Dream of starting a BBQ restaurant, but don’t have the funds to do it? Not a problem! There are plenty of food entrepreneurs that operate a business on weekends while still employed.
The good news is BBQ businesses is the ideal “side hustle.” These small businesses can be kicked off over a weekend with a small investment at first and then slowly nurtured into full-time gigs after few years of hard work. Who knows if you work hard enough you could be the next famous Dave or Diane! Here are some of the best business ideas I see working right now.
BBQ Smoking and Cooking Classes
According to Forbes magazine, 75% of all Americans own a grill or smoker. If that statistic is accurate it means there are over 245,000 million people in the United States alone with access to a grill in their backyards right now. This means the market for people that want to learn how to improve their backyard grilling each day is large.
If you already have a passion for BBQ and understand the basics, you could start a cooking class on the subject. Don’t think that you need to be the best BBQ smoker on the planet to teach a course either. You only need to look back to your high school days as an example. Was your algebra teacher the most knowledgable in the world on that subject? Likely not. But the instructor was still able to explain the basics of multiplication and help you gain an understanding of the topic.
You can do the same by launching your own BBQ class too. The average person doesn’t need a master’s class in BBQ, although that’s certainly a course you could offer in the future. Most people just want to understand the basics of grilling and become the best smoker on the block. Offering introductory classes on the subject of “Smoking 101” or “Smoked Meats for Beginners” are subjects that will always be in style.
Related Reading: 67 Sticky Sweet Competition BBQ Team Names
Thanks to modern technology, you probably have everything you need to start a class for free right now. Thanks to free technology like Facebook Live and YouTube Live, you can literally host a class from anywhere and teach students around the world.
Don’t think that you need a well edited video series either. You can host a class just like you would in school while broadcasting the information through YouTube Live. This is what we do in our training course Food Truck Academy that guides students through the process of starting a food truck business. The class meets each week on YouTube Live for one hour classes held over eight weeks. Each week we cover a different topic essential to starting a mobile food business.
Collecting payments for the course is easy too. You can charge students by check or invoice them directly for the course using PayPal. You can learn how one entrepreneur organizes and charges for an online baking class in this audio lesson.
Social Media Influencer
Another no cost way to start a BBQ side business is to share your passion for smoking on social media. You’ve probably got a Facebook and Instagram account already so this is an easy way to get started.
Social media influencers usually make their money in a few different ways. One is by selling their own courses, which we covered earlier in the article. Another popular way social media gurus make money is through brand partnerships and sponsorships.
When you secure a brand sponsorship, a company pays you to share images, video, or a written blog post about featuring their product. Brand’s are willing to pay for this because they want to get their product in front of your online audience. As an example, you might share an image of your smoking brisket with a certain brand of grill. This can be a win-win for social media influencers as well as brands.
While it doesn’t cost anything to get started, it’s going to take some time for you to build a following on any social media account. If you decide to go this route, we recommend publishing on one social media platform like Instagram at first. Focusing on one account at first will help you avoid overwhelm and get to know a specific platform.
BBQ catering is always in demand for events like weddings, corporate lunches, or family gatherings. Getting started in catering is actually more affordable than you might think. A used BBQ trailer can be purchased for between $5,000 – $20,000 depending on the size and accessories. If you already own a truck to haul the trailer and can afford few coolers to store the meats then you’re in business.
Setting up your business as a cottage food business will be the easiest way to get started from a legal perspective. These laws allow you to sell a certain amount of food per year without the high-cost requirements of getting a commercial kitchen.
Many BBQ joints got their start catering for years on weekends before taking the plunge into owning a restaurant. This approach is an effective way to build name recognition locally and develop a steady stream of catering business. If this approach appeals to you, read our guide on starting a catering business out of your home.
Enter BBQ Contests
Each year there are thousands of BBQ contests held across the United States. Some of these are small and casual affairs for bragging rights between neighbors, while others are structured and highly competitive.
If you get really good at making consistent barbecue in a style that judges like then you could make money participating in BBQ competitions. It’s not uncommon for first place finishers in small competitions to bring home a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars for a one day competition.
While winning contests is an approach you can use to make some side money, it’s wildly inconsistent and could take you years to get your skill up to this level. Also, when you factor in the expenses associated with travel and registration fees it can cut into the profits. Unless you’re a grill master already, stick to catering for reliable income.
Roadside BBQ Stand
There’s a timeless quality of serving plates of ribs with corn bread from the side of a road. Before starting a road side stand, you’ll need to find out if you can legally setup shop there. Some areas allow vendors to serve food without being hassled while others especially within cities or urban areas will not allow this.
The ideal roadside vending locations share some common characteristics to look out for:
- High Traffic: There needs to be a steady stream of automobiles driving through the area especially during lunch and dinner time. If you setup your operations in the middle of a dirt road that’s rarely traveled, it’s unlikely you’ll generate much in terms of sales.
- Parking: To operate a road side stand you need to find a location where customers can pull over and park. It’s not always easy to find ideal places like this. Some ideas include areas next to carpool park parking lots. These are popular in California as an example and provide plenty of parking space for customers and are often located away from restaurants and other eating options.
- Signage: Look for places that allow you to setup bandit signs as driver’s approach your stand. Whenever possible you’ll want to notify drivers in advance that there’s a food stand nearby so they can prepare to pull over.
Believe it or not, people still buy cookbooks. While the number of physical books published every year has declined over the past 20 years, cookbooks actually experienced a resurgence in sales by 21%. Much of this is thanks to food bloggers coming out with companion cookbooks to sell and individuals giving them away as gifts or being utilized a coffee table books.
A search for BBQ books on Amazon yields more than 20 pages of results. You can find all sorts of niche books that help people master different aspects of grilling. There are guides published to help you discover new recipes, smoking tips, tailgating and even a barbecue journal so you can document the meals you’ve eaten.
Best of all there’s room for your unique spin on the concept too! Identify a gap and you could be the author to fill that tiny void in the market.
Rub, Spice or Sauce Business
Rubs, spices and sauces are all easy to make. Even secret BBQ sauce recipes are made with ingredients that you can easily find at a grocery store and bottle with a fancy looking label.
This type of commodity business is all about the marketing. One easy way to generate sales is by doing free taste tests at farmers markets or flea markets. Since these products are bottled and small they also work well to sell online through a simple e-commerce website. The product doesn’t spoil easily and is easy to ship across the United States making this a product that has the potential to expand beyond your area.
This business idea is also extremely complimentary and can be paired with social media or catering models described earlier. You can find a list of homemade barbecue sauce recipes here to help inspire your own blend.
BBQ Food Truck
Naturally, we had to include this on our list. BBQ food trucks are a proven business model that can work well in just about any area. These mobile BBQ’s can be started a lot more affordably than restaurants too. Generally speaking, you will need to invest around $50,000 – $75,000 for a reliable BBQ truck.
There are plenty of examples of people with full-time jobs that started food trucks I’ve personally interviewed for the podcast. It’s actually the perfect business to operate on weekends because that’s when all of the biggest events held. BBQ events, famers markets, concerts, fairs, and movies in the park are all held over the weekend.
I hope this piece has given you a few ideas on different BBQ businesses you could start. Which one do you think is the best fit for you? I’d love to find out in the comments below.