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Any restaurateurs / caterers out there?

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    Any restaurateurs / caterers out there?

    Not really sure where to post this, so please move if necessary.

    This is in part me looking for some help and advice, and also, if I can offer any advice to anyone in what I've learnt in the past 18 months I'd love to.

    I'll start at the beginning.

    2 years ago I got a text from a friend which said 'I'm bored of work, let's open a restaurant' so I replied 'ok'.

    We got together and started sketching out ideas, we initially hoped to open a burger joint, but they are extremely common in the UK these days, I'd started getting in to BBQ a few months previously and discovered amazingribs.com so I suggested BBQ (how hard can it be, right??) and Hickory Pit was born, we quickly buried the idea of a restaurant and decided on a street food / market stall approach. We did our first big event 6 months later (turns out it's quite hard) and we've been running since then, we now do events like festivals, private parties and we have a monthly residency at a pub (bar, I suppose you'd call it) where we live in Maidstone, just outside of London. We serve mostly pulled pork, sometimes beef ribs and we're trying to learn the dark art of brisket at the moment! The business is growing (we both still have full time jobs) and this post is basically a request for any advice from anyone who's been in the catering business (or anyone who can tell me what they love best about their favourite BBQ restaurant) on how to grow a business like this and on commercial cooking. We aren't rich so we run 5 UDS and that's all we have to cook on. We'd like to buy a nice trailer smoker and the plan is one day for a restaurant, but at the moment we are a real backyard business.

    I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts, and, if anyone's thinking about doing anything like this I've learned a lot over the past 2 years, made plenty of mistakes so far too so I can help anyone else out.

    Not sure if I'm allowed to post this, but here's a link to our Website and Facebook page which has links to all our other stuff.

    http://www.thehickorypitbbq.co.uk/

    https://www.facebook.com/thehickorypitbbq

    Cheers

    #2
    Best wishes! I hope you turn lots of Brits into BBQ fanatics!

    Comment


    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, that's the plan!

    • MBMorgan
      MBMorgan commented
      Editing a comment
      And our track record with tea not withstanding, we promise not to throw any of your excellent BBQ in the harbor ...

    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Mbmorgan ! I hope all that's in the past!

    #3
    I am certainly no expert at advice, but a peruse through Franklin's Barbeque & Meat Smokin Manifesto offers a little on how he did it. It sounds like you are on the right path. Continue to work hard & you will prosper. A famous quote that I live by & you should be very familiar with, "Never Give Up".

    Comment


    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, It's been in my Amazon cart for a while now, I've bought it now.

    #4
    I moved this to BBQ Restaurants > England, that way if anyone in your neck of the woods looks up a places in England, there you'll be! (We don't have a catering channel)

    I know eugenek has been doing something similar, maybe he can offer some advice when he gets time. Best of luck to you!

    Comment


    #5
    First off let me say I am from Houston and got taken to a "BBQ restaurant" in London in 1990. Unless things have radically changed, there is a great need for your services. I second the advice about reading Aaron Franklin's book. You should find it inspiring and helpful.

    Best of luck.

    -Daniel

    Comment


    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks very much, there are quite a few BBQ restaurants in the UK now, of varying levels of quality, one of the big things that gets me here is that most of them aren't BBQ restaurants, they run electric smokers, not a log or flame in sight!

    #6
    You NEED to read this thread about a guy in Michigan that documented his experience opening a BBQ place. It is quite lengthy (191 pages!!!) and I ended up just reading his posts.

    http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=161123

    Comment


    • Jerod Broussard
      Jerod Broussard commented
      Editing a comment
      Dude, awesome thread!!!!!!!!!!

    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Woah. Good find. They sure are detailed over at the bbq brethren. I read the UDS thread before I built my first one, almost longer to read than to build all my smokers!

    #7
    Nice web page MattBilling

    Comment


    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Cheers, I can't really take all the credit, it's a squarespace site, I just write and take pics.

