Too soon?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by amorpork, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. amorpork

    amorpork Newbie

    I have been smoking in the back yard for family and smoking for small events for about three years now. Recently my buddy and I have decided to start our own BBQ business. We have talked about catering events, attending festivals, and eventually working our way to some competitions. However, I do have questions about this move. Are we doing this too soon? Is this a dumb idea? Do we really know what we are getting in to? Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks!  
  2. Hello.  I am gonna assume you 2 are youngish.  I hope so cause this is gonna be tough.  AND I'm gonna go out on a limb by even answering these questions.  I want to say from the very start I AM NOT SAYING DON'T TRY IT!!  I will give you some food for thought.  IF you have no families to support, the decisions become easier.  If you have wife and children there starts the problem in my experience.  I have tried twice to start 2 different "side" business  ( not smoked meat ). Both times my intention was to start the business and  quit my "real" job.  This had to be done while holding a full time job and working all the overtime I could to support the young family.  Both times the same result.   I was making extra money but VERY soon it was eating away at ever bit of spare time I had.  Often had more work than I could handle.  As catering events will almost always be on a weekend, there goes the weekend.  And you KNOW how much time is involved with smoking for a big crowd.  There goes some nights.  You will still have commitments to family and things to do around the house, not to mention your "real" job.  This all sounds great except I could never QUITE be assured of a steady income needed to support the family.  It was usually feast or famine.  If you think you can manage for at least one full year without making a penny; then I would say quit your job and go for it.  I will bet the chefs members will say 3 years for a catering business to start really making money.  I will ask a couple of our chef to add their expertise to this thread.  As for competition; while I take nothing away from those folks as IMHO they know their stuff, but  when you sign up to play the game you must abide by the rules of the game.  Whether you think it is good Que or not, you gotta cook for the judges.  Hope this helps.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

  3. Well said Danny

    Happy smoken.

  4. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    I would suggest to subcontract your Q as a start.   Introduce your Q to existing catering companies and learn the ropes...test the waters so to speak.     

    Don't know how this would work but if it did the profit margin would be less but so would the risk. 
  5. frosty

    frosty Master of the Pit

    Danny has a good point!

    Big difference between cooking on the patio, and "being in the business".  Starting a business, ANY business is tough.  Most restaurants operate on a 3% profit margin. So your $1,000 catering event will result in a $15.00 profit for each of the 2 of you after working all night and half the day. 

    Get involved with your eyes wide open.  Don't overlook Location, Location, Location.

    Here in Texas, BBQ is abundant!! Heck even in Anchorage, AK. there are currently 22 different locations listed (I checked).  In NYC, there are multiple festivals for BBQ some of those have over 25 LOCAL teams, and that doesn't even count travelling teams (I checked).

    You might be the biggest hit in your town.  How about moving to Nepal and open a location?

    Next, you need to comply with the sanitation laws, and be trained how to NOT make someone sick, and how to keep your catering business clean and sanitary.

    Competition is a good thing and can establish whether your product is world class and establish a reason to actually open a restaurant or business.

    If you are completely dedicated, and have the financial resources to be able to pay your rent, utilities, equipment bills, food bills, gain a customer base, work long hours 7 days a week, sweat and fret over what others are doing that can destroy your business while you are not there pinching pennies, and still not go broke then you can probably do well.

    Having family support is also a must if you have a spouse, children, heck even a pet that needs attention.  If the homeboss[​IMG]  isn't in the mood to financially support the new "career" the problems will start early and be frequent.

    Most of us find the obstacles stand in our way, and will never be at the level that the Johnny Triggs and Myron Mixon's will be.

    But if you can beat them at their own game, knock yourself out, and tell me where you will be located.  I wanna come sample some world class "Q"!

    Honestly, Good luck to you!!!
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Top of the list is it is a Food Business. You will work while EVERYONE you know and love gets to Relax or Play. You got a Girlfriend/Boyfriend with a Mon. to Fri. 9-5? Kiss them Goodbye! You married with children? If the wife stays the kids will feel neglected. Your Vacation is in the Winter because the nice months are busy. You will not only make Zero money the first 1-2 years you will be POURING money IN to your new business, Cash, because it takes time to establish Credit with vendors. How ever much cash you, your accountant and your business planner feel you need to make and sell Sandwich or Rib one...Double it! Then maybe you will see steady income end of season two or during the third year. You will be finding and taking the ServSafe Food Sanitation and Safety Course. Will need all the requires permit and health inspections. Regulations vary. What can be cooked in a mobile kitchen, may not be allowed from stand alone equipment on site. Most states will only allow limited cooking on a truck or on site requiring a brick and mortar Commissary to do the bulk of the cooking. There is Costly Insurance because outdoor food production is much less safe than in a Restaurant, nobody trips and breaks the Propane line in a Restaurant. You didn't say where you Live...Where Q is popular, there is TONS of competition, what makes you stand out? Where Q is Rare there is no or little Business. Different regions of the country like different styles of BBQ and not necessarily what you and your Buddy like. Many a multi award winning North Carolina Pit Master has come North to bring Great Q to the Yankees only to go out of business in a few months because in the North, Sweet BBQ Rules. BIG DIFFERENCE between cooking off and serving 5 racks of Baby Backs and 500 racks! You better absolutely LOVE to cook, be obsessed with it, for it to be your only income. Think you will be Rich? There are A LOT more guys that squeak by or go under than there are Aaron Franklins, Tuffy Stones and Famous Dave's. If there are Q Caterers or Restaurants in your area, go get a job with them. See first hand what it takes. Every Chef I know washed dishes, and just cut veggies into little pieces before they let you make a Salad. Then a little something Hot like and Appetizer. Maybe a year or more before the Hot Line...We all Pay our dues!  Well not if you throw enough Money at the Biz, like some of these IT or Wall Street guys on DDD that woke up one morning and thought, " I'm going in the Restaurant Biz..."

