• How Large Should Your Restaurant Be?

    When you walk into a large restaurant that’s well decorated and filled with people, it can be a thing of beauty. But this is the exception, not the rule. When you start planning the opening of a new restaurant it’s incredibly exciting. Mistakes made in the early period of planning can quickly lead to a failed restaurant.

    Saddleback takes an atypical approach to opening new restaurants. We try to keep our emotions out of decision making. This isn’t a house. This is a business. We try to bootstrap EVERYTHING. We try to NEVER take on debt. We pick small spaces over large spaces. We would rather have a line at the door, than have the restaurant feel empty.

    Anytime you are making a decision about the future of the restaurant keep in mind 60% of restaurants fail in their first year, 80% fail in their first five years. This is largely because restaurants take on too much debt, have too large of floor plan, don’t accurately calculate food costs, and aren’t paying attention to labor.

    For more on picking the right restaurant location, we go into much more detail here!

  • What is a Packer Brisket? What is the Point and Flat?

    A full brisket can be classified as a “Packer Brisket”. This means it contains both main muscles the point and the flat. Rarely do I hear of people smoking just the “point” but you can find the “flat” at grocery stores. That can be good for pickling and making corn beef.

    The brisket point and flat confused me when I started barbecue. I always got them mixed up. Flat means just what it sounds like, it’s flat. The brisket kind of forms a point and that is what always confused me but the flat part or the part that is slim is considered the Flat. The hump or part that seems a little meatier is the Point. Both are great when it comes to brisket. Typically the flat is known for being a little leaner. The Point is known for being a little fattier. Neither are wrong choices and both have their benefits. For pictures, I like showing off the flat, but to eat I am more of a point kind of guy.

  • What Kind of Brisket Should I Buy?

    One of the things that you should pay close attention to is the USDA grading system. It’s broken down into three main classifications:

    Prime – Best

    Choice – Second Best

    Select – Worst

    The main aspect that separates each score is marbling. The best way to describe marbling is the white streaks that flow in your steak. The more streaks of fat the better the grade.

    When shopping you may notice meats that don’t fall in this category. One example is Certified Angus Beef or CAB.

    Certified Angus beef is a brand that has its own grading scale. CAB comes mostly from black Angus cattle. When graded on the traditional USDA system, CAB typically falls somewhere between Prime and Choice.

    Another example of something outside of the USDA classification system is Kobe/Wagyu. When it comes to these two categories it is good to have an educated butcher in your back pocket.

    Alight, so here it goes…. Kobe beef is actually a place in Japan that is known for its Waygu or translated to “Japanese Cattle.” True Kobe beef is very very hard to come by in the US. Maybe, just maybe the high-end, big-city steakhouse might carry it. If they do, ask for documentation before buying it.

    American Waygu is probably what most people are commonly seeing at their local Costco or maybe on TV. American Waygu is typically a breed of Japanese Waygu crossbreed with an American Black Angus.

  • Toast Reward Points - Triple Points

    Mondays are TRIPLE REWARDS Points Mondays!

    When you place an order on Mondays you will receive TRIPLE the normal rewards amount. That means that for every dollar you spend, you’ll receive 3 points instead of 1! What does that mean? Basically that means that you will be getting 15% back for all of your orders placed on Mondays! That’s a pretty sweet deal if we do say so ourself. Available at both locations on Mondays.

  • Pay Transparency and Holiday Pay

    $16.00 per hour is the lowest any employee at Saddleback made this pay period. The pay period was from 8-16 to 8-31. All Saddleback hourly employees are paid Time & Half Holiday Pay when they work on a holiday.

    We believe in Wage & Tip Transparency so that our employees & customers know exactly how our employees are compensated and who is impacted by their generous tips. All Saddleback Employees except Managers & Owners receive an even share of the tips and no employees are paid the “Tipped Minimum Wage”.

    To learn more about Saddleback Wage & Tip Transparency, go here… (This website hasn’t been updated yet because we are in the process of developing a new website)

    Thank you to our customers and teammates for making this possible.

    – Travis & Matt

  • Restaurant Employee Retention

    The average tenure of a restaurant employee is one month and 26 days.

    Saddleback is proud to have an average tenure 5.5x longer than the national average, at 312 days! Many of our staff members have been with Saddleback for much longer than our average.

    We believe this is due in large part to our customers treating all employees with immense respect and kindness, THANK YOU!

    Saddleback BBQ also practices Minimum Pay Transparency, which we believe has contributed to this accomplishment. You can read more about that here:…

    We are always looking to hire great people. If you are interested in joining our team, please consider applying here:

  • How to Keep Food Hot at a Catered Event

    When ordering food for an event the last thing you want is for the food to be cold when your guests eat it. Saddleback takes measures to ensure this never happens. Namely:

    • As soon as your food is ready to go out the door it enters a hot-box. These are incredibly insulated portable containers. They will keep the food at nearly the same temperature that they were cooked at for up to 4 hours.
    • Once the food is ready to be served, we highly recommend having chafing dishes and sternos. Chafing dishes and sternos can be purchased directly through Saddleback or from many retailers (GFS, Amazon, Walmart, etc). The sternos typically keep the food warm for 4 hours.
    • This means between the hotbox we bring the food in and the chafing dishes we can keep the food hot up to 8 hours after it has been cooked!

