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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Unread 11-23-2012, 04:14 PM   #1
chefdad
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Default New to bbq catering, any helpful advice for starting out?

I have prepared pulled pork for several family parties and fundraisers at church. Family and friends have encouraged me to start a catering business. I do not want to go over board, start small and see where it goes. However, that plan can change.
Any advice or things to stay away from, would be helpful. I have been cooking on a 22.5 WSM, and thinking of buying another smoker.

Is there any certification or license I may need? I live in Ohio.
Pricing? What do you charge per pound. I have read on the forum, $8-10 for a pound of cook pulled pork. Is this the same for chicken and brisket?

I know I have a lot to learn and you are the best. Thanks for your time and advice!

Last edited by chefdad; 11-23-2012 at 06:20 PM..
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Unread 11-23-2012, 07:44 PM   #2
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Why does everyone who can cook a butt want to get into catering?

Cook for your friends and family for a couple of years and then if you still want to be a caterer (doubtful) you will have a good idea of what needs to be done.

Not rude, just honest brother. ;)
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Unread 11-23-2012, 07:47 PM   #3
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If I were you I'd spend a good deal of time reading threads on this catering forum - very valuable info here, some of which may or may not lead you to change your mind - depends on how bad you want to get into it.
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Unread 11-23-2012, 08:00 PM   #4
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Contact your local health dept. They will get you started in the right direction as far as any licenses that you might need.
In regards to pricing, the general rule of thumb is 3 times your costs. In other words if it costs you $1.50 to produce a pulled pork sandwich then you turn around and sell it for $4.50. You can adjust your prices from there. Equipment is going to be a thorn in your side during the beginning. You will be amazed at all of the little things that you need, but don't have.
I'm sure it is a requirement in OH, shop around for insurance quotes. I would think to expect around $500-700/yr easily.
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Unread 11-23-2012, 08:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbq Bubba View Post
Why does everyone who can cook a butt want to get into catering?

Cook for your friends and family for a couple of years and then if you still want to be a caterer (doubtful) you will have a good idea of what needs to be done.

Not rude, just honest brother. ;)
We were, where he is, lol!

Bubba's context is right though, there is a lot more involved than we all think at the beginning stages. I bet approximately 1 in 50 who start in the business, actually stick it out due to harder work than anticipated, lack of customers and resources, etc.
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Unread 11-23-2012, 10:34 PM   #6
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No problem Bubba! I need a glimpse of reality. Several friends and family members have suggested it. So, I am only looking into it. I knew before I posted the thread, that I would receive a honest reply back.

I have been cooking for friends and family for a while. Not only pulled pork. I can cook chicken ribs and working on brisket. I also, have a pretty good rub and sauce. So, I am just looking into it and see if it would be worth while. Thanks for your honesty and advice.
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Unread 11-23-2012, 10:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefdad View Post
I have prepared pulled pork for several family parties and fundraisers at church. Family and friends have encouraged me to start a catering business.
One thing I learned, is that, EVERYBODY loves your food when its free or at cost. Ask them to pay full pop(around here $13pp for a catering gig) and then see what they say. Hope that helps.
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Unread 11-24-2012, 08:28 AM   #8
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Big ace has a point, I started at the beginning of this year with my first smoker (backwoods) and a few people trying it, Then I catered a friends of mine daughters graduation party, Then it grew to a few parties. I just charged cost plus 20% and already have a few dates tentatively book for next year but depends on the price I charge. a few folks already have qoutes from a couple of bbq cater's that is my biggest hurddle to overcome I don't know how to get my cost down knowing my q blows the others out of the water "so I've been told". My way of thinking is if mine is so much better then the others the cost's aught to reflect that. I know folks will shop around and the cheaper product most always win.

