Heath Hall & Brett Thompson of Pork Barrel BBQ are building up their BBQ empire one step at a time….

From their award winning competition BBQ team:

To their Rubs and Sauces

Then they moved on to the Shark Tank:

Plus they are in the process of building their very own restaurant (including their already flourishing catering business) :

Now if that wasn’t enough they have also just recently started their own BBQ forum   BBQ Social Network… BBQ This is where I called Heath and pretty much asked him everything I could think of about his BBQ empire……

Heath tells me their motto is:

Reward lives in the house of risk

They are also incredibly big believers in social media as a means to get their name out there….

In regards to Social media – on Twitter Pork barrel BBQ is the 80th most followed food site.

It has provided them with incredible success.

As Heath states Where else can you have 28000 people follow you .  ??? for free.

He likes the the fact that it is not concentrated in marketing. – ie radio is concentrated… paper is concentrated twitter is global. Facebook is global.

He an Brett run the business like politics -We market its strengths not the weaknesses.

Tips from Heath-

Know your audience

Who are they? Cater your content to the audience

Ease of use – how easy is it to use your website, your forum your brand-

Analytics- page views is one of the most important things. Use them to drive your content.

Twitter- its advertising – place engage them – post interesting stories not just about your own brand but of others that are interesting too.

Reciprocal relation you will get back what you give …

Create brand ambassadors – free employees testimonials over advertisements. Its better to have other people spread the word about how great your brand is…

Now as they make their foray into the work of BBQ Backyard what do they hope to accomplish- I asked him point blank there are lots of already successful forums out there on BBQ & grilling what makes yours special?  What will keep people engaged and ultimately grow the population :

Heath had a lot to say about this.

We perused all the BBQ sites –the majority of the forums using old technology.. We are in a stage where things are rapidly changing  ie:  Tablets- zoom 30 /40 other ones. Ipads etc all of these are 5 times or so user friendly..we need a BBQ forum that is that user friendly too.

Our site offers lots of amenities:

User interface – familiar with most people  – not like facebook but it has the same type of feel -You can friend people, you can have your photo up or team logo identify who you are. We want to go beyond the Q&A forum and simplest way you can express yourself personally. You can go on your page here is my name – personalization you can blog post. You can customize it all. You can have blog posts, video uploads and photo uploads.

For example just this past Monday we had over 900 photos uploaded. WE are creating an easy user friendly place to do all this.

Additionally we want people to show off your awards and your food.  Especially keeping everyone in the loop-One of the clearest examples of this is Saturday afternoon. Everyone in the competition world is getting on their computers from 4-6pm to find out who wins  We provide a platform for viewing it finding out information…

This isn’t just a professional competitive BBQ site .This is being established as a BBQ community as a whole.

It gives people an opportunity to interact with people. – Backyard bbq’ers into comps

You can even import address books from your own accounts.

We have completely integrated facebook & twitter. This has provided ease of use in signing in and addressing the current needs of people.

Heath describes their website as a neighborhood – In it you have your own House (page)  your page , customizable. Ability to change colors make it your own.  Also our Icons and name use- requires a person to think about it- make sure you are really talking to a real person. These are real people you are talking with and discussing things with.

Heath also went on to describe some of the upcoming additions to the site which will make it even friendlier:

  • Recipe share book. Still work in progress.
  • Future: live chat
  • Ad space- future.
  • Further down the road- They want to create a page on there a Triple AAA route – hotels sites etc.
  • Create a similar ultimate map for a BBQ crawl .. routes for great BBQ joints all over.
  • Members- rate the joints. Stars the grading system – it will give the joints … higher priority viewing..

Heath also makes it clear the site will always be free its a  priority to both of them. Going forward creative ideas will fund the project. We will use integrated advertising – but we don’t want a barrage of ads just a few ad spots.

Then Heath told me a bit about their restaurant project :

Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant  Opening End of March Beginning April. Location is in Alexandria Virginia Del Ray Neighborhood.

They will be serving traditional bbq food : Brisket, Pulled pork, ribs, chicken, also they are designing our own sausages – jalapeño cheddar and occasionally the fun stuff. – lamb etc.

They have even been toying with the idea of tasting menus where you could come in and try a unique menu selection of their delicious BBQ.

Their location will be licensed & they are excited to also be introducing a line of smoked cocktails.

You walk in to the counter at the back and you can see the butcher station. If you walk in and say I want a half pound customers will be able to see our staff cutting it for them right in front of them.  They will dish up traditional sides as well beans corn puddings coleslaw and more . Our cashier at the end of the line right beside a big open ice chest open with regional and micro sodas.

Heath says they want a family atmosphere. with some exposed field stone a really nice open space. It will seat 70 people. An outdoor patio will also add between 15- 20 more seats

Delivery and to go. Catering tied in as well.

Process is taking longer than we had hoped or imagined.

Looking forward to closing the toolbox  and firing up the smoker.

Fast Casual type of place.

Ultimately Heath stated this :

The Process is taking longer than we had hoped or imagined.

We are looking forward to closing the toolbox  and firing up the smoker.

I have no doubt these BBQ empire building folks will succeed in everything they set out to accomplish.

You can find Pork Barrel BBQ on twitter , Facebook, their website and of course their new BBQ Backyard