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New Start-Up Walk-Up Q Joint - Exp'd 'Raunt Advice Plse
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue Apr 23 13 3:02 am    Post subject: New Start-Up Walk-Up Q Joint - Exp'd 'Raunt Advice Plse Reply with quote

After years of visiting, my 1st post, great site!

Greatly appreciate any / all exp’d candid advice, thoughts, responses.

Please tell me if you think my business concept / idea sounds like great variables for BBQ success. I’m in the middle of buying a vacant lot zoned for ‘raunt (is fully paved / 25 parking spaces / striped with curbing), it’s directly next to a McDonald’s, on a road with 35,000 cars per day (per state DOT traffic counts), next to a busy train station. McDonald’s fully remodeled 2 yrs ago, and installing a 2nd drive-thru, train station parking expanding across the street onto 10 acre lot due to overcrowding. I’ve worked in various Q joints over past 5 years on the line & done A LOT of outside catering, made my own Q for years, humbly gotten rave reviews on my own food.

Plan is this, I’ve been a Realtor for years, great price on the lot, will pay in full, so no mortgage / no lease. Also, will buy (again, no note or lease) a fully equipped 8.5’X 40’ health dept approved BBQ concession trailer (approx $50K with all equip). Business will be 100% walk-up, and possibly offer curb-service (car lights on indicates curb-service desired (which might help in times of poor weather). Will also install attractive brick pavers in front of trailer to create a pavilion type / patio feel, and build a rustic looking porch cover off the front of the trailer maybe 10’ – 15’ out for some cover (in time maybe do plastic see-thru tent enclosing porch area sides / have tables for seating under covered area, and have picnic tables on remainder of uncovered pavilion area for outside seating.

With traffic counts of 35,000 cars per day, McDonald’s next door (think I’ll get at least 30% biz from them), busy train station next door and expanding parking, no mortgage / lease on anything (major help on monthly bottom-line), that all these variables should be a recipe for big, profitable success.

I do know that with walk-up, weather / seasonal might play a big role, but I’ve seen another popular burger walk-up in my area, only average food, poor weather or not, people stand outside and wait under a porch roof. I live mid-Atlantic, so weather pretty mild 8 - 9 mos out of the year.

I’m in my early 50's, hate real estate, too old to go back to school to update education or try to go corporate again, and I see this as a way for the rest of my life, do what I love with food, with good income, or make a decent living. I make great food, people will come to me, how I see it anyway. My wife supports it, but has her fears and this needs to be a success, it's been a tough few years with the economy.

Well, please be gentle, but whadddya think? Appreciate any experience and wisdom, candid thoughts, advice!
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marubozo
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 23 13 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you can swing it without taking on a ton of debt like you said, that's a great start. Debt is one of the biggest killers for most new businesses. At the same time, so is undercapitalization for operating expenses. If paying cash for the property and trailer squeeze your available cash too much, you could find yourself in the other biggest new business conundrum and if sales aren't as high as projected, you don't have enough cash on hand to cover day to day costs because it's now all tied up into the land and equipment.

As a realtor, you know money is cheap these days, so using a little financing isn't the end of the world if it improves your liquidity. But if even after making the two initial large purchases you're still sitting on $50k+ in cash to open the doors, then financing may be a moot point.

I'm in a very similar boat as you right now. I'm in the process of closing on a property for my new restaurant. Hope to get the keys in two weeks. And I faced a similar question. I had the cash to buy the place outright, but it would have meant a very lean opening budget. And when it comes to opening a restaurant, like they say, take all of your planned costs and double them. Knowing that, I wanted to play it safe so went with at least some financing on the property itself. Rates are so low it isn't the end of the world, and just putting 30-50% down can go a long way in keeping precious cash available for operating costs while the monthly note is hardly a drop in the bucket. And you can always accelerate repayment, but at least you have the extra cash on hand in case business isn't as strong as projected.

All that being said, it sounds like you have a pretty good location. I don't even know if I can find a road in my entire county with 35,000 traffic count. But traffic isn't everything. I think you may be at a slight disadvantage by being a mobile trailer. People may be driving by looking for places to eat, but deciding to just pull into a small walk-up type place could be a leap of faith for many. That is, unless when they drive by they see 30 people in line and then they will be thinking, well wtf, why are so many people waiting? That must be some good food.

So, I think your biggest obstacle starting out will be getting people to stop at the place. If you're surrounded by chain places, that's good because it's a destination for people who are hungry, but it's a disadvantage because people will often opt for what's familiar rather than try something new.

That means I'd plan on having a good marketing campaign laid out and be prepared to spend some money up front getting the word out so that you can fill the parking lot, get passers by intrigued by the crowd, and then if the food is good word of mouth will begin to snowball. But I think going into it thinking that just because you're on a very busy road it means people will stop into a new, mobile, walk-up joint, could lead to some disappointment.

