Friday, June 18, 2010

BBQ Business Ideas

What choices do contest cooks have to combat rising expenses? For most contest cooks, starting a bbq business aimed at capitalizing on bbq contest participation seems viable. The basic choices are as follows:

--Start selling bbq rub

--Start selling bbq sauce

--Start a bbq vending / concession business

--Start a bbq catering service

--Start a barbecue website

--Pursue corporate sponsorship

On the surface, each of those ideas sounded promising to us. They certainly sound simple enough. How hard could it be?

We found a co-packer and started selling our bbq spice rubs at contests and to family and friends. If you're thinking of taking a similar approach, plan to spend at least $850 in start-up expenses, add another $300 or $400 if you want professionally printed labels for your bottles. To earn back the start-up costs, plan on selling at least 1,000 bottles of rub in 10 oz. bottles (600 if you decide to start with a larger 13 oz. bottle).

It would be much easier to sell bbq sauce in these volumes, but the start-up expenses are about 400% greater, so increase the sales to 4,000 small bottles (or 2,400 big bottles). After a little research with the health department and state regulators, we crossed bbq vending, concessions, and catering off the list quickly. The start-up expenses to comply with the legal requirements are nearly $20,000, plus rent on a commissary facility to store supplies and prepare foods.

I started two barbecue websites that do generate a small amount of revenue, but not nearly enough to support the cost of contests. If you have technical expertise, this might a viable alternative for you, but based on my "seat of the pants" knowledge level, it's not been the answer to our expense issues.  Hint:,, and will help you increase your web site traffic if you use them strategically.

Which leaves one more option -- corporate sponsorship. I haven't put any efforts into obtaining a corporate sponsor for our bbq team and as difficult as it sounds, it is probably the best option on this list. And that brings us back to the lack of spectator involvement in the events. Without large numbers of spectators at bbq contests (I'm talking thousands), the corporate sponsorship is going to be hard to come by.

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Chris said...

Another thing that a lot of teams seem to be doing is the BBQ class circuit geared at pros and joes. But that has the issue of being hard to be sustainable because of market saturation and non-recurring funds. Only so many people in a given area will take such a class and they will only take it once.

The BBQ Guy said...

I agree. Classes can be a nice source of revenue for the top tier teams. But, I'm not sure how many people want to spend $500-600 to take a class from someone who hasn't already won the American Royal or Jack Daniels or KCBS TOTY.

I remember when these classes used to be priced at $250 or so, but now I've seen them as high as $750 not counting the cost of getting there and lodging once you're there.

aburtch said...

Aren't the corporate sponsors who sponsor BBQ teams at competitions targeting the other cooks? I mean it's mostly charcoal, cookers, or rubs and sauces. Since there aren't thousands of spectators, I'd think they are aiming at the cooks. Just a guess though...

The BBQ Guy said...

It could be. I don't discount the sponsors that we currently have in the sport. I appreciate each and every one of them. But, in order for more teams to share in the financial rewards of the sport, I think the cost of competing has to be reduced -- we need more and more sponsors to feel the confidence to become involved. To compete for Team of the Year, you need a pretty large check book balance.

Jack said...

I toyed with the idea some time ago. But because of my age and disability, I shelved it. I liked the idea though. And I'm a pretty darned good BBQ cook too. Also, I think that these days it may be out of reach for a lot of people, due to the economy being so grim! Good luck anyway.