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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 07-19-2019, 02:08 AM   #1
BigDaveBBQ
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Join Date: 06-25-19
Location: Roseville, CA
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Default Looking for some honesty

I live in Northern commifornia and the red tape out here from state and county for food handling is frustrating. Being in the restaurant industry for 15 years I am used to road blocks when opening restaurants. I am finally taking the plunge into making a lane for myself and doing what I want to do. I originally was going to dive right in head first and pick up a 70,000 dollar bbq trailer, but I decided to scale it back. I got 2 kids and a wife so I figured better to start safe then ramp up. So Instead picking up a smoker combo on a trailer to tow and start off doing catering and hired to cook events. Sending in my deposit over the weekend and should be ready in 3-4 weeks.

Let me start off by saying I have opened an LLC purchased the 800 dollar insurance. Logged my business with the county. Supplied my applications and statements. Locked in contract with a commisary kitchen. Now I am waiting for my smoker to arrive and I am ready to go. So to speak....

The issue I am having is what I have read and been told is law from the health department vs. what I see online (California only)

With the license and catering business from what I read is:
I must have a commisary kitchen.
All product must be bought and cooked on site IN THE SAME DAY. (Unless stored at commisary)
Limited prep can be done unless hiring has a permitted kitchen.
Zero prep can be done at home of cook.
There can be no vendor to consumer sales while catering unless community event and site has a permit.
Cook to hire are events where 1 person or company is paying

So what is with:

1. "Backyard popups" seems like a grey area for people to come pickup some lunch or dinner literally from a backyard.
2. Making posts about putting on brisket ribs pulled pork and advertising for customers to put in there "1 meat 2 side orders for $10 until sold out" and delivery available.
3. Advertising for meats to be delivered or picked up
4. Folks with smokers doing pop ups at breweries that do not have concession trailers. Some people just have a smoker. Table and tent.
5. Lastly, the folks that do catering lunches from 11-3 serving briskets, but they show up at 10am and set up.... we all know the time it takes so are they smoking briskets at their home or "commisary" and holding them until the show up?

I asked all this to the health department and she straight up said..... "thousands of illegal catering and food sales happen every month". She admires me trying to go about it the right way.

Am I looking into this too much?

I have so much passion for cooking and service but I also want to do things the right way. There is not a big community where I am from that do bbq catering or hire to cook. My goal is to be outside all these breweries but it sounds like I cannot do that until I get an enclosed concession trailer. The rig I am getting is a nice set up and I am exiceted. I was going tp spend 500 on a serve safe tent with screens but she said that the county no longer observes those as food safe.

Any help and advice is appreciated. I have spent weeks researching and making phone calls. Even tried reaching out for help to the people I see doing business as mentioned and of course they are radio silent which I think gives me my answer.
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Old 07-19-2019, 04:05 PM   #2
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Can you serve from inside the breweries as a "caterer"?
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Old 07-19-2019, 05:56 PM   #3
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Big Dave:
There's another fellow who has a pretty interesting thread on opening a BBQ restaurant.
https://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/s...d.php?t=161123


While it may be a little different than your situation, he has his struggles with the health folks and every other type of regulation as well. I have seen several folks come in with "Gee, I'd like to start a catering business, what do you think?" threads and after having read his thread they come away with a much more realistic view of the challenge. Some go ahead, some don't.


My wife has asked me this very question "why don't you open a BBQ gig when you retire?" My answer has been "all the regulations would strangle me". I don't know the answer to your situation, but, I think there are plenty of folks who have already done it that they could give you excellent ideas BEFORE you spend your money.


I think the #1 thing working against you is the state you live in and the mountain of regulations and laws they have. I can't think of another place as laden with regulation. I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope this thread keeps going and provides some good insights. Its possible to get it done because people are doing it. I just don't know how compliant they are.
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Old 07-19-2019, 08:14 PM   #4
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bucknekked View Post
Big Dave:
There's another fellow who has a pretty interesting thread on opening a BBQ restaurant.
https://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/s...d.php?t=161123


While it may be a little different than your situation, he has his struggles with the health folks and every other type of regulation as well. I have seen several folks come in with "Gee, I'd like to start a catering business, what do you think?" threads and after having read his thread they come away with a much more realistic view of the challenge. Some go ahead, some don't.


My wife has asked me this very question "why don't you open a BBQ gig when you retire?" My answer has been "all the regulations would strangle me". I don't know the answer to your situation, but, I think there are plenty of folks who have already done it that they could give you excellent ideas BEFORE you spend your money.


I think the #1 thing working against you is the state you live in and the mountain of regulations and laws they have. I can't think of another place as laden with regulation. I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope this thread keeps going and provides some good insights. Its possible to get it done because people are doing it. I just don't know how compliant they are.
Hey Buck!

