Here’s a healthy business statistic: Did you know that a full 75 percent of Americans own a grill? Yup! And that means that around 245,000 million of us, like to grill right in our own backyards. What does that mean to the owners/operators of barbeque businesses?
- Lots of people love barbeque food
- Home barbecuers like to also go out for barbeque
- They enjoy the experience of unique flavors
- They can be frequent customers to your business
Also, if you start or run a barbeque business, you have an ample customer base to work with. In many ways, cooking barbecue and or doing it as a business is driven by a real passion for this kind of food, the process and friends, family and customers having great satisfaction for what you create.
If you’ve been around barbecuing for any length of time, you see real versatility in the business owners and pit masters and cooks. It’s such a mixed bag. You have those who have studied the art and science of barbeque. You have those who continue to learn more as in attending Lang Q-School. Then you have those who never took a lesson and function on passion for their own recipes and experiences. The real driver for those who barbeque seems to be that they have a desire to be the best at it, to create that look of delight in a customer’s face as they enjoy the meal. In other words, be the best smoker in the neighborhood.
Friends, family and outbound catering
So, the good news is that just about anyone can start a barbeque business right from their backyard. Quite a few barbeque businesses started by catering for years, usually on weekends, before stepping into owning a formal business. This approach is an effective way to build name recognition locally and develop a steady stream of catering business. Barbeque catering is a service that’s nearly always in demand.
You’ve got plenty of opportunities like weddings, corporate lunches, or family gatherings. And getting started in catering is not as expensive as you might think. You can start with purchasing used equipment. A trailer for instance, can run around $5,000 – $20,000 depending on size. Most likely your current truck can haul the trailer.
Identify a need
Do some serious research on small barbecue businesses in your area. Look into their products, price points, customer reviews, and see what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe your market area is missing barbeque that specializes in St. Louis Ribs. Offering that could easily jumpstart word-of-mouth (the very best kind of marketing), and attract customers quickly.
Or, you could specialize in barbecuing a certain type of meat or offer a variety, and you could also choose a style of barbecue like Kansas City or St. Louis barbecue. You could also offer a variety of side dishes. There are many to select from:
- Pulled pork and pork sandwiches
- Beef brisket and brisket sandwiches
- Chicken and chicken sandwiches
- Pork ribs
- Baked beans
- Potato salad
- Corn bread
Some legal thoughts
Turns out that many barbecuers starting a business don’t know this but should. One of the easiest ways to get off and running is to launch your business as something called a Cottage Food Business. This allows you to sell a certain amount of food per year without the high-cost requirements of setting up a commercial kitchen. You’ll need to look into that in your state or city of course, but it’s worth checking into.
Step up and compete
Each year there are thousands of barbeque contests running. Many are smaller and more casual events that you can win and get some notoriety. If you get good at making consistent barbecue in a way that judges like, then you could make money participating in competitions. It’s not uncommon for first place finishers in small competitions to bring home a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars for a one day competition. When you win you send an announcement to your local newspapers and put it online in your Facebook and or other media.
There’s something real Americana in serving plates of ribs with corn bread along the road side and is a wonderful experience for customers. It’s another way to get a business going and test things out. The first thing is to find out if you can park and work along a particular roadside. Sometimes there are certain locations where a host of food vendors assemble.
To operate a road side stand you need to find a location where customers can pull over and park. Some ideas include areas next to carpool parking lots. These offer plenty of parking spaces for customers and are often located away from restaurants and other eating options.
You want a pace where there is a steady stream of traffic driving through the area especially during lunch and dinner time. This also involves good signage so people know what you are about, and what you serve. If someone is looking for an Italian grinder they are not likely to stop at your roadside barbeque.
A whole other aspect of visibility is using social media. A no cost way to promote your barbeque business is to build your presence on social media platforms. You can create a “brand personality” that way and get people interested in your passion for what you do and offer. If you do this right you will develop followers who in turn will talk about you…its multiplication. You will become a social media influencer in your category. Social media doesn’t cost anything in terms of money, but it’s going to take some time for you to build a following on your social media account.
If you decide to do this, it’s best to begin by focusing on one social media platform like Instagram. Focusing on one account at first will help you avoid being overwhelmed (as mentioned it will take your time) and get to know a specific platform. Time is a tough commodity if you are cooking and running the barbeque business, so finding a friend or family member who is savvy in social media to help you is vital.
Add-ons that sell
Consider creating your own line of rubs, spices and sauces, many are easy to make. Even those secret barbeque sauce recipes are made with ingredients that you can easily find at a grocery store and bottle with a fancy looking label that touts your own brand.
One easy way to generate sales is by doing free taste tests at farmers markets or flea markets. Since these products are bottled and small they also work well to sell online through a simple website. The product doesn’t spoil easily and is easy to ship. These products offer you the platform to expand beyond your area and provide an additional income stream.
Get extra hands
The food business is one business you can’t handle alone even from the onset. Therefore, you should hire motivated employees who are customer-oriented. Your employees will be of good help to you in taking orders and working the grill. At first these will probably be friends and family donating time.
You should make sure they are customer-oriented and have the capacity to offer superior customer service. The success of any business depends largely on the customer experience in addition to the quality of the food. Satisfied customers would definitely spread the word and refer others to your business.
Finally, do not delay in launching out your barbecue business once you have the essentials in place. Don’t let the fear of the unknown chain you down. Smoked and grilled foods are popular. So, you can be sure of good customer loyalty for your barbecue business, as long as you are good at what you do.
Running a food business requires licensing such as an EIN form from the IRS. There are certain rules or policies you should understand. Some certifications may also be applicable for a barbecue business. For instance, a majority of food operators are required to undergo food-handling safety food training and obtain relevant certifications. And, in order to protect yourself and your business financially, you need to get some form of small business insurance
Another major step you need to take while starting a small barbecue business is to shop for suppliers and equipment. Go online and do comparison shopping to find out the best deals for your barbecue serving utensils, cooling equipment, and paper products. You should factor all of these in your projections and consider purchasing high value smoke. You should compare Lang Smoker Cookers to any other line before you decide.
Also, remember to source a nearby meat supplier that will always make meat available to you at a great price. Be sure to check with your advisor on your business matters. Take your time to be well versed on matters that will directly impact your business success. There’s an old saying that holds much wisdom: “Decisions determine destiny.” Whatever choices you make now will be in play later on so it’s vital to think clearly even when dealing with your passionate intentions.
When it comes to Smoker Cooker stick burners, you can receive a great deal of seasoned advice from Lang. The company is all about supporting and enhancing the barbeque industry and those who work in it. Unlike many thriving business owners, Ben Lang is very approachable.