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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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Old 11-12-2018, 03:30 PM   #1
Hayduke
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Default What iis the day in the life of a BBQ food truck?

I am looking to start a BBQ truck and I am trying to see what I am to expect as far as quality of life goes.



I have work restaurants my whole life, so I get restaurant life is hard. But as far as BBQ food truck go what do you do day in and day out?
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Old 11-12-2018, 03:33 PM   #2
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Depending on how many days you run, be prepared to work your arse off!

Nice avatar, btw.

I know member medic92 runs a successful food truck. Hopefully he'll stop by and give some insight.
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Old 11-12-2018, 04:28 PM   #3
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That all depends on if you have help or not. I would wake up between 2 and 3am, get my trailer. Fill the generator and backup gas can. Get to the kitchen, start prepping sides, sauces, etc. Have the smoker running with pork going by 6. Leave the kitchen by 830 find a parking space, cook my chicken, sausage and sides, open by 11. Serve til 130, refill water if needed, unload at kitchen, park the trailer. Make my prep list for the next day. Pickup any food orders if needed. Stop at the bank on my way home. Get home, respond to emails. 1 day a week deal with bills, entering receipts, admin work, etc. Spend time with my toddler, then my wife, in bed by 10, and do it again the next day.
If I had a brewery event, similar timeline but an hour later start, but not home until after 11p.
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Old 11-12-2018, 05:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by PatAttack View Post
Depending on how many days you run, be prepared to work your arse off!

Nice avatar, btw.

I know member medic92 runs a successful food truck. Hopefully he'll stop by and give some insight.

Thanks! You too


I have read some his posts. Maybe I should reach out.
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Old 11-12-2018, 05:22 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ynotfehc View Post
That all depends on if you have help or not. I would wake up between 2 and 3am, get my trailer. Fill the generator and backup gas can. Get to the kitchen, start prepping sides, sauces, etc. Have the smoker running with pork going by 6. Leave the kitchen by 830 find a parking space, cook my chicken, sausage and sides, open by 11. Serve til 130, refill water if needed, unload at kitchen, park the trailer. Make my prep list for the next day. Pickup any food orders if needed. Stop at the bank on my way home. Get home, respond to emails. 1 day a week deal with bills, entering receipts, admin work, etc. Spend time with my toddler, then my wife, in bed by 10, and do it again the next day.
If I had a brewery event, similar timeline but an hour later start, but not home until after 11p.

This is perfect. Thanks for the break down! Do you do brisket? Do you find you get enough time with the kids and wife?
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Old 11-12-2018, 06:35 PM   #6
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How about a week in the life? This is going to be long.

We're open 11-6 on Wed. Thurs. and Fri. here in Mt. Sterling and 11-2 on Saturday in Rushville, which is 15 miles away. The week starts on Tuesday. None of this is in any particular order.

Tuesday: Go out and do inventory, make a list of what needs to be ordered. Make sure there aren't any catering jobs that require extra food or any specialty orders. Clean the smoker and get it ready for the week.
Fire up the smoker around 4:00 pm.
4:30: Trim brisket, prep pork shoulders
Brisket and pork shoulders rubbed and on the smoker by 5:00 pm
Get the order in to Sysco by 5:00 pm.
Make the cole slaw and pasta salad so it can refrigerate overnight and the flavors can combine.
Make barbecue sauce
Partially smoke and then fry the bacon for the mac & cheese.
Around 7:00 pm add another cherry split to the smoker. Whine about the weather being too hot/cold/rainy/snowy/windy.
Add the last cherry split around 9:00 and call it a night.

