Side hustle foodies turning homes into takeaways

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Embracing the Grill: Matt’s Barbecue Side Hustle

Matt O’Brien has always been the self-appointed barbecue master, even when he’s a guest at someone else’s backyard gathering. His love for outdoor cooking has become more than just a hobby – it’s now a thriving side business.

Hailing from Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Matt has transformed his home into a weekend pop-up takeaway, Matty’s BBQ Chop Shop. This comes as the restaurant industry continues to face significant challenges, with rising costs and closures making headlines.

“I’m always the barbecue guy,” Matt admits. “Even if I go to someone else’s barbecue, I’m the one who takes over and gravitates to the fire.” This passion has now become his entrepreneurial venture.

Encouraged by friends and family, the 37-year-old Cardiff University employee decided to turn his culinary skills into a side hustle. “They said, ‘you’re cooking it anyway, you should sell this,’ so I took the plunge,” he explains.

The decision to operate from his home was a strategic one. “The reason I did it from home was it was cheap,” Matt says. “I’m already paying for this house, so any money I can save, I can pass on to the customer.”

With his existing equipment and a love for his home base, Matt saw this as a low-risk opportunity. “I’ve already got the kit, I already love being here, and if anything did happen with the company, I still have a house to be in. I’m not kicked out on the street like many of these other companies.”

Matt’s wife and their three-year-old daughter have played a crucial role in developing his menu, tasting his creations inspired by global barbecue dishes. “Then on pop-up nights, it’s the case of daughter out to the grandparents, and then it’s show time,” he says.

While Matt is currently reinvesting his profits back into the business, upgrading equipment and branding, he remains optimistic about the future. “At the moment, it’s just a little side hustle,” he says, with a six-month plan to establish a solid foundation before potentially saving and expanding.

Across town in Roath, another home-based food entrepreneur, Sranya Khaengkhan (also known as May), has found success with her Thai takeaway, Hug Paeng. After working long hours in a Vietnamese restaurant, the 36-year-old decided to start her own business to achieve a better work-life balance.

“The benefits for me are I don’t have a lot of expenses,” May explains. “Everything I need to buy, I go on foot.” She even walks up to 8 miles to source ingredients from Asian grocery stores, combining her shopping trips with exercise.

May acknowledges the occasional downsides, such as the lingering smells of food in her home and the solitude of working alone in the kitchen. However, she is content with the current setup. “It’s perfect for me like this, but for someone else, they might like to expand bigger, and I totally understand,” she says.

Profit is not May’s primary concern. “I like to make food that my customers can enjoy,” she says. “My customers work so hard, and they’d like to have a meal with their family – if my food can make them happy, that can make me happy too.”

As more individuals seek alternative paths in the face of industry challenges, these home-based food businesses offer a flexible and cost-effective solution. With a focus on quality, customer satisfaction, and work-life balance, Matt and May are carving out their own culinary success stories, one backyard barbecue and Thai dish at a time.

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