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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 07-01-2019, 04:09 PM   #16
BrandonBBQ
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Join Date: 08-31-18
Location: Warsaw, IN
Name/Nickname : Brandon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by medic92 View Post
Not trying to discourage you, but cooking on a regular basis for large groups can turn into a grind. You have to consistently cook everything the same way, time and time again. All the fun of tweaking recipes and trying new things gives way to providing a consistent product over and over and over again until it just becomes a task. You have to be ready for that to happen, where you look at a big pile of briskets and realize you have to trim and season all of them. Again. And if you see one more pork butt that needs trimming or one more rack of ribs that needs the membrane pulled, you'll lose your mind.

You don't lose the ability to experiment or do new things, you can always have specials and do things differently. But you'll also find your desire to cook even more in addition to your standards will dwindle under the weight of your regular workload.

Keep your eyes open and don't fall for the "I get to cook barbecue for a living!" ideal we all have in our mind without the reality.
I appreciate the insight! I'm not working with any delusions of grandeur here and if "for a living" ever happens, it'll be a long time down the road. I'm thinking more of a catering style and pop-up trailer and see where it goes. Most businesses fail because they try to do too much and can't sustain it. I'm doing basically the opposite starting as small and lean as possible and wait until I sell out every weekend for a year before I quit my job and do it full time. For < $20,000, I can own a side business and start selling my BBQ. Goal is at first a "Open every other weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day" or "Every Saturday Memorial Day to Labor Day" type thing and have the ability to BBQ for events when needed.

I have a kush 9-5 job and it would take ALOT for me to stop doing that full time. That 9-5 job also allows me to set my own schedule with a great deal of flexibility and basically work whenever I want.

As for the recipes and cooking processes and whatnot... I found a recipe and process that I've really gotten good at and that yields the "best pulled pork <insert name> has ever eaten". I'm a huge nerd and write down prep steps, temp readings, notes, and anything I do during cooking. It's like a science project that I do over and over. If I feel like changing it, I will. But as for now it's pretty much the same every time.
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:26 AM   #17
EricD
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Join Date: 08-08-14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidparker View Post
Brandon, if you haven't cooked for a large group of people, you definitely should first. Find a church or a VFW and volunteer to cook on a Saturday or Sunday. It will give you a small taste of the hassle and work involved. You will have to make sides and serve the food, as well as, just cook the Q. It may change your mind or it may be a blast. But you should try it before spending $$$ on equipment.
Just a thought for you.... I was golfing a little bit ago, at the turn there was a guy set up with a flat top griddle, and a weber kettle making golf type snack food. (I thought it was genius!)
A quick google search in warsaw, it doesn't look like your golf courses have great snack bars. Maybe ask if you can be the food supplier for a season to get a feel for it?
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:28 AM   #18
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also, have you read Jeremy's post.... "Open a restaurant they said..."
It's an Epic read: https://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/s...d.php?t=161123
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Old 07-02-2019, 05:24 PM   #19
BrandonBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricD View Post
Just a thought for you.... I was golfing a little bit ago, at the turn there was a guy set up with a flat top griddle, and a weber kettle making golf type snack food. (I thought it was genius!)
A quick google search in warsaw, it doesn't look like your golf courses have great snack bars. Maybe ask if you can be the food supplier for a season to get a feel for it?

At the course I play a couple times a week there is a flat top griddle out there at the turn but never turned on and no one ever using. I've been doing IT stuff for the owner and am working my way up to "Hey, what do you say I provide BBQ during the summer on the weekends?"

Definitely another option for revenue here.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:00 PM   #20
BrandonBBQ
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So I've secured a very large barbed wire enclosed gravel lot that will serve as home base that isn't going to cost me any "rent" until I "make some money". [emoji16]

Anyways.. I'm getting ready to purchase my first smoker for the enclosed porch trailer I will end up with, and am leaning towards the Shotgun Smoker by BBQ Guru.

I've been using the guru for a long time and the set it and forget it mentality is going to help me a lot as I don't want to have to mess with the fire too much while making plates. I also like the small footprint for the amount of meat it can hold.

