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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 07-21-2010, 10:08 AM   #1
somebody shut me the fark up.

Wampus's Avatar
Join Date: 06-05-09
Location: Mooresville, IN
Default OK, so let's just say I wanted to start a BBQ "business"........

I've given this a lot of consideration lately. Actually, a lot of friends and family have told me that I should seriously consider this idea.

For instance, on Sunday, my Brother-and-Sister-In-Law came out to the house for UDS ribs, corn-on-the-cob, and grilled fresh picked green beans and my SIL told me that when I called them to invite them out, she told my BIL that there was no option. She told me that she loves coming out to the house for dinner better than going to a restaurant (which I HATED to hear....).


Anyway, I digress.....

If I was to get a bit more serious about this, I want to do it both legally and correctly. I'm not one to "short cut" the rules. Plus, I don't at all want to be the guy who somehow steals business from those folks out there who DO it legitimately.

I don't see very many "curbside BBQ outfits" around my area. I see a lot around Indy, but on the other side of town. There's a BBQ restaurant in Mooresville that's pretty good, but honestly.....I think I can seriously compete with them.

SOOOO.....where do any of you recommend I start? Any good reading material? I understand that local/state laws will dictate what kind of "red tape" I need to satisfy, right?

My "uneducated" list of firsts are:

Health Department?

Is this something that a guy could do on a "part time" basis legitimately or would it not be worth the start up costs unless I'm willing to jump in with both feet?

Any advice from you experienced caterers/cookers would be MUCH appreciated. I can do my own homework, but help me out with where to start.....?

Thanks all.
"Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ."
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:32 AM   #2
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Join Date: 11-01-09
Location: West Des Moines, IA

You really need to start with the state/county/city health department. Not sure how this is done in Indiana. Most states make it nearly impossible to run a legit home based catering kitchen. It is possible to do this on a part time legit basis, but it generally involves getting lucky enough to find access to a commercial kitchen. I got my start much the same way you did and worked into local farmers' markets using a shared kitchen. I made a spectacular find on eBay last winter and now have a commercial kitchen on wheels. Works great for festivals or catering.

Bottom line is the HD will drive a lot of your decisions getting started. Best of luck!
Brian Sweeney - CBJ #3691 - '77 Step Van Mobile Kitchen, Horizon Marshall, WSM with Pro Q Stacker, Weber Kettle & Smokey Joe GOLD.

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Old 07-21-2010, 11:38 AM   #3
Mr Applejacks
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Join Date: 02-05-09
Location: Redding California

I/We understand your excitement and enthusiasm for good BBQ, but you must be a glutton for punishment. That is what you will get something that is fun will turn into real work. Its not for everybody but is for some. With that said, it wouldn't hurt to vollunteer with another BBQ caterer, restaurant, or other food vendor to get a hands on feel for the business. Maybe enter a few contest because that is similar to vending/catering/camping. It gives you an Idea of setting up, sanditary, keeping food warm, etc.... I'm sure this is only some of the ways of "getting into the business" and that someone else could chime in. Hope this helps
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Old 07-21-2010, 11:57 AM   #4
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There is a wealth of information HERE

I get the same bug every once in a while...but that little voice of reason tells me that if I do make the plunge...then it would be work...and I wouldn't be able to stand around shooting the chit with my buddies drinking adult beverages while 'Queing...

Maybe some day...just not right now...yet
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:34 PM   #5
somebody shut me the fark up.

Wampus's Avatar
Join Date: 06-05-09
Location: Mooresville, IN

Originally Posted by Mr Applejacks View Post
I/We understand your excitement and enthusiasm for good BBQ, but you must be a glutton for punishment. That is what you will get something that is fun will turn into real work.
Originally Posted by Smoke & Beers View Post
I get the same bug every once in a while...but that little voice of reason tells me that if I do make the plunge...then it would be work...and I wouldn't be able to stand around shooting the chit with my buddies drinking adult beverages while 'Queing...
Hey, I've had these EXACT thoughts for a while too. I TOTALLY get that it would possibly take the "FUN" out of BBQ for me and turn it into the feeling of "Just another damn bunch of smoked meat", which makes me also hesitate.

I have a great job right now that allows me a lot of freedom and a flexible schedule. HOWEVER, I've tried to figure a way for YEARS to be a small business owner and stop making money for someone ELSE. I have tried the "business owner thing" before with a home remodeling/construction business and have also tried my hand at custom home construction. My thought is/was that both of there other endeavors involved me doing the work that I'd done for decades, only do it for myself. Truth is, there hasn't been much "fun" in construction for me in quite some time. AT LEAST I get some (a lot actually) enjoyment out of cooking.

