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Advice for Newbies?!
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ExperiencedRookie
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Joined: 29 Nov 2012
Posts: 54
Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Wed Feb 20 13 10:57 am    Post subject: Advice for Newbies?! Reply with quote

Ringers,

I have wanted to open my own Q place for sometime now but havent been able to because of lack of funds but...I recently was given the opportunity to start managing/working at a BBQ place here in DFW that has been around for some time. The place has fallen on tough times and has been through 4 owners in the past 6 years. Apparently the original owners sold to employees who failed, who sold to employees who failed, who sold to employees who failed in making the place what it once was.

Here is where I come in. The owner bought the place in 6 months and just happened to run into my father in law who told him that I was a huge BBQ junkie and want to open my own place. I go to meet the guy and he offers me the job to manage/work for him.

Problem: the BBQ sucks. There are a million things on the menu none of which are very good. The sides are all pre-fab and the Q is smoked on a Oyler, which I have no experience with.

I came into this with both parties agreeing that we can work on the recipes and change what we need to make the place more profitable. The owner is a super nice guy and wants the place to really succeed but doesnt have a ton of restaurant experience.

I am signing on basically because it is similar opportunity to opening my own place without having to put up any $.

Am I crazy to be excited about this?

Do you experienced guys have any advice for someone like myself who is starting out in the management side of a BBQ place?

Any advice would be appreciated. I will try to post as much as I can now in the ring.

Thanks!
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SoEzzy
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Joined: 13 Oct 2006
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Location: SLC, UT

PostPosted: Wed Feb 20 13 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Start by simplifying the menu as much as is logical!

Learn the cooker work from the sales information if you have any available, see what sells, improve them with what you normally cook, (if your normal stuff tastes better).

Avoid cheap prepackaged stuff if you can make a better product from scratch and keep the costs at the same or lower... that's often the crazy thing, home made can be cost effective! But pay attention to the bottom line at all times!
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ExperiencedRookie
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Joined: 29 Nov 2012
Posts: 54
Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Wed Feb 20 13 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks!

The owner is still using the same menu as the previous owner and it is pretty large.

Meats: Brisket, Ribs (St. Louis), Turkey, Ham, Hot links, Sausage, and Bologna

Sides: Green beans, coleslaw, potato salad, mac and cheese, onion rings, french fries, fried pickles, fried okra, and corn nuggets.

Dessert: Cobbler, cream cheese cake, brownies, banana pudding*, ice cream and cookies

banana pudding is made fresh, as far as I know everything else is store bought including hot links and sausage

I would like to cut some if not most of this stuff out to be able to focus on the quality of our main items.

How many of yall make your sides fresh? (ie. coleslaw, potato salad, beans)
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Geronimo
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Joined: 29 Jul 2007
Posts: 2896
Location: Montgomery, Texas (and lovin' it)

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21 13 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a pretty "standard" menu at most Q places.

Besides making what you can from fresh ingredients, What would you change (add/delete) from the menu to make it more profitable?

Just so you know, not many places (very few in fact) make their own sausages in house. But hey, if you have the time and equipment, much better to do so I would think.
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ExperiencedRookie
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Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21 13 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not looking to turn the place upside down but as it stands the turkey, ham, and bologna are all standard deli meats that get a touch of smoke and really are not that great. I guess a lot of places have similar menus though. Overall I feel like we do a lot of items mediocre-ly when we could focus on fewer options and make them really special. Just my opinion.
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Paul L.
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Joined: 10 Feb 2011
Posts: 29
Location: STL

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21 13 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SoEzzy wrote:
Avoid cheap prepackaged stuff if you can make a better product from scratch and keep the costs at the same or lower... that's often the crazy thing, home made can be cost effective! But pay attention to the bottom line at all times!


I totally agree! Make as much as you can in house, to help differentiate from the other places in town that use the exact same premade sides, etc.

