Now that I had the perfect pickup location it was time to introduce The Fast Lane…
I knew that growing the catering was going to be essential for survival. However, it was going to be tough and costly to prepare tons of samples to drop by businesses for them to taste. When thinking through strategy, I always come back to our mission, which is gathering friends and family around the table to enjoy a meal. How would we be able to continue that after being shut down at the produce stand?
That’s when I came up with the idea of The Fast Lane. It would be a way to provide BBQ meals for families two days a week, which would also leave the weekends available for larger catering events. I set it up where families would preorder the meals, which made food prep manageable and gave me a better shot at having enough for everyone. Meals were preset to feed 2, 4, or 8 people and then we would also offer brisket and pork by the pound. The quick favorites were brisket tacos served with fresh corn salsa & Jalapeno cilantro slaw and the homemade chicken pot pie. My mom made a killer one and it was cool to keep our family tradition alive and share it with others. In fact, she has inspired or helped create so many of our dishes.
The Fast Lane was an awesome season in the life of Lane’s. I absolutely love feedback.Sometimes it is tough to hear, but it can make you and your product so much better if you can get to the heart of it.
We always want to take it personally… but you must take the emotion out of it and really listen to what they are saying.
Plus, some feedback might not work for the way you currently have the business set up, but it could be super helpful down the road. Because I got to see the families as they picked up every week, it was super helpful to be able to ask what they liked and didn’t...not just regarding the food, but about the process. I wanted to limit the friction from ordering to the payment to the pickup. The local community really helped me tweak these parts of the processes and even certain recipes that we still use in catering today. Plus, they even shared some of their own favorite family recipes.
I would love to say that it was all puppies, rainbows, and piles of cash during those days, but that wasn’t the case. But man, did I feel alive and like I was fulfilling God’s purpose for me during that season. Still waiting on the piles of cash too!!
However, here are a couple of lessons I learned during this time:
First, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to do this alone. From running to Restaurant Depot (a wholesale type bulk grocery store that has everything from meat, produce, and all the catering supplies you would need), then hitting the grocery store for the smaller essentials was just the start or finish to the day. You also had to prep all the meats for the smoker, then you had sides, desserts, and BBQ sauces that I made 2-3 gallons at a time. Then once all that was done, the meals still had to be delivered and set up. Wait a minute… now I realize why I have put on some much weight in the past few years. I was burning a ton of calories in those early days. This season of life involved a lot more planning and meetings (Be on the lookout for a future blog post about that). Either way, I knew I was going to need help and leaned on several of my buddies during the first couple of years. Shout out to Damyn Swanepoel, Keith O’Carroll, and my brother-in-law, Thor Grenier. They were always willing to drop what they were doing and lend a helping hand. Plus, how can you lose if you have a "Thor" on the team!!
Secondly, another thing I learned about was the power of prayer. My mother-in-law has been one of my biggest supporters from day one. She would always drop inspirational verses by the house and send me texts with how she was specifically praying for me. The timing of the encouragement was always perfect. I’ll be honest, I’m so thankful I had several people praying for our family and the business. Because if I’m being real, I wasn’t always making it a priority each day. Stacey used to ask me if I was hitting my knees every day thanking God for all the blessings. I would typically say something like… absolutely, I hit my knees every time I get out of bed. But really it was from exhaustion not always for time with God. Thinking back… God really has been in this every step of the way.
The third takeaway was that I needed to find a way to generate some income outside of catering. I always felt guilty if I missed one of the kid’s games or an event with the family. I often found myself stressing about how I was going to replace the catering income when I made it to an event or if we wanted to take a family vacation. That’s when I came up with the craziest idea yet. So I grabbed a handful of darts and went to find Stacey to get her help to sort them out...again.