Every Saturday and Sunday across the country, the smell of frying sausages and onions can be detected at local Bunnings stores. Hugely popular with customers, the Bunnings fundraising sausage sizzles are an established and reliable way to earn your group much needed dollars. I spoke with a number of groups who have recently organised Bunnings barbecue fundraisers for their groups, to see exactly what is involved.
Where can you hold your Bunnings BBQ fundraiser, and how long in advance must you book?
When you visit the main Bunnings website looking for information about sausage sizzle fundraisers, you will be instructed to contact the Activities Organiser of your local store. The website will automatically direct you to your nearest store using Google’s location services, so generally you won’t be given a choice which store you can have your sausage sizzle at, as you will be allocated the store closest to your school or organisation. However you will be given a choice of dates. You may need to book at least four to six months in advance. There is no fee for booking a sausage sizzle. When you formally accept the date, you will be provided with a comprehensive guide detailing operating procedures.
What information and support do Bunnings provide?
Your Bunnings store will provide you with an information pack with suggestions about the quantities of sausages and drinks which are usually sold on a typical day. Depending on the store it could be:
25-35 loaves of bread or the equivalent number of rolls
10kg of onions
5+ litres of sauce
200+ drinks including bottles of water, cans of soft drink
For superstores, the expected quantities could be much larger.
They are very specific about what you can sell and the drinks you provide must be specific name brands such as Coke, Fanta and Lemon. They also set the prices that you sell the items for ie $2.50 for a sausage and $1.50 for a drink.
You will not be able to sell anything else on the day (such as ice-creams or cakes) although they do allow you to have donation tins on the tables.
The guide will also detail what volunteers should wear in order to comply with their Workplace Health and Safety standards such as disposable gloves, closed shoes (no thongs), shirts (no singlets) and long hair tied back.
What equipment do you need to bring?
Bunnings will provide an all-weather tent, tables, the BBQ and power. In most situations, the tent and BBQ will already be set up when you arrive. They will also replace the gas bottle if it runs out during cooking.
You will need to bring all your food (beef sausages, buns, sauce, drinks) plus serviettes, tongs, knives and eskies for cold storage. You will need oil to start the cooking (especially for the onions), paper towel, baby wipes or chux plus Spray’n’Wipe for spills, plus tools for cleaning the BBQ. Aprons are also essential, as is a box of disposable gloves for serving and cleaning. You will also need to bring enough ice to keep the sausages and drinks cold all day.
Aluminium trays to store cooked sausages and cut buns are also helpful, as are extra trays to place the sausage sizzles in while customers are putting away their wallets or fussing around sorting out their kids. A roll of alfoil can be used to cover cooked sausages, keep them warm and protect from flies. Bin liners will be useful both for your own rubbish as well as bins for customers as some stores will not allow you to use their bins and you may be expected to take all your rubbish away with you.
You will also need to bring a float and cash box on the day. Your store will probably suggest what you need, but you need to be prepared for the first customer to buy a $2.50 sausage with a $50 note. A recommendation would be a $200 float with four $20, four $10, six $5, $20 each of $1 and $2 coins plus $10 worth of 50 cents coins.
What hours do you have to be there?
Stores will have their own requirements and they may also differ depending on the season, but there is generally the understanding that you need to be ready to serve shortly after opening and stay for the majority of the day. For example, Tanya needed to be ready at 8.15am with the first sales by 8.30am and they were expected to stay until 4.30pm.
How many volunteers do you need?
The size of the store will greatly affect how busy you are, but you should aim to have between 3 and 5 people per shift, which could be 90 minutes to two hours, or whatever is agreed upon by your group. Tanya’s group in Western Australia rostered 24 people over an eight hour day, with 90 minute shifts, while Carol’s Group on the Gold Coast only used a total of 9 people over a six hour day, with two hours shifts and an all-day supervisor.
Tanya recommends having an extra person on during the lunchtime rush (between 12 and 2pm) while Carol suggests visiting the store a few weeks before and chatting to whichever group is running the BBQ to see how many volunteers they have, and if they would suggest more/less.
Carol’s group also had a single supervisor who stayed all day and was responsible for making sure that everything ran smoothly. Having a single person there all day also means that handover between shifts is easier, as someone also knows what is going on.
A breakdown of duties could be:
One or two people on the BBQ
One taking orders and handling the money
One assembling and serving the food
One person on drinks
Where should you get your sausages, bun and drinks from?
It is up to you where you source your supplies from, and obviously the cheaper your costs the greater your profit. It is essential that you use any contacts that you have within your school community – find out if anyone has friends/relatives who can supply sausages, drinks and buns at cost (or even donate).
You may consider approaching your local supermarket to see if they will support your fundraiser by providing cheap or free supplies or if your school operates a passive fundraiser with Aussie Farmers Direct, you may have enough reward dollars to purchase your supplies.
Carol’s group asked their local Coles and Woolworths to donate gift cards (which they did – $100 each) which the school then used to purchase the sausages and bread. They also asked all parents who couldn’t volunteer on the day to donate cans of soft drink and items such as sauce and napkins, which cut down on costs a lot.
Both Tanya and Carol strongly recommend purchasing pre-sliced frozen onions rather than attempting to slice 20kg+ of fresh onions.
How much profit can you make?
Tanya’s group in WA made about $1,000 profit for their days work, while Carol’s group in Qld made just over $1,500 and says ‘We would definitely do this again. It’s a very quick way to make over $1000 in one day, and it seems that you are almost guaranteed to make a good amount of money.’
I have read that some groups have raised in excess of $2,000 or $3,000 at the larger stores on a busy Saturday.
What are the biggest challenges involved in a Bunnings Sausage Sizzle?
The two primary challenges seem to be getting enough volunteers to cover all the shifts on the day, and having someone in charge who is both highly organised but also unflappable.
Avoid having too many people on the organising committee. The more work and planning you do in advance, the more smoothly the day will run.
Have a plan in place for buying more sausages/buns/sauce/drinks if you run out early. You will need one or more volunteers, preferably who live nearby with a car, and who are happy to make a quick trip to the shop. Make sure they have access to an esky and plan in advance how they will pay for and get reimbursed for the food.
What are your tips or suggestions for schools considering a Bunnings BBQ?
Check the AFL footy fixtures – it was a quiet day for us because an important AFL game was being televised.
Bring a bread knife.
We ran out of onions early so don’t put too many on the hot dogs.
Bring an extra bottle of mustard – it was surprisingly popular.
We had leftover cool drinks – the weather was probably too cold for them.
We needed a better handover process between shifts: you should show the new people where things are, so time isn’t wasted looking for things when a new shift came on.
Bring hats – even if you’re in the gazebo, you will still be exposed to the sun.
If you have one, wear a uniform showing your school/club.
Bring a metal Thermoserver or something to keep sausages/onions warm.
Consider some vegetarian sausages – but check with your local store first.
Buy drinks when half price at Coles/Woolies
Put a very organized person in charge!
With thanks to Tanya, a treasurer at a not-for-profit community daycare, and Carol Jones, school mum and founder of My Bored Toddler for their assistance in writing this article.