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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Old 02-20-2014, 08:21 AM   #1
BBQugafan
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Successful business owners ,what is the key to a small bbq take out business! !?? I keep seeing business after business open and then a few months later close. Please I need answers from people with experience! !!! I want to open a business and succeed! !!! Thanks in advance!!!!
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Old 02-20-2014, 09:15 AM   #2
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I'm a business owner but not a bbq restaurant business owner. However I believe the keys to success are the same for any business.

- Do your homework. Before you take any significant financial leap make sure you do research on things like your local health department requirements, permits, food safety certificates, business license, tax id numbers, insurance etc. Get all of that done first. Make a list of the upfront cost of all of these things as well.

- Have a plan that has "what if's" built into it and what you're going to do if those "what if's" come to fruition. "What if" you get into this and for the first six months business isn't performing like you thought? Do you have the means to make it (pay the bills) through the tough times until things pick up?

- Ensure complete product quality. One thing that seems to get neglected by many restaurants is quality. Don't sacrifice quality for cutting corners. Make as many things from scratch as you can. Trust me, people notice and it makes a difference.

-Customer service. I will not patron a place that I feel doesn't appreciates my business. Many places have gotten lazy and feel they don't have to earn people's business. That's not true. Treat every customer like you're interviewing for a job.

-Understand the importance of tracking cost and being efficient (without sacrificing quality). Cost out all the way down to the individual serving. That way you know the baseline of your cost and know how much to price your product to ensure enough profit margin to stay in business and pocket some money.

-Location. The old saying "Location, location, location" is very true. Sure, if your BBQ ultimately turns out to be a huge hit with people you'll have people that will drive anywhere. But that isn't the case with everybody. You have A LOT of people no matter how good it is that will not. So where you're located means a lot. You don't want to limit yourself and cut out a segment of the market that could make you a lot of money.

-Make sure you love what you're doing because it will show in your product and service. (This might be the most important thing.)

-DON'T GET INTO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY OR GOOD FRIENDS. IT'S A DEATH TRAP.

I probably left out some things but this is a good start.
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Old 02-20-2014, 11:06 PM   #3
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Bama got most of it covered I will add lots and lots of hard work!! O and forget about sleep :)

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Old 02-21-2014, 12:06 PM   #4
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Great Advice from all.

I will add, that we took baby steps in our business, and we are still walking up the stairs. We started small vending at farmer's markets, and one big festival, we went to more festivals, dropped farmer's markets, started with one catering, and built our way to dozens of events a year. Along the way we had to learn much of the advice Bama gave. And before we take the next step, we are trying to perfect the gameplan, things like tracking costs and location. We get asked at least once a month to open a restaurant, and have been offered buildings, and partnerships, but things weren't right, location, potential partners, jumping in without everything being just what you know it should be is a recipe for disaster.
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Old 02-21-2014, 01:36 PM   #5
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A very complex question, I have been asked to review a few places around town, and there are some common themes.

1. The owner must be involved. If you are a small restaurant, understand that your margins are miniscule, the top of your sector is maybe making a 4% margin. That means for a $1000 day, you made $40. That is exceptional, more like 2.5% in a moderately successful business. Let a couple six packs of beef slip out the door, you are going broke. Simply put, for the first three years, you must be there every day.

2. Margins are tight, you make money by managing expenses. You need to cost every single item out the door. The real successful guys, can tell you what they are paying for an empty condiment container. It isn't over management, it is watching the bottom line. A well run restaurant manages consumption, not just money in the door. You should know withing a week, if you bought enough ribs for 35 covers, and sold 30, but somehow need to order more meat.

My first restaurant job as a prep cook, I was peeling onions, taking off the outer 3 layers, it was fast, the head chef came up to me and asked what I was doing. I explained I was saving money by removing the outer 3 layers, instead of fussing with the skin. He told me to learn to peel onions faster and quite throwing away 15% of the onion.

3. Customer service is really important, remember that the restaurant business is a hospitality business. Listen and talk to your customers about the food. Do NOT lower your standards, but, do not be pig-headed. If they say the brisket is dry, don't say 'well, that is how they like it in Texas' ask yourself honestly, could it be dry? Ask the toughest people you know, is it dry. Don't believe you are all that, you have to try and get better every day.

4. Underfunding, number one reason people go broke. A typical restaurant enjoys a bump when it first opens, then the road gets a little bumpy. You should start a restaurant with at least the ability to live on no income for 6 months. The lifespan of a new restaurant is 3 years, mostly because of mistakes made in the first 6 months of operation.

5. Locations can be the problem, I have just been asked by the City economic development czar, why does this one place constantly fail, when every place that went in there had good food. My suggestion is that the location is just bad for food. The current owner has the place for sale, he is an experienced deli owner from NY. What he missed, is that in NY, people will walk blocks for a great sandwich, in San Leandro, they will walk about 30 feet. Literally. He is about 60 feet from the nearest parking. You really have to consider what you are selling and where you are selling it.

Surprisingly, it isn't really about great food. There are a lot of successful restaurants with mediocre food.
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Old 02-21-2014, 02:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
A very complex question, I have been asked to review a few places around town, and there are some common themes.

1. The owner must be involved. If you are a small restaurant, understand that your margins are miniscule, the top of your sector is maybe making a 4% margin. That means for a $1000 day, you made $40. That is exceptional, more like 2.5% in a moderately successful business. Let a couple six packs of beef slip out the door, you are going broke. Simply put, for the first three years, you must be there every day.

2. Margins are tight, you make money by managing expenses. You need to cost every single item out the door. The real successful guys, can tell you what they are paying for an empty condiment container. It isn't over management, it is watching the bottom line. A well run restaurant manages consumption, not just money in the door. You should know withing a week, if you bought enough ribs for 35 covers, and sold 30, but somehow need to order more meat.

