Monday, April 25, 2011

NBBQA National Conference and Trade Show

…..hmmm these BBQ folks ARE good people!

I recently traveled to Greenville, South Carolina to attend the nation BBQ Associations’ National Conference and Trade Show. The event was held March 23-26 at the Embassy Suites located just outside the downtown district of Greenville. The theme of this years gathering was “Roots of Shared Success: Inspiration and education from our BBQ family tree.”

After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, I was checked in and immediately began to run into folks that I knew. Around 12:00 we were all loaded onto 2 large coach style busses for what was billed as a BBQ Tour of Greenville. Both busses were packed as we were driven to four local restaurants. At each stop we were greeted by the owners and staff, given some brief history of their establishment and then we had an opportunity to sample their wares.

For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip seeing the different smoking and cooking operations and hearing the stories of how they came to get involved in the restaurant business. Not to mention some really good eats. I was amazed at the size and quantity of the spreads put out by each establishment. If anyone returned to the hotel hungry, it was their own fault.

Thursday morning was the opening session where we heard from two very motivated individuals, Patrick Murdy of Company 7 BBQ from Englewood, Ohio and Roy Slicker from Slicks Que Company located in Sisters, Oregon. Both of the speakers told how much assistance and guidance they received from folks involved in the NBBQA and how they were very helpful in the early days of planning and working to help get their doors open.

After the opening remarks the attendees broke out to attend some of the numerous learning sessions planned for the convention. There were classes on branding, starting your own BBQ business, how to get sponsors for your competition team, using the internet to help promote, brand and expand your business and much more. The only problem I had was trying to decide from the list which session to attend. The sessions were scheduled for three at a time which meant you would miss something each time. I still haven’t figured out how to be in three places at once, when I do, I’ll let you know.

The keynote speaker for Thursday’s luncheon was Dave Anderson, better known as Famous Dave from Famous Daves BBQ Restaurant fame. Dave spoke from the heart and told his story how he built his business from a start-up operation in a town of 1,800 to its current size of over 200 locations in over 37 states. Dave’s tail of how he turned a backyard hobby into a $500 million restaurant empire is truly astounding. It was a real “rags to riches” story that was very moving, inspiring and motivational. Dave stayed around for the entire weekend answering questions and just hanging out with the rest of the conventioneers, an all around great guy.

Friday there were more sessions along with the opening of the BBQ trade show. Along the way there was plenty of time for BBQ networking. In attendance you had sauce and rub makers, caterers, marketers, restaurant owners, equipment makers, competition team members, BBQ media outlets, suppliers, just about everything to do with the business of BBQ was represented.

My observations were folks were very willing to give advice when asked. One on one and small group discussions were every where during the “down” times. These were some of the most successful people in the BBQ community all gathered together under one roof, all with a similar mission, to encourage and advise others to explore and succeed in what ever BBQ path they had chosen. It was all about the promotion of the BBQ community in general.

For me, what I observed during my four days in Greenville was exactly what I had thought all along, BBQ folks are good people, there is no doubt about it. The theme of the gathering, “Roots of Shared Success” was played out over and over that weekend. I saw folks that have traveled the road of success not only offering guidance, but offering encouragement and advice to others just beginning their journey.

My advice, for what ever it is worth, if you are in the business of Que or even thinking of getting involved, you need to join the National BBQ Association and get to next years conference. Just hanging out with a large group of highly motivated and driven people is bound to do you some good. I know it did me. When I arrived home I was so pumped up I told my wife that we were going to open a BBQ restaurant by this time next year. If you only could have seen the look on her face as she asked the inevitable question upon hearing my pronouncement, “how much did you have to drink on the plane trip home?”

The 2012 NBBQA National Conference and Trade Show is scheduled to be held in San Diego, California, you need to try and make it, you’ll be glad you did.

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