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pollardsvision

Another Restaurant Buying Thread

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Just agreed on a price to buy a local restaurant, and we're aiming to close within the next 3 weeks.

It's been here since 1970. Long story short. It's got a really nice local following, but things have been going down hill over the last few years. Absentee owner that's never there at all anymore. All sorts of problems trickling down from that. Many aspects of the business are a clinic in how not to run a restaurant.

It still does solid business despite all the problems. Averaging $270K/year over the last 5.

We're getting it really cheap for an operational restaurant already doing steady business.

I'm no lifelong restaurant vet, and I'm absolutely no Tipsy.

I was in sales for a long time until my wife's car accident and brain injury. The lifestyle change also led to a love of cooking and smoking meats. We started BBQ catering a few years ago and then started some roadside vending out of an old Airstream trailer. It was partially to give her something she could help with. Frankly, the location was terrible and way off the beaten path. Only open 1 day a week for lunch. We were growing and the property we were on need the space, so it was time to move.

Small time, to say the least, but the reception has been great.

We're the top rated BBQ in the area (True Q BBQ). With a very small sample size, mind you.

Similar tiny, but loyal Facebook following.

Anyway, we're keeping the name, all the staff (we hope) and most of the current menu (hot dogs, burgers, breakfast), but adding proper BBQ. Just Pulled Pork and Parmsean Crusted Mac 'n Cheese to start (those are the 2 products our current BBQ customers have to have), and we'll add more as space and demand allows. Would like to get brisket and smoked turkey in fairly quickly, but that's 3 months out at minimum.

It's going to be process staying true to their current customer base while appealing to the younger base that this place will need (that our BBQ base is made of).

This will be for now, and might always remain, a hot dog, burger, breakfast joint that happens to serve the best BBQ in town.

I'm thrilled. And terrified. Will post updates as they come.

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Wow! Big move and congrats!

Very exciting. I give anyone who has the guts to start their own business big props. I never had the balls or acumen.

Are you going to be working there full time now?

Edited by NewlyRetired
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Do you have any start up costs like any renovations to do or adding a smoker?

Edited by NewlyRetired

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Congratulations!

Revenue seems very low for a restaurant. Keep payroll and unnecessary expenses low until you boost revenue to support it. It's great that you already have proven methods and a plan to do that. Very excited for you.

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That's really cool, congrats!

I enjoyed the video - interesting place.

I'm going to enjoy following this thread. :thumbup:

Edited by Das Boot

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Wow! Big move and congrats!

Very exciting. I give anyone who has the guts to start their own business big props. I never had the balls or acumen.

Are you going to be working there full time now?

Do you have any start up costs like any renovations to do?

Yes, I'll be there full time. It's what I want and what this place needs. It will be tricky because, frankly, the place already has a little too much staff for the amount of business, but plan A is to increase the business enough to support the current staff plus myself. I think we can do that with the BBQ and other changes.

Start-up costs will be relatively light. The refrigeration and cold storage situation isn't the best, so we plan on getting a sandwich prep table to start and building a small walk-in (outside) in the first month. There's plenty of other equipment that we'll need within the first 3-6 months, but not much that's going to be absolutely necessary early on.

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:blackdot:

Congrats and good luck on the business!

Edited by fantasycurse42
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Do you get the secret slaw recipe?

All 23 secret ingredients. I'd call it a hot dog relish, personally. It's solid. Not the key to the success of the place in my early opinion (as the current owner swears it is), but we'll see.

Lynchburg is actually an odd place on that front. This relish is a sweet, yellow, finely minced cabbage type of thing. There's also something called "western relish" that's traditionally served on a "cheesy western" (burger with a fried egg), and supplied by a local food supplier. I don't think there's enough of a difference between the two concoctions to justify carrying both, but apparently western purists demand the "western relish". We'll see. Serving a "western" at all is up for evaluation.

Plus we'll be adding in our slaw for BBQ.

Edited by pollardsvision

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The staff looks really nice from the video. Good choice to keep them. Best of luck and now im starved for a dog.

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Do you need to buy a smoker for the pulled pork you want to add to the menu?

No. I've got a trailer smoker that I had built, but for this, I'm actually just going to use some Weber Kettles for now. Parking here could get tricky, as there are only 9 spots on the property and some agreements with neighboring property owners for some spaces. The trailer would take up a space that I really don't want to lose.

I can use the Kettles without eating into any of the parking, and really, it'll be a while before I'd project needing to smoke more BBQ than I get out of 2-3 Kettles. I really love smoking with Kettles and stick to them for all catering jobs under 100 people or so.

