Pros and cons of setting up a BBQ catering business

BBQ catering is everywhere these days. From small family gatherings to international corporate events, summer weddings to large festivals, everyone loves freshly grilled food al fresco.

Catering companies are responding by wowing potential customers with an array of innovative, customisable menus that range from simple hand held barbecues to fully plated, premium options and hog roast menus. Some companies like to position themselves as both experts and enthusiasts:

“We love to barbecue! In fact, we pride ourselves on our barbecue catering knowhow. Where do you set up a barbecue to minimise smoke wafting across your guests? We know. How long does it take to serve 150 people a plated meal? No problem for us! We have a reputation going back years for our skill in setting up and serving delicious BBQ’s at almost any venue, weather conditions or time of day.” (Monster Foods)

So, could you do the same? Do you have what it takes to set up a food business in this competitive industry? Could you make your BBQ business sizzle? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

Market opportunity

Professional outdoor barbecues and bespoke hog roasts have been a huge trend for some years, for all kinds of private and commercial events. Customers like the lower cost and greater convenience of being able to feed large numbers of people without much fuss, while the informality of a BBQ makes a refreshing change from stuffy sit-down dinners. No wonder that barbecues and hog roasts are particularly popular catering options for modern wedding receptions.

Sensory experience

There’s great theatre in seeing food prepared in front of you – the sight of smoke wafting, the smell of grilled meat, the sound of sausages sizzling… it’s enough to make your mouth water and your taste buds tingle. In terms of sales and marketing, there couldn’t be a better way to draw customers to your stand, literally salivating and queuing up to buy your freshly cooked delicacies. It’s a huge advantage many other food services businesses simply don’t have.

Flexible food choices

As long as it comes under the umbrella of freshly grilled hot outdoor food, you have complete freedom to design whatever menu you choose, and tweak your offering whenever necessary. Whether you decide to try Asian Fusion, Vegan burgers or kangaroo burgers, add variety and spice with home made marinades and sauces, devising your ‘signature style’ dishes may well be what sets you apart from the competition.

Low start-up requirements

As a mobile barbeque or hog roast caterer, the upfront costs for setting up your business are comparatively low. A catering van, mobile kitchen, outdoor cooking equipment – grills, smokers, serving utensils – will be your main capital outlays. What’s more, you don’t even have to be a trained chef or have much culinary expertise other than the ability to cook meat on a barbecue or put a pig on a spit and ensure everything is fully cooked before serving up.

Dangers of food poisoning

One area where you cannot afford to take any risks whatsoever is with food hygiene. Undercooked meat can give your customers food poisoning, as can cross contamination between raw and cooked meat through lack of effective hand washing. Salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter are the main offenders causing stomach cramps, sickness, diarrhoea and worse. Training on food safety is key and there are clear government requirements you need to comply with.

Lots of competition

Since barbecuing isn’t that hard to learn and it’s got great business potential, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to find out that many people fancy having a go. Competition can be fierce, and in order to make your business stand out from the crowd, you will have to devise a profitable business model to make, an effective marketing strategy and seriously professionalise your delivery in order to set your BBQ catering apart from the amateurs barbecuers out there.

If you’ve taken on board all of the advice above and want to go ahead with your new business venture, it’s time to get real. Becoming a professional caterer comes with a whole list of legal requirements that you have to meet in order to be able to operate within the law. Crucially, you will also need a Street Trading Licence if you’re planning to trade anywhere other than at private events or on privately owned land.

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