BBQ competitions are a great way to raise awareness for a cause — and that often does translate into a financial benefit later on.
If this is your first year planning a cook-off, gather pitmasters or organizers to help decide on a theme. Ask yourselves some questions:
You’ll also need to select a date and location for your event. Frequently, BBQ cook-off competitions are held in conjunction with a larger event, such as a fair or festival. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to coordinate with festival organizers to figure out where all the BBQ cooking and noshing will take place.
If the BBQ cook-off will be a solo event, you’ll need to find a spot that can hold the number of participants you expect and the judges.
Over our 15 years of experience, we’ve learned so much about contest organization. The list below is a list of tips to get you started. For a full list of needs, please schedule time to meet with me 1:1 for a nominal sliding scale fee and we’ll get help you prepared for your first BBQ contest.
1. Find a location that is bigger than a football field. BBQ teams use a great deal of space. A huge parking lot works best or even a campground … If it rains on the day of your event, your space is still usable. Fields are not recommended – they get muddy and BBQ trailers often get stuck and need to be towed out. Not a fun day.
2. Start small! You can always add more on for your second year.
3. Use a sanctioning body to help with rules and judging. Northeast Barbecue Society (NEBS), Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), Steak Cookoff Association (SCA), and World Food all have amazing support to set you up for success.
4. Social media is key! Promote the event to teams beginning 90 days prior and to judges 60 days prior. Post often and ask your network to share your posts and event information.
The cost to run a contest varies from $200-$4000 and higher, depending on what you want to do.
Northeast Barbecue Society (NEBS) is the lowest cost, priced at $500.
Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), Steak Cookoff Association (SCA), and World Food are comparably priced, starting at $1700 and dependent upon various factors.
It is suggested that you pay 1st-5th place within each category, as well as 1st and 2nd place overall. The prize money is provided by your teams with their entry feeds – the prize pool is set based upon the event. If your goal is charity-based, make sure teams know the name/purpose of the charity and that you clearly communicate to teams what percentage of the total amount collected will go toward the charity and what amount will go toward prizes. Be up front with your goals to avoid any confusion later.
NEBS ranges from $700-2000
SCA ranges from $2000-$3000 plus cost of steak but can vary if you add more events
KCBS ranges from $3000-$10000 but can vary if you do 1 meat events
World Food ranges from $2000-$4000
For me, this is a toss-up between finding a location and finding judges.
Locations are hard because of the space BBQ teams take up. Some locations don’t understand what we do and how it can help a charity. It’s often a challenge simply to explain all we do and what our needs will be for the event.
Finding judges can also be difficult. We aim to get 1.25 judges for each team (judges and helpers). 1.25 sounds silly, but it can be tough!
YES, people love to eat. YES, people love to help. BUT, teams want certified judges and some sanctioning bodies do require it. Teams want this level of quality to enhance their abilities.
It really only takes about 2 hours a week to be a BBQ contest organizer. I dedicate one hour per week for teams and one hour for judges and small tasks.
During the week of an event, plan on about 10 hours of your time to finalize details and make sure all parties know their roles, arrival time, and other event details.