Street food & mobile catering Q&A with Trailblazer BBQ Trailer Founder Lester Manley!
NCASS met with Trailblazer BBQ owner, Lester Manley to hear the story behind Trailblazers towable BBQ range and his thoughts on the mobile catering and street food industry. We thought we would fill you in with how the conversation went….
1.) Hi guys, can you tell us first and foremost when Trailblazer BBQ was established and what was the motivation for starting the business?
Trailblazer BBQ was born in 2014 and to be quite honest, it happened purely by accident!
While helping out at a church summer youth camp where they were catering for over 200 people on a beach, I (Lester) noticed the whole thing was a disaster.
The light was dropping as the tide was rushing in, barbecues weren’t lighting and those that did gave huge flare ups resulting in burnt burgers. Running out of time lead to people packing up in the dark, attempting to move barbecues that were still loaded with scorching coals… From start to finish the whole thing was just mayhem.
As I have spent my life serving clients all over the world, helping them build strong assets in their brand and bring innovation to the heart of their organisations, I took it upon myself to challenge this problem. As a result, the next summer, for the fun of the challenge and no intention of going beyond the youth camp…. A BBQ trailer was introduced to the Summer Camp BBQ!
After great success, people then started asking whose it was and where could they get their hands on one. Word quickly got about and a year later, whilst soaking up the sun on holiday it hit me… the market needs this product! Wasting no more time I jumped straight into product development & that’s how Trailblazer BBQ was born!
2.) What sets Trailblazer apart from their competitors/what’s your USP?
We don’t really have any direct competitors as we believe there to be nothing else like Trailblazer in the market. Immense output capabilities, theatrical live fire cooking, mobility, self-sufficiency and ease of use are just some of the key USPs that drive us away from any other BBQ trailer / food truck.
As charcoal is by far the best grilling fuel, we strive to make it the most covinent option and first choice for any serious outdoor caterer. Therefore we focus on overcoming any limitations often associated with charcoal grilling….
Trailblazer BBQ offers infinite temperature control through the adjustable grill. This gives instant control over the heat source. You can go from searing hot heat to low and slow cooking in a matter of seconds, simply raise and lower the grill throughout the cooking process as and when you please.
The return of investment is another huge USP. The 600s Grillmaster for example, a compact unit measuring just 3m in length however offers a whooping output of 600BPH!(burgers per hour) Many of our customers are charging between £5-£6 per burger. When you do the maths, that’s one hefty income capability per hour. It’s so pleasing to regularly hear that our customers are noticing this. So much so that we have actually changed our slogans to…
Make More Money
– “If everything paid me as well as my Trailblazer BBQ, I would be a billionaire!” – The Kitchen
Work Less Hours
– “It’s been nearly a year with the Trailblazer and we have seen an increase in turnover of between 30-40% since using the Trailblazer. The increase in turnover has allowed us to trade more efficiently through the week. This has given us the time off at weekends to spend with our family which was not possible before the Trailblazer BBQ.” – Feast
Have More Fun–
“Being able to go out and work for myself in a job that I have a passion for is just brilliant. Not to mention that it has brought the family together as my two daughters (8 & 12) are out giving me a helping hand on site when they aren’t at school.” – Appy Days Catering
Mess, time and hassle of cleaning is another hindrance associated with charcoal grilling, Not with Trailblazer! The Trailblazer range has an innovative ash scraper & collection feature. To remove the charcoal residue after use you simply pull the scrapper bar. This will gather and pull all the ash into a removable box that can then be lifted out and emptied. Each Trailblazer is built with a full galvanized then powder coated exterior with a stainless-steel interior, meaning you can simply power hose down after use and won’t ever have to worry about any rust formulating.
Another major advantage we hear repeatably from our customers is the ability to just pack up and leave straight after an event. No more hanging around until the charcoal has completely cooled down or having to fight and try to extinguish the coals. There is nothing worse than having to wait about after you have finished catering, after all… time is money!
