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Some barbecue competitions include a People’s Choice category. Learn how they work, how you can make money and whether you should consider signing up to cook a PC.
The primary purpose of a barbecue competition is to cook up some killer meat that pleases a table full of judges who are going to score your barbecue in hopes that they’ll find your BBQ the best, earning you multiple first place calls.
While that’s a super fun experience for competitors and judges, it leaves spectators a little high and dry. For weeks, they’ve probably seen ads announcing that some awesome pitmasters were coming to town to cook up amazing BBQ. It’s not until after they arrive and smell the aroma of hickory and brisket that they realize, unless they’re a judge or a friend of a team, they’re likely going home empty handed.
Event organizers have worked hard to combat this fear of missing out by creating a People’s Choice category.
What is People’s Choice?
People’s Choice – also referred to as PC – is separate from the four-meat turn in, and it doesn’t count toward the overall grand champion points.
Instead, it’s an opportunity to serve your barbecue to those anxious spectators who have been intoxicated by the smell of BBQ since they pulled into the parking lot.
At most contests, event goers will buy tickets, which can be exchanged for your food. At some contests, the rules are clear – one ticket equals one serving. Other times, cooks have discretion and can offer platters or special dishes for an increased number of tickets.
How is the People’s Choice winner selected?
How the PC winner is selected varies from contest to contest. In some instances, when people buy their food tickets, they receive a free voting ticket. Then, after they taste their fair share of samples, they submit their vote for their favorite bite. The team with the most voting tickets wins.
In other contests, there are no voting tickets. The champ is purely selected based on the team that earns the most food tickets overall. This is why some teams pull out all the stops and serve up pulled pork tamales for 4 tickets, instead of a simple 2-ounce serving of pulled pork for 1 ticket.
In either case, you have to make your food service area enticing to draw in the crowds. A flimsy table with a pan of meat doesn’t get people all that excited. But a heavily decorated booth with a chalkboard highlighting the dishes along with some neon lights and championship banners will make people feel like they need to stop by and give your food a try.
Who pays for the meat?
Just like everything else related to PC, who buys the meat varies, too. Some contests will provide you with a certain amount of ribs or pork butts while others require you to bring your own.
In either case, event coordinators usually offer a 50/50 split based on ticket sales. So if they’re selling tickets for $2 each, you would earn back $1 for each ticket you collect. If they’re providing the meat, this is a great deal. If you’re providing the meat, keep this in mind when you’re calculating how much food you want to offer per ticket, so you can recoup your costs, plus make a little dough.
Also take into consideration the cost of plates, napkins, forks, etc. Some comps will provide these items, but most don’t.
Should I complete in People’s Choice
Before deciding whether or not to compete, you need to as yourself the following question: What is your end goal?
- To make money
- To get new catering clients
- To help a charitable cause
- To win grand champion
If you do PC right, you can bank some extra cash to offset the cost of the four-meat competition, and you may even take home the PC trophy. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new clients, if you have a catering company.
A lot of times PC contests are held to support charitable causes. While you’ll get to keep 50 percent of your sales, the other 50 percent usually goes to a good cause that supports the local community.
But if you’re at this competition because you are chasing KCBS points and you aiming for that grand championship trophy, PC can become quite a distraction, because it requires a lot of extra time and effort.
What else do I need to know about PC?
Since you’ll be serving to the public, the health district regulations are usually more strict for PC compared to the four-meat contest.
You must be prepared to have a proper hand washing and sanitization station. You have to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Inspectors are likely to come by and probe your meat just to make sure you’re following food safety procedures.
You have to cook all of your meat on site, and if you’re providing the meat, sometimes you have to have receipts showing you bought it that day or proof that you stored it in a previously inspected and approved kitchen.
You’ll want to have a team of supporters. If you’re cooking the four meats, PC often runs at the same time as turn ins, so you need people to help serve and entertain the crowds.
At the end of the day, adding PC to a four-meat comp can be really exhausting. But it’s also super rewarding, because you get to meet new people and share the love of BBQ, which is what competition BBQ is all about.