I don't think you should get rid of items, as much as you should work to improve them. For example, instead of a precooked deli turkey, buy a raw boneless turkey breast rub, smoke and then slice to order. It's unbelievable how many compliments I get on my turkey, when I don't think I'm doing anything special, other than cooking it fresh.
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Harry Nutczak
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21 13 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have an Oyler to cook in, That is a huge step in the right direction. As SoEzzy stated, "READ THE OPS MANUAL"
Oylers like fresh-cut wood, if you try to cook with seasoned wood, that beast will belch black smoke at you all day long!

Invest in a POS system, I suggest "Point of Success" for software. I have been using that software since august and love it. We are beta testing their latest version right now, and that is going to be released for sale very soon.

With a POS, you can track sales trends, and drop the slow-moving items by having verified sales to use as a gauge.

As per pre-fab and made in house. You need to look at quality and costs, just because a pre-fab may be more per-pound, does not mean it may be less expensive to make it in house. You have labor costs, yields, waste, theft, employee screw ups.

We are a small place, and a typical summer day may see me going through 60-80 pounds of coleslaw, or potato salad. Will you have the team and space for that kind of prep?And can they be consistent in doing it?

I feel it is better to have a consistent mediocre product than one that may sway from excellent to bad depending on who prepared it.

Oh, good luck.
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Grills Gone Wild
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Joined: 15 May 2010
Posts: 212
Location: Rockwall, Texas

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22 13 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There could be a VERY long list when you try to overhaul a retuarant and menu. Probably way more than can be put in here. If you want to discuss sometime at the place, just shoot me a PM.
What you need to do is find out what you can cook up the best that will sell in your location. That will start spreading the word on how good the Q is to drive traffic.
I would suggest, not even looking at the existing menu and think of it as if you were just opening the place up. Build your menu from there. Start off with a few items and when those are selling well and demand is for more, see if there is room.
There is also marketing gimmicks such as a "planned sell out of meat". I wouldn't suggest this until you get your menu set and a good following.
Your sides are key to getting the family clientele there. Most guys will eat whatever on the side and focus on the meat, but the wife and kids like having good sides to eat.
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daddywoofdawg
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Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Posts: 3892
Location: Starkweather,ND

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23 13 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Using bagged shredded coleslaw isn't a bad thing.You shred or a factory shreds it doesn't change the taste.then you come up with your own slaw dressing.
Beans a lot of people buy the #10 cans of bush's and then add there own stuff to it.Why buy raw beans,soak,cook and then you at the same place as a can.
You can have a local bucther or meat packing place make your sausage and baloney to your specs for about what you can buy.and it's your recipe.
Is there any sales figures for the last few years that my show what has been selling and what isn't?That's where you start on changing a menu.offer a free drink if they fill out a survey card.ask questions like what did you order,what don't you order and why.what have you had you didn't like.what about the wait staff?how was the service.what would you like to see on the menu.these folks are your customers,listen to what they want.and the price of a soda or coffee is cheap.
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Smoky Bro
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Joined: 22 Jan 2011
Posts: 161
Location: Shelburne, MA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24 13 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All good advice! I would trim down the menu to the more popular items, make it smaller but do it better. We have 4 meats & 4 sides and that's it, but we can focus on making them all good (and consistent!) every day.

Definitely agree with daddywoofdawg on jazzing up canned beans (doing that from scratch is way too labor intensive) but with the slaw, we started off using the bagged pre-shredded but switched over to fresh cut. It really depends how much you're going thru, but if you have the time/people to cut the cabbage (either by hand or with a robo-coupe) its WAY cheaper.

However you do it, good luck!
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ExperiencedRookie
Newbie


Joined: 29 Nov 2012
Posts: 54
Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25 13 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice guys. After a few days of work this looks like it will really be a challenge. A lot of the employees are hold overs from previous owners and are kind of set in the ways of doing things poorly.