    #8
    I would recommend getting your hands on the book "Peace, Love, and Barbecue" by Mike and Amy Mills. I think there are some good inspirations in there as he interviews a lot of BBQ legends and how they got their start. Also Bib Bob Gibson's is another good book by Chris Lilly. They aren't exactly how to books but really do show how everyone's approach varies and how people make it work no matter if it is a huge restaurant or a weekend food truck.

    When it comes to Q joints I like it when it is kept simple and the menu doesn't get overly complicated. Instead of trying to have a huge variety... pick a few things and just knock them out of the park.

    Find uses to make the most out of your Q that may be left over or excess.

    Possibly offer a family style take home option... i.e. 1 kilogram of pulled pork and some sides for a set amount.

    From a business standpoint I would recommend getting a business plan in place and creating a vision of where you would like to see this end up so you can create a road map to get there. Best of Luck!

    Comment


    • MattBilling
      MattBilling commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Nate. I have Chris Lilly's book, I have just ordered Peace, Love and Barbecue. I love the title.

      Thanks for the suggestions, I agree, simple menu done right is key!

    #9
    Love your courage and willingness to make a go of it, MattBilling !!!

    Tell us how your vision of making your Q joint work has clarified since you opened?
    What have you learned since you started?

    Comment


      #10
      MattBilling having lived in England from 2011-2014 I can say BBQ is a much needed food there. I introduced many of my local friends to it and even had a local pub request a couple of butts for their beer festival. Good luke on the venture. COYG!!!

      Comment


        #11
        Keep Calm and BBQ on? Good Luck MattBilling !!

        Comment


          #12
          Hey Matt,

          I wish you all the best with the Hickory Pitt - website looks excellent, and I’m now craving BBQ having seen your pics.

          I’m a total newbie at all this – but planning to cook a BBQ evening in a local café (I’m based in London) this summer. Assuming they let me…

          Would be good to talk further if you’re ever up this way – I’ve been toying with what British BBQ could be like (& like you say – not the burnt/raw combo we usually do!)

          All the best
          Ben

          Comment


            #13
            I will begin by saying I have never been to the UK despite being an Anglophile my entire life. Look to your regular pubs around town. are you modeling your style on the working man's sports pub? or something more upscale? I don't know how well an American style down home BBQ Pit would go over. then again, an American Style BBQ pit restaurant might be huge just because of the novelty. so, now I have recommended anything from a very vary English Pub that serves BBQ instead of Meat Pies or leave behind all things English and go full on Yank.

            If you decide to go full on Yank, come over and look at some of the pits here, especially the ones on the backroads of the South. the Atmosphere is what you need.

            Pocnic tables, mason jars for drinks, Iced Tea, Potato Salad, cole slaw and baked beans. and never forget plain thick sliced white bread (toasted or not). look at the kind of décor for wall hangings. See if you can find some photos of Her Majesty in hunting gear (much of Q is intertwined with hunting and self sufficiency. Look to the origins of Q in America and use it to inform your place.

            Now, on small scale, with shoestring budget, some of THE best BBQ I have ever tasted have been the ones where someone sets up a trailer in a small spot on a business street. their little trailer sitting on the parking lot between two stores. they cooked right there (a small chain link fenced area behind the trailer was where they kept the smoker). Out front were two - four picnic tables. everything was served in to go containers. some folks would eat at the picnic tables but most took it home to the family.

            if course, like any business, the keys to success lie in a good cook, a good location, hard work and a whole lot of luck. I wish you all you could need!

            Comment


              #14
              Another book you might want to try is Elizabeth Karmel's "Taming the Flame." She also has a web site, http://elizabethkarmel.com/ . She is a trained chef from North Carolina but didn't get into grilling and Q until she was out working and developed a relationship with Weber Grills. Much of her book is about her learning process. She is currently the executive chef at Hill Country Market in NYC. Her book has plenty of good old American recipes for sides and deserts, as well as for different styles of grilling and BBQ.

              Good luck, and keep us posted.

              George

              Comment


                #15
                Thanks everyone, I'll reply properly when I've got some time, busy week!!

                Comment

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