Despite featuring an award-winning menu and a wall covered in accolades, Phamous Phil's BBQ on Germantown Pike in Collegeville has been struggling to make ends meet as the business heads into its two-year anniversary in May.
Owner Phil Schmidt, of Lower Providence, along with his wife, Robin, have operated the restaurant since May of 2010, and in that short of time, they've established themselves as one of the premier southern-style BBQ businesses in the region, winning countless awards and receiving incredible online reviews.
Even with their successes on the taste side of the business, cheap competition from chain restaurants and a rise in the cost of supplies has put a sizable dent on the otherwise successful business.
"Business has been a little slow," said Schmidt. "In this economy, people are looking for the cheap deals that the big restaurant chains can offer."
In addition to the competition from the national chains, Schmidt points to an increase in the cost of meats over recent months which--along with increasing credit card fees--takes quite a bit of the restaurant's profit.
"The majority of our business--like 98 percent--is meat, and when those costs go up, things can become pretty difficult," said Schmidt. "To make things worse, the credit card companies just reach into our pocket every month to collect their fees. It really hurts small business owners."
Schmidt considered an advertising campaign, but with diminished business comes the problem of finding the money to lure in new customers.
"The problem is that without business coming in, we really can't budget for advertising," said Schmidt. "Advertising is expensive to begin with, even with mailers, flyers and things like that."
On the positive side of things, Schmidt points to an increase in their catering service, which can provide everything from pig roasts and clambakes to hot dogs and hamburgers. They're also rolling out a line of spices and sauces for retail purchase in the coming months.
"We're going to have three different spices available in shaker bottles for retail, along with five sauces," said Schmidt, who added they've already established agreements to carry their products as close as Limerick and as far as Virginia Beach.
Still, the owners would like to see an increase in customers who visit the restaurant, and they're making several changes in order to draw on a larger base.
"We brought some seafood on board for people that might not like BBQ," said Schmidt. "We have fried shrimp, fried catfish, and other seafood combinations."
They also plan to experiment and try out new recipes, in an effort to keep their offerings fresh and plentiful.
"We're constantly doing something different and smoking something new," said Schmidt. "We just got finished with a new rib chili recipe, and we have smoked ham, smoked beef, and lots of other stuff."
Schmidt, who was born and raised in the area, adds that it's important for small businesses to stick together, so they use local vendors whenever possible.
"I like to work with the local small businesses because it gives everyone a chance," said Schmidt. "We use a lot of the local vendors, seafood places and butchers for supplies and everything else."
Regardless of the recent lull in business, Schmidt and his wife are optimistic about the future of their restaurant. There may be some bumps along the way, but they say that quality and taste will never be an issue.
Based of the awards and reviews, the community certainly agrees.