This may be a question for another post but:

Do yall smoke your meats daily or if you do not sell out how long do you use the meats for? I am having trouble with re-using meats when we way over plan and then have to use brisket that has been hot held all day, refrigerated over night, and then re-heated the next day or two. I hate it and its really poor quality but I think my owner just doesnt really understand the importance of fresh smoked meats everyday. Idk more of a rant but I am really struggling with holding over the old meats. Any thoughts?
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BigOrson
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Joined: 02 Dec 2006
Posts: 2857
Location: Marietta, GA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25 13 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought that's why BBQ joints serve Brunswick stew or Burgoo. You can use the leftover meats to make those. Personally, I boil my ends and tips after they're smoked for that purpose.

How much leftover meat are you having on a daily basis? Seems like you'd want to cut back on the amount you're smoking on a daily basis if you're having that much left over. Product quality would improve and your costs would go down. Pretty much a win-win.
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ExperiencedRookie
Newbie


Joined: 29 Nov 2012
Posts: 54
Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BigOrson,

I have only been at this place a few days now so I am settling in and figuring out what they do. It does seem like we are currently smoking too much meat and I think that is because there is no tracking system currently of how much was sold for the past day/week/month so the owner is more or less guessing/hoping on the amounts to smoke.

I know a lot of places serve breakfast tacos and sandwiches. Could this be a smart way of re-using yesterdays brisket/PP?

I also talked to a guy who used leftover brisket/burnt ends in his pinto beans to make them meaty, any thoughts on this?
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Geronimo
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Joined: 29 Jul 2007
Posts: 2896
Location: Montgomery, Texas (and lovin' it)

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ExperiencedRookie wrote:


This may be a question for another post but:

Do yall smoke your meats daily or if you do not sell out how long do you use the meats for? I am having trouble with re-using meats when we way over plan and then have to use brisket that has been hot held all day, refrigerated over night, and then re-heated the next day or two. I hate it and its really poor quality but I think my owner just doesnt really understand the importance of fresh smoked meats everyday. Idk more of a rant but I am really struggling with holding over the old meats. Any thoughts?


Make a BBQ Hash with leftover meats (not to be confused with corned beef hash) and serve it over rice...can sell it for around $5 a plate.

And/or chili, stew or a number of different soups all made with leftovers.

You could have a "special of the day" featuring what was made with leftovers from the previous day....if any.
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Last edited by Geronimo on Tue Feb 26 13 1:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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BigOrson
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Joined: 02 Dec 2006
Posts: 2857
Location: Marietta, GA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would think any dish where you could use leftover PP/brisket would go a long way to improving your bottom line. Hashes, parfaits, beans, stews, tacos would all be good ways to use it up.

You definitely need a tracking system and for a whole year to give yourself an idea of what demand is. If you can break it down to even an hourly sales total, it will help you run your operation by anticipating how much you need at a specific time. I don't know what kind of POS system you are using, but if it is more sophisticated than a cash register, I'd bet you can either buy or have written for you software that can extract the data for you.
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Geronimo
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Joined: 29 Jul 2007
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Location: Montgomery, Texas (and lovin' it)

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you added soups, stews or something else made out of previous days leftovers, you could maybe up the price of your sandwiches to INCLUDE a "cup" of that item.

Kind of like a deli that sells a "soup and sandwich".
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ExperiencedRookie
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Joined: 29 Nov 2012
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Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Issue #1
We are working off just an old fashioned cash register. No POS.

As someone who has only worked in rants with POS I dont understand how they keep track of anything. But I think that is why we smoke too much meat and are pretty unorganized in general.
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Harry Nutczak
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Joined: 01 Mar 2007
Posts: 8558
Location: The Northwoods

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BigOrson wrote:
I would think any dish where you could use leftover PP/brisket would go a long way to improving your bottom line. Hashes, parfaits, beans, stews, tacos would all be good ways to use it up.

You definitely need a tracking system and for a whole year to give yourself an idea of what demand is. If you can break it down to even an hourly sales total, it will help you run your operation by anticipating how much you need at a specific time. I don't know what kind of POS system you are using, but if it is more sophisticated than a cash register, I'd bet you can either buy or have written for you software that can extract the data for you.


Agreeing with Orson on this.

There is only so much a guy can do with leftovers, the best way is to try and track the sales.

