After the many newsletter interviews, we’ve produced, one of the often-asked questions deals with the best way to get a business started. Here is a compilation of what our Lang users have shared.
Have friends and family asked you to prepare barbeque for them on some regular basis? Have you been asked to do events like birthdays and so on? If so, you have an indication that your barbeque skills are recognized. That is of course the basis for even thinking about a business. If you have the proven talent, you might consider going the next step. Of course, talent isn’t enough.
Something needs to be driving you. What does cooking barbeque mean to you? How does it feel to want to see customers raving about your meals? Be careful not to fall in love with the “idea” of something, but not the “something” itself. That happens all the time and usually assures the business won’t last.
You can purchase business plans online and find templates free. You do need a business plan.
Not intended to be exhaustive here but look at a few things you need to address. Are you finally in a position to step out? Regardless of how much time you’ve invested in dreaming up your idea, if you don’t have a proper plan, you will likely find it extremely difficult to be successful. A business plan is a blueprint that guides you to plan all the elements and operational issues.
Many barbeque cooks start businesses without a well-thought-out business plan. It can appear overwhelming to someone without business experience. It’s clearly a difficult and time-consuming process but a positive resource. It’s unlikely that you can convince an investor to help fund your business without a plan. Even with no plan there are regulations, and sales processes, marketing and more that could bring you to a standstill.
You can’t really determine how to create a profit (without it there is no business) without critical planning and preparation.
What is the business model you have in mind?
Summarize your industry both nationally and regionally and locally.
- What’s the company name?
- What are the costs involved, across the board?
- What are state, city codes, licensing, certifications/other requirements?
- Are you starting on weekends, part time?
- Who is going to support you–staffing?
- What competitors will you face?
- What pricing will you charge?
- Will your location be in heavily trafficked areas?
- How will you be funding the business, savings, family, loans?
- What type of business you have in mind, a food truck is a whole different budget than a running a facility.
- What is the expected volume of people to serve?
- What will the menu offer?
- What equipment is needed?
- W hat about supplies, the food items themselves and the ingredients?
- What is the style of barbeque you have in mind?
- What will you do to advertise your business (that needs a plan in itself).
Are you the personality type who will commit to do what it takes? You can see that it will take a lot more than just barbequing great food. And that is where things often go wrong. A barbeque business is a lot more than the enjoyment of preparing meals for people. Too many start-ups overlook this. Unless you have a team of people, you will be the proverbial, “Jack of all trades,” until your business grows, and you can hire staff. But again, managing staff and keeping good workers in no small task.
This is an area that requires very smart planning. Almost every Lang Smoker barbeque cook has mentioned in interviews that they wish they had purchased a larger Lang model than they did. When business gets going you will be serving growing numbers of people. One of our interviewees mentioned that the best thing he ever did was purchase a larger Lang than he thought he needed. He was at an event with a number of other food trucks and the line outside his truck was 60 feet long. Capacity is a key factor in your barbeque business plan.
Keep in mind it’s not just the smoker you’ll be buying, you need related items such as, coolers, refrigeration, trays, tables, utensils, wood, serving items to name a few. There is a very active used equipment market that could help stretch your budget.
Location. Location. Location.
Among most of the Lang barbeques we’ve interviewed over the years, many planned on something not always found in a business plan, and that is where will the business be operating? With the extensive Lang family of stick burners, you have options on how to operate your business. From the big stuff, a 108 you can pull behind to smaller models that mount inside a food truck, you can offer meals just about anywhere. Almost every town has some venues that would be great for offering barbeque:
- Local celebrations of the town
- Seasonal festivals
- Cars and truck shows
- Food festivals
- Country Fairs
- Sporting events
- School events
- Mall events
- Wine and beer events
- Fund raising events
We all know the well-worn, terrifying phrase, “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Of course, there are numerous ways that government regulations are needed—food safety, worker care, insurances and so on. You will need an EIN (Employee Identification Number), in order to operate a business. The EIN comes from the IRS. This also must be registered with the state. There are numerous and required food-licensing, safety and serving requirements you will need to know. As well, you need the right type of business insurance.
The Big Challenges that can put you out of business
Insufficient Cash Flow
One of the single most undervalued or misunderstood factors about a startup is funding. Just as it is with buying a smoker that is under capacity for what you need, so is funding. Establishing a business takes time and that means available funds especially during the dry times. You will need more than you think. The barbeque community is very open to support one another so you might ask a few how they handled financial planning. But be sure to include your accountant.
Promotional efforts are of critical importance for any new business. Restaurants that are forced to deal with countless competitors may quickly find themselves getting lost in the crowd, especially in situations where owners fail to make advertising a top priority. An effective marketing or promotional campaign can be a key asset, one that no business owner can afford to overlook. Getting your new business on the map and buzzing as soon as possible is important.
As noted above, it takes time to become an established, trusted business. The key factor here is your reputation. A solid reputation creates “word of mouth” and there is no better way to advertise than that—None!!! The social world is very different these days. It only takes a few minutes for someone to go to an online review and trash your business. That has spawned a new online business category called Reputation Savers. The most valuable business asset you have is your reputation.
It seems so very obvious, but quality is your homerun or scoreless game. Food and service quality are golden benefits for customers. Quality is also a perception. If a customer gets a glimpse of your kitchen area and sees a really messy, unkept area, it translates to poor quality.
Any soiling or dirty spots—well you know the deal. But it can be overlooked especially when you are busy cranking out orders. A study reported by the Harvard Business Review showed that:
“…perceived quality affects customer advocacy more than any other element. Products and services must attain a certain minimum level, and no other elements can make up for a significant shortfall on this one.”
Here is another sobering fact: “The only thing easy about the restaurant business is failure. For every five new restaurants that open in the U.S. this week, three will be gone within three years. That’s a sixty percent failure rate, and my guess is that it’s even higher with barbecue joints. In barbecue, the waste is high, the profit margins are slim, and the hours are long. Yet new barbecue joints seem to be cropping up faster than ant hills after a hard rain.”
That pretty well says it all.
It’s amazing how many businesspeople think they have learned all they can about business and related factors. Look at a guy like Tiger Woods. Arguably the best or among the best golfers in the world. Yet he has a coach—amazing! He needs outside-in coaching. Learning is the way to stay ahead of the future. That’s one reason why so many barbecue cooks and pitmasters attend Lang’s Q-School. There’s always something to learn or improve. It makes you and your business better.
Next month we will investigate addition ways to get the right start on your BBQ business and personal smoker experience.