    *If your vendor does not allow the use of open flame on premise. Sterno offers a no flame product. Essentially, it’s a water activated packet that we put in the water pan under the food.*

  • Food Cost Inflation Crisis

    We have a crisis: Food Cost Inflation. Our Wings & Brisket prices are reaching critical levels. Because of this, we will be taking Wings OFF THE MENU soon. Once we run out of the wings we have, we won’t be ordering more.

    This video will explain how food cost inflation is harming the restaurant industry. Topics discussed:

    – How do restaurants price their food?

    – What are “Core Costs”?

    – What happens when Food Costs Increase?

    Here is a short list of some of the restaurant supplies that have increased in cost but it has impacted almost everything.

    1. Brisket up 30-40%

    2. Wings up 20-40%

    3. To-Go containers up 50% to 200%

    4. Rubber gloves up 300 to 600%

    In this video, we walk through the example of Chicken Wing costs.

    – Wing Prices –

    180 Wings Per Case

    $134.36 cost per case

    $8.36 Cost of Sauce for the wings

    $4.84 Cost of Spice Rub on the Wings

    — $147.56 Total Cost of Ingredients–

    $.82 Cost Per Wing

    8 Wings Per Order

    Equals: $6.56 Food Cost of for an order of 8 Wings.

    $14.00 is the Current Price we charge customers for 8 Wings.

    That means that at the current prices of wings, our food cost is 47%. Our target Food Cost is 30% in order to be profitable.

    So, what can we do?

    We basically have 3 options:

    1. Raise the price of the wings.

    2. Buy a lesser quality wing. (Smaller wings)

    3. Take the wings off the menu.

    If we were to raise the price and keep them on the menu, instead of charging $14 for 8 wings. We would have to charge $22!!!!!!

    We don’t think that our customers will want to pay $22 for wings. So for that reason, we are very sadly removing them from the menu.

    If you want to get wings, order them now! Because once we sell out, they will be gone from the menu for the foreseeable future.

    We hope this information helps shed some light on what all restaurants are going through right now.

    Travis Stoliker – Co-Owner

  • Restaurant Maintenance, Service & Supply Companies in Greater Lansing Michigan

    Who can clean a hood system in Lansing? Who do you call to clean the grease trap in a restaurant? These are common questions all restaurant owners have! We put together this list to help other restaurant owners find restaurant service and maintenance companies in the Greater Lansing Michigan Area. 

    If you have a restaurant service company to add to the list, please let us know here

    Bach Electric 517-202-9365
    Sparky's Electrical 517-627-5423
    Hedlund Plumbing 517-627-5503
    A1 Mechanical 517-272-8354
    Perry Brothers 517-694-4600
    Clay Brewer Refrigeration 517-749-8316
    Hood Repair/Installation
    Michigan Food Service 517-626-2599  (Alan or Bill) 
    Swanson 269-280-6012 - (Formerly: Michigan Restaurant Service)
    CLS Mechanical 517-323-8412 (Chris Starr) 
    JD Wisener Electric 517-393-3202

    Hot Side Equipment Maintenance: 
    Michigan Food Service 517-626-2599
    Hood Cleaning    
    Maxim Hood Cleaning 517-455-1460
    American Flooring (Okemos) 517-349-4666
    General Restaurant Kitchen Equipment Maintenance     
    Eye Serve 517-712-7629
    Michigan Food Service 517-626-2599
    Foresight SuperSign 517-999-2847



  • Tacos Burritos & Bowls - Ghost Restaurant

    High-Quality Food, No Frills, Crazy Prices

    Saddleback BBQ – Started the first locally owned ghost restaurant in the Lansing area. To commemorate the ghost restaurant we decided to add them to the permanent menu. Check it out now!

    High-Quality Food – We utilize Saddleback’s smoked meats for all of our proteins. These meats are smoked for 10-12 hours using all Michigan Hardwood. While sourcing fresh ingredients to compose the rest of the food. For many large chain restaurants that offer similar products, the meat seems to be an afterthought; for us, it’s the foundation.

    No Frills – We share Saddleback’s existing commercial kitchens. TB&B’s is a takeout and delivery restaurant only. These efficiencies allow us to have crazy low prices with premium ingredients.

    Crazy Prices – The majority of our meals start for less than $10 and include chips, salsa, and a water.

  • How to Start a Ghost Restaurant (Using Toast)

    Ghost restaurants are quickly gaining popularity. Mainly because you can offer the public new menu items and “launch a new restaurant” with very little investment. Ghost restaurants have far less risk than a traditional restaurant, and make your existing brick and mortar location more efficient. We started our new restaurant in less than a week and for under $500.