Wednesday: Get up at 6:30, gripe about the alarm going off. Go out and pull the brisket and pork shoulders, put them in the warmer at 160 to rest.
Prep the ribs and make sure they're on by 7:00 am.
Poop.
Get the chicken prepped and on the smoker.
Get water boiling for the mac & cheese noodles.
Get the cheese melting for the cheese sauce.
Rinse and drain beans for the baked beans, assemble the baked beans and get them heating in the double boiler.
Slice onions and tomatoes for the pico de gallo, strip cilantro from the stalks for the tacos.
Boil the mac noodles, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Get the cream, cheeses, bacon and spices heating in the double boiler for the mac & cheese.
Go to the store to get anything I may have forgotten, go to the bank and get change. Hook the trailer up to the truck.
Slather the ribs in honey (locally produced of course), wrap and return to the smoker. Put the chicken in a pan, cover and return to the smoker.
Pull half the pork shoulders, keep the rest in the smoker.
Slice brisket for the lunch hour, reserve the rest to slice in the afternoon.
Make the ranchili sauce for the tacos (ranch dressing, chipotles in adobo, cilantro).
Dip up the cold sides into individual containers, label them and put them in the fridge
Portion the barbecue sauce into individual containers.
Unwrap the ribs, slice the slabs in half and place them in the warmer.
Take the chicken off the smoker, set it in the trailer to rest.
Go inside and take a shower for God's sake.
At about 10-10:30, haul the trailer to our spot, plug it in and get ready to open by 11:00
10:50: Give my niece unending crap for not getting there earlier, even though I know she can't possibly get there any earlier.
11:00: Throw the window open to our adoring fans and sell some food!
1:00 Kick the niece out since the lunch rush is over.
2:00: Trim brisket, prep pork shoulders for the next day, do as much cleanup as we can, make fresh mac & cheese, slice brisket and pull pork shoulders for dinner. Whine about how our feet hurt and contemplate our life choices.
Run home with the Sysco order arrives and put everything away, update inventory.
6:00 pm. Close the window, take the trailer home (whopping 2 block drive), get the smoker fired up again. Cleanup!
Get the brisket and pork butts on the smoker.
7:00 pm: Add another cherry split
9:00 pm: Add another cherry split and call it a day.

Thursday: Get up at 6:30, gripe about the alarm going off. Go out and pull the brisket and pork shoulders, put them in the warmer at 160 to rest.
Prep the ribs and make sure they're on by 7:00 am.
Poop.
Get the chicken prepped and on the smoker.
Get water boiling for the mac & cheese noodles.
Get the cheese melting for the cheese sauce.
Rinse and drain beans for the baked beans, assemble the baked beans and get them heating in the double boiler.
Slice onions and tomatoes for the pico de gallo, strip cilantro from the stalks for the tacos.
Boil the mac noodles, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Get the cream, cheeses, bacon and spices heating in the double boiler for the mac & cheese.
Go to the store to get anything I may have forgotten, go to the bank and get change. Hook the trailer up to the truck.
Slather the ribs in honey (locally produced of course), wrap and return to the smoker. Put the chicken in a pan, cover and return to the smoker.
Pull half the pork shoulders, keep the rest in the smoker.
Slice brisket for the lunch hour, reserve the rest to slice in the afternoon.
Dip up the cold sides into individual containers, label them and put them in the fridge
Unwrap the ribs, slice the slabs in half and place them in the warmer.
Take the chicken off the smoker, set it in the trailer to rest.
Go inside and take a shower for God's sake.
At about 10-10:30, haul the trailer to our spot, plug it in and get ready to open by 11:00
10:50: Give my niece unending crap for not getting there earlier, even though I know she can't possibly get there any earlier.
11:00: Throw the window open to our adoring fans and sell some food!
1:00 Kick the niece out since the lunch rush is over.
2:00: Trim brisket, prep pork shoulders for the next day, do as much cleanup as we can, make fresh mac & cheese, slice brisket and pull pork shoulders for dinner. Whine about how our feet hurt and contemplate our life choices.
6:00 pm. Close the window, take the trailer home (whopping 2 block drive), get the smoker fired up again. Cleanup!
Get the brisket and pork butts on the smoker.
7:00 pm: Add another cherry split
9:00 pm: Add another cherry split and call it a day.

Friday: Get up at 6:30, gripe about the alarm going off. Go out and pull the brisket and pork shoulders, put them in the warmer at 160 to rest.
Prep the ribs and make sure they're on by 7:00 am.
Poop.
Get the chicken prepped and on the smoker.
Get water boiling for the mac & cheese noodles.
Get the cheese melting for the cheese sauce.
Rinse and drain beans for the baked beans, assemble the baked beans and get them heating in the double boiler.
Slice onions and tomatoes for the pico de gallo, strip cilantro from the stalks for the tacos.
Boil the mac noodles, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Get the cream, cheeses, bacon and spices heating in the double boiler for the mac & cheese.
Go to the store to get anything I may have forgotten, go to the bank and get change. Hook the trailer up to the truck.
Slather the ribs in honey (locally produced of course), wrap and return to the smoker. Put the chicken in a pan, cover and return to the smoker.
Pull half the pork shoulders, keep the rest in the smoker.
Slice brisket for the lunch hour, reserve the rest to slice in the afternoon.
Make the ranchili sauce for the tacos (ranch dressing, chipotles in adobo, cilantro).
Dip up the cold sides into individual containers, label them and put them in the fridge
Portion the barbecue sauce into individual containers.
Unwrap the ribs, slice the slabs in half and place them in the warmer.
Take the chicken off the smoker, set it in the trailer to rest.
Go inside and take a shower for God's sake.
At about 10-10:30, haul the trailer to our spot, plug it in and get ready to open by 11:00
10:50: Give my niece unending crap for not getting there earlier, even though I know she can't possibly get there any earlier.
11:00: Throw the window open to our adoring fans and sell some food!
1:00 Kick the niece out since the lunch rush is over.
2:00: Trim brisket, prep pork shoulders for the next day, do as much cleanup as we can, make fresh mac & cheese, slice brisket and pull pork shoulders for dinner. Whine about how our feet hurt and contemplate our life choices.
6:00 pm. Close the window, take the trailer home (whopping 2 block drive), get the smoker fired up again. Cleanup!
Get the brisket and pork butts on the smoker.
7:00 pm: Add another cherry split
9:00 pm: Add another cherry split and call it a day.

