One day in 2009, Southern California native Bryan Weinstein went out back to fire up his gas grill. It had been a while. When he opened the lid, he saw crusted-on food, spots of mold and other manner of filth that would not be tolerated on any other cooking implement. As he spent the next few hours scraping, scrubbing and degreasing, he decided there needed to be a simpler, more effective way to clean his barbecue.
"I Googled it and saw that there was only one grill-cleaning company in Orange County," he remembers. "I thought this would be a great opportunity in a niche market with little or no competition."
He learned about the best methods for steam cleaning and sterilizing barbecues and sat down with a chemist to develop a proprietary polish for stainless steel. Then he put his concept to the test, running Bar-B-Clean in Orange County until he perfected the system. A veteran Soccer Shots franchise, Weinstein began selling Bar-B-Clean units in August 2013. So far he has franchisees operating in Pasadena, Calif., as well as Oklahoma City, Phoenix and Austin. He expects to grow into double digits by the end of the year.
As many Americans get ready to close up their grills for the winter, we got Weinstein to tell us why we should care about a clean 'cue.
Cleaning a grill is one of the dirtiest jobs around the house. Is it really necessary?
One of the main things we push is the health benefit of cleaning a grill. We like to say that a clean barbecue is a healthy barbecue. I'd say 50 percent of the grills I've seen have rat droppings in them. When you spark up the barbecue, all that old soot and rat and mouse droppings smoke and cover the food. It's a very unhealthy place, and when it gets hot, it's even more unhealthy.
Most people call us because they want their grill to look nice because they're having company. By the time we're done with our conversation, they're usually more interested in the health aspects.
Yeah. I've even found three full-on rat nests in grills. The worst one was last month. There was a nest just underneath the grates. I came home after that and had to jump in the pool to get the stuff off me.
Are there enough nice grills out there to support a business like this?
We're really concentrating on the Sunbelt--places where people use outdoor kitchens year-round. There are lots of homes built in the last 20 years where people have hardscaped the backyard and built in a grill.
Cleaning grills is pretty niche. Any ideas for add-on services?
I do have some ideas for complementary businesses. We'll be adding patio furniture and pressure washing soon. Another idea is resurfacing the islands the grills sit on and possibly adding oven cleaning to help make areas with a shorter grilling season more viable. They'll all have to do with cooking or outdoor spaces, like fire-pit cleaning or cleaning outdoor heaters. There are a lot of ways to build this business.
I don't have Bar-B-Clean in my town. What should I do to keep my grill clean?
What I tell my clients for the times in between cleanings is to turn over their grates. Everyone remembers to clean the top of their grates, but no one ever thinks of the bottom, where lots of food sticks and hangs down. If you dig any deeper into your grill, you enter at your own risk.