Houston BBQ 101

Why Do They Sell Out? Can't They Make More?

If you’ve visited a popular barbecue joint in the last few years – especially if you showed up later in the afternoon – you were probably met with the dreaded “Sold Out!” sign. 

Few things about contemporary Texas barbecue are more perplexing and sometimes-controversial than the fact that many barbecue sell out of food by the afternoon and are only open for lunch and not dinner. 

The questions inevitably arise: Why do they sell out? Can’t they just make more? 

The answer to the latter question is “No” for most small mom-and-pop barbecue joints. This is due to the nature of the barbecue cooking process and the equipment that is used. 

Because it takes as long as 12-14 hours to cook barbecue, the amount of food that can be served on a given day is preordained. Barbecue is cooked in batches starting the day before, and when that batch is sold out, it’s not possible just to cook more because of the low-and-slow cooking process.

The question then becomes: why don’t they just cook larger batches? This, too, is limited by the unique nature of barbecue cooking equipment, specifically smokers. 

Smokers are big unruly beasts that take up a lot of space. Most barbecue joints can’t afford leases on big spaces, so they have only one or two smokers at their disposal. They are limited by the physical space where they can place the briskets and other items that can cook in a given batch. 

Thus, smaller barbecue businesses are limited by the unique nature of the cooking process and equipment used to produce barbecue.

However, there are some smaller barbecue joints that don’t sell out and have barbecue available throughout the day, for lunch and dinner. How do they do it?

In this case, they are probably doing multiple “cooks” throughout the day, usually running their pits 24 hours a day. 

For instance, they will start cooking barbecue for lunch service the night before, and they will start cooking barbecue for dinner service that same morning. 

The bottom line is that most small mom-and-pop barbecue joints make a comfortable living only selling barbecue for lunch, a few hours per day. When they are out, they’re out. It offers a modicum of work-life balance, as the business is only open to customers a few hours a day (though there is still a lot of time spent cooking)  and the rest of the time can be spent with family. 

How the HOUBBQ Guide helpsThe Features Filter of the guide offers the ability to easily find those barbecue joints that are Open Late and Do Not Sell Out. There is also a Meals Served Filter that you can use to find places that serve barbecue for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.

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