At any rate, it sounds like you're off to a good start. You aren't going into crazy debt to open a dream place and you've got a potentially great location. So, if you can make sure you have the capital to get the business off the ground and do what's needed to generate buzz about your place and put out great food, I think you'll be in good shape.
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Mr Tony's BBQ
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 23 13 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without going into my entire story, mine was a matter of sink or swim....I say go for it [ easy for me to say since its not my money] ! I just moved to an empty lot in a village of 1700 where I bring people in from miles around to my trailer because there is no other good Q available in the area! I used to be set-up in the town 2 miles outside of nowhere, which is where I built my name/reputation 2 days a week.
Q IS a destination food nowadays!! People will stop and then talk, locals to those traveling thru.
I do a lot of events on weekends so my 1 or 2 days a week in my little town is all they can keep me "busy" vs just being "open"...but again, I'm talking 1700 people town, not everybody can afford, nor likes BBQ Shocked
I'd lose the flash your lights as a "norm" unless you have a huge staff, people will use and abuse it giving you a bad name from day 1.....I have a few elderly and disabled individuals who started off simply beeping their horn because they couldnt make the walk or stand in line even on a nice day, and usually tip quite nicely for taking and delivering their order - but it may end up being a big hassle doing it for everybody as you start off!! Ask yourself, are you opening a car hop, or BBQ vending trailer?!
My last 2 days we were open it was right above freezing, 30+ mph winds with driving rain and ice pellets at times, all around miserable weather...I still moved almost a case of butts, a case of brisket and 2 cases of ribs each day....I do have a 20' awning on my trailer which is HUGE on these type days, and can park accordingly to block some of the weather etc. based on wind direction. I am confident I missed a few sales not being a brick and mortar...BUTT, we certainly did ok Wink
Nice part with having the trailer is - you can move if it doesnt work as well as hoped a day or 3 a week, still do festivals etc, and in the event it all really works out well - you put up your brick and mortar and STILL have trailer for festivals, promotional events, big catering gigs etc.
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Harry Nutczak
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 23 13 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only Issue that I see is if you are offering any seating outside of your trailer. There may be some rules that your health department or zoning official may try to misapply if you do not have any restrooms.

You'll also need to watch your ADA compliance.

We have a hot-dog/Italian Beef place by me that did exactly what you plan to do, they have been there 8 years now and open all year except for our spring melt when the area is deserted .

And here is what our crack (smoking) county zoning liaison told them;
"You cannot have any seating whatsoever, because you do not have ADA compliant restrooms, although you can have tables for people to eat at, you just cannot have seating"

SO, before dropping money, make sure you can meet the current zoning requirements in your county/town
I bet if you put down a foundation, set the trailer on that foundation, your problems will become less annoying. Or, you could put pads down, jack the trailer levelers to raise the wheels, skirt the wheels so they are not seen, and still have a very mobile unit if the need arises.
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 23 13 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THANKS FOR ALL GREAT ADVICE / INPUT! That's what's always so cool about this site!

I tried to respond, but in learning to post here, somehow it all got zapped out into cyber-space, disappeared %$#&@%! Mad Smile Not sure if it timed out, or what ...

Try it again tonight, another question or two, but really helpful!
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qfanatic01
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 24 13 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off, if you take too long drafting your post back up a page and re-sign in and then go back forward and continue. Nothin worse than spending a half hour drafting a response and loosing it.

Sounds like you picked a good sight for your place. Can you expand to brick and mortar if this flys? BBQ is a destination cuisine, but having a good local customer base is how you are going to survive long enough to get people talking and bring folks from outside your zone. I think the best example of success on the ring doing what you want to do is Shot Gun Pete's. Follow his model and hopefully enjoy his success. You may end up going with brick and mortar at another location using it as your support facility for this spot. I think if you ask Phil, his first spot didn't give him much more space than a days sales. Meaning you will be running around everyday to restock. This can ware on you. We just finished expanding and I'll tell you it sure is nice cutting shopping time in half and not running around because I couldn't fit enough stuff in my cooler for one delivery and I couldn't make the minimum for two. Unless your crazy lucky, you will have to get your supplies from multiple sources in order to get what you want and get the best pricing. Welcome to the ring.
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porkbelly



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 24 13 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marubozo, awesome on your new 'raunt, would like to follow along on that, good luck with your opening. All of your posts helpful, confirming my confidence, all sound advice / questions, thanks! Mr. Tony good confirmation on walk-up's / crappy weather, and while fortunate to have fair amt of capital for operating costs, going to explore using low int rates to keep cash in pocket, reduce / eliiminate larger cash outlay up front on lot / trailer, would make me more comfortable. And will check out Shot Gun Pete’s, sounds like what I’m doing.

