School House BBQ: To Be Or Not To Be

BBQ RibsRecently, a friend of mine asked me about turning a piece of property he has into a restaurant. To be clear, he doesn’t have a passion for foodservice per se, he is a successful operator of several assisted living facilities. The property he owns was purchased with the ambition of opening a new assisted living facility. He sees this endeavor as a “fun” investment. I thought I would comment on the thought process people go through as they look into opening a restaurant. In this case, the plan is to open a tap house and restaurant.

The property in question is a school house that is 106 years old. It sits on 2.5 acres in a well-populated midwest suburb near a major city. The first step was to take the idea to the city to see if they would support changing the use of the property from assisted living to a foodservice establishment. Not only was the city enthusiastic about the idea, they sent my friend to look at a tap house in a nearby large city. They said, “If you can do something like this, we’ll be your best customer!” With that hurdle cleared, now the real work could begin!

I met my friend at the tap house that the city had suggested, hard word indeed! We had a couple of beers and looked at things that were good and not so good. The good was the facility itself. There was a large patio with the obligatory hanging christmas-type lights, a semi-enclosed area and an indoor section. The tables were essentially picnic tables in a family-style setting. Orders were walk-up for both beer and food. One window for beer, one window for food. Drinks were handed to you at the time of purchase, food orders were taken at the window, and you received a pager to notify you when your order was ready to be picked up.

We really liked the site layout with three seating areas. Patios are an inexpensive way to generate revenue. Because that space is not a “conditioned space”, the property’s taxable value is not affected. The semi-enclosed area is a great flex-space. The midwest has some very moderate weather that is conducive to outdoor eating. Having the tent-style walls and heaters allows for flexibility to accommodate the weather and still have useable seating. The enclosed main space is a perfect spot to center the operations on the kitchen and bar. It also allows for comfortable, conditioned seating in any weather.

After seeing the design, we started to talk about what kind of restaurant he envisioned opening. What should be served and how should it be delivered? That will start to formulate what kind of investment will be required in order to make this happen. In talking, we both had the same idea: BBQ! The schoolhouse is located in a BBQ wasteland. Burgers, American, Mexican, Indian and Asian food categories are all well represented, but the one niche that has yet to be carved out is BBQ.

To me, there are several nice things about a BBQ restaurant from a cost perspective. First, there is a relatively low aesthetic bar to meet. BBQ is served from gas stations and hole-in-the-wall locations all over the place. Just as I wouldn’t order a $100 steak from a food truck (maybe I’m missing out?), I wouldn’t buy BBQ from a place that has a Morton’s Steakhouse feel. The aesthetic wouldn’t fit. The more laid-back aesthetic can offer major cost savings in comparison to more upscale facilities.

From a kitchen design standpoint, you can save as well. BBQ pits are cheaper than most types of equipment and can prepare hundreds of pounds of meat at a time. With that said, in crowded metro areas, the neighborhood can be frustrated by the fire smoke 24-7. An alternative is electric or gas powered smokers. Though more expensive, they are relatively cheap to operate and maintain.

Once pulled off the smoker, the meat would be cut at order, reducing the equipment needed to hold the product. Steam tables and refrigerated make tables are still needed for sides, but the selection of sides are smaller than in most restaurants. To me, the side staples of BBQ are coleslaw, potato salad and pinto beans. You can have a more diverse offering, but most will tell you these are the must-haves.

  • Potato salad requires a way to cook the potatoes, a way to chop the potatoes and a way to mix the potatoes into the salad. Depending on the style, immersion blenders or food processors may be needed as well.
  • Coleslaw requires a mixer with a chopping attachment, a food processor or a good old-fashioned knife to prepare. It can be served out of the refrigerated make table.
  • Beans require something as simple as a stock pot or something like as a steam-jacketed kettle. They can be served out of a hot food table on the serving line.

Beyond cost, BBQ has another advantage: It’s ready when the customer places their order. You assemble a BBQ plate rather than prepare the food while the customer waits. If you run out of a particular item, customers are likely to return and get it next time since it was so popular that it sold out. All positives.

Our experience at the tap house the city suggested was a bad experience on the food side. The food was very slow to come out. We checked twice on the order and was told it wasn’t up yet. On the third try, they said they food had been ready for 20 minutes. We explained that the pager didn’t go off and they offered to remake the order. When it was finally ready, it was missing one item that had to be prepared again. It was frustrating. With BBQ, you know what you’re getting. If they’re out of an item, you know it when you order. No surprises.

When we left tap house to let things marinate mentally about next steps, I suggested my friend go to dinner with some people that think opening a restaurant as an investment would unthinkable.He could use that dinner to test his thinking and resolve. If after that, he still wanted to do it, we would meet again to start looking at the schoolhouse property and start thinking about what it would take financially to turn the facility into a BBQ establishment. As we move forward, I’ll update this blog and detail what happens next.

