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Any Advice On Opening A BBQ Specialty Store?

 
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dustinh_22



Joined: 23 Dec 2007
Posts: 16
Location: Missouri

PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 5:06 am    Post subject: Any Advice On Opening A BBQ Specialty Store? Reply with quote

A partner and friend of mine are exploring the idea of opening a specialty store in our area. In a city as large as ours, that is known for its' BBQ, there are surprisingly very few of these....only 1 or 2 decent ones.

Our idea is to lease an approx. 1,500-2,500 sq. ft. store in a strip mall close to a high traffic area of the city. Our inventory would consist of 1 or 2 notable grill brand lines, 1 or 2 notable smoker brand lines, numerous accessories/essentials, and a large rub/sauce department. Additionally, I am sure we would offer other inventory items and etc. as business developed.

We have also discussed the idea of setting-up a corner of the store to host live demonstrations from vendors, BBQ companies, and 'experts'. Our hope is that customers would appreciate the opportunity to learn from the best, see new products, and have another reason to be a return visitor.

I guess the reason for my post is to ask all of you for your advice. We are very much in the 'idea' phase of this business venture, and would love to hear your thoughts, best practices, suggestions, horror/success stories, and etc.

Any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks!
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Angio333
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would include some very basic entry level smokers and grills that are affordable. For example, the $30-50 water smokers at Walmart. They are a great way to get someone started in smoking without making them drop a ton of money. In no time they'll be hooked and will be buying a better smoker from you.

I would also have a huge line of sauces and rubs. The off label ones instead of the ones you find at every store.
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Braddog
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What Missouri city are you in? Heck, I could be a customer!

Cheers,
Braddog
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BishopRyan
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would definately start the business off with promotions consisting of live demonstarations on how easy it is to BBQ. Potentially use at least the first month or so for live radio remotes and promo in store coupons for big discounts and maybe even some samplers for experienced BBQ guys who want to try something new and different.

Make a nice little event out of it. Almost like a giant catering job for the public using all your products (affordable ones) and serve your food using simple recipes and techniques from books, pamphlets and homeade rubs/sauces that you offer inside the store.

You want people to walk up see how easy it is and sample good Q prompting them to wanna duplicate this at home.

Offering memberships in the form of discounts and newsletters is a great way to keep your customer base current on the lastest things you have to offer.


--------

I don't know your financial situation but one of the biggest problems with starting a new business is that everyone thinks they can just go get a loan. Not only is it tough to get a loan even with a solid business plan it usually takes some initial capital to do so. Most people don't realize how much it takes up front to carry the load long enough to build a strong enough base to operate successfully. Having free and clear capital that could cover the business for the first two years might be what it takes. Lots of people get the loan for the business but don't take into account the actual size of the loan payment in relation to the expense of your wages and operating costs. Business planning is crucial even with the best most fool proof ideas.

I don't mean to be condescending but I've work through many a business plan before.



On another note if you do something contact me because I have a lot of free sources for promoting your business. My wife runs a cleaning business and we've got fliers, door hanges, shirts, pens, calendars, magnets and so on that we've aquired free of charge via two or three online printing companies looking to get their name out there. Nothing beats free.
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JimH
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Joined: 09 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'd wait until the economy recovers. People trying to decide whether they can spend money on food or gas are not going to be buying much else. I think we are going to get to re-experience the late 70's.
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BishopRyan
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JimH wrote:
I think I'd wait until the economy recovers. People trying to decide whether they can spend money on food or gas are not going to be buying much else. I think we are going to get to re-experience the late 70's.
I for one am not a believer in this. No offense. I work in retail sales and my peers work in retail sales and for the most part there aren't any shortages of buyers only a shortage of lenders. People still spend large amounts of money in recessions and particularly on food and BBQ for small social gatherings at home. When people can't buy cars, can't buy boats, can't buy RVs and get the loans they want the next thing they'll use their disposable income on is smaller ticket items (<500 bucks) which is what the bread and butter of business like this would thrive on.