I have been searching this forum for days and I finally found someone that would talk to me. they live 15 minutes from me and did their own BBQ catering / cook for hire. They broke it all down to me and unfortunately it is what I thought...….. A lot of non-compliant cooking. California is tough on food service "street side" especially northern California.

I am too far invested to turn back now, but I think if I use a lot of the information I gathered from here I will be okay. It will be more expensive than doing it illegally but things:
Minimum charges
Delivery fees
Catering fees
set up costs
Detailed per person cost

It will all give me good profit margins to work with.

Luckily for me food is my passion and it has been an income for me in some way or another for over 15 years, So the age old "If you love something don't make it a job" does not affect me. The only difference now is instead of pointing the fingers at others to do the low end work, those fingers will be pointed right back at me!
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Old 07-19-2019, 08:22 PM   #5
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What it all boils down to just about anywhere, and especially in a state that is extra burdensome with compliancy and taxation is that catering legally without cutting any corners makes it almost impossible to earn a living wage.

The same old story plays out when someone pay's the dues and does it all 100% legit, there is a pile of people doing it illegally in their market and they are the ones really making money along with the big legal hitters that do enough volume you can't compete with them.

In our business we now limit the scope of mobile operations to large regional event's with a fair level playing field of vendors and big ticket private bookings. There's far more profit in it and little to no competition from the bottom feeders.

There's money in the business if you can find that niche that pays you and your employee's a living wage.

And a compliant mobile operation is not always effective these days it's really getting expensive to run the roads and cook BBQ I'm switching everything over to mobile porch trailer commissary's at the end of this year for the big regional events we do and each one of those rigs with a certified cooker and tow vehicle is going to top 100K.

You cannot wake up at the first of every month and have a more profitable situation than a small sq' low overhead brick and mortar with the absolute basics and retail take out with maybe a few tables out front.

Add a good stick burner visible in the frontage rolling smoke on every car that passes and sit back and count your money it's the most cost effective advertising in the business.

I watch people in this business fail again and again and again because they don't learn from their mistakes and someone else get's shafted on investment capitol every time they fail on brick and mortar full service restaurant's.

You know what people love more than really good BBQ? They love to take it home and eat it old school in their favorite chair with a roll of paper towels and a few cold beers to wash it all down.

The success to failure rates of small take out joints to full service restaurants and mobile operations speaks for itself, it's worth looking at if you can make the real estate end of it work in California to get started and make money before expanding operations to catering.
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Old 07-19-2019, 08:59 PM   #6
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InThePitBBQ View Post
What it all boils down to just about anywhere, and especially in a state that is extra burdensome with compliancy and taxation is that catering legally without cutting any corners makes it almost impossible to earn a living wage.

The same old story plays out when someone pay's the dues and does it all 100% legit, there is a pile of people doing it illegally in their market and they are the ones really making money along with the big legal hitters that do enough volume you can't compete with them.

In our business we now limit the scope of mobile operations to large regional event's with a fair level playing field of vendors and big ticket private bookings. There's far more profit in it and little to no competition from the bottom feeders.

There's money in the business if you can find that niche that pays you and your employee's a living wage.

And a compliant mobile operation is not always effective these days it's really getting expensive to run the roads and cook BBQ I'm switching everything over to mobile porch trailer commissary's at the end of this year for the big regional events we do and each one of those rigs with a certified cooker and tow vehicle is going to top 100K.

You cannot wake up at the first of every month and have a more profitable situation than a small sq' low overhead brick and mortar with the absolute basics and retail take out with maybe a few tables out front.

Add a good stick burner visible in the frontage rolling smoke on every car that passes and sit back and count your money it's the most cost effective advertising in the business.

I watch people in this business fail again and again and again because they don't learn from their mistakes and someone else get's shafted on investment capitol every time they fail on brick and mortar full service restaurant's.

You know what people love more than really good BBQ? They love to take it home and eat it old school in their favorite chair with a roll of paper towels and a few cold beers to wash it all down.

The success to failure rates of small take out joints to full service restaurants and mobile operations speaks for itself, it's worth looking at if you can make the real estate end of it work in California to get started and make money before expanding operations to catering.
Hey Bob,

Thanks for replying. I agree with you 100 percent. I see people online that make their Instagram posts and facebook posts asking people to get their orders in and they will sell 100 -200 lunches in about 2 hours. All illegally using social media, cooking in their back yard, and doing cash only. It only takes one person especially in this state to get sue happy and take you for everything you got.

I originally priced out a trailer combo and just in the last day or so I realized that the smoker trailer porch is also so protected in California. You cannot purchase an open porch trailer unless it is fully enclosed. meaning the doors have to be on the inside of the trailer and the smoker be a Southern Pride or an Ole Hickory. If you do have an open porch trailer it can be only used for day events which means the same restrictions as a catering or Cook for hire. All food has to be bought and cooked in the same day unless all food is stored at a commissary prior to cooking. Also the trailer must be returned each and every day to your commissary and stored in the same place. The laws go on and on.