Any other suggestions that may be Guru compatible? ~$2k shipped/picked up for the first purchase towards the venture?

Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:02 AM   #21
SmoothBoarBBQ
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Hey Brandon,

Just a few things off the top of my head. Disclaimer : I just hit 1 year running a BBQ food trailer, so take what I say with that limited amount of experience in mind.

-Shotgun Smoker : looks like a great smoker but it's small. With such a small smoker you're going to severely limit your potential for growth. It's probably better to invest in a larger smoker so that you have room to grow. Again, this is just my experience...I have a large "hog style" smoker with an offset firebox for stickburning, and it has 2 propane burners so I can wrap the meat after a few hours and walk away until it's all done.

I've got a warming box on the left there, and the smoker in the back is what I use for everything. I can do a 175Lb hog on the bottom rack and a 125Lb hog on the top rack. It's a shockingly good smoker and cost was $1900.

-Business : have you setup an LLC or similar business entity yet? If not I'd start working on it because it will take at least a month, and if the government is moving slow it can take multiple months. You'll also need a solid business model and even more importantly a solid MENU. I bring up the menu because it will dictate the exact type of equipment / cooker you'll need. Example : do you plan on using vegetables in any of your dishes? If so you're likely going to need a 5th sink just as a vegetable wash station. Most places will require you to have a 3 bay sink as well as a hand wash station. The menu is so important because it will let you know what size refrigerator you'll need, size of smoker, how much counter-top space / work tables, etc..

Have you looked around and are there any commissary kitchens available in your area? Can you afford to pay them with your current plan of just doing a few events or weekend work? There are no co-op kitchens in my county so my only way of getting a commissary kitchen was to go to just about every restaurant in town and ask them if I could use their place as a commissary. As you would imagine the answer was a resounding "NO." So this left me in a spot where I had all my equipment and was ready to go, but couldn't get permitted by the Health Department / Environmental Health.

-Equipment : have you decided on electric versus propane? Electric will require you to have a pretty large and powerful generator, while propane will require you to have access to LP and a couple of 100Lb tanks. What type of hot water system are you planning on going with, and is that compatible with the Food Code in your area? It's unreal how some counties will not allow tankless hot water heaters...such a joke.
-I highly recommend a steam table...I cheaped out when I bought my trailer and now I'm running with chafing dishes each day to keep the food warm...it's a huge pain in the butt and a steam table is such a better choice.

-Funding : Do you have all the money on hand for everything you need? There is little to no external funding for any kind of food operations. In terms of lending food trucks / trailers are considered to be the exact same thing as restaurants, and restaurants are one of the worst investments in the history of the human race. My trailer, all in, was about $20K, and I needed another $7K in equipment (generator, cooking equipment, initial stock), and another $3Kish for incidentals (liability insurance, licensing fees, inspections, registration, etc..). Both my wife and I have credit scores of over 800 and the only loan I could get was for $12,500 and the APR was unreal. I ended up getting a personal loan, instead of a business loan, and that is what I used to fund my business.
Even the SBA loans didn't want anything to do with me because it was a food truck business...pretty demoralizing.

All of this is just food for thought to get your mind oriented towards the business aspect of things. Everybody told me to quit thinking like a pit-master and more of a business person, but it took me a while to make that switch. Initially my portions were large and my prices were a bit low, so after 3 months I was breaking almost dead even...working ~80 hours a week for zero profit. I made some changes on portion sizes, increased my prices, and found some cheaper alternatives for meat sources and things are finally looking better. I've also got a great following now so I've been able to branch out a bit from just lunch service into more vending-events and it's great!

Medic92 helped me a lot when I was getting my business off the ground, and he has offered up some good advice / wisdom in this thread already. Feel free to reach out to me if my post is unclear or if you'd like me to further explain anything I've said, or with just any other questions in general.

