Building a barbecue stand business from scratch takes guts, capital, time and deep commitment. Even if you have the world’s best brisket recipe--beloved by family members and acquaintances alike--your great cooking skills will not be enough. However, by crafting a vetted, conservative business plan, by researching great locations for your BBQ stand and by getting feedback from other local entrepreneurs, you'll stand a greater chance of long-term success.
Items you will need
Mobile cooking vehicle (van or short truck)
Meats and other foods to prepare
Applicable permits and licenses (depending on your state and city laws)
Identify your niche. What kind of barbecue stand do you want to operate? Options abound, including Korean, Mexican-American, Texas, Missouri and North Carolina style barbecue cooking. Each cuisine requires different cooking times, techniques and even marketing strategies. Pick a style that you feel comfortable cooking and that has a customer base. For example, don’t attempt an oddball barbecue fusion experiment (e.g. combining Cuban barbecue with Norwegian sauces), since unfamiliar cuisines may not attract enough customers.
Research locations. Find out where other barbecue and lunch food stands succeed in your area. Hot spots may include parking lots near office parks, farmers markets and street festivals. Visit these vending spots and take meticulous notes. What do customers gravitate toward? Are there other barbecue stands already operating there? Could you compete at these locations? Interview potential customers--such as office workers on their lunch hours--to determine what needs have been left “unmet” by the current crop of food vendors.
Research permits and licenses needed. Your local Chamber of Commerce can help you find out what you need in the way of licenses to sell food, licenses to park your vehicle, permits for workers and permits for alcohol.
Envision great success. To bring your business to life effectively, brainstorm “best case” scenarios. Don’t worry about the “how you'll get there” part at this point. Just imagine features, aspects and images of BBQ stand success, and write these down.
Develop your vision by brainstorming. Use your vision to inspire the nitty-gritty. How can you make your vision come true? What might your menu look like? How many people will you need to hire? How much money will you need to invest in materials and supplies? Don’t forget to “pay yourself”--build your salary into your business budget.
Go over your business plan with a consultant before executing it. Have you considered all factors, costs and competitors? Chances are that you’ve missed some problems with your business plan. By passing your BBQ stand business plan by a successful entrepreneur or coach, you'll get solid, grounded insight that can help you revise your thinking before you commit too many dollars or resources.
Dive in. Avoid analysis paralysis. At some point, you must launch the lunch counter and feed some customers! Don’t worry about making everything perfect--just make sure it is good enough. As long as you have a conservative budget, realistic expectations and the correct licenses and permits, you should be able to make good progress.
Keep your menu simple.
Talk to other successful lunch stand owners--ideally, owners outside of your competitive niche--for tips and tricks.
Market your business to local shop owners by offering discounts and coupons.
The food service business is ultra competitive. Don’t expect your barbecue stand to make a profit for at least six months.
Food safety is paramount. If one of your customers gets sick, he or she can sue you and/or your corporation. To that end, install best practices for food safety and preparation. Consider forming an S-Corp or LLC to protect your personal assets in the event that a customer does try to claim damages against you.
- bbq fife image by bluefern from Fotolia.com