Food Truck Profile: GottaQ Smokehouse BBQ

The food truck scene in RI has witnessed a major first: GottaQ Smokehouse BBQ took home first place in their category in Mobile Cuisine Magazine’s food truck awards. They faced hundreds of other BBQ trucks and netted over 7,700 votes. It’s a big step forward. “I can’t even describe the value of it,” says Michael Stout, owner and pitmaster. On a more local level, GottaQ also won their first RI Food Truck award this year at a June event produced by Motif and FoodTrucksInRI.

It wasn’t that long ago when Mike started GottaQ with his wife, Janice. He’s originally from Massachusetts, and spent 27 years in Florida. In 2007, he moved to RI, met Janice and got married. GottaQ was originally envisioned as a concession stand before it made its debut as a truck on April 25, 2014. Since then they’ve garnered huge success and expanded to include another truck, a trailer and two brick-and-mortar locations, both located on Mendon Road in Cumberland. They have 15 staff members and took on a new business partner, Anthony Mardenly, to help with the business side of things.

“Everything we sell, all our meals, are made ahead of time,” says Mike. It’s a rainy summer day and we talk on the phone as he drives back from a private event GottaQ catered in New Hampshire. “Pulled pork and brisket cooks for about 20 hours.” Running the truck taught him about the logistics and limits of barbecuing. While they can’t make much fresh to order, they compensate by turning out between one and two orders a minute. There’s not many food trucks in the local scene that can claim that kind of turnaround time.

GottaQ goes through 7,000 pounds of meat a week. That includes the beef, pork butt, sirloin, brisket, ribs, whole chickens and sausage. They’re supplied through a wholesaler; most local farms can’t meet their supply needs. Mike tries to ensure they cook with the best cuts they can — USDA prime beef, Cheshire pork. “The price point is a little more than most, but I want to prove that New England barbecue is worth it.”

GottaQ the truck mostly sticks to events and festivals; however, new to this year is doing service on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Kennedy Plaza around lunchtime. The demand there is still growing, but the good days make it worth it. KP service just started in April, and they’ll continue through September/October. GottaQ also travels out of state frequently, hitting food truck festivals and events in Taunton, New Bedford, Portland (Maine) and Finger Lakes, New York. This year they’re hitting about 280 events overall. They’re also licensing in Boston next year, joining the food trucks on the Greenway.

Catering by GottaQ is in strong demand. On average, they got a dozen catering orders a week this year. They’ve got some big name fans, too. Governor Gina Raimondo has them cater her staff parties, and just recently gave them a citation for their Mobile Cuisine award. “I want people to know how well we were treated,” says Mike. He’s especially proud of the staff and the service they provide to every customer. “Our staff is second to none, they’re rockstars. I want people to have some of the best BBQ they’re going to have. I don’t wanna be New England BBQ, I wanna be the best BBQ nationwide.”

GottaQ plans to continue to slowly expand in the coming years. But what are Mike and Janice’s long-term plans? They have a dream of retiring by driving a perpetual BBQ rig across the road. Serving the best BBQ, sightseeing and traveling all across America. Not a bad plan for one of RI’s most successful food trucks.

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