Local Business Spotlight interviews Brian Horner, Owner of Horner’s Corner BBQ Catering in Carlisle, Pa.
Horner’s Corner BBQ offers top quality products and catering services for your wedding, party, or picnic event. Like Brian says, “We Offer Gourmet BBQ at Blue Collar Prices”
Brian: We offer a high end BBQ, or as I like to call it “A Gourmet BBQ at Blue Collar Prices.” Everything including Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Pulled Chicken, Salmon, Prime Rib, I can make anything with my smoker.
We offer full service catering, or we can do simple drop-off’s, whatever the customers needs are. We can provide everything and anything that they are looking for.
LBS: So you can basically provide any kind of meat they want?
Brian: Yes, it’s funny, this is Pennsylvania and my moms idea of bar-b-que was manwich from a can!. Really, if you think about it, most people really don’t know what BBQ is. They think it’s just throwing stuff on the grill, and honestly, that’s just grilling. Grilling is high and fast, BBQ is low and slow.
LBS: You mentioned catering, do you have a physical location?
Brian: I actually have two physical locations at the Carlisle Car Shows. I have a BBQ stand, down by the end of building Y, it’s a red shed that I bought. I expanded it, made it bigger and made some changes.
Then we also have a fried chicken stand in the actual grandstand. It’s in about the middle of the grandstand.
Our goal is to possibly open a restaurant. If you’ve seen the “Best Of Carlisle”, I was told that we are in second position right now, in the polling, for best BBQ in Carlisle. I think that’s pretty exciting, because we don’t have a restaurant. We don’t have a location where people can come all the time.
We also do festivals, Jubilee Day, in Mechanicsburg, Octoberfeast, last year we did Amani Festival, and Harvest of the Arts. We get a lot of word-of-mouth. Last Wednesday we did a catering for 600 people at Old Dominion, it was our biggest event to date. We’re very well received.
LBS: So, at this point, Catering is your biggest part of your business?
Brian: Yes, and no, we do ten cars shows a year and we bring in a lot of business there, but the catering has grown every year since we started in 2010.
LBS: Who are your current customers?
Brian: Anybody that wants to try real BBQ at very fair prices. We do weddings, in fact I’ve got three weddings coming up.
I have a friend who works for another catering company. He tried my food and he really liked it. So I ask him “what do your plates start at, per person?” He said they start at $30 a plate and go up. Our highest plate would be $21.95, and that would be Prime Rib. For a wedding, full service we charge $15 – $16 per person.
Obviously I want to make money, but I also like to be able to sleep at night, I want to be fair to people. And, I think if you get more business, that will make up for the price difference. I’d rather make people happy, than having a bad taste in their mouth after they write the check.
LBS: What makes Horner’s Corner BBQ unique?
Brian: The quality of the food, number one. I make everything from scratch. I make my own sauces, about two dozen homemade sauces. I make my own rubs. It’s all done, or made with love.
For me, I take it very seriously. I know there are caterers out there, in fact there are restaurants out there, that order stuff from distributors that’s already cooked. All they have to do is throw it in the oven and they serve it on there menu.
I don’t do that. I think people are paying for a fresh product, that’s what they should get. All my food has a gourmet flare to it. I try to take it the extra couple of steps so people know that we appreciate them and we want them to enjoy everything.
Like, for example, when we did the catering at Old Dominion, I had my people walking around with deserts hand serving them. We didn’t have to, we had a desert table, but I them treating those people like they wanted to be treated. So, I think our service is another thing that is unique, how we treat our customers.
LBS: What are some of the main reasons you like living and doing business in the Carlisle area?
Brian: I pretty much have grown up in Carlisle, it’s what I call home. Where I live now, I live maybe a mile from where I went to kindergarten. I have a lot of friends in Carlisle and I know the area very well from when I worked for UPS.
I love the area, it’s kind of like Forest Gump land. It’s not to fast, it’s quiet, for the most part it’s a nice place to live.
LBS: Can you tell us about your own story and how you got started in the BBQ business?
Brian: When I was a kid, a friend of mine got me a job busing tables at Sunnyside. One of the people I looked up to was Jack Tripper on Three’s Company. He was a cook, and that was one of my favorite shows. Well, I was working at Sunnyside and I worked my way into the kitchen.
Then I started cooking. I learned from the Chef there, and as the years went by I could run every station. Whether it was broilers for things like Crab Imperial, Stuffed Flounder, Broiled Seafood’s or Steaks, Fryers or Grille, I could run anything.
Then I got married and wound up getting a job at UPS, delivering for ten years. Then I blew my back out, and to make a long story short, I left UPS because I wasn’t able to do the job anymore.
Before that I was on the couch recovering from back surgeries, and I was watching BBQ shows on TV. I thought, that looks easy, I can do that. And, yes I could do it, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked, nothing is ever as easy as it looks.
So I bought a little smoker and I started cooking on my back porch, and it just grew. People loved my stuff, and it just grew, and grew, and grew, until I finally said, I’m going to do this.
