Whether you are preparing bbq in the backyard, for a contest, or for a restaurant, the success of the effort is largely dependent upon the foundation you build under the effort in the beginning.
To start a restaurant, you'd most likely begin by researching the competition in the market area where the restaurant will be located. You'd pay particular attention to the menu choices, parking availability, pricing, hours of operation, location, and on and on. As a next step, you'd be wise to prepare a business plan and a pro-forma balance sheet and income statement that projects the first three years of expenses and revenues.
Some seasoned business people might feel comfortable preparing these items on their own, but most would want to seek out the services of a professional. Financing is another consideration. A local bank might be able to assist you, but you might have better success consulting a bank and loan officer that has experience loaning money to start-up restaurant operations. If financing doesn't work out, a long-term lease is another option. A good accountant or CPA with experience in working with small businesses can offer guidance and recommendations for all of these items.
If your barbecue goals are less ambitious and you simply want to learn how to cook some good barbecue in your backyard, you might seek out the advice of a friend that cooks barbecue, or you might take a class from one of the multiple guru's that cook barbecue. Or if you're like me, you'd probably take a trip down to the local book store or visit Amazon.com to read some books on the subject. The Internet also provides an excellent source of information through various bbq blogs, barbecue forums, discussion lists, newsletters, directories, etc.
Here's a few to get you started:
When learning anything new, these preliminary steps are the least rewarding part. It's sometimes dirty work and not very glamorous. Many try to skip these basic steps and simply throw money at barbecue by purchasing a turn key business opportunity they know little or nothing about. Backyard barbecuers might purchase the shiniest, newest, latest and greatest most expensive bbq smoker they can find, before they really even know how to use it and if it will work for a particular application.
Take a deep breath and a step back. You just might save yourself some money.