With the current business set-up, the Pulled Pork will be more complementary than anything. We can build out some, but really, if this were to ever grow into a real, full BBQ joint, we'd probably be looking for a new location.

Edited by pollardsvision

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Also, talk to me about some dogs.

I'm a little drunk, half-celebrating, and chatty.

This place is called "Weenie Stand", but it doesn't currently have anything I'd call a stand-out dog, which I'd call a bit of a problem . Slaw is solid, but mostly, we're talking about a run of the mill dog with decent homemade(relish) and chiIli.

My initial plan (on the HD front at least) is to keep their basic, cheap, run of the mill dog, but add a line of premium dogs (all beef of course, leaning Nathan's at the moment).

If I can find the right price, I'll make everything in the building an all-beef dog. But I must have a dog I can sell under $2. Might find the right all-beef job, but we'll see. Natural casing really isn't an option down here. You yankees don't let those ####ers out of your sight. At least not for less than a $0.75 a dog or so.

Anyway tell me about your great dogs.

As of right now, I'm planning on a:

BLT Dog: Big success on a tortilla at our little shed, but could be a hit on a proper bun.

Jersey Ripper: love these. just deep frying the dog gives a great chance for upselling.

NM Green Chile Dog: either requires a buddy sending me hatch chiles or me roasting green chiles. we'll work it out.

Chicago Dog: I really don't have a clue about his. Poppy seed bun, some bright ### green relish, tomatoes, a pickle spear, and celery salt? Some help here please.

I've got some ideas, but I need to get to a point where people leave the Weenie Stand with a dog they want to tell their friends about.

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Chicago: mustard, onion, tomato, pickle, sport peppers, salt, relish

Get those from a Chicago distributor, actual Vienna beef dogs, and you can charge a premium

Edited by Henry Ford
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Also, talk to me about some dogs.

I'm a little drunk, half-celebrating, and chatty.

This place is called "Weenie Stand", but it doesn't currently have anything I'd call a stand-out dog, which I'd call a bit of a problem . Slaw is solid, but mostly, we're talking about a run of the mill dog with decent homemade(relish) and chiIli.

My initial plan (on the HD front at least) is to keep their basic, cheap, run of the mill dog, but add a line of premium dogs (all beef of course, leaning Nathan's at the moment).

If I can find the right price, I'll make everything in the building an all-beef dog. But I must have a dog I can sell under $2. Might find the right all-beef job, but we'll see. Natural casing really isn't an option down here. You yankees don't let those ####ers out of your sight. At least not for less than a $0.75 a dog or so.

Anyway tell me about your great dogs.

As of right now, I'm planning on a:

BLT Dog: Big success on a tortilla at our little shed, but could be a hit on a proper bun.

Jersey Ripper: love these. just deep frying the dog gives a great chance for upselling.

NM Green Chile Dog: either requires a buddy sending me hatch chiles or me roasting green chiles. we'll work it out.

Chicago Dog: I really don't have a clue about his. Poppy seed bun, some bright ### green relish, tomatoes, a pickle spear, and celery salt? Some help here please.

I've got some ideas, but I need to get to a point where people leave the Weenie Stand with a dog they want to tell their friends about.

Cincy chili sauce option

Bacon wrapped rippers (option to put jalapenos on the dog before wrapping with bacon also)

Mini-pulled pork "cheesesteaks" - call em "che-poks" - use the hotdog buns, pulled pork on the flat grill with onions and cheese (grill bun on flat top also)

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Grats PV, I'll stop by if I'm ever in VA.

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Good luck pv!

I think you are smart in not making too many big changes early. Local spots like these are often successful in large part b/c the loyal folks know exactly what they are getting and they know the staff.

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Congrats. Good luck!

Ask your employees for ideas too.

Makes them feel a part of the team and maybe some have some good ideas from being there and dealing with the locals since forever.

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I'll stop by once you get it going since I live in Lynchburg.

Just curious if you've ever eaten there, and have any thoughts if you have.Don't hold any punches if it was a negative experience.

I'm a transplant that really only ate there a few times before looking into buying it. I love the staff, and the atmosphere. The food itself was often not my cup of tea. Not bad. Just very plain. In some ways, I think there's a "food as a commodity" mindset in the place that we'll work to change over time (and on the BBQ front, on day one).

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I'll stop by once you get it going since I live in Lynchburg.

Just curious if you've ever eaten there, and have any thoughts if you have.Don't hold any punches if it was a negative experience.

I'm a transplant that really only ate there a few times before looking into buying it. I love the staff, and the atmosphere. The food itself was often not my cup of tea. Not bad. Just very plain. In some ways, I think there's a "food as a commodity" mindset in the place that we'll work to change over time (and on the BBQ front, on day one).