I think if you can make it work in a slow market you'll reap huge benefits when the banks free up and people are spending even more freely.

Make your business plan work with minimal revenue and as things develop the results will be there.

The business' that are closing doors now are the ones that were operating by the seat of their pants. Minimal nesteggs along with establishments that covered their daily operating expenses and wages with short term open ended loans. You have to be able to handle slow years without sucking on a loan to make payroll.
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Serial Griller
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Joined: 24 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 6:41 am    Post subject: Store Reply with quote

I would NOT carry anything the big box stores sell.
Also stay away from gas grills and even Big Green Egg now in Ace and Home Depot.
Be special with good customer service. Think Traeger, Hasty Bake, Think tailgaters.and there even some really cool electric smokers that are small in size and work well for apartment owners.
Sell sauces that aren't in the local groceries..carry good charcoal , Pellets recipe books, thermometers, all kinds of BBq accessories.Wood chunks and chips.
You could even put in a freezer and get natural brisket, shoulder and ribs from local butchers.Have warm cooked meat in a warmer for people to sample that you've smoked .
Will you be able to run a smoker outside your store to attract customers with the smell?
We have agreat specialty store here...What makes them good..They only sell products they've tested and only carry quality products.
Have classes using the products you sell. The store here even brings in a real chef that teaches to do the cooking.
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missionsusmc
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not much on the business end of it, but some good BBQ cookbooks might be good sellers. We have a Williams and Sonoma in one of the Knoxville malls, and they even have cookbooks. The general consumer isn't going to just buy a bunch of rub ingredients and start making blue-ribbon q. They need help, which demonstrations and live events help, but are they going to remember everything once they get home? Another thing you might want to consider....cutlery....folks need knives to cut meat. I like your idea. I wish we had a store around my area like you're talking about. There's one in Knoxville and maybe one in Kingsport, but I don't know.
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Cal-B-Que
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Location, location, location

Ace hardware in my area has a seperate BBQ store next door. Great idea to have it next to a hardware store. Another idea is to have it in the same mall as an established BBQ joint.
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BBQMAN
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Joined: 13 Jun 2005
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Location: Florida

PostPosted: Fri Dec 19 08 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sound advice from Bishop Ryan............................

I also would carry a reasonably priced line of quality smokers, not ECB and the like. You want people to have a great experience and come back for more, not get pi$$ed and quit the hobby!

Weber, Pro BBQ, options to order higher priced cabinet smokers and/or offsets.

A BBQ class providing cooking basics would also be a big benefit, and help sell the cookers that it is thought on.

Location of the store (or some very savvy marketing) will also be important.

You mention that there are already a couple of specialty stores offering the same type of thing. What sets you apart from them and makes your business unique?

Enough working capital to carry you over for at least 6 month's- I would not attempt this myself with out having lease and inventory money up-front.

Bad economy or not, most small business do not offer a viable paycheck for the owner right out of the gate.

And last (but not least in my book) is I don't go the partner route unless it's my wife.

If you do go with a partner, make sure you are legally covered for just about every eventuality: the other guy (or gal) wants out, they want to retire, they get health issues and can't work the business, they don't provide their end of the bargain etc. etc. etc.

Good luck!
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fire-n-a-box



Joined: 16 Dec 2008
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Location: Tulsa, OK

PostPosted: Sat Dec 20 08 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a BBQ store retailer, BBQ manufacturer, and BBQ distributer its my opinion that you should think about the cyclical nature of the retail Q'er. We make it during the summer, and tread water during the winter. Most succesful stores also sell fireplace , woodstove, pellet stove, etc... products to keep cash flow up during the winter. I can help you out if you decide to take the plunge. There is nothing better than selling products you personally use and believe in.
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mgwerks
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20 08 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of suggestions from a long-time BBq'er and smoker, and one who is very frustrated with just about every BBQ store or retailer he's been in.

