Love and Barbecue: How Travis and Emma Heim Went from Back Yard to Brick-and-Mortar
The story of Heim Barbecue is the story of food and family.
Travis Heim knew he had a talent for cooking when he was 12 years old and made a brisket on his grandfather’s smoker in the backyard. A few years later, he built his own smoker for ribs, and his family couldn’t get enough.
Heim kept cooking through college while dating his soon-to-be-wife Emma, eating Ramen noodles all week so he could save money to buy brisket and ribs. They talked about opening a barbecue restaurant after college, but it wasn’t the right time — the young couple was struggling to make ends meet. Heim had a full-time job but barbecue was his passion. He and Emma threw barbecue parties, called the T & E MEATclub, for their friends and family on the weekends.
And then Heim was laid off from his job. That’s when he knew he had to find a way to make his barbecue dreams come true. He bought a food truck, and it wasn’t long before it became a success. Customers would wait for one to two hours in line for his food. In August of 2016, the Heims opened Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth, Texas, and haven’t looked back.
Their restaurant is often packed, and they have a catering service. Heim Barbecue uses Tripleseat to manage their growing events business.
We talked to Travis about his love for cooking and Heim Barbecue’s plans for the future.
What is it about the art of barbecuing that makes it more of a joy than a job?
Barbecue for me is more of a passion than a job. Learning the basics from my grandfather, spending countless hours of trial and error, learning all the ins and outs of maintaining a consistent fire, I learned to love the process and the technique involved with cooking a large hunk of meat for 18 hours.
When you started experimenting with barbecuing as a teenager, did you think about opening a restaurant or food truck in the future?
I never really thought about opening a restaurant until after Emma and I had spent some time doing pop up dinners called T & E MEATclub for friends and family in Fort Worth. Once we had 70+ people coming to a pop-up in our backyard we thought maybe we actually could do something with this.
Where do you get ideas for new menu items?
A lot of new ideas come from just trying to be creative with product that isn’t being used. Like our potato skins — we were throwing away the peeled potato skins and it was driving me crazy that we couldn’t find anything to do with them, so we decided to fry them again, cover them with our queso sauce, and add brisket and pico! Other than that I have a cookbook addiction. I love old cookbooks and anything having to do with a cuisine or subject I’m not familiar with.
What types of events does Heim Barbecue host and how often do you have events?
We do everything: full-service catering, buffet style, weddings, corporate events, charity dinners, anything from standing in a field with open fire cooking, to white tablecloth, plated multi-course meals.
Tell us more about the catering side of Heim Barbecue.
Catering has been a huge part of our business once we moved from a food truck to a brick and mortar restaurant location. Barbecue is such a great communal food that it’s perfect for weddings, corporate lunches, big events and small private gatherings too. Emma and I love the opportunities to do catering because sometimes it’s hard for folks to get into our restaurant because we’re so busy all the time. Weddings especially are meaningful because that is such an important day in two people’s lives, and the fact that they want our food to be a part of that in a small way is so cool!
Why did you decide to start using Tripleseat?
We looked at a few different products to help with our catering business, and Tripleseat without a doubt seemed to be the most thorough and easy-to-use product to help us build up our business. We can do so much with Tripleseat that helps our catering team stay organized and on top of all the craziness we have going on with open fire cooking, to white tablecloth, plated multicourse meals.
How has Tripleseat improved the events and catering side of Heim Barbecue?
It’s streamlined our catering process altogether. From prospects, tentative, and definite settings, to planning out how we will get everything done according to our very high standards for food quality and service, Tripleseat has been a huge part of our catering business growing so much this past year. Next Saturday we have six weddings on the same day! We wouldn’t be able to set up, plan, and execute that without the help from such a great product.
What’s next for Heim Barbecue?
The goal of opening our food truck after I had been laid off from my job in the oil and gas field was simply to provide for our family, doing something we loved. I never thought we’d be where we are now, as quickly as we’ve gotten here, but Emma and I are incredibly blessed to have had the success we have so far. We just recently opened our commissary kitchen, which is a facility specifically designed for our catering food production, and hope to double or triple our catering sales in 2019. In the next few months, we will open our second location restaurant in the River District, in west Fort Worth, a 7,500 square foot building with a covered patio, private dining area, and outdoor beer garden area with a stage for live music and events. We’d love to open more restaurants, but right now we want to stay focused on all the things we have going on.
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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Tripleseat’s Seated magazine, 2018 Holidays issue.