Things are rolling along quickly with the Meat Wagon. The team at Roux have been indispensable and have helped us at every step to get our new food business up and running. One benefit of being part of the Roux family was being offered a spot at the Hamilton Food and Drink festival in the Roux booth to showcase our new business.
The Food and Drink festival is the biggest food event in Hamilton that I know of, so having a chance to set up there for a day was going to be a huge opportunity for us. We had less than 2 weeks to the show once we got confirmation that we’d be able to get a spot, so we had lots of scrambling to do!
The show was going to be our first chance to make an impression on the food loving people of Hamilton, and we wanted to do it right. We recently won the freestyle BBQ competition put on by Chadwicks & Hacks and Traeger, and our appetizer for that was a combination of Pig Shots and Poink Balls. The judges and everyone that tried them really loved them, so we made the choice to serve them at the festival. It’s hard to go wrong with bacon-wrapped pork!
We also had our marketing side to consider. The festival is a great chance to meet people and make some connections that could lead to future business. We came up with a theme for our booth look, then hunted down the few things we needed. I had a vision of a chalkboard sign hung in a black pipe frame, and after a quick trip to Home Depot, I had one messy basement and a finished sign. We were fortunate to be able to have the talented Robert ‘Nix’ Nixon design our logo for us, and were able to get it put onto some patches, stickers, and business cards, all on a short time frame for the show. Thanks to Kevin from Impressive Printing and Frank from And Sew On for that!
The show was on a Saturday, and we went in to get most of our prep done on Thursday and Friday nights. It was a bit tricky finding our way around a new kitchen, but again, everyone there was really nice and helpful. We made a few hundred portions – that’s a lot of bacon! With that much, I realized that it wasn’t all going to fit in the smoker that I had brought with me to Roux. Fortunately Brett and Thomas of the Dirty South were nice enough to let me to use their big smoker.
The thought of cooking on a new smoker that I didn’t know was a bit unnerving, but we didn’t have much choice, and all we could do was adapt. We ended up getting everything cooked in time and learned some valuable lessons about prepping and cooking large numbers of small appetizers that will save us some time in the future.
We got everything packed up and all of the food loaded into our Cambro, and headed over to the show. When we got there, we realized that the cold outside air had cooled off our food too much – one of the downfalls of taking food off a smoker when it’s really cold out! Iain was great and got us sorted out with getting our food warmed to the proper temperatures, and we were off and running.
I was all nerves for the first hour of the show, but luckily Jeannie was there to do most of the talking. After seeing how it was going, and how people were reacting after tasting our food, I started to calm down and really enjoy the whole experience. Some of our friends came to visit and support us which was great, and we met a lot of new people. It was great to meet some people that I’ve only talked to on twitter and to be able to put a face to the name.
Our day went by quickly, and we ended up selling out of pig shots and went through most of our Poink balls too. The reactions from people were really fantastic, and the repeat visitors really made my day – including Carly from Fat Girl Food Squad, who have been really awesome to us and given us lots of exposure! I loved seeing the positivity and support for the show and all the vendors on Twitter over the whole weekend.
Overall, I think it was a huge success. We got some great exposure and made some good connections that look like they will turn into future opportunities for us. I’m even more excited now for the upcoming summer with our new business, and can’t wait to get the Meat Wagon out on the streets. It’s going to be a long and hard summer of work, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.