1. Carry a spectrum of accessories. From full-blown BBQ specialty stores to places that only carry items incidentally, there seems to be a common theme. It's almost always a collection of various makes of cheap junk, with expensive packaging and high prices. Only rarely can you find good honest well-made tools amongst the made-in-China jetsam, even if they would cost more. It would be nice to see a place carrying decent but inexpensive things for the novice, but a few higher end things in each product line for the serious Q'er. Not only would it draw the pros, but even the occasional Q'er would like a really good and fancy item for a gift. Hmm... might offer a gift registry too?

Showcasing these items could really move some product. The occasional demos and 'guest pit masters' could demonstrate some of these things to the public as well. Setting up a BBQ demo with samples would be cheaper than most advert runs of a couple of weeks, and really create excitement if well-publicized. Also, you or I may appreciate the difference between a $5 thermometer and a $50 one, but unless Joe Consumer knows why there's a difference, he won't buy one. Likewise, a $1000 smoker versus a $100 smoker. I mean, we may know, appreciate and understand all this, but the guy on the street probably doesn't.

You could always look to expansion as your business grows into other areas that are kin to the Q, like sausage stuffers and grinders, cutlery, sharpeners, cutting boards and the like.

2. Make education a focus. Although many customers may be new, or just going through the motions, there's bound to be a group that will appreciate learning more about the hobby/passion. For example, in the display area for thermometers, educational but attention-getting signage could point out which types are used for what, and the advantages of some of the more sophisticated models.

For charcoal, you could talk about the different types, lump vs. briquette, regular vs. hardwood, etc. Even discussing chunks/chips for smoking in electric smokers, or for smoke boxes in charcoal smokers, and what different types of wood go with what foods. For rubs, sauces, marinades and injections, a little education about uses with various meats might go a long way to get people to want to try many different things, and they'd just have to pick them up on their return visits.

There are tons of ideas that would add little to cost but a lot to the customer experience. Notwithstanding that this would provide a good channel for up-selling. I think it would be a great thing to see a place that is like a mini-Cabela's (without all the snobby stuff), but aimed at BBQ rather than hunting and fishing. You could even have a little area or wall space for pictures of customers and their BBQs and cooking areas. There are no end to ideas that cost little and help create a 'brotherhood' atmosphere.

Remember, you really have to have two goals in mind - wanting people to get involved in barbecuing, and then making them want to have YOU be the one to supply their desires.

Just some (smoked) food for thought. Geez, now you got me wanting to do it! Best of luck!

Mark (available for consulting! LOL)
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speedtrap
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20 08 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to be a Downer but DONT..... Wait till the market gets better...
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ProBBQ
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20 08 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hard times offer loads of oportunities for those who have cash.
being passionate about what you do is the most important place to start, followed by good products and dedication to customer services.

All the best if you decide to go for it!

Ian
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BishopRyan
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20 08 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Common theme here from all of us.

Teach Teach Teach. There is no shortage of good food and good food shows on TV. People are dying to know HOW....and how easy.

Don't fear a bad market. I don't believe a business like this would suffer at this time with a sound business plan.

As a matter of fact this might be the best time to enter and proactively promote your business. Lots of businesses out there are backing off advertising because they aren't used to a little less revenue. You could really capitalize off the lack of competative advertising.

I sell RVs and our competitors have almost completely stopped advertising altogether. We countered by advertising more this winter than we even did in the summer. Dealer stats have us almost doubling the nearest competition. If you can make it work now you'll have a plan that will thrive in better times.

People buy in recessions/depressions. 90% of this country still has a job and half those have a decent one and a quarter of those have homes with a backyard and the Food Network, Travel Channel and so forth are viewed by millions.


I'd create a starter package for under 200 bucks if possible.

Grill/pit
charcoal
beginners cookbook
rubs
assortment of meat
thermometer
inexpensive knife set
apron
chimney starter

A good business plan always has a go to starter kit or bread and butter package.
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