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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 09-08-2010, 08:39 PM   #16
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The only advise I can offer is this. Start small and grow from there. A large set down place is more than likely going to be big overhead. Under capitalization is the biggest reason for failure. I have been self employed for 20 years, have run crews from 2 or 3 to 25 or 30, it is like running a daycare.

My plan over the next year or two is to gather the equipment I need and find a location for a lunch time only grab and go. If that works out then maybe I will go for a place with chairs. The hours dont bother me but I am going in realizing I am looking at probable 12 hr days,(remember, lunch only) that is fine with me as I am used to that
anyway. I will say I have zero restaurant experience but I do have a contact that is willing to help out and help me succeed.

Like many have said. Failure is a very real possibility but with that in mind, show me a successful person that has never failed and I will show you a lucky SOB.

Do your homework, have a plan, have an "ideal" budget and a back up budget and have an escape plan in place. I have eaten at enough lousy BBQ joints to know if you turn out a good product and offer real customer service you are ahead of the game.
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Old 09-08-2010, 09:20 PM   #17
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My advice to you is to give it up. If you're not willing or able to pile, and yes, I said pile your own money into it, they how the heck can you ask others to put in their money? I'm not trying to be mean here, just realistic. As a former business owner, when it's your own dime on the line, you are much more motivated to go the extra mile.

And one more thing, restaurant work is some of the longest hours, most stressful and hardest work you can find. Nothing like cooking in your backyard for friends.

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:31 PM   #18
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You're getting good advice from folks above.

My cooking partner owns a BBQ restaurant. And yes, as mentioned it consumes 98% of his life. If he is not there, he is on the phone with the staff. Cooking competitions is the only real rest he gets, if you can believe that. Oh, and did I mention he had a heart attack? Cardiac Doc says: "Do you have a high stress job?" YA THINK???

You're just down the road, so if you think you want a restaurant, come talk to us. Or to Jeff at Smokin J's. If you still want to go ahead with it, pay someone experienced like Johnny to help you set it up. It will cost you, but less than the mistakes you'll make learning by trial and error.
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Old 09-09-2010, 02:22 AM   #19
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I have been doing catering and working Farmers markets for almost 3 years now. I have a customer base and experience (ok my wife has experience) running the business and only now are we even considering getting a spot. I love what I do but it is a lot more work and money than you could imagine. Start slow. Sell some dinners to the people at your job. Everyone like your food when it's free. Get out there and sell some food first. And remember business isn't cooking, business is selling.
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Old 09-09-2010, 04:19 AM   #20
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Some good advice in the thread. Here is some RESTAURANT specific information.
I worked for 5 years in a restaurant, and sold restaurant equipment for a mega vendor for another 2.

1) 50% of restaurants close their doors and fail for good within the first year
2) 90% of all restaurants close and fail by the 5th year
3) It is a cash business, some employees will scam and steal because of such
4) There are many many many expenses that people do not see up front
5) Your number one job for your financial success is NOT your cooking or food.
It will be your ability to promote, do public relations, and brand your business in the local eye.
Yes food is important, but you must be a marketer/entrepreneur first and a cook second.
6) Do not make any decision by emotion. A balance sheet and facts should guide you 100% of the time.
7) Most restaurants are open 7 days a week and have employees in them for a minimal of 12 hours.
That is a minimal of 84 hours of operation that either you or someone you EXPLICITLY trust has to be there.
This schedule is hellish on personal life and family.
Most of your sales comes from weekends and nights, which the owner MUST be there for most of the time to have successes.
Can your personal life handle this schedule?
8 ) If you are not open for business 7 days a week with looong opened hours, people will not remember when you are open or closed.
They will choose to go elsewhere even when you are open as opposed to taking a chance "IF" you are open.
9) Start small and remain small for a good while. Add changes to your business slowly.
Sales WILL cycle and may be seasonal. It will take you at least a few years to be able to predict how this works for your restaurant specifically.
10) If you never worked extensively in a restaurant, I advise strongly to work in one that has had success.

NOW A BAR-B-Q specific thought. Your fires have to be started hours before you are ready to serve food.
This would not be a chain operation where most food is cooked in 10 minutes from order.
To have fresh brisket and pulled pork ready for lunch, what time would you have to start the fire and get meat on by?
Then if you are serving dinner, and close by 9 pm... how long from the first lit match in the morning, to the last mop of the floor be? I see 18 hour plus days there.

For more financial advice, speak to a CPA that has handled restaurant accounts. He will set you up with proper expectations.

Not trying to scare or discourage you, but as I mentioned above... FACTS and a BALANCE SHEET need to be what guides your decisions, not feelings and emotions,
"pat on the backs" or "atta boys" from friends and families.

With all the above stated, I am a firm believer in the sole proprietor ownership model. I would gladly support and pray for your business, if this is the road you decide to go.
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Old 09-09-2010, 08:07 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiter Q View Post

FACTS and a BALANCE SHEET need to be what guides your decisions, not feelings and emotions,
"pat on the backs" or "atta boys" from friends and families.

Well said^^^^
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Old 09-09-2010, 09:33 AM   #22
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Great point all. As I said earlier, we cater and vend a bunch. In order to vend 2 days, 6 hours each, we have 30 hours invested.
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Old 09-11-2010, 07:34 PM   #23
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Always start small. Even people i know with successful catering businesses have crashed and burned with a sit and eat place. Someone has to be there in the morning to accept deliveries. You have to gauge how much you will sell each day and during what time of day those sales will happen, so having your products ready to serve is important.

