Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Its that time of year again, for us at least, for Etouffee'......we cant keep it in! I took it off the menu to take pressure off of us producing it and we still cant keep it in stock. As with our "Q" we make it from scratch and take the hardest most authentic way possible. That basically means we dont cheat on our roux....because of that it takes a long time (1-2 days) to produce a small amount of it, maybe a couple of gallons. Its gone in 1 day! At any rate.....making roux has become for me a small vacation on Saturday nights. No inventory, invoices, writing checks, hearing complaints, bitching employees, emails.....NOTHING! Its just me, a six-pack of beer, my cast iron skillet and my thin whisk (dont start in on me with the wooden spoon.....i like the thin whisk better). Nothing to think about but stirring that dang peace!


Last week ended up well. We are very steady in light of current economic conditions. Our sales have yet to dip other than the first week or two of school starting back, but that was expected. Our seasonal dip should start here in the next 4-6 weeks as we head in to the holidays, and that too is to be expected. We have two different demographics at Martin's; The hourly wage, blue-collar guy who works construction and the young semi-wealthy to very wealthy professional and his family. The first one has already felt his economic shock, back in mid to late summer. World markets doing the cannonball off the high-dive mean very, very little to him. I mean seriously, think about it......where is his investment portfolio right now? He felt his shock with the price surge in fuel, groceries, cigarettes etc., he's already digested that and moved on. Yeah maybe he pulled the old lunch pale out and is packing his lunch a day or two a week now, but he ain't doing it everyday! The second one, their wealth is such that we are still very, very affordable because of our price point. There are 4 price point categories in restaurants.....from most expensive to the least: fine dining, full service dining, quick-casual, fast food. The second guy and his family have cut back their visits to places that are in the fine dining and full service dining price points, but not the other two. Quick casual concepts (Martin's) and fast food concepts will fair much better in the next 18 or so months, if not longer.

The Nashville Scene had their annual "Best Of" awards last you guessed it Whitt's won again. This is where I take my hat off as owner of Martin's Bar-B-Que and Im just typing here as a fan of BBQ, a fan of good food. This is like Fazoli's winning best Italian, its that ridiculous. It shows the level of ignorance, not stupidity but ignorance - there is a HUGE difference, in the local market in regards to BBQ. People who are not "foodies" sit down to vote for that one article every year and just start writing stuff in. They write in what they know and/or are familiar with whether its good or not. There is a Whitt's on every other corner in Nashville and lets give them credit, they have brand recognition.....thats the only reason they win this event every year. I dont give a shit whether you like BBQ or not, thats not the point I'm making.......the point I'm making is to appreciate good food and the people who are out there trying to put it out every day....the fact is that 90% of the time food from non-chain establishments always tastes better because the owners really care about what your eating and the quality of it. Their heart is in it. If you are not from Nashville reading this I may sound like a sore loser....Im not. Jim Ridley (Scene writer) named Dee's Q his pick and it is MOST deserved! Jim also was kind enough to write a few very nice things about Martin's that I appreciated very much! I'm just pointing out that we as a market have a ways to go in regards to appreciation of really dang good food....and for that reason we'll probably see Whitt's win for years to come..........but the real food freaks, they know whats good and where to go.....Hog Heaven, Dee's, Jim-n-Nick's (they fall into the 10% that are large and care about what you are eating), Jack's on Trinity and hopefully Martin's. Want to see this trend change? Then its our job as food lovers as we sip a beer at Bosco's in Hillsboro Village or play golf with some guys you dont know to talk about, inform and educate these ignorant bastards as to what good food is........tell them why pasta from Savarinos is better than store bought, tell them the diffence in truly great food and average food, or in this case BBQ. Do your good deed and educate the masses and lift our society! Life is just too dad-gum short to eat average really is!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Yeah I know I re-committed to my vows but alas I have fallen short, sounds like marriage huh? I actually have "blogged" a few times on Microsoft Word, saving the file to copy/paste it when I finished.....I just never finished. For those of you that dont know me personally, the term A.D.D. is an understatement when it comes to me. At any rate here's a quick update of the past month, in rapid-fire succession:

New menu went over well. Had to raise some of my prices a little, specifically beef/turkey products, but really the only change out of pocket to the customer is drinks are now a la carte. I thought and/or was afraid of negative feedback but really only had about 4-5 comments and those were respectful. Didnt have any assholes bitching about how expensive our food is.