We implemented a POS system in Late August 2012, I wish I would have had it from the start. The reports I am able to effortlessly generate from the system is spectacular.
My next addition to the system is a caller-ID interface with mapping integration to get an idea of where my call-ins are coming from. I have already added a UPC scanner to track my bottled drinks, and an integrated scale is coming in soon to keep a better handle on our cured/smoked products.

I was able to get a POS system up with new computer, 3 printers, and software for under $1K using "Point Of Success" software, an HP mid-towers, and printers from Star Micronics. (2 impact, 1 Thermal 2-color)

Reports show me product usage, real time labor and food cost ratios, hourly sales, weekly, monthly, It is spectacular.

So to get things in control, you need tracking of purchases and sales to make sure things are not walking out the door on their own.
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daddywoofdawg
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Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Posts: 3892
Location: Starkweather,ND

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since you bought it and the place wasn't doing to good,I bet they have no idea of there costs,what sells,what days what items sell better,or whats in the walk-in.
My first expanse would be buy,rent,acquire a POS.yes people run places all the time with a cash register or even a cash box.A pos isn't going to make you successful but you stand a lot better chance if you know what your costs are,how much is thrown away,how much stock you have on hand,and how much is walking out the back door.
That being said how are you keeping track now? How were they keeping track?If until you get a POS have the order taker write down the orders on guest checks.then at the end of the night count how many pp sandwiches you sold,etc.Not perfect but it gives you an idea of how much to cook.sold out isn't a bad thing.There are alot of places that open two three times a week sell out by 1:00 and there closed and you missed out.
Employees:If they aren't making you money Thru work or sales,they don't need to be there.You can't afford to be welfare.Talk with your employees find out what they know about when it's busy,when it's dead.why is it dead.what do the customers say to them.
Also watch resturant impossiale.There is alot of makes you think about your operation and how you can improve.
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ExperiencedRookie
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Joined: 29 Nov 2012
Posts: 54
Location: Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26 13 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

daddywoofdawg wrote:
Since you bought it and the place wasn't doing to good,I bet they have no idea of there costs,what sells,what days what items sell better,or whats in the walk-in.
My first expanse would be buy,rent,acquire a POS.yes people run places all the time with a cash register or even a cash box.A pos isn't going to make you successful but you stand a lot better chance if you know what your costs are,how much is thrown away,how much stock you have on hand,and how much is walking out the back door.
That being said how are you keeping track now? How were they keeping track?If until you get a POS have the order taker write down the orders on guest checks.then at the end of the night count how many pp sandwiches you sold,etc.Not perfect but it gives you an idea of how much to cook.sold out isn't a bad thing.There are alot of places that open two three times a week sell out by 1:00 and there closed and you missed out.
Employees:If they aren't making you money Thru work or sales,they don't need to be there.You can't afford to be welfare.Talk with your employees find out what they know about when it's busy,when it's dead.why is it dead.what do the customers say to them.
Also watch resturant impossiale.There is alot of makes you think about your operation and how you can improve.


Just FYI, I am not the owner but starting on as a Manager at this place. I met the owner through my father in law and the owner convinced me to work for him. He has only owned the place for 6 months but from what I can tell hasnt really changed anything.

We desperately need to implement some type of tracking system. Your idea of hand writing to keep track will most likely have to do for now. The owner said he inquired about a POS and they told him it would be $10k so he said no. I will start looking into cheaper systems like the one Harry brought up.

Referring to employees, the owner told me a lot of them have been with us for 5-10 years and many are stuck in their ways. The first night I was there we were dead, had a few people come in and eat around 5 and then once they left the two employees sat down in the dining area and started watching TV!!! This blew my mind. While the owner is standing next to me and they just plopped down and started watching TV. He mentioned at the time that that is an issue he needs to bring up but I think he was worried of a mutiny before I got there since all the employees are seemingly hold overs from previous owners. I couldnt agree with your statement anymore though. An old boss of mine said, "If you can lean, you can clean"
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