Is the area/customer base ready for that?

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I'll stop by once you get it going since I live in Lynchburg.

Just curious if you've ever eaten there, and have any thoughts if you have.Don't hold any punches if it was a negative experience.

I'm a transplant that really only ate there a few times before looking into buying it. I love the staff, and the atmosphere. The food itself was often not my cup of tea. Not bad. Just very plain. In some ways, I think there's a "food as a commodity" mindset in the place that we'll work to change over time (and on the BBQ front, on day one).

Is the area/customer base ready for that?

That is a concern, but I think so. The location is easy access to the hospital, the wealthier HS in town, a nearby college, and a ton of small businesses. The nearby college is the smaller one in town, but it's not terribly inconvenient for the Liberty kids. It's not far from our previous set-up, and the Liberty kids found their way there quite often.

The area is blue collar, but there is plenty of market for a lunch crowd that will pay a little more. Really, the current prices aren't even all that cheap. He just makes people have to work very hard reading the menu to buy the higher priced items.

His hot dog is $1.95. It's not an all-beef dog. He's charging $6 for one of those pork/poultry dogs, fries, and a drink.

We're going to come up on the burgers, but most of that can be fairly easy wrapped into a new menu layout.

Currently, the menu looks like a concession stand menu. Always leading with the cheapest option, and making you work really hard from there.

Say you wanted a Bacon Cheeseburger, side, and a drink. You find the cheeseburger, root around the menu figuring out what the upcharge for bacon is add all that in, or start with plain hamburger combo and build up. Even a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, they lead with the cheeseburger, and upcharge $.39 for lettuce/tomato.

It's nuts at the moment, and requires a lot of mental gymnastics for a customer that wants to order your best products. The customer ends up frustrated feeling nickel and dimed at every turn. There's absolutely no way the staff is ringing it up properly, and it'd be hard to blame them.

He's also not really trying to sell some of the products that really are worth paying more for. That burger patty is 1/3 lb. of noting but fresh beef. You'd never know it looking at their menu. It's a great burger. This is the sort of town where Five Guys doesn't have much competition for people that want a burger better than fast food. Almost nothing on the menu is even described (except, and I kid you not, the corn dog).

He's even charging $4.99 for his current "BBQ sandwich" which is that disgusting frozen garbage out of a tub. I can't say as I've ever seen one actually sell though.

But yeah, I think the market's there to get where we need to be.

Edited by pollardsvision

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I'd eat there. Liked the video. The first girl in the yellow shirt was hot.

Thought about offering specials/discounts to anyone with a hospital badge or school id?

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I'd eat there. Liked the video. The first girl in the yellow shirt was hot.

Thought about offering specials/discounts to anyone with a hospital badge or school id?

Not until we build a quarantined, negative air pressure section.

That's a good idea. The hospital and the college are very important for this place.

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I'll stop by once you get it going since I live in Lynchburg.

Just curious if you've ever eaten there, and have any thoughts if you have.Don't hold any punches if it was a negative experience.

I'm a transplant that really only ate there a few times before looking into buying it. I love the staff, and the atmosphere. The food itself was often not my cup of tea. Not bad. Just very plain. In some ways, I think there's a "food as a commodity" mindset in the place that we'll work to change over time (and on the BBQ front, on day one).

I have not. Moved here 8 years ago and I've never heard of it, but I stay more on the Wards/Timberlake area.

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GL! I'm interested in how you approached the owner about buying it? Was it listed? Word of mouth? Was it for sale, or did you just bring it up to the owner?

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This is great. I wish you good luck. One thing is for sure, no matter how good the new menu is some people will complain about changing the old food in any way. We have a place near us that is more of a bar but they serve burger and nachos and things like that. They served nachos that were awful, basically stale chips with liquid sauce and some kind of shaved pepper? on top. A new owner came in and changed it all including these great nachos with real cheese, chicken or steak, sour cream and guacamole. The regulars flipped out and now he's changed then back to just the chips and liquid cheese after about 4 months. He went back to the old frozen burger patties too.

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I'll stop by once you get it going since I live in Lynchburg.

Just curious if you've ever eaten there, and have any thoughts if you have.Don't hold any punches if it was a negative experience.

I'm a transplant that really only ate there a few times before looking into buying it. I love the staff, and the atmosphere. The food itself was often not my cup of tea. Not bad. Just very plain. In some ways, I think there's a "food as a commodity" mindset in the place that we'll work to change over time (and on the BBQ front, on day one).

I have not. Moved here 8 years ago and I've never heard of it, but I stay more on the Wards/Timberlake area.

