This Hawaii Veteran Entrepreneur Uses His Small Business to Help Vets


Frank Diaz is a twice-retired vet who opened a business in Honolulu, Hawaii to provide fresh food to active service members. Small Business Trends contacted him to learn about how Tin Hut BBQ helps veterans with more than just food.



Mainland Style BBQ

“Tin Hut BBQ is a disabled Veteran Owned business specializing in bringing mainland style BBQ to Hawaii,” Diaz says. “The goal is to hire veterans and active duty military spouses.”

He got the idea while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Diaz had volunteered at a church convention to smoke BBQ. When he craved BBQ the next day, he couldn’t find any on base. As a result, the idea for a small business was born.

Diaz drew on his training to get started.

“I used my Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT) experience and thought the same concept could be used on base,” he wrote. The military uses these trailers to feed deployed soldiers. It was a good starting point he developed further.

Mobile Food Trailer

“After doing some research I decided to develop a mobile food trailer. Soon after the government moved me to Hawaii to prepare for deployment in Afghanistan. During that time, I decided to buy a smoker . It was during this time that I developed many of my recipes and the soldiers gladly became test subjects to try the smoked meat.”

This Army vet and retired DOD Anti-Terrorism Specialist uses his business to do more than just feed hungry mouths.

Displaced Veterans

Tin Hut BBQ helps displaced veterans find mentorship, shelter, employment and transportation. For example, many of the staff are disabled or homeless veterans.

Using social media allows him to contact a wide swath of people spread out across the globe. As a result, Diaz uses Facebook to do most of the hiring.  It’s another smart, well thought out business move in these digital business times.

Individuals at Home

“Being the primary social media forum used worldwide, Facebook offers an opportunity. I can reach individuals at home that I may have never had the opportunity to interact with.”

Diaz calls his cooking “Mainland Style BBQ.” It’s a unique version that brings the best from the most popular regions on the mainland. As a result, it’s no surprise it’s become so popular.  No detail is overlooked.

“We use choice spices from all over the world to create the flavors and tastes we desire,” he says. The menu draws from all the places you’d expect.

Texas Style Brisket

“Tin Hut BBQ prepares and serves Texas Style Brisket. Pork is most popular in the Carolina’s and Memphis, so we serve Carolina Pulled Pork.”

The chicken is smoked using Southern Style techniques. The Ribs and Burnt Ends are from the Kansas City region and the Tri-tip is Santa Maria, CA style. They’ve even added a local dish– Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends.

Diaz traveled through the country to get training from BBQ experts.

Giving back has always been one of the central focuses for the small business.

“When I first started Tin Hut BBQ, it was always my goal to give back to the community by donating to non-profit organizations.”

Those charities included the Children’s Miracle Network, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and other organizations supporting causes for military members and veterans.

He hasn’t forgotten his fellow business owners either. For example, he set up Aloha Gourmet Food Trucks of Hawaii to help other entrepreneurs in the space.

Diaz’ future plans include expanding the business and the good Tin Hut BBQ does.

“Currently, I am working on a non-profit organization that I intend on naming “Call 2 Duty” with the tagline “we got your 6”,” he says. “This NPO will be created to serve the less fortunate and aid displaced veterans struggling to transition back into mainstream society.”

Those plans include a a retail outlet Co-op to employ and train veterans during the transition back to civilian life.

Image: Tin Hut BBQ.com

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