We wound up getting a place at the car show and it was just amazing.
LBS: What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Brian: Getting the word out there, trying to attract more Catering business. We do have some advertising, but it just takes time to get from point A to point B. There has been some equipment challenges, but that’s just par for the course.
LBS: What are some defining moments that made you grow to where you are today?
Brian: My first catering event was for my church, at a summer camp. The Evangelist that was speaking was from North Carolina, and he really liked my food. I told him I was just getting started and he said, “Go give your food away.” And I said, “What.” He said, “Go do small caterings for free, just to get your name out there.”
So, I started to do that. In fact, DA’s office, an engineering firm, a car dealership, I did three or four places. Then I woke up one day, and you know how sometime you feel like you’re supposed to go do something, so I went to the car show.
It took me a couple of days, I was a little intimidated because they are a world class organization, but I went over and took my food over. They loved it and they pulled me aside and said there was an opening would you be interested. So, I’m trying to control myself, and I said, “yes absolutely.” You know, you’re supposed to show your poker face, I probably didn’t do such a good job!
God orchestrated it for us to get in there, because it was all perfect timing. I would say, just because of God, is how things fell into place. We couldn’t have done it that way, the things that happened at the car show with vendors leaving. The timing one way or the other and we would have missed it. So, I’m just thankful to God, he’s the one in charge, not us.
LBS: Is there any funny or crazy things that have happened in your Catering business?
Brian: I have a friend that works for me, in fact we worked together at Sunnyside. And he’s a Butcher for Giant, he’s in their meat room, he cuts up pieces of meat. It was our first car show, our spring show. He was here at the house, because I have a state licensed kitchen here in my garage.
I had 5 or 6 ten pound briskets. I said, do me a favor and trim these up, I’m going to run down to the car show and grab something. I forgot he was a butcher and what I meant by “trim them up” was to just trim some of the fat off. He took that to mean trim them into little pieces, bit size, like you were going to throw them in a pot roast, instead of for a smoker.
It was pretty funny, when I got back I was just so tired. But, I looked, and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at and I just started laughing. I didn’t get mad because he didn’t realize, and I didn’t tell him. But it’s just funny what you say, and what people interpret it to mean, are two different things. But we didn’t have any crazy stuff happen, nobody got hurt or anything, which is good.
LBS: What kind of trends are you noticing in the Catering industry that may affect your customers or even people in the community?
Brian: I think people are looking for something different, other than just the standard burger and fries. There’s been a lot of restaurants that have been opening up that are offering different than the main American food.
There’s other BBQ places, trailers, there’s a guy off Spring Road, Reds opened up downtown. I think the people are just looking for something other than standard fare.
LBS: How has Horner’s Corner BBQ Catering changed or evolved over the two years you’ve been in business?
Brian: We’ve learned some lessons, and I think we’ve gotten better. We’re learning better how to serve our customers and to meet their needs. Every time we do something we learn something new. It’s a continual learning process.
LBS: If someone were looking for a catering service, what advice could you give them?
Brian: I would say to them, give me a call. No matter what the affair is, or your budget is, we can put something together that’s gonna meet your needs, at a very fair price.
They should know what exactly they do want. Sometimes people will call a just say they want catering. They don’t realize there is more than just the food. Do they want full service, tables, table cloth’s, plates, napkins, what level of service do you want. What are your expectations from me?
LBS: What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting a business, in general, or specifically the catering business?
Brian: My advice would be, be prepared for setbacks. Make your business plan, then start. Just begin doing it, you’re going to have setbacks, no business plan is perfect. There are things that will come up, that you had no idea would come up.
I’ve heard the saying, “Blessed are the flexible because they will never get bent out of shape.” I’ve become extremely flexible! Sometimes I feel like silly putty.
Things happen that you had no idea would happen. Don’t spend all day planning, just get out there and start doing it.
LBS: What are some current events, or promotions at Horner’s Corner BBQ Catering?
Brian: As far as events, we have the car shows.
Here’s an idea, if someone calls and mentions this interview, we’ll give them 10% off their catering event.
LBS: Is there anything else you’d like the potential customer to know?
Brian: Just give us a try, you won’t be disappointed. Once people find out about us, they love us. For example, at the car show, we have customers that won’t eat anywhere else.
There’s people that live in Texas, where BBQ’s are big, and people who traveled all over. They all say ours is right up there with the best of them. So, I believe we’re doing something right.
LBS: How can a potential customer learn more about catering services from Horner’s Corner BBQ?
Brian: Visit our website at www.hornerscornerbbq.com. The site has examples. The actual price can vary depending on the number of people and the level of service they want. Also, it only lists 5 or 6 BBQ sauces I make, and I make over twenty.
I’ve got over 20 years of Culinary experience, so I make just about anything they want. So, if you don’t see it, ask.
We are also on Facebook.
Local Business Spotlight thanks Brian Horner for allowing us the interview!