The "Texas Trinity" at Moo's Craft BBQ in Los Angeles, CA

Recession Looms

With the high cost of overhead, pop-ups and traditional brick-and-mortars rely on affordable goods to stay afloat.

With the rising cost of goods, inflation has presented challenges in the barbecue community. Even though wholesale beef prices in August 2022 were 12.6 percent lower than the prior year, they remain elevated by historic standards.

Moo's Craft BBQ in Lincoln Heights, CA

“In 2022, food prices increased by 9.9 percent. Food-at-home prices increased by 11.4 percent, while food-away-from-home prices increased by 7.7 percent … and all food categories grew faster than their historical average rate,” according to the Economic Research Service of the USDA.

“If we did normal margins, normal food cost for brisket, we would probably have to charge … somewhere in the range of, like, 80 bucks a pound,” Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue, told Marketplace in 2021.

Expert Advice

Daniel Vaughn is the BBQ at Texas Monthly, the go-to source for ‘cue coverage in Texas and across the United States. When asked about the sustainability of barbecue moving forward, Vaughn said he fully understands the high cost of the product.

“This is not going to be cheap,” Vaughn said. “This is mostly meat by the pound on a tray … however that’s not how most people eat barbecue.”

On his socials, Vaughn usually posts a photo of a full tray of food — all the proteins and sides you can think of.

“I certainly think you can eat barbecue more economically,” he added.

Vaughn wasn’t hesitant to express his worry about the small, weekend pop-ups he sees on social media, with lack of access to a large following like the Moo’s Craft BBQs of the past, whether that be in Texas or elsewhere.

“I certainly think you can eat barbecue more economically,”

— Daniel Vaughn

Vaughn mentioned that if a barbecue enthusiast’s livelihood doesn’t depend on the job, why would they invest their already valuable time on the weekends to support the operation, especially in the down economy we are facing in 2023. Meat prices will rise, as will the cost of other goods.

“When meat prices spike and when the cost…of doing business increases, those are the places that are probably going to give up on it first,” he said.

But those people are the foundation of the next generation of barbecue joints in the United States. The next generation of barbecue fanatics with big ideas for a revolution will ultimately suffer. And that could imperil the brick-and-mortar restaurant of tomorrow.

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