I've never considered catering just seeing what happens. Love the Q!!!!!!
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Unread 11-24-2012, 09:33 AM   #9
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Work your way to it. Pull some temporary permits and vend some festivals and see how you like the log hours and consider it will be that way most every weekend catering. If you still want it then go for it. You can talk to the health dept when you pull temp festival permits about what is needed to cater.
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Unread 11-24-2012, 11:03 AM   #10
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Most businessess fail because they don't know business or marketing. If you have a junior college near you check to see if they have hospitality classes. In my area we have great classes in catering, cost of goods etc. to become a qualified chef. Take a Serv-Safe course, contact Health Dept and look around for good used equipment. One or two WSM's won't work because you can't cook enough to make a profit. Check out licenses in your county, check out commercial commissary/kitchens and insurance. If you're in for an ounce your are in for a pound. Once you charge the game changes, it will take you a few years to break even if ever.
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Unread 11-24-2012, 02:51 PM   #11
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Thanks a lot for the advice. I will look further into it and we will see what happens.
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Unread 11-27-2012, 01:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbq Bubba View Post
Why does everyone who can cook a butt want to get into catering?

Cook for your friends and family for a couple of years and then if you still want to be a caterer (doubtful) you will have a good idea of what needs to be done.

Not rude, just honest brother. ;)

I have been catering and vending for three years now, and it is the most fun I have ever had in my life. (and I've had some pretty serious fun!)

I wouldn't trade it or leave it for anything, and I'd almost do it for free. (not really, but just making the point of how much I love what i do)

BUT: I did just what Bubba said for about three or four years before I got into it. I also had a mentor that I owe all my success to, and to this day I can text him anytime and he will get back to me within minutes.
Also my first gig, was a vending event, I served 700 people and thought I was on top of the world. I spent the profits on another smoker. (my wife wasn't happy) IT was the only event I did that year. I wanted to let it soak in, and master what I had learned both success and mistakes. The next year I did probably 12 events, this past year I am up to 30 events. I am happy, it grows slowly and that is how I want it to grow. I want a masterpiece before I throw the doors open.
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Unread 11-27-2012, 01:40 PM   #13
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Invest in a very comfortable pair of shoes because you will be on your feet for long hours. No more of that put some meat on and have a beer. There is no time for that once you do it as a business. There is always something to do. And find someone to do the business side for you. Paperwork, marketing, taxes, insurance, permits...all of that can steal your joy if you don't have someone to handle it for you.
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Unread 11-28-2012, 10:57 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigmista View Post
Invest in a very comfortable pair of shoes because you will be on your feet for long hours. No more of that put some meat on and have a beer. There is no time for that once you do it as a business. There is always something to do. And find someone to do the business side for you. Paperwork, marketing, taxes, insurance, permits...all of that can steal your joy if you don't have someone to handle it for you.

I agree with you, good shoes are a must.

I was never a put it on and go have a beer guy anyway. I was always a put it on, and then go do some research about what else I can cook.

Whether it is cooking the meat, or getting the beans or slaw ready, I love it all. It is more about being around the atmosphere than just being around the pit. I don't love all the business side, but because it is my business I do enjoy it. With marketing, and paperwork and all also comes all the compliments. It is a hell of a compliment to us when we get asked to vend an occasion that may be six hours away just because they have had a few request from people that have eaten our BBQ before. That is the business side that is rewarding.
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Unread 11-28-2012, 01:42 PM   #15
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"catering" with a WSM is more like "personal chef'ing". To paraphrased "Jaws": You're gonna need a bigger boat (cooker).
I don't cater now but when I did I used the heck out of my Kingfisher stickburner to turn out port for 200-400 and ribs, brisket, chicken, etc. for Superbowl parties, smaller church functions, business holiday parties, birthday parties, etc. I can't imagine trying to go bit without the proper equipment.
Also, simple things like tongs, aprons, chafing pans/stands, gallons of rub and sauce, TIME (never enough), dealing with weather and customer personalities...it's indeed a job. As was said earlier: check out how many friends and family will pay what your work is worth - and always, always, always, get enough deposit to pay for any up front costs before you start. Cash the check at the customer's bank - do not deposit to your account and then find out it bounced! It'll ruin your day and credit rating.
Good luck! It's fun but REAL HARD WORK!
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