One thing I forgot to mention, 8.5'X40' trailer is going to be permanently mounted on a pad on the ground, will have mft'd without wheels or axles, delivered on a flat bed, fork-lift or crane in place. Kind of sucks cause that'll be several $1,000 just for that, but Planning / county I'm in, they won't allow "mobile", can’t have wheels, won’t allow skirt, even on your own lot, giving me a real hard time about that. They way I’m looking to do it, it’s no different than a pre-fabbed building, fully pre-fabbed commercial kitchen. I'll then do a walk-in refridge off back of trailer, trailer mft'd with doorway, and cooker buttoned up to back wall, also mft'd with hole access. Had planned to have ADA compliant uni-sex single bathroom directly behind trailer, foot or two away, separate, and already have one handicapped parking spot.

I know trailer may / will limit me on large(r) catering’s, but that’s why I’m going for largest trailer I can, for space, whether I use it all at 1st or not. I know how it goes, you get 30’, well, then you’ll be wishin’ you had 40, and it ain’t that much more expensive overall.

Main idea once opened to draw people in, of course put a smoker by the road, few butts, get ‘em wid da smell ‘n smoke. That should help pull in traffic, and pull traffic from McDonald’s. Then, the food’s just gotta be awesome.

Any other suggestions ? Bikini models by the road ? Laughing
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qfanatic01
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 24 13 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To bad you couldn't just set up a food truck depot and have several spots to rent besides your own.
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Geronimo
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 24 13 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

porkbelly wrote:

Any other suggestions ? Bikini models by the road ? Laughing


Laughing Laughing Funny you should mention that...I owned a convenience store with gas pumps in Ore back in the 80's. In Oregon it is against the law to pump your own gas.. Shocked

Well I had a competitor (small store like mine) directly across the street from me with gas also. We got into a "gas war" with our prices which means neither of us wins. Twisted Evil Twisted Evil

Finally to help draw customers to MY side of the road, I hired this 18 year old tanned, solid bodied, blonde bombshell of a girl to pump gas for me...cars were LINED up to get gas Wink Laughing

Of course it didn't last long as he wound up doing the same dang thing to even the playing field.. Twisted Evil

I guess you COULD do as they are doing in WA state with some coffee shops (think they were the first) to hire young bikini clad beauties to work the drive up. Wink Laughing Laughing

I KNOW McDonald's don't have any of those!!! Shocked Laughing Laughing
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 24 13 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL I'd a been comin' to your station !!!, in that line too, just looking to top off the tank a lot more! Pretty cool you did that, worked so good. Guess the other guy wusn't no dummy, 'n copied.

Swear, worked with a guy years ago, he lived in NC, and there was a topless car wash Very Happy outside a small town. He'd go, just sit back and take in the view. He loved talkin' ' bout it.

And I'm not so sure what they got working at McDonald's sometimes, behind the counter, or the window ... Shocked
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Jarhead
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 25 13 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geronimo wrote:
Finally to help draw customers to MY side of the road, I hired this 18 year old tanned, solid bodied, blonde bombshell of a girl to pump gas for me...cars were LINED up to get gas Wink Laughing

Pics, or it didn't happen. Shocked Laughing Twisted Evil
porkbelly wrote:
Swear, worked with a guy years ago, he lived in NC, and there was a topless car wash Very Happy outside a small town. He'd go, just sit back and take in the view. He loved talkin' ' bout it.

I'd be in for a carwash every day. Rain or shine. Laughing
Now that would go over good, here in the "Bible Belt" Shocked
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 25 13 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If he took pics, he probly just sat right there in the car 'n took 'em ... dat's what I'd do! Laughing

Got a buddy, he's all about if I can get this thing open, hire young hotties to work the window. Hooter's in a grounded trailer ... Very Happy
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Bbq Bubba
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 27 13 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Im curious how your getting around all the standard issues of having a raunt?
Sewer and water? Grease containment? Bathrooms?
Why make a mobile unit that will limit your future expansion?
What your planning would never be allowed in most areas of the country.
Taking 30% biz from McD's doubtful. People go there cause its cheap and fast.
Thats a pretty HUGE overhead to have for a biz that may only bring you in a grand a day.
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29 13 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bbq Bubba, good reality questions. The lot is small, .25 acre, and as such has limited uses, but again, already paved, lined with about 25 parking spaces, great ingress / egress. Was a building on it previously, no longer there. Had originally contemplated build on prior footprint (could likely do 2,000 sq. ft. max), but to be safest, least amt $$$ outlay to get a place, good high-traffic location, get started, large trailer grounded I think best financial way. Just need to have a great location, get started, build my reputation. At some point, once I see how cashflow is, I could do build then, but know that would then halt any existing biz for months, to then start over at re-open. Could always leave 1st place as is, then look for 2nd location, build.