I will suggest that before you buy a smoker, or build a trailer, you have a sit down with the Health Department / Environmental Health and find out exactly what kind of equipment they will require you to have. Some places will ONLY allow a NSF smoker and if that's the case then your smoker budget is going to need to increase by a large percentage. Most NSF cookers start at $5K and ramp up from there pretty aggressively. Just trying to help you to avoid the mistakes I made : technically I don't need an NSF smoker in my city / county according to the Food Code, but the Health Inspectors want to see an NSF label regardless of what the Food Code states. As a note here I seem to have way more problems with my Health Department than anybody has with theirs, so your experience might not be such a pain.

OK, good luck moving forward!
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:57 AM   #22
SmoothBoarBBQ
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Join Date: 02-25-17
Location: Jacksonville, NC
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Also, ServSafe Managers Course...if you haven't taken it yet go ahead and do it as soon as you can. This will also help you identify and control some potential issues within your food trailer.

https://www.servsafe.com/ServSafe-Manager

I highly recommend taking the in-house course (rather than the online course) because you have instant access to answers from the instructor. During the course you will write-up a HAACP plan which is something you'll need to do for your food trailer anyways, so it will give you a leg-up in getting it done.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:14 AM   #23
BrandonBBQ
On the road to being a farker

 
Join Date: 08-31-18
Location: Warsaw, IN
Name/Nickname : Brandon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
Hey Brandon,

Just a few things off the top of my head. Disclaimer : I just hit 1 year running a BBQ food trailer, so take what I say with that limited amount of experience in mind.

-Shotgun Smoker : looks like a great smoker but it's small. With such a small smoker you're going to severely limit your potential for growth. It's probably better to invest in a larger smoker so that you have room to grow. Again, this is just my experience...I have a large "hog style" smoker with an offset firebox for stickburning, and it has 2 propane burners so I can wrap the meat after a few hours and walk away until it's all done.

I've got a warming box on the left there, and the smoker in the back is what I use for everything. I can do a 175Lb hog on the bottom rack and a 125Lb hog on the top rack. It's a shockingly good smoker and cost was $1900.

-Business : have you setup an LLC or similar business entity yet? If not I'd start working on it because it will take at least a month, and if the government is moving slow it can take multiple months. You'll also need a solid business model and even more importantly a solid MENU. I bring up the menu because it will dictate the exact type of equipment / cooker you'll need. Example : do you plan on using vegetables in any of your dishes? If so you're likely going to need a 5th sink just as a vegetable wash station. Most places will require you to have a 3 bay sink as well as a hand wash station. The menu is so important because it will let you know what size refrigerator you'll need, size of smoker, how much counter-top space / work tables, etc..

Have you looked around and are there any commissary kitchens available in your area? Can you afford to pay them with your current plan of just doing a few events or weekend work? There are no co-op kitchens in my county so my only way of getting a commissary kitchen was to go to just about every restaurant in town and ask them if I could use their place as a commissary. As you would imagine the answer was a resounding "NO." So this left me in a spot where I had all my equipment and was ready to go, but couldn't get permitted by the Health Department / Environmental Health.

-Equipment : have you decided on electric versus propane? Electric will require you to have a pretty large and powerful generator, while propane will require you to have access to LP and a couple of 100Lb tanks. What type of hot water system are you planning on going with, and is that compatible with the Food Code in your area? It's unreal how some counties will not allow tankless hot water heaters...such a joke.
-I highly recommend a steam table...I cheaped out when I bought my trailer and now I'm running with chafing dishes each day to keep the food warm...it's a huge pain in the butt and a steam table is such a better choice.

-Funding : Do you have all the money on hand for everything you need? There is little to no external funding for any kind of food operations. In terms of lending food trucks / trailers are considered to be the exact same thing as restaurants, and restaurants are one of the worst investments in the history of the human race. My trailer, all in, was about $20K, and I needed another $7K in equipment (generator, cooking equipment, initial stock), and another $3Kish for incidentals (liability insurance, licensing fees, inspections, registration, etc..). Both my wife and I have credit scores of over 800 and the only loan I could get was for $12,500 and the APR was unreal. I ended up getting a personal loan, instead of a business loan, and that is what I used to fund my business.
Even the SBA loans didn't want anything to do with me because it was a food truck business...pretty demoralizing.