Yeah, I got here in '05, and if not for the wife's family, I might not have either. Oddly, it was the first restaurant in Lynchburg I ever went to (when she brought me here to meet the family). When we moved here, I didn't really know where it was, and didn't eat there for the first 7 years or so, despite passing through the Fort Hill area fairly often.

They actually did have one out on Timberlake too up until 2010 or 2011 (it's an O'Reilly Auto Parts now).

Edited by pollardsvision

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Also, talk to me about some dogs.

I'm a little drunk, half-celebrating, and chatty.

This place is called "Weenie Stand", but it doesn't currently have anything I'd call a stand-out dog, which I'd call a bit of a problem . Slaw is solid, but mostly, we're talking about a run of the mill dog with decent homemade(relish) and chiIli.

My initial plan (on the HD front at least) is to keep their basic, cheap, run of the mill dog, but add a line of premium dogs (all beef of course, leaning Nathan's at the moment).

If I can find the right price, I'll make everything in the building an all-beef dog. But I must have a dog I can sell under $2. Might find the right all-beef job, but we'll see. Natural casing really isn't an option down here. You yankees don't let those ####ers out of your sight. At least not for less than a $0.75 a dog or so.

Anyway tell me about your great dogs.

As of right now, I'm planning on a:

BLT Dog: Big success on a tortilla at our little shed, but could be a hit on a proper bun.

Jersey Ripper: love these. just deep frying the dog gives a great chance for upselling.

NM Green Chile Dog: either requires a buddy sending me hatch chiles or me roasting green chiles. we'll work it out.

Chicago Dog: I really don't have a clue about his. Poppy seed bun, some bright ### green relish, tomatoes, a pickle spear, and celery salt? Some help here please.

I've got some ideas, but I need to get to a point where people leave the Weenie Stand with a dog they want to tell their friends about.

I'd look to try and add some homemade sausages to that list. My favorite dog places have a combination of standard hotdogs with a lot of unique sausages. I'd think in central VA you'd get some good game options to make into sausage.

I'd also consider combining your bbq and dogs. A good sausage with some pulled pork and slaw on top could be a great combo, actually pretty sure I've had exactly something like that before.

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GL! I'm interested in how you approached the owner about buying it? Was it listed? Word of mouth? Was it for sale, or did you just bring it up to the owner?

My FIL has been eating there forever, and saw a flier. As far as I know, that was the only method he had for listing it.

We inquired months ago, but he thought he had a buyer then that fell through.

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This is great. I wish you good luck. One thing is for sure, no matter how good the new menu is some people will complain about changing the old food in any way. We have a place near us that is more of a bar but they serve burger and nachos and things like that. They served nachos that were awful, basically stale chips with liquid sauce and some kind of shaved pepper? on top. A new owner came in and changed it all including these great nachos with real cheese, chicken or steak, sour cream and guacamole. The regulars flipped out and now he's changed then back to just the chips and liquid cheese after about 4 months. He went back to the old frozen burger patties too.

Yeah, this is going to get tricky. My instinct will be to change a ton of things. It's going to take a long time to figure out what can and can't change.

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Congratulations and good luck.

I think you should do some serious customer surveying/interviews/evaluations before you do anything substantial. You never know what you may find through this process. I also would ask the staff for feedback, especially any that have been there for a while.

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Congrats! Is there any reason to hike down to Lynchburg from the DC area?

If you make some sausage from scratch, could you smoke them in the other smoker offsite? Do a bunch and reheat as necessary?

Hope for Success!

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This is great. I wish you good luck. One thing is for sure, no matter how good the new menu is some people will complain about changing the old food in any way. We have a place near us that is more of a bar but they serve burger and nachos and things like that. They served nachos that were awful, basically stale chips with liquid sauce and some kind of shaved pepper? on top. A new owner came in and changed it all including these great nachos with real cheese, chicken or steak, sour cream and guacamole. The regulars flipped out and now he's changed then back to just the chips and liquid cheese after about 4 months. He went back to the old frozen burger patties too.

Yeah, this is going to get tricky. My instinct will be to change a ton of things. It's going to take a long time to figure out what can and can't change.

I was born in Lynchburg, raised an hour or so south in Martinsville. Spent much of my youth eating in spots like this as Martinsville has been home to my dad's family for generations, so we know all the regulars in all the local diners, dives, and gas station grills.

My dad is in business and real estate and has been involved in the sale of several similar establishments over the years. The number 1 piece of advice he would share would be to make sure you hold onto the loyal crowd first before making any dramatic changes. The staff is already going to be having conversations with your patrons daily. If you try to change too much too quick, not only are you fighting those who don't like change, but the loyals will hear all the whining from the staff, and you'll lose business.

