• How to Build a Restaurant Kitchen

    The first step to building a kitchen is determining the equipment needed. To do this, take an honest look at your menu items and decide which pieces of equipment are imperative and which tools will hardly ever be used.

    If all it takes to avoid purchasing an expensive piece of equipment is losing one or two menu items, it may be a great idea to cut those menu items. Especially if you want to expand in the future. It isn’t just saving thousands of dollars one time, it’s saving it that money every time you open another restaurant, it’s saving money and hassle every time the equipment breaks, it’s saving time training every new employee.

    Here is a list of the equipment in our kitchens:

    • 6 Burner Range with Oven
    • Single Door Convection Oven
    • Small Fryer
    • Hot Box
    • Sandwich Cooler
    • Low Boy Cooler
    • Dish Room
    • Undercounter Dishmachine
    • Triple Sink
    • Prep Sink

    The next step in building your kitchen is to plan the flow of the kitchen. You want to minimize unnecessary movement. Every extra step employees have to take leads to longer ticket times, and more chances of bumping, spilling, and injury.

    This step is demonstrated brilliantly by the movie The Founder.

  • How to Pick a Restaurant Location?

    When selecting new locations there are a few key aspects to looks for.

    • Size – Maybe the most crucial step, learn more here.
    • Rent – We like to look at the cost per square foot.
    • Equipment – What is included in the building? What equipment do you need to purchase? MAIN EQUIPMENT TO LOOK FOR – Hood System and Refrigeration.
    • Foot Traffic – How many people are walking by the restaurant (A good practice is to sit outside the property in question and count how many people walk by at lunch and dinner. Try this on weekdays and weekends).
    • Car Traffic – How many people are driving by the restaurant. Use the same tip mentioned above for foot traffic.
    • Demographics – Be sure to check out the most recent census. Does this town look like it’s growing or shrinking? Do your menu items fit in the average person’s price point?
    • Cannibalizing – How far away are you from your other restaurants? You want to make sure that you’re not pulling sales away from other locations.

    After you pick a location, it’s time to plan your kitchen. We discuss that extensively!

  • 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.