    Toast Now

    Ghost Restaurants rely on online ordering and delivery to be successful. When starting “Tacos Burritos and Bowls”, we knew we needed a cost effective method to quickly offer these features. We chose to go with Toast Now. For $50 a month we now have a workable solution. This allows our customers to order for in store pickup, curbside pickup, or delivery.

    We have tablets at our restaurant that receive the orders – from there our front of house staff places the orders in Saddleback’s existing Toast terminal. It’s not a seamless system, but it’s effective and relatively inexpensive.


    For our website we followed the same ideology as the online ordering system – Something quick and inexpensive. We chose to use Wix to make our website. Wix makes it incredibly easy to make a simple, good looking website. Our philosophy was to essentially make an online brochure. We linked to our Toast Now menu for customers to make their order. All in all the website took less than 48 hours. It’s functional, and we think it looks pretty good.

    Social Media

    Using our existing social media channels we advertised the launch of our new website. This helped generate excitement for the new menu. We sent out an email blast to our entire email list as well as a text message. All the news we announced was met with incredible reception.


    To ensure we had high quality photos of our new menu we brought in an amazing local photographer. We made every item from the new restaurant and had him take photos of all of them as well as all of the items together. We now have high quality photos of our whole menu: great for online ordering, the website, and social media.

  • Initial Start Up and Burn in Process for a Pellet Smoker

    The Z Grills Initial Startup and Burn-in process must be performed before your first cook on your new pellet smoker. Like any pellet smoker, your grill needs to be seasoned before you can use it. The whole process roughly takes about an hour to complete and you’ll need enough wood pellets to run the grill on HIGH for at least 45 minutes. You will also need to ensure that you perform this outside or somewhere with good air ventilation.

    If reading isn’t your forte, here’s a helpful video!

    1. Everything Out

    Open the hopper and grill lids.

    Remove the grill racks, grease tray and baffle plate that sits over the fire-pot

    2. Turn ON

    With the controller dial in the Shut Down Cycle position, turn the switch ON.

    If you see Er2 on the display it is because it is not on Shut Down Cycle.

    3. Turn to SMOKE

    Turn controller dial to Smoke. Listen for the fan to start up.

    4. Check Auger Operation

    Check to confirm that the auger is very slowly rotating. You will be able to hear a “whirring” sound when the auger motor is on.

    It will only rotate for a few seconds when your first turn the controller to Smoke, then rest for 30-40 seconds. Over the following 5 minutes it will turn on/off periodically.

    5. Check Fire-pot

    Put your hand over the top of the fire-pot to see if air is blowing out confirming that the fan is working. You would have also clearly heard the fan operating as soon as you turned the controller to Smoke.

    Look to see if the ignition rod at the bottom of the fire-pot is getting hot (do not touch it). It will get a dull red hot color about 4 minutes after turning to Smoke setting. Some smoke may appear as some surface oil is burnt off, that is normal.

    Once confirmed that the auger is slowly rotating (periodically), fan is blowing and ignition rod is getting hot, proceed to the next step.

    6. Add Wood Pellets

    Pour enough wood pellets into the hopper to reach the safety grate. You don’t need to fill the hopper up. About 4lbs is sufficient for this first burn-in.

    Shut the hopper lid.

    Only add lots of pellets if doing a long cook. Always store the wood pellets in a closed bag or sealed bucket to avoid them getting moist.

    7. Turn to High

    Turn controller dial to High which will run the auger for longer to feed the wood pellets from the hopper through the auger tube into the fire-pot

    8. Pellet Dropping

    About 7-8 minutes after adding the wood pellets into the hopper they will begin to drop into the fire-pot. As soon as this happens proceed to the next step.

    9. Fire it up!

    Turn the controller to Shut Down Cycle and immediately to Smoke to start the ignition rod up again.

    10. Fire Up Your Beauty!

    After 3-5 minutes you should have lots of smoke and then fire!

    Awesome job, your grill is alive and ready to burn-in.

    Place the baffle plate over the fire-pot, grease tray in (no foil), and grill racks back in place and close the grill lid.

    11. Burning In

    Turn the controller to High to run the grill at maximum temperature to burn off any oil from the manufacturing process. This won’t smell too great, so don’t do it close to an open window. The smell will disappear after about 10-15 minutes.

    Run the grill on this High setting for at least 45min then turn the grill to Smoke for 10 minutes to let the fire die down, then turn to Shut Down Cycle. Leave the power switched ON.

    During the shut down cycle process the fan will continue to run for 10 minutes to ensure all the pellets are burnt out, before it automatically turns off.

    Once the grill has turned itself off you can switch the power off and unplug the power cable or start your first cook!

    12. Time to Cook!

    Once the grill has turned itself off, open the grill lid, remove the grill racks and give them a wipe down with a moist cloth.

    Cover the grease tray with a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.

    Start the grill by turning to Smoke with the grill lid open. After about 4-5min you will see lots of smoke. Wait until you hear the roaring sound of the fire and less smoke, then shut the lid and turn to the desired temperature.

    Wait until the temperature is reached before putting your food in.

    Click Here for More Interesting Information on BBQ

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