Ive done a few catering gigs, but the way im looking at it is, im starting small with a joint. No place to sit in eat. Just grab the food and be gone. I can then prepare if a actual sit down place will work or not. In these economic times, its almost suicidal to start your own rest. But as pointed out above, if you are not prepared to dump your own money and time into it, it will never work. Time, time and a lot of time. Insurance, building leases, will you be required to have a smoke filteration unit? Employees, prep areas, coolers, freezers, holding stations, etc.. My head is spinning. lol
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Old 09-11-2010, 08:30 PM   #24
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I don't agree with the "Start small" or the "Grab and go" strategy. You need to do what the customers want, not what you want. IMO people won't take you seriously if you have short hours, no tables, and a limited menu. If I was going to start a business I'd be looking to make a lot of money. You can't do that with a small, carry out only, limited hours joint.

Yes I know there are exceptions. Good luck with that.
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:38 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drbbq View Post
I don't agree with the "Start small" or the "Grab and go" strategy. You need to do what the customers want, not what you want. IMO people won't take you seriously if you have short hours, no tables, and a limited menu. If I was going to start a business I'd be looking to make a lot of money. You can't do that with a small, carry out only, limited hours joint.

Yes I know there are exceptions. Good luck with that.

Just as a counter point, some of the best new BBQ joints in Austin are operated out of a trailer. A local paper did an expose on them this past year. In brief, they cook a set amount of food for the lunch crowd. One of them, "Franklin's" has people lining up a full half hour before he opens the window. He smokes a certain amount of pounds of product, sells it at a trailer that is parked in parking lot of a local business, and closes the window when all the food is gone. AND... it is ALWAYS GONE! People wait in line for 30 minutes too for the food, reminder now... this is waiting in near 100 degree TEXAS heat! He is looking now for a small brick and mortar, but he wanted to try his entry this way to see if he would have success. I personally think an operation like this is an ideal set up. There is a PROFIT every day, RISK are MINIMAL, and he is GROWING his business at a SMART pace. Not everyone has the funds or financing ability to start with a committed industrial lease and other aspects for expenses of a larger operation. Numbers speak for themselves, regardless of what one "may" want, vs. what one "can" have.
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Old 09-12-2010, 03:18 AM   #26
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I get offers all the time to run kitchens in local pubs and although I want my own place in a bad kinda way I refuse the offers. I would love to be one of those rags to riches story's that started up during a recession but the truth is it aint gonna happen.

Most of these pubs are 'out of the way' and in need of business so their solution it to re-open the kitchen to increase trade. Not a bad move on the landlords part but I would be the one stuck out of pocket even with no rent. The issue is that a pint of beer is around 3.00 yet people moan when you charge them 2.00 for a pork roll including apple sauce and stuffing.

Nahh I'll stick to catering, that's hard enough as it is.
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Old 09-12-2010, 08:26 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiter Q View Post
Just as a counter point, some of the best new BBQ joints in Austin are operated out of a trailer. A local paper did an expose on them this past year. In brief, they cook a set amount of food for the lunch crowd. One of them, "Franklin's" has people lining up a full half hour before he opens the window. He smokes a certain amount of pounds of product, sells it at a trailer that is parked in parking lot of a local business, and closes the window when all the food is gone. AND... it is ALWAYS GONE! People wait in line for 30 minutes too for the food, reminder now... this is waiting in near 100 degree TEXAS heat! He is looking now for a small brick and mortar, but he wanted to try his entry this way to see if he would have success. I personally think an operation like this is an ideal set up. There is a PROFIT every day, RISK are MINIMAL, and he is GROWING his business at a SMART pace. Not everyone has the funds or financing ability to start with a committed industrial lease and other aspects for expenses of a larger operation. Numbers speak for themselves, regardless of what one "may" want, vs. what one "can" have.
Like I said there are exceptions, and I'm sure these new guys are doing very well. But I'd bet there are a few trailer guys out there who never got the attention of the local media and went away too. I was one.
There's also a lot of attention to "Food Trucks" these days but I wonder how that will all shake out five years from now.

I think many want to start small because they really don't know anything about running a restaurant. But IMO if you don't know anything about running a restaurant you shouldn't open one.

I've been through this many times on the net. All I can tell you is I personally left a lot of blood, sweat, and money on the ground one time trying this but nobody wants to believe it. It's gonna be different for them.
We hear many stories of start-ups doing well, but then many of them disappear. They never come back to tell the story of closing and paying the debt after they're done.
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Old 09-12-2010, 11:25 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drbbq View Post
Like I said there are exceptions, and I'm sure these new guys are doing very well. But I'd bet there are a few trailer guys out there who never got the attention of the local media and went away too. I was one.
There's also a lot of attention to "Food Trucks" these days but I wonder how that will all shake out five years from now.

I think many want to start small because they really don't know anything about running a restaurant. But IMO if you don't know anything about running a restaurant you shouldn't open one.

I've been through this many times on the net. All I can tell you is I personally left a lot of blood, sweat, and money on the ground one time trying this but nobody wants to believe it. It's gonna be different for them.
We hear many stories of start-ups doing well, but then many of them disappear. They never come back to tell the story of closing and paying the debt after they're done.
Very very true, thank you for sharing the personal insight. All good info!
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Old 09-12-2010, 11:30 AM   #29
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@Marietta SMoker...
Here is a newish post from another Brethren. He just started selling Q one day a week at his sign business.
It is a quick and good little read!

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=91006
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Old 09-12-2010, 03:30 PM   #30
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Think about this: a good typical net profit for a restaurant is 10%, NOT including any compensation to the owner. Do the math and you'll get an idea how many meals you'll have to serve to make the income you need to live on. And of course figure on working 12 hours a day, every day.
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