To be continued…

Tags: BBQ restaurant, opening a new restaurant, restaurant equipment, restaurant industry

View ShortOrder's Product Lines

Luxor
Luxor
Nemco
Nemco
Vulcan
Vulcan Ranges
Scotsman
Scotsman Ice Machines

Low Price Guarantee

ShortOrder.com is committed to being the low price leader. Not only will we meet, but we'll beat any legitimate advertised price from a competing food service equipment dealer for any item in our inventory. We will gladly refund 110% of the difference on an identical item from another dealer (including all freight charges.) Contact us at 800-211-0282 if you feel you have located an item that is priced lower than ShortOrder.com.

We beat any price

PRODUCT CATEGORIES

Reach In Refrigeration

Reach In Refrigeration

Standard Top Sandwich Prep Refrigeration

Standard Top Sandwich Prep Refrigeration

Mega Top Sandwich Prep Refrigeration

Mega Top Sandwich Prep Refrigeration

Pizza Prep Tables and Stations

Pizza Prep Tables and Stations

Undercounter Refrigeration

Undercounter Refrigeration

Walk-In Coolers

Walk-In Coolers

Walk-In Freezers

Walk-In Freezers

Worktop Refrigeration

Worktop Refrigeration

Chef Base Refrigeration

Chef Base Refrigeration

Display Refrigeration

Display Refrigeration

Ice Cream Freezers and Spot Freezers

Ice Cream Freezers and Spot Freezers

Milk Coolers

Milk Coolers

Drop-In Cold Food Unit

Drop-In Cold Food Unit

Ice Cream Dipping Cabinets

Ice Cream Dipping Cabinets

Whip Cream Dispensers

Whip Cream Dispensers

Batch Freezers

Batch Freezers

Soft Serve Machines

Soft Serve Machines

Ranges

Ranges

Ovens

Ovens

Fryers

Fryers

Fryer Filters

Fryer Filters

Char Broilers

Char Broilers

Griddles

Griddles

Commercial Microwave Ovens

Commercial Microwave Ovens

Hot Plates

Hot Plates

Sandwich Grills

Sandwich Grills

Stock Pot Ranges

Stock Pot Ranges

Commercial Toasters

Commercial Toasters

Commercial Steamers

Commercial Steamers

Fry Dump Stations

Fry Dump Stations

Cheese Melters

Cheese Melters

Braising Pans

Braising Pans

Warmers

Warmers

Salamanders

Salamanders

Combiwave Ovens

Combiwave Ovens

Hot Dog Cookers

Hot Dog Cookers

Slicers

Slicers

Mixers

Mixers

Work Tables

Work Tables

Open Base Work Tables

Open Base Work Tables

Cabinet Base Work Tables

Cabinet Base Work Tables

Equipment Stands

Equipment Stands

Blenders

Blenders

Food Processors

Food Processors

Meat Grinders and Food Grinders

Meat Grinders and Food Grinders

Meat Saws

Meat Saws

Food Cutters

Food Cutters

Pizza Cut & Pack Tables

Pizza Cut & Pack Tables

Ingredient Bins

Ingredient Bins

Dish/ Compartment Sinks

Dish/ Compartment Sinks

Hand Sinks

Hand Sinks

Dish Machines

Dish Machines

Glass Washers

Glass Washers

Garbage Disposals

Garbage Disposals

Mop Sinks

Mop Sinks

Coffee Service

Coffee Service

Hot Beverage Dispenser

Hot Beverage Dispenser

Espresso Machines

Espresso Machines

Frozen Drink Dispenser

Frozen Drink Dispenser

Tea Service

Tea Service

Juice Dispensers

Juice Dispensers

Hot Food Tables

Hot Food Tables

Carving Station

Carving Station

Holding Cabinets

Holding Cabinets

Drop-In Food Wells

Drop-In Food Wells

Countertop Warmers

Countertop Warmers

Heat Lamps

Heat Lamps

Direct Draw Systems: Kegerators

Direct Draw Systems: Kegerators

Deep Well Bottle Coolers

Deep Well Bottle Coolers

Back Bar Storage

Back Bar Storage

Glass Chillers

Glass Chillers

Under Bar Equipment

Under Bar Equipment

Bar Sinks

Bar Sinks

Glass Washers

Glass Washers

Ice Bins and Cocktail Equipment

Ice Bins and Cocktail Equipment

Blenders

Blenders

Blender Stations

Blender Stations

Frozen Drink Dispenser

Frozen Drink Dispenser

Drainboard Glassracks

Drainboard Glassracks

Liquor Displays

Liquor Displays

Microwave Ovens

Microwave Ovens

Blenders

Blenders

Toasters

Toasters

Dry Storage Shelving Kits

Dry Storage Shelving Kits

Utility Carts

Utility Carts

Dunnage Rack

Dunnage Rack

Pan & Tray Racks

Pan & Tray Racks

Pass-Through Shelving

Pass-Through Shelving

Display Shelving

Display Shelving

Commercial restaurant security carts

Security Carts

Keg Racks

Keg Racks