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Meet Benny Burks of Lil Benny’s Smokehouse in South Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Benny Burks.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Benny. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My wife and I always had a love and passion for cooking and having fun. We began with an idea of a barbecue sauce for diabetics; it would have no added sugars. Instead of a barbecue sauce, we ended up with a good fish sauce that we have not put in production.

During the period of developing the sauce, I told a friend I could season meat where no sauce would be needed. From that conversation, my focus shifted from sauce development to seasoning of meats.

I recall when we had get together for friends and family. At the barbecue, we served beef and pork ribs, chicken, sausages, Baked Beans and Cole Slaw. The response was overwhelming; we were told we should consider selling our food. At the time, we did not consider them serious, but were thankful everyone enjoyed themselves.

Several times when grilling for the family in the driveway, a neighbor asked me to grill a slab or two for him and he reimbursed me. He said it was easier for me to cook it for him than for him to do all of the work himself. This was expanded to other friends and family locally. For those not local, we vacuum-sealed and refrigerated meats until we could deliver them. This would be the beginning of our Heat & Eat concept.

As it became more regular for friends and family, we seriously considered the Heat & Eat as a business. We knew we had restaurant-quality food that all you had to do is reheat, but had to research how to bring it to market. We spent a year or so in planning the store concept as neither of us wanted to have a restaurant. From the planning, Lil Benny’s Smokehouse, A Different Kind of Barbecue Store, was born as caterers with a retail store.

A few months after opening the store, we noticed a slowness in business. We had some suggestions to add dining services so we rearranged to add a few tables for dine-in and had take-out services. After three months, we evaluated and decided to expand the dine-in to additional tables. Lil Benny’s Smokehouse, became, A Different Kind of Barbecue Place.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a young small business, there have been some challenges. Our initial concept of the Heat & Eat BBQ Store was well received, but there was not enough business to sustain it. Many customers said they liked the Heat & Eat convenience but they wanted the dining services. Considering customer suggestions, we transitioned from just a store to a restaurant\store combination.

For marketing, we had to learn which medium works best for us. We tried radio, but discovered just hearing about us was not generating the return we needed. We had spotlight in a few print articles, and still the generation of customers to our location was low. Social media, primarily Facebook, had been beneficial, but appeared to plateau. The best impact we had was the television medium. Being able to see our products and hear it described directly from us was the impact we needed.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Lil Benny’s Smokehouse story. Tell us more about the business.
Lil Benny’s Smokehouse is a combination Restaurant, Caterer, and Retail Store. We offer Dine-In and Take-Out services for the restaurant. In addition, we offer catering services for varying events in the area, no event to small. For the retail store, we have our Heat & Eat products where customers can have restaurant quality food at any time…just Heat and Eat.

Our specialties include the Ribs\Rib Tips, Brunswick Stew, BBQ Pulled Pork (called Good Pork), and BBQ Pulled Chicken (called Ooh-wee Chicken). The seasoned Ribs and Rib Tips are slow-smoked to tender perfection and served dry with customer’s choice our Good Sauce (sweet & mild) or our Ooh-Wee Sauce (a Lil spicy). The Brunswick Stew is a mixture of our smoked pork and smoked chicken and selection of vegetables, prepared with the right about of sweetness and kick. The Good Pork is our hand-pulled pork mixed with our Good Sauce and the Ooh-Wee Chicken is our hand-pulled smoked chicken mixed with our Ooh-Wee Sauce.

What is the future of Lil Benny Smokehouse? Our direction is to expand the Heat & Eat to a wider market. With the growing number of households cooking less, Heat & Eat helps families quickly bring high-quality food to the kitchen table, without the “going out” expense.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Our Good Luck is being to express our Passion. Our Passion for the best Customer Service coupled with our Passion for the best Quality of Product both have contributed to our success. We make it a point to let our customers know the appreciation we have for them, as they are the ones who keep us in business. We strive for quality, consistency, and love in every product we create for our customers.

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