There are way more opportunities if I purchase a trailer smoker combo as far as places as I can serve...…… But the red tape. It all just has a list of pros and cons. As I mentioned I know the costs of brick and mortars as I opened over a dozen restaurants and having a mobile one beats the heck out of a stationary one any day.
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:12 PM   #7
BigDaveBBQ
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Join Date: 06-25-19
Location: Roseville, CA
Name/Nickname : Dave
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InThePitBBQ View Post
What it all boils down to just about anywhere, and especially in a state that is extra burdensome with compliancy and taxation is that catering legally without cutting any corners makes it almost impossible to earn a living wage.

The same old story plays out when someone pay's the dues and does it all 100% legit, there is a pile of people doing it illegally in their market and they are the ones really making money along with the big legal hitters that do enough volume you can't compete with them.

In our business we now limit the scope of mobile operations to large regional event's with a fair level playing field of vendors and big ticket private bookings. There's far more profit in it and little to no competition from the bottom feeders.

There's money in the business if you can find that niche that pays you and your employee's a living wage.

And a compliant mobile operation is not always effective these days it's really getting expensive to run the roads and cook BBQ I'm switching everything over to mobile porch trailer commissary's at the end of this year for the big regional events we do and each one of those rigs with a certified cooker and tow vehicle is going to top 100K.

You cannot wake up at the first of every month and have a more profitable situation than a small sq' low overhead brick and mortar with the absolute basics and retail take out with maybe a few tables out front.

Add a good stick burner visible in the frontage rolling smoke on every car that passes and sit back and count your money it's the most cost effective advertising in the business.

I watch people in this business fail again and again and again because they don't learn from their mistakes and someone else get's shafted on investment capitol every time they fail on brick and mortar full service restaurant's.

You know what people love more than really good BBQ? They love to take it home and eat it old school in their favorite chair with a roll of paper towels and a few cold beers to wash it all down.

The success to failure rates of small take out joints to full service restaurants and mobile operations speaks for itself, it's worth looking at if you can make the real estate end of it work in California to get started and make money before expanding operations to catering.
Hey Bob,

Not sure where my reply went to you but I notice it did not post. Either way I agree with you 100 percent on everything that you said. I typed out a long response lol I can't remember all of what I said but basically I originally was going to do a concession porch smoker combo, but even that was so much red tape. Not just the commissary but I also have to park the trailer there and bring it back every night. I just do not understand how these guys are doing it THIER way.

Going the route of towable smoker really limits my opportunities where if I got the porch smoker trailer it allows me to be mobile.
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:14 PM   #8
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ynotfehc View Post
Can you serve from inside the breweries as a "caterer"?
Unfortunately no. Unless the brewery hires me and they pay the entire bill, I guess if you found a brewery willing to accept and charge all the customers and then they pay you after...……. Be a lot of work and all the breweries around me just let a food truck a day come and park out front. Most of the times for free if the food truck has a following, but if not I think it is 10% of their sales but you must have a concession trailer to serve.
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Old 07-20-2019, 09:44 AM   #9
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Dave your already way ahead of the curve with your background, I wish you the best it's hard to do this as a business anywhere these days with what your dealing with out there I don't envy the obstacles you have to make a buck legally.

Those social media bandits you've had your eye on are everywhere these days, Facebook could care less about them and there's so many of them doing it successfully I often question if mobile BBQ is worth the extra effort compared to something along the lines of a Tex-Mex or specialty sandwich operation with a fraction of the overhead and less work involved.

We've gone outside the box at big events with a spare trailer and done Cuban Medianoches, Asian dishes, Cajun Choupique etc. and it all sell's out without the added work of a BBQ cooker and the extra personnel to run it.

If you want to move to the Midwest look me up, I've always got positions for someone like you to run an event unit and a crew if you want to scratch the itch.
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Old 07-20-2019, 10:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InThePitBBQ View Post
What it all boils down to just about anywhere, and especially in a state that is extra burdensome with compliancy and taxation is that catering legally without cutting any corners makes it almost impossible to earn a living wage.
Which is why people do it illegally. It's not just with catering or the food business. With all the red tape, start up fees, permits, licenses, etc. The cards are so stacked against the average John Q Citizen to start a business and make a true living at it. It breeds the illegal market that will almost always exist. Most people doing it illegally are really good people and as weird as it sounds. Very honest people. They've just learned how screwed up and burdensome it has been made for small businesses to startup and sustain. They do it off the grid.
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Old 07-20-2019, 11:05 AM   #11
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InThePitBBQ View Post
Dave your already way ahead of the curve with your background, I wish you the best it's hard to do this as a business anywhere these days with what your dealing with out there I don't envy the obstacles you have to make a buck legally.