    The flip side...The Food Biz is the most Rewarding and Fun Job I have ever had. I would not have even considered it without Living and Dreaming about food. Don't be discouraged be Educated and Well aware. I can wish/send you a Ton of Luck. Now with that and a Ton of Money, Planning and Knowledge, you can be one of the above as well...

    BTW...My Restaurant went under...My Partner's head got too big too fast and he Snorted the business. After all, he was a successful Restaurant Owner and could Party all the time because he Paid people to take care of the Business!...JJ
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  7. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    As Danny said it is a big commitment to start your own bussiness, especially catering or food service. He has given some sound advice about about the financial commitment needed to start a full time catering/ food service bussiness. It will take time to build up a good reputation and following. That is the key to any bussiness. When you decide to start this you have to make sure you are doing things absolutely above board with sanitation and quality. As you know one bad service and you will be done.

    When you start remember that everything has a dollar amount to it. Your time, fuel, equipment, food (including the little things like salt and pepper), helper labor (family still gets paid),.......etc. the more you keep tight controls over your costs, quality and sanitation the better chance you will have at success. Get lazy on any of the three and you lessen your chances of success. It is a fine balancing act to do with quality vs cost vs labor. You will have to make those decisions as you go, but concistancy will be your key.

    Side note: make sure to keep personal and bussiness finacial maters separate. In the beginning it will be hard, but make it a point to have that as a short term objective. I have seen people mix them so much that you can't tell the difference and it destroyed either the bussiness or families.

    God luck and if I can help feel free to contact me.
  8. And my Texas bother Frosty filled in a few  ( there are more ) BIG gaps that I left.  I have often been encouraged to and thought about a BBQ joint/catering business but that is a TOUGH business that requires a couple things.  In the States you MUST have better ( and I mean EXCEPTIONAL ) Que than anyone else within a 40 mile radius.  Folks WILL drive for GREAT Que but if it doesn't REALLY stand out and they want a quick meal, they will go closer.  The second thing is LUCK!! ( As in right place right time ).  I have a GREAT opportunity here in England as there are NO BBQ places here where I am.  I know you could NOT find Que within 125 miles of my location   ( at least ).  And then you would only find burgers and the British banger ( which aint very good )  I have a whole country to draw customers from.  Some folk are offering whole pig Que as a novelty in catering.  Not sure what success they are having.  I thought to go for it but you need financing ( which I found ) and then you need to commit the next 3-5 years of your life to establishing your reputation.  AGAIN I am not saying don't try.  We are all just hoping to open your eyes to what you are committing too.  If you are ready, GO FOR IT!  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

  9. Hello amorpork.  Chef Jimmy and jarjarchef ARE professionals.  I asked them to take a look and comment and they were kind enuff to do so ( nothing to do with me they just like to help ).  They are the REAL DEAL.  So now you have had about all the info we can provide at this time.  If you still think you can make a go then by all means try.  Nothing worse than being 60 and wishing you had tried.  Having said that you can't put your family at risk.  So there is the dilemma.  Good luck with your decision.  Keep Smokin!

  10. Hey Amorpork, you gotta love this site!  Ask a question or for advice and the fine folks on here will bend over backwards to help you out.  I've learned a TON from this site.  Too bad the rest of the world doesn't work that way right?

    Anyway--onto your BBQ business idea---I realize that a lot of the responses may have come on a little harsh but it's for good reason.  I read what you said about cooking for some small events (How small do you consider small?) and if you want to take a stab at it then maybe try some large church or school group functions.  It's a good way to see if you have what it takes to handle the crowd/pressure as well as get your name out in the community.  County fair season is coming up here soon so look into that.

    If you have a good relationship with a local bar, you may be able to work out a deal with the owner to let you park a rig in their lot a few days a week if you're willing to share the profits with the owner.

    Those are all ideas I came up with  when I fell in love with smoking and had dreams of serving the masses with the smokiest juiciest most flavorful ribs/chicken/brisket this side of the Mississippi.  (I chickened out.  Too much at stake for my situation)

    But 1st and foremost, visit a library, look on your town's website, and hit a good bookstore and----STUDY THE BUSINESS OF FOOD.  There is a world of difference between cooking for your neighbor's birthday party and cooking for people who expect you to know time management/food safety/quality vendors/insurance/etc.  

    Wish you the absolute best of luck.  Keep us updated on you journey if you decide to take it.  [​IMG]
  11. I wish you the best in anything you do.

    Happy smoken.

  12. amorpork

    amorpork Newbie

    I would like to start off by saying that I really do appreciate all the advice given to me. Has the weeks have unrolled I have started to notice the things that it will take to start up a business and the ropes that I will have to learn in order to even break even. We have decided to start out just part-time with our business and just cater small events like birthday parties, business luncheons, and possibly even wedding receptions. I know for certain that we are going to try our luck at a small community festival that is going to be occurring in our home town. The process of getting the temporary health permit for this even was not that bad at all and was not that expensive either. On the other hand, to cater events is another beast in its self. All of the regulations here in VA and the price that it will cost to start catering is crazy. Basically I have learned that you need to have an established restaurant before you start catering. Which is very hard to do and this is why the health department told me that catering is few far and between. My partner and I both rode down to Alabama (about a 7 hour drive) to pick up our smoker that we purchased for our side gig. So we are going to give this festival a try and see what happens. Thanks for all your advice!

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