A tale of two BBQ joints

The first one should have lasted, it’s biggest problem being the fact that it was in a cursed location that kills every place that’s tried to inhabit it over the past few decades. True, the owner didn’t know shit about running a restaurant but I really think that had he been anywhere else he would have stood a fighting chance.

The other guy was an idiot who didn’t realize that Moose have antlers, not horns. Had he, he might not have named his place “The Horney Moose”. Granted, the place was in Montana but at the same time, what does a Moose have to do with BBQ?

This is what happens when idiots with no experience open restaurants.

The restaurant industry is a fickle bitch and there’s no way to ensure success. I’ve watched owners with years of experience in multiple ventures take the cream of their staff and open a place in a prime location and seen the place fail in months. Then some idiot who’s never run a business turn around and make it the hot spot in town. It blows my mind yet this is how the industry works.

So what happened?

In both situations, the guys, *Billy and *Idiot where both very successful in other businesses to the point that they had nice houses and families and backyards that they would often have BBQ’s in. After a lot of beer, they were somehow convinced that their BBQ was good enough to serve to the public and they should take their life savings and jump into a business they knew nothing about.

It’s never that simple.

I know a lot about Tattoo shops. It’s safe to say I’ve spent a few hours in various shops all over. If I had a ton of money to play with, would I open my own? Fuck no! Even I’m not that stupid and yet I know a whole lot more about the realities of owning a shop than either of these two did when they opened their BBQ joints.

It’s the fact that I know how much I don’t know and even if you think you do, you really don’t know. On paper it sounds simple, find a location, fill out a few applications for the proper permits and get a cool logo. Soon girls with be throwing their panties for a taste of that slow smoked meat. That how it works right?

No, it’s not.

Billy had a half a clue as well as a solid product, not to mention he was a long and upstanding member of the community. It was his location that did him in. Not to mention not having a firm grasp on food cost, labor, marketing, etc. While I won’t say that they guy was racist by any means, he was certainly intimidated by some of our neighbors.

Ask any restaurant owner who’s been in business for more than 5 years, the profit margin is shit at best and you’re not going to get rich overnight.

You never want to run out of food but at the same time, you don’t want to have food sitting a going bad either. Unlike plumbing supplies, you can’t order a ton in advance and have it sitting in a warehouse until needed. It’s a matter of knowing how to balance and you have to be damn near psychic to get it right.

While Billy did his homework, the idiot didn’t.

As much as I love the smell of smoked meat, apparently the town of Bozeman Montana didn’t. The Idiot had planned on smoking all of his meat on his smoker in the back parking lot of the building. Great on paper until the city came and said “No, that’s not going to work” and made him move it. You would think this would have been mentioned while he was in the process of getting his various permits from the city but well, they can be dicks like that.

What ended up happening is that the Idiot had to moving his smoker to another location. This meant paying rent on another place and getting the proper health permits, then having to pay for transportation to move the meat from the smoker to the restaurant several miles away. Remember what I said about slim profit margin? Guess what happens next?

Quality and integrity go out the fucking window

My experience with Billy ended when the guy had a mild nervous breakdown and sort of attacked me with a mop. I don’t blame the guy, he hadn’t had a day off in weeks and I was trying to prevent an incident like this. Either way, he was only able to stay in business for a few more months and I think he lasted just around a year before finally shutting down for good. Personally, I still think that he would have lasted anywhere else but the building is cursed and nothing can last longer than that.

The Idiot on the other hand started getting weird and I knew my days were numbered. The way the axe fell was over a Yelp review, written by someone who apparently I had pissed off enough make them join the site. The night in question I was apparently screaming profanities at everyone. The ironic part is that on the night in question I was hiding in the back, catatonic due to finding out that a close friend Stacy had just passed. Not only was I not screaming at anyone, I wasn’t talking to anyone. I told my main guy what was going on and that I’d be in back prepping and since it was a slow night, my staff was able to leave me alone.

I didn’t fight it since I had seen the signs and knew it was only a matter of time before they shut the doors. In fact I think my last words where me laughing and telling them the I had $50 on them not being open in 6 months. It wasn’t a matter of bitterness or arrogance, it was experience in the industry, aka something the idiot didn’t have. The lasted 5.

So what can we learn?

There’s a thing called called “Murphy’s Law” that states that “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong”. Murphy is the patron saint of the restaurant business as anyone who’s been in the game for any amount of time will attest to. There’s no way to ensure success in this or any other industry. It has a lot to do with talent but it also has a lot to do with luck, being in the right place at the right time and kissing the right ass.

Richmond Kentucky 2007

I’m speaking from experience having opened my own place 12 years ago. I thought I knew what I was doing and thought it was going to be a turnkey situation with minimal risk and I soon found out that I was in way over my head. I did everything I could but do to a variety of factors, I didn’t last long. I have no regrets and I look at it the same way I look at my short lived marriage. I tried it, it’s not for me and I’m glad I got it out of my system.

The industry has always been in a state of flux but it’s steadily gotten worse for small indie owners over the years. The overhead to keep a place running has risen across the board and there’s more competition than ever. The labor pool sucks and it’s hard to find staff with both skill and work ethic. Yelp, don’t get me or any other business owner started on that subject, and fuck trip advisor too. Social media has changed advertising and it’s hard to figure out how to make sure that what limited of a budget you have provides a return. The point is that it’s never been easy to run a small place but the odds are higher than ever right now. At this point, even if I had the cash to open a place, it would be much better invested in other business ventures.

Billy bounced back and returned to plumbing but he still has his smoker and does a lot of family gatherings and church events and from what I hear, still makes pork that falls off the bone. I don’t know what happened to the Idiot. I tried to find him while working on this and I’m assuming he went back to fire and water damage restoration. As far as I’m concerned the guy owes me $50.

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