Those social media bandits you've had your eye on are everywhere these days, Facebook could care less about them and there's so many of them doing it successfully I often question if mobile BBQ is worth the extra effort compared to something along the lines of a Tex-Mex or specialty sandwich operation with a fraction of the overhead and less work involved.

We've gone outside the box at big events with a spare trailer and done Cuban Medianoches, Asian dishes, Cajun Choupique etc. and it all sell's out without the added work of a BBQ cooker and the extra personnel to run it.

If you want to move to the Midwest look me up, I've always got positions for someone like you to run an event unit and a crew if you want to scratch the itch.

I appreciate that Bob! Wife has my earn turned to move out of this state. She has 2 years of Nursing school. The issue I have is I am a big time Duck hunter. It is tough to beat the pacific flyway. I am going to take some out of state trips the next 2 years and see if I can find me a honey hole somewhere. Just last night I messaged someone that I saw doing exactly what I want at a local place, but he read the message and did not respond. I really want to do the mobile food trailer...…….
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Old 07-20-2019, 11:34 AM   #12
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQ_Bama View Post
Which is why people do it illegally. It's not just with catering or the food business. With all the red tape, start up fees, permits, licenses, etc. The cards are so stacked against the average John Q Citizen to start a business and make a true living at it. It breeds the illegal market that will almost always exist. Most people doing it illegally are really good people and as weird as it sounds. Very honest people. They've just learned how screwed up and burdensome it has been made for small businesses to startup and sustain. They do it off the grid.
This is very true.

That is why in California last year they passed a new law that allows food service not to be tied to a commissary, but the problem is that each county and city has to acquire the new law. Which zero have. AB 626 in california
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Old 07-22-2019, 12:52 PM   #13
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Sorry for your troubles. Welcome to one of the biggest problems in California.

And the rules change almost on a whim it seems. For example, a few years ago, you could not have a smoker inside your truck that was active while you were rolling. Spicewine trailers were a wonderful workaround. Down here in SoCal, a guy called the TriTipTruck Man has a smoker inside his truck, and it looks like he can operate it while rolling.

There was a person who was blatantly advertising his pop-up service on Instagram and Facebook. If I recall, he partnered up with a top chef before the state got him.

I do know this: Integrity will win in the end. Hang in there.
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Old 07-22-2019, 01:06 PM   #14
BigDaveBBQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokinJohn View Post
Sorry for your troubles. Welcome to one of the biggest problems in California.

And the rules change almost on a whim it seems. For example, a few years ago, you could not have a smoker inside your truck that was active while you were rolling. Spicewine trailers were a wonderful workaround. Down here in SoCal, a guy called the TriTipTruck Man has a smoker inside his truck, and it looks like he can operate it while rolling.

There was a person who was blatantly advertising his pop-up service on Instagram and Facebook. If I recall, he partnered up with a top chef before the state got him.

I do know this: Integrity will win in the end. Hang in there.
Thanks SJ just found 2 more this weekend that advertise as "Put in your order before we sell out and PM for delivery or drop off". I am turning a blind eye to it all now because I have my answers I need. I did speak with 2 people that verbatim said...….. Do it illegally because they make it impossible for you to make money and California will always have their hand in your pockets.

the only gray area I think that they are onto is that when they get approved for a pop-up location, a place that pays them to come cook, they are making extra food and selling it. Which again no direct sales are allowed or merchant sales but still.

My question is as a BBQ caterer and cook for hire business, can you make money? Is it worth it? Either way I am invested thousands to find out and I know that the smoker trailer has resale value so it will not be a total wash.
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigDaveBBQ View Post
My question is as a BBQ caterer and cook for hire business, can you make money? Is it worth it? Either way I am invested thousands to find out and I know that the smoker trailer has resale value so it will not be a total wash.
It depends on your definition of "money" or "making money". I can tell you this about the food/restaurant/catering/food truck industry. The money you make will not be anything close to mailbox money. Your money will be made by volume, not by large profit margins per unit. Which means you will have to sell A LOT of bbq and work a lot of hours. There are people who I know that own food trucks, restaurants and catering businesses. They all make decent money. However, to do so they put in a lot of long hours and their free time isn't when the average person's free time is nor do they have anywhere close to the free time of the average person who works an 8-5, M-F job. It is definitely a labor of love.

Several years ago I was considering getting into the "bbq business" for catering and possibly a food truck/concession trailer. Thankfully I had an opportunity to get a taste of what it would be like without having to actually get into it. I was able to cook for several local fundraisers for both youth sports teams and youth groups at churches. The minimum amount of people I cooked for was 200 and the maximum was approximately 400. I was able to get the experience of prepping, cooking, setting up, cleaning up etc. It was through those experiences I decided that FOR ME, keeping bbq a hobby was the best thing.

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