed up for 3 competitions this fall. To seal the deal, I agreed to package pork and brisket from the comps, pre-sell by the pound, and what ever we make will be donated to charity in the name of the company. I am very excited and quite nervous.

Then it got deeper. I was approached by a potential investor that wants to back me in a catering business. I haven't said yes or no. I have a corporate job and a non bbq related business. I am already pretty busy but I'm in the tax prep business so my busiest time coincides with the slowest catering time. This isn't new but now my wife REALLY thinks I'm crazy. I have been reading and studying everything I can about the business. I truly appreciate all of the time you all have devoted to this forum. With that said, I have a couple of questions.

1. My plan would be to start small on weekends. When creating the business plan, how many events is realistic as you are getting started? I have built relationships in my corporate position with a lot of event planners, DJs, hotels etc so I think I have a good base to start marketing but I want to be realistic/conservative in the projections.

Start off trying to do a couple of gigs a month. This will give you the time to process the following:
a. If you really want to do catering
b. Supplies needed
c. Develop marketing strategies (website, brochures, etc.)
d. Evaluate your services and make modifications


2. Am I realistic in believing that I can get by initially with backyard equipment? I have a trailered whole hog cooker(bare bones home made style), a couple of cheap offsets and a couple of drums.

You can get by on small jobs and save loot to buy real euipment. Real paydays will come with nicer equipment.

3. I saw the advice to start small and build with cash. It seems to be sound advice. I need to prepare a 5 year plan. What would a realistic growth curve look like? I was asked; "What will this business look like in 5 years?" I honestly did not have a clue.

Nobody really has this answer in these downtrodden times. It is said that it takes 3 years to solidy your niche in catering. I will argue that it will take longer than 3 year, especially now.

4. I have been shopping competitors and they obviously get better pricing than I can get right now. I was thinking I would have to go to local butcher shops, explain my plans and negotiate a deal. Is that normal procedure?

Try Sysco once you get really going. For now you should be able to get by with Sam's, Costco or Restaurant depot types.

I think that's all for now. I am totaly stoked and really scared by the possibility that this may really happen. Sorry about the lengthy post. Over the next few weeks, I am cooking at parties for 40, 50, and 300, all non paying events. I think it is time to start getting paid. Thanks to all!
Yup, Cut that free stuff out!

And another two things, I would be leary about potential investors (could be a loan shark wanting your 1st born). This is something you can do by yourself.
Finally, do not quit a good paying job you like (especially now), for this labor intensive gig. The side hustle is the way to go. YMMV
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Unread 08-07-2009, 01:38 PM   #6
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Start small, build with cash purchases and choose equipment that will support growth. Dont work cheap!!!!
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Unread 08-07-2009, 02:56 PM   #7
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I don't do catering, but have had several small businesses in my life - and I think smarting small and building the biz yourself is the way to go - you don't need an investor if you start small (I'm guessing) and you don't want anyone giving direction to YOUR business. I pray that you are sucessful and have lots of fun. Keep us up to date with what you decide, etc. And...I agree with the others...stop cooking for free! Heck, I'm thinking of even charging my kids for their Q :) LOL
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Unread 08-10-2009, 08:50 PM   #8
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Thanks to all! I have decided not to go the route of the investor. I do this because I enjoy it and do not want to be beholden to someone else. I want to do this at my own pace.

I have 2 more of the freebies but I will do my best to cut those out. At least the freebie at work is an extra pd day off AND they are paying for the beer.

Thanks again.
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Unread 08-11-2009, 10:52 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbrink01 View Post
Start small, build with cash purchases and choose equipment that will support growth. Dont work cheap!!!!
Don't work cheap! That advice there is golden. I don't cater but I have been self employed for many years. There is a perceived value in the price that you charge. Example: I had a pressure washing business and tried to keep my prices low to compete with all the immigrant labor here, and it was really tough to stay busy with any good contracts. I finally said " screw it" and tripled my rate and it seemed I got every contract I bidded on. The more I charged the busier I was. So busy that I was working way harder than I wanted and sold the business and contracts for ... well let's just say I was very happy.
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