Saturday: Get up at 5:30, gripe about the alarm going off. Go out and pull the brisket and pork shoulders, put them in the warmer at 160 to rest.
Prep the ribs and make sure they're on by 6:00 am.
Poop.
Get the chicken prepped and on the smoker.
Get water boiling for the mac & cheese noodles.
Get the cheese melting for the cheese sauce.
Rinse and drain beans for the baked beans, assemble the baked beans and get them heating in the double boiler.
Slice onions and tomatoes for the pico de gallo, strip cilantro from the stalks for the tacos.
Boil the mac noodles, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Get the cream, cheeses, bacon and spices heating in the double boiler for the mac & cheese.
Go to the store to get anything I may have forgotten, go to the bank and get change. Hook the trailer up to the truck.
Slather the ribs in honey (locally produced of course), wrap and return to the smoker. Put the chicken in a pan, cover and return to the smoker.
Pull half the pork shoulders, keep the rest in the smoker.
Slice brisket for the lunch hour, reserve the rest to slice in the afternoon.
Make the ranchili sauce for the tacos (ranch dressing, chipotles in adobo, cilantro).
Dip up the cold sides into individual containers, label them and put them in the fridge
Portion the barbecue sauce into individual containers.
Unwrap the ribs, slice the slabs in half and place them in the warmer.
Take the chicken off the smoker, set it in the trailer to rest.
Go inside and take a shower for God's sake.
At about 9:30-10:00, haul the trailer to our spot in Rushville (a whopping 15 mile drive), plug it in and get ready to open by 11:00
10:50: Give my niece unending crap for not getting there earlier, even though I know she can't possibly get there any earlier.
11:00: Throw the window open to our adoring fans and sell some food!
2:00: Whine about how our feet hurt and contemplate our life choices. Close the window, take the trailer home, clean up.

Sunday: Get back in the semi, drive 524 miles to Zanesville, OH, swap trailers with a Maryland driver, get back as far as Cambridge City, IN. Think about new recipe ideas/promotions/marketing strategy. Get some food, put on a Clint Eastwood movie, take my federally mandated 10 hour break.

Monday: Get up, finish the last 5 1/2 hours of the drive back home. Go home. Talk the accountant about how much we made and how much we should have made. Think about selling a kidney. Meet with the Sysco rep to find out what exciting and new crap is coming out that might be of interest to us. Drink heavily and listen to old 80's metal.

Tuesday: Repeat the week again.

This is an approximation and I'm sure I left stuff out. The activities listed are split between my wife and I so there are more things that I omitted because she does them. There's extra prep work on Thursday because we're serving brisket chili on Friday/Saturday now. And there are a million other little things we're doing that doesn't happen every week such as getting menus printed, washing the trailer, etc.
There honestly aren't too many moments where my wife and I aren't thinking about or discussing the business. I think our quality of life is pretty good because we get to spend all our time together and we have common goals.
Some days are longer, some are shorter. They're all exhausting and sometimes you wonder if it's worth it. But then you open the window and the customers are lined up and talking about how much they're looking forward to us opening every day and it's all good.

