The PREP Member Spotlight for September is none other than Atlanta member Piedmont Kitchen Co. Founder Brad Coolidge has brought his North-Carolina style Barbecue to Georgia for all to enjoy. Brad launched Piedmont Kitchen Co. in 2015, inspired by the flavors of his home in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. Piedmont kitchen Co. takes pride in their locally sourced pork and beef and their antibiotic-free chicken helping to ensure you and your family get the best product.
Although Piedmont Kitchen Co. is known for their Barbecue, they also have a famous vegan lentil soup that is a must-try. Georgians can find Piedmont Kitchen Co. products at Ga-based retailers, online retailers, and in-person farmers’ markets. Retailers include Midtown Butcher Shoppe, Candler Park Market, Lucy’s Market, and The Stout Brothers Woodstock Beer Market. In addition to this site, online products are featured at Fresh Harvest and Market Wagon. Or visit their website at piedmontbbqco.com
Firstly, How did you become a part of the restaurant/food industry, and what was your first job?
I have worked in corporate jobs for the last 15 years but have always cooked BBQ as a hobby. My most recent boss and the president of my company at the time convinced me to go into the food business after cooking for significant company events several times.
How long have you been in Georgia, and what first brought you here?
I came to Atlanta 10 years ago for a job in pharmaceutical distribution.
How did you choose your name?
Piedmont is the region in NC where I’m from, and it’s also associated with the style of pulled pork that we make- our flagship item.
How did you come up with the idea for your new business?
We started a few months before COVID, so we had to pivot several times!! It began as a corporate catering model and went to home delivery and frozen products.
What are the essential skills for a new food concept?
Probably a toss-up between being able to sell your product and understanding operational costs/food costs. At the end of the day, if you struggle to sell your product, not much else will matter.
Above all, What’s the most significant food business-related challenge that you had to struggle to overcome?
No, it’s not Covid. That was secretly the best thing that ever happened to Piedmont. We are a bit of an odd duck because our products are frozen and reheated by boiling in the bag. No one else is doing what we’re doing. With that comes a barrier with the customer trying it, but once they try it, they are all in. Breaking that barrier of customers trying our food is the most challenging.
What prompted you to start a food business?
I just wanted to start my own business, and food was something I was good at. I’m not a BBQ fanatic, and I enjoy producing things that bring people joy, and BBQ was an avenue to do that and a vehicle to leave the corporate world and go into business for myself.
What’s on your menu? Why did you choose this cuisine/product?
BBQ is the cornerstone, but we’ve since rebranded from Piedmont BBQ Co. to Piedmont Kitchen Co. because we are doing way more than BBQ now. Three sub-brands fall under Piedmont Kitchen Co: Piedmont BBQ, Piedmont Plant-Based, and Piedmont Mains. We’ve expanded into vegan/vegetarian foods and a catch-all (Mains) for prepared foods, including our line of marinated meats.
What’s the best part of owning your own company?
For me, it is so much more fulfilling than any of my corporate jobs. Being able to control my destiny and have the freedom and flexibility to do what I want is great. I’m an entrepreneur for life now.
What lessons have you learned since launching your own business?
So many, but I’ll go with this one since it’s fresh. It sounds overly simple but at the end of the day, being cash positive is king. As a new business, there’s always a balance between growing and being profitable. If you don’t spend money, it’s tough to grow. If you spend a lot and grow like crazy but blow through all your cash, then it’s not sustainable.
Is there anything you would have done differently at the start?
I would have gotten into farmer’s markets much sooner. They are very profitable and significant for connecting with local customers and getting people to taste your products.
Is any new exciting news or events coming?
We’ve got a couple of considerable irons in the fire, but I’ll have to wait before I comment on them. I don’t want to jinx it. Stay tuned.
How can someone buy your product?
Farmers markets- Brookhaven, Woodstock, Grant Park, Avondale Estates, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Peachtree City
Local neighborhood markets on the shelf- Candler Park Market, Midtown Butcher Shoppe, Lucy’s Market, Grayson Farmacy, General Store at Serenbe. Purchase on our website- purchase one-off orders or get set up on a subscription and get it delivered to your door!!
Finally, What would you do differently next time if you could relaunch your business?
Nothing at this point. It’s all been a learning experience, and I believe everything happens for a reason.