3.) What are the advantages of a BBQ trailer set-up as opposed to a static set-up?
The ability to take your business on the road is much more appealing to us than being stuck in a brick and mortar business.
Firstly, it offers new starts a low-cost entry into the catering industry and no fixed fees such as rent, electricity, heating. With Trailblazer Finance you can have your own catering business for as little £150 per month. This is very appealing to new starts who maybe don’t have the financial backing to open a restaurant. It really is better than a franchise!
With a Trailblazer BBQ trailer you’re able to take your business ‘on tour’ and follow the footfall to ensure your catering business is in prime positions at all times.
Being in the towable BBQ business also gives huge flexibility and diversity in the services you offer. Whether this be corporate event catering, street food trading, market stalls, wedding catering etc. The list goes on whereas with a static business you’re more than likely restricted to the confinements of your premises.
We actually have several customers who introduced Trailblazer to their static business in order to diversify & increase brand awareness however have actually ended up selling their static premises and taking their whole business on the road, now owning a fleet of Trailblazer BBQs.
“Mobile catering isn’t like a restaurant where I have staff costs whether people come through the door or not. Working mobile on our Trailbalzer BBQ makes it so much easier to manage the financial side of things.” – Foodie Folk
4.) Do you think the street food revolution is here to stay?
Yes, it’s much more than a trendy phase, it’s now a way of life. Not to mention the fact it’s great for the local area and economy. Many street food markets and stalls are revamping old derelict areas that previously lay as an eye sore.
It has completely transformed the way people eat and socialize. Street food is now being served in high end ‘specialist’ restaurants and I can see the street food revolution taking another giant leap forward with organisers focusing on combining street food with other offerings and events within the music, retail and the fitness & wellbeing industries.
5.) What’s a great starter Trailblazer product for someone who’s just adding BBQ to an existing set-up?
We class the 350 Club as the entry level machine for our commercial BBQ/Grill range. It’s perfect as a business add on and has been found popular within restaurants, beer gardens, butchers and market traders. In fact, the Lake District purchased a 350 Club just 6 weeks ago and they phone us last week to say they have already made £25,000 worth of sales on it! The 350 BBQ trailer is available in both towable & mobile forms.
The 600s Grillmaster however would be our flagship machine and is perfect for street food trading. This compact beast comes with a 600BPH (burger per hour) output and has everything needed to run a successful mobile catering business. Among its abundance of features and accessories, we are in the middle of launching a brand-new smoker configuration for it so keep an eye out!
6.) What would be your advice to someone who’s looking to set up a mobile BBQ catering unit? Where should they start and what should they be looking for in terms of equipment?
Good question! We find the majority of people overestimate the amount of equipment needed to get them up and running. And I can assure you, it isn’t because they have money to burn. They simple just don’t know or panic buy!
We always tell our customers to start with the necessities needed to get them on the road & trading. Once they have secured some cash, they can then focus on sprucing up their set up.
A great start up package that we can offer is a Trailblazer 600s Grillmaster, Half pallet of charcoal, Handyman Xtra Handwash, Fire extinguisher, first aid kit & a cool box. This is more than enough to get you out on the road trading. Our exclusive discount to NCASS members makes it a no brainer!
7.) What are the Trailblazer values?
We believe in delivering a high performing range of commercial bbq trailer with added value, integrity, courtesy and enthusiasm. We strive to the best of our ability to run the business with the timeless wisdom of Christian values; Bless Others, Have Fun & Make Money.
8.) People are often drawn to mobile catering rather than fixed site because of its low entry costs. Do you have anything in place for new caterers who might not have money to invest in quality equipment?
Yes, we offer Finance across the entire Trailblazer range. Trailblazer Finance has been very popular for new starts. It allows them to have their Trailblazer out on the road from the first monthly instalment, meaning they can save their cash for a rainy day and let the Trailblazer pay the way for itself!