The world’s oldest cooking technique has evolved into its own industry niche.

If you are at a summer cookout, and you hear someone over near the pit, across from the pool, asking, “What the heck are you grilling?!” you’re probably in for a memorable meal.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Hot dogs, ribs, chicken, steaks, and brisket, well, they’re all great, but barbecue enthusiasts continue to push the envelope when it comes to what they’re firing up and slapping down on their grills. It’s not unusual to hear praise these days for grilled watermelon, donuts, and banana boat desserts, wildly modern variations on the world’s oldest cooking technique.

It’s a wave of creativity driven, in part, by the rising profile of barbecue. The proliferation of competitive grilling shows on TV has introduced the “art of grilling” to a whole new audience. The visitor appeal of live, competitive grilling events, featuring cookoffs with “name” pit masters, has not been lost on local chambers of commerce and adds more visibility to BBQ culture. All in all, it’s a long way from 1952, when the first modern barbecuing unit[1] was created by welder George Stephens at Weber Brothers Metal Works.

Modern appreciation for the potential of grilling has broadened not only what’s being grilled, but where you can get it, as retail food operators look for additional revenue streams. A case in point is the c-store.

With a proven track record of adapting to change and incorporating new business concepts in order to grow, it should be no surprise that the convenience industry has taken barbecue to heart, and has come to excel at it. As c-stores have risen as a destination for top notch dining, barbecue find itself squarely in the mix. Being innovative by nature, petroleum retailers often put their own unique spin on what they serve. Here are a few examples:

  • When Pigs Fly (Vista, CA) — This catering business moved inside a Chevron station as a result of their ongoing success. Notable offerings: House-made sausages and chips; pulled pork nachos.
  • Mega Texas Barbecue (Fresno, CA) — Run by a chef who consistently wins in California cookoff competitions, this restaurant is run out of an Arco station. Notable offerings: Bacon-wrapped spareribs; bacon-wrapped “lollipop” drumsticks.
  • 3 Bay BBQ (St. Louis, MO) — Housed in what was once a mechanical bay in the Phillips 66 station, 3 Bay BBQ was born when the owners did away with that part of the business. A bakery is also featured. Notable offerings: A locally legendary kosher hot dog, the Eisenberg; pecan pineapple coconut cake; gooey butter cake.
  • Malbon Brothers Corner Mart and Carwash (Virginia Beach, VA) — After selling the family hog farm, the brothers went into the c-store business, and decided to put a restaurant right in the store. Notable offerings: Pork belly burnt ends; homemade sauces.
  • Rudy’s Country Store (Various)— Another example of a family c-store business that decided to add BBQ to their offerings, except this one spread from a one unit start in Texas Hill Country, to many stores in the surrounding area and states immediately west. Notable offerings: Spicy chop, ½ lb. prime rib.

While we, at SSCS, haven’t been around as long as open fire cooking, we have championed and provided retail petroleum technology from its earliest days, along the way emerging as leaders in Foodservice software, when it became obvious this was a way forward for our customers.

Today, our Computerized Daily Book back office helps users measure Foodservice profit and loss down to the component level, whether it be a serving of coleslaw, the russet pieces in your potato salad, or the estimated cost of the sauce that keeps getting spilled on the floor. It’s a great tool to have, even if your steam table features something besides brisket and quarter chickens. Give us a call at 800-727-9927 and find out how we can work for your business.

[1] Also known as the “open brazier grill,” the first units were made out of a buoy cut in half with some legs welded on. Fundamentally, the design has proven sound over the years, and remains not much changed.