Business continues to be strong. Last year September was our 2nd worst month in terms of gross sales. Think about it, a lot of changes happen around labor day for folks. Kids go back to school etc.. This September has been our highest grossing month of the year and we were up about 150% - 200% in gross sales compared to last September. Why is that? Well several things, two of which I think stand out. Last September we had only been open 11mths so time alone has increased our brand to the customer. I also would like to think we are staying consistent with our food which is creating revolving sales through loyal customers.

We officially had our 2 year birthday this past Thursday. I cant believe its been two years already. What I really cant believe is the stupid business decisions I made in the first 6 months and how under capitalized I was starting out..........its really a blessing from God that I'm still in business because of that! I get a bunch of emails from people wanting to do this very same thing in their town. Ill say it here like I say in my responses. 2 great pieces of wisdom I can give you after this 2 year rollercoaster ride: 1) get SUFFICIENT restaurant management experience before you do something like this -and- 2) however much you think you need to start up with, add 50%. Dont worry about whether your product, whether its BBQ or Pizza, is the best around and a lot better than any restaurant around. If you dont heed those two little tidbits of advice I just gave you then you are doomed. You will fail. "Oh Pat, you've survived two years and started with no experience and very little money"......I'm telling you its an anomaly! -But Im happy it is and look forward to many years to come in this business.

Really starting to build the catering business. Hired a girl to do sales for me that I'm really excited about. Lori Lockmiller is on board and we're just waiting for her cards. We've had some turnover at the joint thats caused some growing pains....good ones though. We've also had to hire a couple of extra folks. We now staff around 10 full time and part time.....a long way from when it was Bo on the line and me in the front.

The new menu added Baby-backs, cracklins, tamales, slugburgers. All are selling well except slugburgers, but we knew that going in. Slugburgers are homage to back home...Corinth, MS. They actually will start selling though once folks from Mississippi who live in Nashville find out we have them.

Updated my quickbooks and I'm now doing the books....this is a separate blog unto its own. This alone has been one of the most time consuming things/changes I've made in the past couple of months. Ill blog on this later.

Yeah so I gotta hit it.......Lord willing it should be a good day in sales. Weather is sunny & 65 degrees. Hopefully we'll knock it out today. Look, Im really trying to get back on this blog on a regular basis. Its hard though, working about 65+ hours a week.....then whats left I'm trying like hell to spend valuable time with my wife and two kids. The pics are random.....a couple of Porterhouses I grilled a few Sunday nights ago. What a 2.5" thick steak scares you? Not if you know what your doing! Alpha males dont screw with the 1" rib-eye from Kroger......find your inner "cave-man", you'll be happy you did.

What is this Blog???

You ever been sitting around cooking for your family and friends and been told the following: "Hoss, this is the best I've ever had in my dadgum have got to open up a place of your own". The thought crosses your mind to do just that, but for whatever reason you dont. Well I'm "that" guy that actually went through with it and did it. I had absolutely ZERO restaurant experience! I decided to start this blog about my own experience hoping that it may be of some use and help to others who might be interested in opening their own place.
I learned this craft almost 20 years ago cooking whole hogs on brick & cinder block pits at a couple of little BBQ Joints in Henderson, TN. I learned from old, lifelong career Pit-Masters, working with them as an apprentice during school off and on for four years. Over the course of that time I learned the old, time-honored craft of REAL pit barbecue. At Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint I am trying as hard as I can everyday to bring that time-honored authenticity to my customers.
As you read you'll see I've made some stupid decisions, and I've made some good decisions. If you are thinking of opening a restaurant, especially a BBQ Joint, read this blog! Maybe some of this info can be of use to you. At the very least you will be entertained because I pull no punches.
Now listen, this is my blog to not only help with information but my blog to freely rant about my day to day experiences. There is no real "bad language" on this blog but there might be some things said that are very "tongue in cheek". If you are easily offended and/or cant see the satire in my posts then please just leave the blog. It will save both of us the annoyance of each other. For those of you who do like satire and are looking for good information about this experience, then by all means enjoy!