This also conveniently left out prepping for catering events, which we usually have 3-5 times a month. It also doesn't mention the amount of time spent answering the phone/email with estimates for catering, when we're open, whether we have food left and all that crap. It's just a vague idea of how we do things. You may do it differently and even more efficiently, but it will be something along those lines.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:03 PM   #7
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I have work restaurants my whole life, so I get restaurant life is hard. But as far as BBQ food truck go what do you do day in and day out?
Your "Day in the life of" is really two to three days. When we plan to start selling at 11am on a Saturday for instance, we'll light smokers around 4-5pm the day before and cook all night. If lucky I get 2 hours sleep then it's on my feet at 4am prepping all of the day's hot sides. Then off to our selling location around 8am to get set up and ready to sell. Usually, we'll stop selling by 3pm if we did not sell out earlier. Then back to our kitchen to clean up all the equipment and trailer. If I'm lucky I get to hit my recliner by 6pm and in reality, my day started at 7am Friday morning so with the exception of a couple hours sleep I'll go 34 out of 36 hours straight. Some nights that might be 3-4 hours sleep and others none. I used to do a festival every fall where we would se Fri-Sat-Sun. I'd light the smokers at 6pm on Thursday night and extinguish them at 6pm on Sunday cooking 24 hours a day. Too old for that anymore though.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:09 PM   #8
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How about a week in the life?

I too got a chuckle when I saw "A day in the life of" LOL, when I look back on what it took to get where I'm at I told my wife I'm happy I'm here but I couldn't do it again.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:43 PM   #9
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medic92...it sounds like you’re not tending to your smoker overnight, correct? What kind of smoker are you running if not a stick burner? Nice, detailed explanation BTW! Very informative.
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Old 11-13-2018, 06:28 AM   #10
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medic92...it sounds like you’re not tending to your smoker overnight, correct? What kind of smoker are you running if not a stick burner? Nice, detailed explanation BTW! Very informative.
I'm positive he runs an ATC (Guru) on his Meadow Creek smoker. I think it's fully insulated and runs like a sewing machine.
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Old 11-13-2018, 06:59 AM   #11
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Great information gang!

All of that, plus the hassles with needing and finding a commissary and certified kitchen in our area are why we haven’t ventured into the BBQ business! At 61, almost 62, I’m not sure that I could handle the schedule!
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:16 AM   #12
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Quote:
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medic92...it sounds like you’re not tending to your smoker overnight, correct? What kind of smoker are you running if not a stick burner? Nice, detailed explanation BTW! Very informative.
It's a Peoria Cookers Meat Monster with the internal firebox. Two inches of ceramic insulation between 1/4 inch steel all around with a BBQ Guru CyberQ Cloud controlling the temperatures. I use around 15 lbs. of charcoal and a few cherry splits and it will run 12+ hours without requiring me to mess with it. It will maintain 225 in subzero temperatures without effort. It was expensive, but probably the best investment I made.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:17 AM   #13
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Great information gang!

All of that, plus the hassles with needing and finding a commissary and certified kitchen in our area are why we haven’t ventured into the BBQ business! At 61, almost 62, I’m not sure that I could handle the schedule!
I'm turning 50 in January and the schedule can be pretty demanding, especially with still doing the truck driving thing full-time.
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Old 11-13-2018, 10:43 AM   #14
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Wow! Great info guys and thanks for the detailed account Medic92 It is a wonder how regular you are considering your schedule


That is what I am looking for. I am weighing my options between a BBQ food truck, a New Orleans style Food truck or opening a brick and mortar breakfast restaurant.



This 'week in the life' stuff is coming in clutch while I decide on my future. I do comps and I love BBQ but I have 3 kids and one thing I hated about managing restaurants is that I never got to see them.
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Old 11-13-2018, 11:44 AM   #15
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Wow! Great info guys and thanks for the detailed account Medic92 It is a wonder how regular you are considering your schedule


That is what I am looking for. I am weighing my options between a BBQ food truck, a New Orleans style Food truck or opening a brick and mortar breakfast restaurant.



This 'week in the life' stuff is coming in clutch while I decide on my future. I do comps and I love BBQ but I have 3 kids and one thing I hated about managing restaurants is that I never got to see them.
I don't think I could do it if our kids still lived at home. That's the thing about barbecue. Just about the entire time you're not open you're still cooking or working on something related to the business. A lot of the time when we're not open I'm experimenting with the next harebrained idea that popped into my head. I've got an idea now for a chili dish that I'm going to have to try probably next week.

The other downside is your personal life. We have to go to a family member's wedding this Saturday, which means we'll be closed that day. We don't have paid vacation days so that's just lost revenue for us. It will really make you choose between your need for income and your desire to be part of a life outside the business. A lot of times you'll think you'd rather do the family thing but your bank account will tell you that you better get your butt to work instead.
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