My first restaurant job as a prep cook, I was peeling onions, taking off the outer 3 layers, it was fast, the head chef came up to me and asked what I was doing. I explained I was saving money by removing the outer 3 layers, instead of fussing with the skin. He told me to learn to peel onions faster and quite throwing away 15% of the onion.

3. Customer service is really important, remember that the restaurant business is a hospitality business. Listen and talk to your customers about the food. Do NOT lower your standards, but, do not be pig-headed. If they say the brisket is dry, don't say 'well, that is how they like it in Texas' ask yourself honestly, could it be dry? Ask the toughest people you know, is it dry. Don't believe you are all that, you have to try and get better every day.

4. Underfunding, number one reason people go broke. A typical restaurant enjoys a bump when it first opens, then the road gets a little bumpy. You should start a restaurant with at least the ability to live on no income for 6 months. The lifespan of a new restaurant is 3 years, mostly because of mistakes made in the first 6 months of operation.

5. Locations can be the problem, I have just been asked by the City economic development czar, why does this one place constantly fail, when every place that went in there had good food. My suggestion is that the location is just bad for food. The current owner has the place for sale, he is an experienced deli owner from NY. What he missed, is that in NY, people will walk blocks for a great sandwich, in San Leandro, they will walk about 30 feet. Literally. He is about 60 feet from the nearest parking. You really have to consider what you are selling and where you are selling it.

Surprisingly, it isn't really about great food. There are a lot of successful restaurants with mediocre food.

Absolutely the BEST response to this type of question I have ever seen on this site. Landarc, you are my Hero.
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:47 PM   #7
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Agreed heck I want to frame landarc's post and hang it on the wall in my office.
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Old 02-23-2014, 10:44 AM   #8
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Start small....
In this business there is no rush to take the plunge and buy a physical location and equipment which will put you in debt. Now all you're thinking about is bills, and forget that you love to cook BBQ.

A book I cannot recommend enough for anyone looking to transition to a full time business is "Quitter" by Jon Acuff.

I am a noob still, but this has been my experience thus far, and I hope it helps:::::::
Last year I bought a trailer mounted Pitmaker Vault, a catering license, insurance, and started doing 1-2 farmers markets on the weekends.
For the whole year I only got two sizeable catering jobs outside of the market. One for a wedding, and one for a MN Twins pitcher.
Winter BBQ is obviously slow in MN, but I am currently lined up with one wedding, one graduation, and many other inquiries for 2014 already.
I plan on growing like this in little chunks, adding pieces of equipment here and there, paying cash for everything.

- take your time
- save up $ reserves
- pay cash
- start small
- get proper licensing
- don't forget you love BBQ (you do right?)
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:27 AM   #9
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Most people that want to start a BBQ Business have a deep passion for BBQ. That is why I started a BBQ business. That is a problem --it is a problem because I concentrated on BBQ and was very busy cooking every day. Why is that a problem?----because while I was doing the minimum wage prep cooking----the $50 dollar per hour job was ignored. The $50 dollar per hour job is the bookkeeping , reports to State Board of Equalization, reports to EDD, reports to IRS, reports to Health Dept, reports to fire dept, etc. These business chores were not done properly and ended up costing me large amounts of money. MAKE SURE that there is a person envolved that has a passion for paperwork that equals the passion for BBQ. I started a restaurant with very little money ----and ended up owing thousands---not to suppliers, not to employees, but to Governmental Agencies. Do not be like me.

Location is very important----I thought that awesome food would bring people---and it did bring people---it brought them the "first" time. The bad location scared away the timid ones. I was happy to find a location with a rent that was half of the other places, however the bad neighborhood and surrounding panhandlers etc scared good customers away.

Leonard's BBQ Restaurant Sayings
"The Best Way To Make A Small Fortune in BBQ Is to Start With A Large Fortune"

"Behind Every Successful BBQ Business is a Wife With A Good Job In Town"

I am much happier simply catering, I am not working 16--18 hours daily. I am not chained to a building that I must open and close every day. Think things out well before turning a dream into a nightmare
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Old 03-01-2014, 10:57 AM   #10
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I started a catering operation a year ago. It's going real well, but there's a couple things I'd do differently.

-Do it right the FIRST TIME. Don't cheap out on equipment, or get a smaller cooker to save a couple $. Think of what you'll need if you're successful in 1 years time. I bought equipment to cater a 100 person wedding, and now I'm booking jobs for 250 people.
-Invest heavily in SEO if you're a caterer in a large city. 90% of folks click on the first two results on google. Those clicks = $$$$.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:25 PM   #11
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I agree with stokestackbbq----get a pit bigger than you think you will need. 10 people events lead to 50 people events and it keeps on climbing.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:10 AM   #12
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Chuckwagon and Landarc, there some solid advice right there! We've done a lot, and Catering has always been where the money (and work) is. And the point of lookingfor/buying equipment for the future is most important. Look for where you want to go, not for where you are. Build with cash. Buy expandable equipment (One Cambro 300, can turn into 3 Cambro 300s on a Camdolley for big jobs, etc). Buy quality equipment.

Be ready for any contingency, problem, or challenge for any catering (Location, weather, equipment, customer problem - Let your imagination run wild here, lol). At the end of the day, if you underpromise and overdeliver, you will do well. Good luck
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
if you underpromise and overdeliver, you will do well.
I couldn't agree with that sentiment more!
The WORST - worst is when someone says best Q in town, fastest response, or One Hour Eyes (glasses and contacts take 3 days, no respose, or terrible, dry Q.
You will kill your customer base fast.
Plus your employees need to be top notch. Tip them, if they've done well.
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