Anyway, at this point, I'm only STARTING the investigation process. If I did do anything like this, ideally, I'd like to do it on some kind of "part time" basis, maybe weekend gigs or whatever, just to see if it sits well with me or not.

I'll keep reading and researching on this before I make any seriouse moves.

As always, thanks so much for the great insight fellas.
"Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ."
-Mahatma Gandhi
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Old 07-21-2010, 03:10 PM   #6
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Join Date: 09-21-09
Location: MambyPambyLand, Ca Ya Jackwagon

Hey good luck Wampus. I've been the same boat as you for while now debating making the jump into the biz side of things. I just started with small catering gigs for friends and will let it grow from there. There is a great podcast in the BBQ Central Radio archives about bbq catering and the biz side of things. Google for "Getting In To The BBQ Catering Business". There is another more recent one about starting a brick and mortar shop but i can't seem to find it right now. Dig and you'll find it. Good luck!


BBQ Central Podcasts:

1. Getting In To The BBQ Catering Business
2. March 2nd 2010 Episode - Steve Forman
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Old 07-22-2010, 01:57 PM   #7
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Join Date: 10-30-09
Location: Roxbury,NY

While I agree with those offering caution, I also need to add it CAN be fun running a Q joint. You do still get the chance to shoot the chit though I have a strict "no adult bevvies" policy while working (don't want to get too sloppy). My customers love to talk BBQ - want to see my smokers - ask a lot of questions. It's a great deal of fun to be serving food people - especially strangers - really dig. Yes - long days & much hard work - but that's pretty much any self owned business.

We opened The Cha Cha Hut in January 2010 after several years of hearing "you should open a Q place". Had a great 4 month run (in the middle of a Catskill Mountains winter no less) then promptly burned down right before Memorial Day. (Gotta love the timing of the BBQ Gods...) We've been doing a front yard roadside thang on Saturdays during the summer. I have to say - if there is a choice between roadside & finding an actual Q joint - go with the joint. Roadside is a real bitch! Set up in the morning - take down at night - repeat... Plus - much more work keeping on the good side of the DoH. (BTW - make VERY good friends with your local DoH & things will be MUCH easier.) We now are working on re-opening in a new location & the community has been very excited about us continuing. To me - even with the long hours - having fans like that IS fun & really does make it worth it.

Personally, I say go for it (as long as you do it legally). The only thing you have to lose is money. Make sure you - and any significant other - are willing to make that gamble. If you can find a small location somewhere - perhaps a local ice cream stand - see if you can work out a deal to partner up. Our new location is going to be in the back of a general store/gas station. There are opportunities out there if you look for them.

Much luck!
Frank Davis
Cha Cha Hut BBQ : 43311 Route 28 (corner of Route 28 & County Road 38: Arkville, NY : [URL=""][/URL]

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Old 07-22-2010, 03:02 PM   #8
somebody shut me the fark up.

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Location: San Antonio, TX

God's blessings to you whatever decision you make!

IMBAS Certified MOINK Ball maker and IMBAS Sgt. At Arms.

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. [Acts 20:32 KJV]
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Old 07-22-2010, 04:28 PM   #9
somebody shut me the fark up.
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If there is anything you would prefer to do, such as spending time with your spouse, family, friends, do that.

Any kind of food business will leave you with very little "time" off.

Have you ever done any food work? I have and love it but still work IT full time as my spouse is not willing to go broke while I "follow a dream".
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:14 PM   #10
big brother smoke
somebody shut me the fark up.
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Old 07-25-2010, 05:45 AM   #11
is Blowin Smoke!
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Join Date: 04-14-07
Location: Lakeland Florida

It's been said many times but plan to lose money the frist year or two. Getr a good accountant and of course check with HD, etc before starting. It costs a lot in start up costs.
Retired competition cook. BBQ mentor.
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:25 PM   #12
Is lookin for wood to cook with.
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Join Date: 11-13-09
Location: Roy, UT

I lucked into a little 400 sf space in the back of an office building. The first bit of advice is to check with the HD and find out what the min requirements are. Then check with the city and make sure your location works for them. I opened back in March of 2010. So far about 24k sunk in the operation. Im tiny, and only do catering. Gives me the time off too from time to time. Yes you do need an accounting service but I highly suggest learning quickbooks. it can save you a lot of time and money.

This is a LOT of work but worth it. Its also a lot of fun. Working farmers market is nothing like an event. we do markets on the weekend. Makes for god advertising and has gotten us a lot of business.
Insurance and making it legit is important not just to be a good employer but also to protect yourself. You dont want to louse everything just because you got bad meat from a provider. No matter how much you watch it, it will happen some day.
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