All of this is just food for thought to get your mind oriented towards the business aspect of things. Everybody told me to quit thinking like a pit-master and more of a business person, but it took me a while to make that switch. Initially my portions were large and my prices were a bit low, so after 3 months I was breaking almost dead even...working ~80 hours a week for zero profit. I made some changes on portion sizes, increased my prices, and found some cheaper alternatives for meat sources and things are finally looking better. I've also got a great following now so I've been able to branch out a bit from just lunch service into more vending-events and it's great!

Medic92 helped me a lot when I was getting my business off the ground, and he has offered up some good advice / wisdom in this thread already. Feel free to reach out to me if my post is unclear or if you'd like me to further explain anything I've said, or with just any other questions in general.

I will suggest that before you buy a smoker, or build a trailer, you have a sit down with the Health Department / Environmental Health and find out exactly what kind of equipment they will require you to have. Some places will ONLY allow a NSF smoker and if that's the case then your smoker budget is going to need to increase by a large percentage. Most NSF cookers start at $5K and ramp up from there pretty aggressively. Just trying to help you to avoid the mistakes I made : technically I don't need an NSF smoker in my city / county according to the Food Code, but the Health Inspectors want to see an NSF label regardless of what the Food Code states. As a note here I seem to have way more problems with my Health Department than anybody has with theirs, so your experience might not be such a pain.

OK, good luck moving forward!
So seriously, thank you for writing this. I had not even thought of needing an NSF cooker and will be calling the Health Department today to see if I can get some answers, as well as on the hot water system.

- Business / LLC : I have another business setup right now but am working with my accountant/business advisor who is drawing up the paperwork as we speak. I'm about halfway through the business plan and the menu is pretty much set. I still have a bit of work to do... but the important things are started.

- Equipment : I hadn't really decided on Electric or Propane for the inside, but I have a connection with a local company that provides LP so I may end up going that route. I've also thought about a hybrid of both for different things.

- Funding : I don't have all of the $25k I'm projecting to need before I sell my first pulled pork sammie, but I have about $10k of it. Once I finish the business plan I have a couple family members that are interested in a $5k investment for a small return. They just want to help me get off the ground. I know people will be like DONT GO INTO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY OR PARTNERS LBAH BLAH BLAH... They can all shut up, I don't care. This $$$ will be paid back quickly with a small interest rate for them to exit. If the bank doesn't want to give me the $5k-$10k I will need to finish off... I'll open a 0% introductory credit card for the business and call it a day.

Again, I just want to reiterate that this is kind of a hobby truck that will be open maybe 2 days a week while we test the market for what we're trying to do. It's not going to make or break ANYONE involved so any and all comments on my choices of funding/business setup can get bent :)

- Pit master -> Business thinking : So I actually come from the business side of things. I run a freelance web/app business and work regularly with business consultants. I just ended up getting pretty good at BBQ from all the knowledge I gained here and making bad BBQ that I again like many was told "You should open a BBQ spot". I'm doing as much as I can of this myself, as well as keeping my full time job. This is actually going to be more of a catering venture at first with almost like a "Pop-up" once a week.

The commissary kitchen is obviously the last thing I need to get an answer on because I was always told that if everything could be done on the trailer, I wouldn't need one. And having a place that has a power hookup means I can do everything I need to, on the trailer. So hopefully that's the case. If not, I am gonna start asking the restaurant owners I know personally, and see what I can do. PRAY FOR ME.

I have also been doing marketing, web & app development, and social media marketing for a couple years. It needs to look professional, and it will. Yesterday I contracted a designer that is going to work with me. He's a Senior Art Director of a large marketing firm in the region that I went to high school with and have hired in the past, he's also down with BBQ.

There are a couple economic development organizations in town that I've started conversations with to help me with the process. This town is fortunately all about small business and people will help those that work hard to launch something.

I'm all in on making this a thing and I can't wait for you all to see what we've got going on. I'm also going to add a blog our site with recipes and whatnot.