Water / sewer, since building existed previously, lines already exist in the dirt at pad site, luckily county has approved use of existing lines, just would need to hook up to trailer.

Grease containment, gonna have to use box on the floor. I know a nasty job to clean out, but one thing that just is what it is. Maybe if clean out once a week, not too bad. ??? Sure better than once a month.

Bathroom. Plan is I’ll build a single detached ADA compliant uni-sex. County has approved line.

Now the tough part. You’re right, county ain’t crazy about grounded trailer idea, even though they’ve already approved poor looking ‘raunt things in one / two other areas. One was a stick build, but looks exactly like a trailer, walk-up, pretty crappy looking, in a nicer upscale area. But what I’m looking to do, will NOT look crappy, will do to look nice, build brick paver patio, covered country looking porch, etc. Actually have meeting with them soon, to find out if I’ll get approval, or not. Had thought sounded positive, but not a slam-dunk at this moment. Based on Planning requests, I had to get an Engineer, for initial drawings, and he’ll be at the meeting, going to largely let him run that show.

County will make me install fire hydrant, storm drain, a few pole lights, and grease monitoring manhole. But all building permit fees will be waived by County, as lot is in an Enterprise Development Zone, incentives. Saves me some $$$.

My thought about McDonald’s, 30% guess, ultimately have no true idea, but it’s a crazy busy road. The corridor needs good BBQ. My thought, people rolling in for lunch, where they got a few minutes, instead of same ole McD junk, they’d rather opt to take a few minutes, have a good Q sandwich, great side, something made from scratch, or grab it to go. Ultimately, I have no idea how much biz I might get from being next to them, but combined with 35,000 other cars per day, I think it sounds like good variables for a successful place, to get started. And within 5 – 8 minutes, a lot of businesses, some large newer subdivisions, and 4 – 5 hotels, another 2nd new shopping center being built 5 minutes away.

As much as I hate working real estate, and want / need to make a change, at my age, if I end up with a Qjoint, at least being able to pay my bills, make a decent living, something I love to do next 20+ years, I’d be happy with that. And if it rolls, even better.
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Harry Nutczak
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PostPosted: Thu May 02 13 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For your zoning/planning commission meetings.

"IT IS NOT A TRAILER"
It is a "Manufactured Building" that is delivered on rolling stock!

When talking to these goobers, channel your inner "Johnnie Cochrane" and be very careful of what or how you say things to the powers that be.

Don't be a dick, just choose your words very wisely, have them cite specific regulations, and be firm in your objections to their interpretation of said regulations. More times than not, the person they put in charge of the code book, doesn't even know the laws they are supposed to be dealing with.
(read my curing HACCP thread for a clue)

Sadly, most local governments seem to be very hostile towards new business.

A few years backm I had to endure a "Conditional Use Permit" process that took 6 months to get through. I had retreads there saying I should be forced to use an "Air Scrubber" or disperse a "Scent Masking Agent" along with 3 full 8.5" x 14" sheets of paper listing many other idiotic requirements.
I just moved out of that city/county due to their overburdensome regulations towards any business that is not "Tourist Based" , and they are even worse for business that does cater to the tourists!!

It would have been just as easy to open a nudie bar with an indoor rifle range that sells pornography and stolen firearms across the street from a grade school!
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marubozo
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PostPosted: Thu May 02 13 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry Nutczak wrote:


When talking to these goobers, channel your inner "Johnnie Cochrane" and be very careful of what or how you say things to the powers that be.


This x100!

I learned this the hard way.
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Fri May 03 13 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="marubozo"]
Harry Nutczak wrote:


It would have been just as easy to open a nudie bar with an indoor rifle range that sells pornography and stolen firearms across the street from a grade school!


L'dMAO! That was awesome, pretty damn funny, but too bad that kind of stuff largely true. My initial mistake was saying it was a "permanently grounded trailer" (only said once, very 1st time, but seed was planted). Had been trying ever since to over come that, been saying same as you said, that's it's a "pre-fabbed building". Good news is, had meeting today, and got it approved, they don't have any problem with it now. Had my Engineer at the meeting, basically let him do most of the talking. Sucks you have to waste $$$ on hiring an Engineer just to try and get something started, but he's been money well spent so far, helped me get and got me through the meeting. At least I got my "structure" approved. Now I can actually look to move forward with gettin’ this thing going.
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daddywoofdawg
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PostPosted: Fri May 03 13 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would check to see if you can even get a permit.Mickey d's may throw a fit at the city council stopping you from setting up.they do that around my parts all the time.
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porkbelly



Joined: 23 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Fri May 03 13 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good heads up, I'll check more into that today, see what kind of trouble they may be able to make. Since not a rezoning, I would think there's nothing they could do, as long as Planning has approved, and I meet all requirements.
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jbrodgers



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28 13 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been following this thread with anticipation... Please give us all an update on how things are progressing.
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