The Business of BBQ

Ever wonder if you’ve got what it takes to venture out on your own and start your own BBQ catering or restaurant business?  I know I have, and I do.  I mean, who among us hasn’t walked away from a BBQ joint thinking, “My BBQ is at least that good”.  Do you get stoked when friends and family lavish compliments on you and your BBQ and tell you that you should go into the restaurant business?  I’m guilty on this one too.

If you answered either of the above questions in the affirmative, then a great place for you to start is with OnCue Consulting’s Business of Barbecue.  OnCue is the hospitality consulting service from 17th Street Barbecue.  Amy & Mike Mills are the father daughter combination and driving force behind the venture.  They operate BBQ restaurants, catering, and vending operations every day and have a wealth of knowledge in what it takes to be successful.

In December,  my wife spotted their ad for the 2-day “Business of Barbecue” seminar in the KCBS newsletter The Bullsheet.  She contacted Amy and the two conspired to enroll me in the January class as a Christmas Gift.  So last week I made the trek to Murphysboro, IL, and along with 19 other folks who share a BBQ dream, I got a first hand look at the operation and a ton of information to think about.

We met on Sunday night at the Marion, IL location of 17th Street Barbecue for a welcome reception.  That’s where I got my first look at the kitchen operations for a BBQ restaurant.  We got a personal tour from Amy, then a nice reception with drinks and appetizers.

Mike Mills at the Ole Hickory pit named Black BettyMonday morning we arrived at the banquet facilities at 17th Street’s restaurant & catering operations in Murphysboro, IL.  We kicked off the day with more eats, while Amy laid out the agenda for the next 2 days.  We each introduced ourselves to the rest of the class and I began to realize that I’m not the only one who has dreams that they aren’t quite yet ready to reach for.  There were a number of folks in the class who were in the process of opening a BBQ business (restaurant, catering, or vending), but there were also a good number of folks who were there to satisfy there own curiosities.  To their credit, it didn’t matter to Mike & Amy where you are in the process; they shared their insight and experience equally.

We split into 2 groups, ribs & chicken.  Mike took a group into the catering kitchen and we spent some time learning about preparing and cooking ribs for the restaurant.  The other group teamed up with one of my Mike’s very capable pitmasters to do the same with chicken.  On Wednesday, the groups reversed and did the same.

Amy Mills with Braddog

Later on Tuesday, we wrapped up the marketing & PR piece of the seminar and then spent time as a whole class working on butts & brisket for the next day.  At the end of the day, we had another great meal and had the opportunity to network with our classmates.

Wednesday, we covered vending and catering until it was time for the butts & brisket to come off the cooker.  We enjoyed the butts & brisket for lunch, then wrapped up our second day with a discussion on pricing, a trip to the company store, and both individual and group photos with Mike Mills.

Overall, it was a great experience and one that I’d highly recommend.  Mike, Amy, and their capable staff were great hosts.  I came away energized and ready to put a few cooking techniques into practice.  I also came away with a whole new perspective on the business of barbecue.  Am I ready to run out and open a restaurant?  No, but I have satisfied many of my curiosities and I know where to turn for help when I am ready to chase my BBQ dream.

OnCue consulting can be reached here:

OnCue Consulting Offices

Pittsburgh, PA
Murphysboro, IL 
Hingham, MA

Telephone:   +1 781 799 7202

                     +1 412 418 4418

Fax:              +1 412 246 7060



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