How to Start a BBQ Catering Business

poulet au barbeque image by Jerome Dancette from

According to Entrepreneur magazine, food service businesses have grown from 155,000 to 900,000 in the last 30 years. For commercial barbecue--whether it is a preference for a special sauce, type of meat or process of cooking--Americans have also developed a great love affair, without the cleanup of home preparation. This may be an international affair considering the growing popularity of Korean barbecue restaurants in cities like Los Angeles. For those considering starting a barbecue restaurant, the most important considerations are developing great recipes, providing stellar customer service and obtaining a great location for a unique dining experience.

Check for city, county and state laws regarding permits and licensing requirements for a restaurant business. When in doubt, seek local professional advice on permits and licensing to insure that local governmental food service standards are properly established.

Write a business plan for the restaurant. This is where the start-up costs for food, equipment and other operational expenses, such as restaurant facility rental costs, can be identified and calculated. This is also where the target market can be identified and the restaurant's goals can be put on paper.

Develop recipes for a good menu selection. This will include developing a barbecue sauce, deciding on the type of meats that will be prepared and creating recipes for side orders such as cold slaw, potato slaw and baked beans. Find at few reliable wholesale sources for food and restaurant supplies. Have fun designing the first customer menu for the restaurant.

Find a restaurant facility. High street traffic and parking are a couple of important considerations when looking for a restaurant store-front. In either situation, as preparation will primarily involve smoking meats, also consider the types of commercial neighbors. Setting up a smoke shop next to a clothing store may be asking for trouble. Also, make sure that the facility is properly zoned for restaurant usage.

Invest in restaurant equipment. A barbecue restaurant will need a commercial grill or smoker, along with refrigeration for food. Also needed are cooking suppliers like pots, pans, plates and utensils for cooking and customers, as well as tables and chairs. Cups, napkins, seasoning and sauces will also be needed for customers. A cash register is needed for convenient check out and proper daily accounting. It is also generally a good idea to accept credit cards and debit cards, which requires purchasing credit card merchant equipment.

Advertise and market the business. The first big marketing costs should be for a grand opening. This will let the community know that the barbecue restaurant is opened for business. Invite radio and television media, create fliers and advertise in local newspapers. Develop a website that embodies the flavor of the restaurant and style of business being promoted.


  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for tax or legal advice.


About the Author

Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications such as the "Chicago Tribune" and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.

Photo Credits

  • poulet au barbeque image by Jerome Dancette from