Go slow.

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Ditto on managing the change. Slow, assure the regulars their favorites aren't going anywhere, just bringing a few new things in, over time the better food will get its own following.

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this looks like a good thing, P. Looking at the video though, I am concerned that the "regulars" who have been propping up the joint have a median age of 68.

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this looks like a good thing, P. Looking at the video though, I am concerned that the "regulars" who have been propping up the joint have a median age of 68.

You say that like the next generation has moved out of the area.

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This is great. I wish you good luck. One thing is for sure, no matter how good the new menu is some people will complain about changing the old food in any way. We have a place near us that is more of a bar but they serve burger and nachos and things like that. They served nachos that were awful, basically stale chips with liquid sauce and some kind of shaved pepper? on top. A new owner came in and changed it all including these great nachos with real cheese, chicken or steak, sour cream and guacamole. The regulars flipped out and now he's changed then back to just the chips and liquid cheese after about 4 months. He went back to the old frozen burger patties too.

Yeah, this is going to get tricky. My instinct will be to change a ton of things. It's going to take a long time to figure out what can and can't change.

Martinsville.

I used to go there every weekend when I was a young lad. My dad was there for flea markets. I think it was a Kmart/something close to it/ parking lot they set up at.

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If you're looking for some other hot dog combinations, could always piggyback off Pink's. They've been huge in SoCal for decades. They do have a lot of options.

Could do bacon wrapped hot dogs. Those are huge out here.

Keep the staff happy.

Best of luck and congratulations!

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Assuming the place is at least profitable as is, I wouldn't make many changes to start. Try to get the regulars to give input on the changes they would like/accept and proceed from there. You want to keep the base users happy so if you can convince them that the changes are coming at their request or approval, you will likely keep them around as you expand/change. This said, I have no experience in the area, so this is just my thought as a consumer.

Do as much as you can to meet and get to know the core users. One of the key aspects to any operation is that human relationship. People are less likely to complain or take action against the operation if they like the people running it.

My dad was a manager at a large hospital and they performed a large study on why people sue the hospital and why people choose to return to the hospital. The findings were overwhelming. People actually did not care as much as you would think about the quality of the product. The most significant factor was how much they liked the staff and how much they felt the staff listened to them and responded to their input. While it isn't a perfect translation, I think it holds merit across most operations.

Edited by Ilov80s
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First off, congrats

I second/third the slow changes. Don't take anything off the menu yet. See how much it sells and how profitable it is.

Be careful not to 'know it all' or you'll leave people by the way side. This seems like (from the video) a close knit 'community' and you're the new kid on the block.

Make changes to the menu layout, make combos. Involve the staff in this.

I'm thinking the regulars already know the menu so they order by heart - the new layout is for the people dropping in and new regulars.

Add bbq options - and put fliers in the hospital staff areas if you can get there (maybe hire some nice young kids to hand them out?)

I'd introduce homemade smoked sausages as a premium option. Yes it's more work, but it can be done on your existing trailer - as smeone aske is there aplace off site you can do this? Is there someone that can help?

It's a pity you're stuck with the name. It doesn't seem very 'smart' and it won't fit with the bbq.

Can you make a 'pulled pork dog'?

ETA: So now we have restaurants at Lunchburg,Va; Durham, NC; Ocean Springs, MS and New Orleans, La. Roadtrip?

ETA2: I'm going to need someone to start a FBG restaurant around Athens, GA to pull this off. Hop to it people... :D

Edited by msommer

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Congrats! Is there any reason to hike down to Lynchburg from the DC area?

If you make some sausage from scratch, could you smoke them in the other smoker offsite? Do a bunch and reheat as necessary?

Hope for Success!

I don't see the BBQ menu being very broad anytime soon.

I wouldn't want to smoke off-site, but even if I did, the place is very limited on prep/hold/serve space for new menu items. Getting Pulled Pork and Mac 'n Cheese on the menu is going to be tricky. We'll focus on that first and go from there.

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this looks like a good thing, P. Looking at the video though, I am concerned that the "regulars" who have been propping up the joint have a median age of 68.

We definitely need to get younger. Though, the age situation isn't as dire as that video makes it look (I thought the same thing checking out that video). The customer base is more diverse than it seemed at first with so many different businesses in the immediate area. Breakfast is dominated by the older crowd, but lunch is mostly 40/50 year old nearby workers. Dinner is probably even a little younger, as that's when it tends to be the residential crowd that lives in the area.

But yeah, there are still far too many people under 50 that've never heard of the place or just don't think to come here. We're going to change that.

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