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June 9, 2017 Staff

How Much Does a BBQ Concession Business Cost to Start?

For the purposes of this particular blog post we will be focusing on the costs to start a BBQ concession, catering, or vending business using a mobile unit like a trailer or truck. At M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks one of our specialties is manufacturing BBQ trailers, trucks, and smokers built to our customers needs and desires. Not only do we understand the cost to operate this type of business, but understand the different goals people have when investing in a BBQ trailer. Some of our customers like Wade, an active service member of the United States military, invested in a trailer to start a catering business on weekends and participate in a few competitive events each year. Others like Smokin’ Bull Shack (shown in the video bel0w) purchased a full-fledged 22 foot trailer to be able to serve smoked meats at the largest events and travel across the state to major events. We’ve included videos of both these examples inside this post.

rib customer

Another satisfied customer.

The Biggest Investment

The largest one-time investment you’ll make in your BBQ business is with equipment. If you purchase a well-built machine that meets your current needs and offers you some room to grow this equipment could serve you well for decades. If you purchase something the is low-quality or hasn’t been maintained, it can become extremely frustrating. The good news is that if you already own a reliable vehicle to pull a trailer, you can get a structurally sound smoker trailer at a price regular folks can afford.

Small Trailer – If you’re on a budget and want to start small, the Model NS 60 SWT  is a great option at $3,550. The trailer boasts sliding shelves that can be pulled out of the trailer for cleaning or serving and a warmer box that can serve as a cooker box as well. Check the link for full specs on this trailer. If you want to go a little bit larger, the Model NS 70 SWT gives you even more cooking space for a slight bump in cost $3,750. Both of these trailers have everything you need to get started with catering gigs, participating in BBQ competitions or serving at events. If you want some different add-ons like a roof or 3-compartment sink for health code requirements those can be easily added on to your unit. With a total investment of under $5,000 to purchase your most expensive piece of equipment is not a bad way to start a business and allows you to quickly get to profitability or start the business in your spare-time on the weekends.

Large Trailer / Truck – Ready to go a bit more aggressive? Have you already been running a successful catering business for a number of years, but want to make a step up and get into some of the bigger events in your area.

Depending on what equipment and features you would like installed on the vehicle a BBQ truck will cost between $50,000 -$100,000 all in. You can purchase full-equipment BBQ trailer for under $50,000. Why so much less expensive? You don’t have an engine and a mode of transportation built in. If you already own a reliable truck you can cut your start up costs significantly. In the event your truck breaks down, you can get a loaner through a local Lowe’s or Home Depot for under $50 bucks a day so you won’t miss out on any lucrative events.

Licensing Costs and Insurance

Each of these costs is variable and will depend on where you live.

Permits: Every city, county, and state will have different rules of the road so to speak for your BBQ business. We won’t get into an exhaustive list here, but a safe bet is that you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 – $500 annually to get all the appropriate inspections for your BBQ business. If you happen to live in a major metropolitan area such as New York City these fee’s could balloon into the thousands of dollars per year.

Business Entity: If you’re just starting out starting your business as a “cottage food” business can be an affordable way to goal. In a nutshell, the cottage food laws were put in place over the past 10 years to loosen the prohibitive food laws that were a challenge for small food businesses to overcome. There annual income sales limits of $54,000 with this business entity so as you grow you will need to consider transitioning the business to an LLC.

Insurance: This is another cost that will vary depending on your location. Noticing a trend in this section? Using back of the napkin math you should budget around $1,000 – $3,000 annually for this.

Supplies and Recurring Monthly Costs

Although every business is different. Here are a few typical monthly expenses you can use as a guide. We hope this article has helped to make you aware of the different costs associated with starting up your very own concession business.

Commissary $0 – $1,200
Phone / Internet $75
Fuel $200
Point-of-Sale Software $20
Emergency Expenses / Other $200
Food (Meats, Seasoning, Breads) / Beverage Restock Depends on sales.
Napkins, Paper Plates, Plastic Forks and Spoons $100 – $300

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