Bar-B-Clean tackles dirtiest work
Bar-B-Clean was launched in 2010 after its founder discovered a lack of options for getting the backyard grill cleaned.
What’s the grossest thing you’d do for money? The possibilities are endless for parents of young children, pet owners and Fear Factor fans, but a young barbecue-cleaning franchise is asking that question of its courageous franchisees.
Year-old hamburger bits? Check. Mouse droppings? No problem. Dispatching furry or feathered inhabitants before hand-cleaning a nasty grill back to like-new condition? That’s the name of the game at Bar-B-Clean, a California-based franchise taking the dirty work out of the grilling season.
“It was born out of necessity like all other great things,” said Bryan Weinstein, founder and CEO of Bar-B-Clean, about starting the company in 2010 after discovering a lack of choices to clean his own family’s grill. “With 30 million people in Southern California, only one guy was servicing and cleaning barbecues.”
Three years after launching Bar-B-Clean and diving into the grill-cleaning business with his own glove-covered hands, Weinstein franchised the company after seeing potential to bring this concept throughout the country. As he and his crew quickly discovered, the population of grilling enthusiasts exceeds the number of backyard chefs willing to pull up the grates and clean away the remnants of barbecues gone by.
Scaring up business
While the Southwest U.S. is particularly fruitful for all the built-in backyard barbecues, he said the concept is viable in a diversity of regions and climates, especially considering the number of apartment complexes and commercial clients to supplement a given area’s population of residential grills.
The company now has 13 franchisees for 23 total units concentrated in southern states like California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, among others. The company is targeting Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Orlando, Las Vegas and Atlanta through public relations work, Facebook and LinkedIn ads, search engine optimization and localized corporate landing pages.
For customers, a typical cleaning for a full-size grill runs approximately $250, which includes steam cleaning as part of the deep clean. “We tell our customers that everywhere inside the barbecue will be clean to the touch. You’ll have no residue left on your fingers,” Weinstein said, but “I hesitate to say the grill’s going to look like the day you bought it.”
‘It’s so niche’
Asked about the dirtiest days on the job, he said it’s not uncommon to find mice, rats and various animal nests and droppings inside grills. The charred leftovers, shelter from the elements and residual warmth create the perfect environment for pests, and a terrific selling point if somebody was thinking about firing up the BBQ for the first time in a few months. Building that awareness about the service, he said, is their primary objective in new markets.
“It’s so new and because it’s so niche, most people … have no idea that this service exists,” Weinstein said. “It’s imperative for me as the franchisor and each of my franchisees to build awareness to get people to realize there is such a service for such a filthy place.”
As a fellow lazy griller who’s reasonably concerned with food safety, I asked if most people are inclined to just replace a grill that’s gone wild. He countered that 70 to 80 percent of the company’s business comes from rehabbing larger, more expensive built-in barbecues. If replacement is the best option, Bar-B-Clean will assist its customers, if desired, to buy and install a shiny new unit, even if that’s usually not necessary.
While he declined to share the secret sauce, Weinstein said the key to bringing forlorn grills back from the dead is starting with oven cleaner to soften things up, then returning with a high-pressure steam cleaner. The company also worked with a chemist to develop a proprietary stainless steel polish that repels UV rays and water, prolonging the life of most units.
Aside from the obvious grunge factor, carcinogenic chemicals can accumulate in grills, which are then released with the application of heat. The clear implication is that what may be lurking under burners and covers isn’t just gross, it’s also a clear and present health danger.
“I don’t like to talk about it either, other than to educate the customers … but it’s something people need to be aware of,” he said.
According to Bar-B-Clean’s most recent FDD, the average unit volume was $89,105 during their first full year in the system. Since then, Weinstein said, his franchisees have seen growth in the numbers. All-in startup costs are estimated at $25,000.
Whether or not you’re enticed enough to dive into the grill-cleaning biz, Weinstein hopes as more people learn the virtues of a clean grill, attracting franchisees will be the easiest part of the job—especially by comparison.