My wife and I officially decided on a name, "The Smoke & Swine Co."
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The Smoke & Swine Co.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:38 PM   #24
SmoothBoarBBQ
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Sounds like you have a pretty good grip on what needs to be done. Good luck with your venture and I hope to hear good things in the future.
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Old 07-18-2019, 03:44 PM   #25
BrandonBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothBoarBBQ View Post
Sounds like you have a pretty good grip on what needs to be done. Good luck with your venture and I hope to hear good things in the future.

Thank you. I am really hoping I can get everything cleared with the Health Department. That's really the only unknown still. I sent the e-mail and left a voicemail today so hopefully I will hear back soon.

This was just too good of an opportunity to not try. I'm a serial entrepreneur and obsessed with BBQ. Gotta do what you love and it's not a job right?
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Old 07-22-2019, 03:10 PM   #26
BrandonBBQ
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Name/Nickname : Brandon
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Just bought a BBQ Guru Shotgun Smoker w/Cyber Q, Grilla Grills Alpha Silverbac, and a Blackstone 36" Griddle.

The Smoke & Swine Co. has officially begun!
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The Smoke & Swine Co.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:49 PM   #27
kurtsara
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Join Date: 07-27-07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandonBBQ View Post
Just bought a BBQ Guru Shotgun Smoker w/Cyber Q, Grilla Grills Alpha Silverbac, and a Blackstone 36" Griddle.

The Smoke & Swine Co. has officially begun!
So I'm guessing you do not need NSF anything?
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Old 07-28-2019, 07:40 AM   #28
BrandonBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kurtsara View Post
So I'm guessing you do not need NSF anything?
That seems to be the case! As long as it's not enclosed in the trailer, the health department where I live doesn't have any issues with it. The equipment inside the enclosed part will be for sure but I'm thinking of running all electric in there anyways.

"No special equipment on the smoker" when I sent him a picture of the one I was thinking about getting.

I e-mailed him with my plans and after a couple days he got back to me and told me that everything sounded good, but I would just need a commissary agreement for the clean water hookup/grey water disposal.

Unfortunately the closest "commissary" is over an hour away so this is my only hang up right now. We just started the process of building a house and I'm getting ready to switch jobs so I'll mostly be working on the business plan and learning the Shotgun and rest of equip the rest of the summer/fall. I will be in talks with a couple of our restaurant owner friends and the campus here in town. Also there may be an opportunity with a large organization here letting me use their "cafe" as one.

I talked with a representative from the Economic Development Corp and she really liked the couple ideas I had and said she knew of at least 2 others in the org that would be interested in hearing more. So we're going to put a little more effort into planning out our "Pavilion".

That same day I got my haircut at a new place and the lady that did my hair said she had a client that has run a restaurant and food truck in this town for 10+ years and gave me his contact info! He of course said it was okay and is going to let me pick his brain on how to be successful.

My wife said this is probably a 3 year plan, but she knows I'm ambitious and I'm thinking if not next summer, summer 2021 for sure on the trailer. The "Pavilion" may be a couple more years after that.

Too stoked though. Thanks to the brethren for the confidence in doing something. I've read through a bunch of horror stories as well as success stories and have picked up a lot of invaluable knowledge on the subject. I will keep everyone in the loop.

The Shotgun gets here tomorrow!!!!! The Blackstone was delivered broken so Amazon is sending a new one scheduled to be here Thursday. The Grilla hasn't gotten me a shipping notice yet but it should go out this week.


Cheers ya'll!
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The Smoke & Swine Co.
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Old 07-29-2019, 04:55 PM   #29
RJ's BBQ
Got rid of the matchlight.
 
Join Date: 07-21-19
Location: Marion, Arkansas
Name/Nickname : RJ
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I've been thinking the same thing as Brandon. Thanks for asking the question and thanks to those with experience who have responded. I know I'm re-thinking this "great idea."
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Old 07-30-2019, 02:32 PM   #30
BrandonBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ's BBQ View Post
I've been thinking the same thing as Brandon. Thanks for asking the question and thanks to those with experience who have responded. I know I'm re-thinking this "great idea."

It has definitely made me rethink some things a bit but definitely not a deterrent. This thread has given me some absolutely invaluable information and things to look for.
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