With a shared love for business and barbecue, two retired Army buddies, Brian Lahmann and Narbelito Lloren, opened Big LL’s BBQ restaurant in the Old 440 Plaza in Killeen in December.

“I’m a risk-taker, and I was willing to take a chance on something that I could see future potential,” said Brian Lahmann, the primary owner.

Unable to secure business loans and without enough money to open it alone, Lahmann called upon his friend Lloren. A self-taught barbecue expert, Lloren cashed his Roth 401K to go into the business.

“My wife and I were reluctant at first, but then we decided to take the chance,” Lloren said. “I work here at nights and on weekends, but it’s fun because I love to smoke and grill.”

The start-up costs tallied about $25,000, which included the purchase of new equipment. The two owners and their family members renovated the shop in less than three weeks, painting the walls and adding Texas decor of metal artwork, a steer head and posters.

Sticking to basic barbecue cooking techniques and putting out a good product is Lahmann’s goal. “I’m not out to reinvent the barbecue wheel,” he said. “It’s a process, simple and straight-forward. I don’t have to be number one to make money.”

An on-site smoker sits in front of the store and cooks all the meats over mesquite and oak wood.

Smoked chicken wings is a new feature and one of the best sellers, Lahmann said, along with brisket, sausage and ribs. The barbecue sauce and five side dishes are per-packaged for convenience.

Lloren retired from the Army in 2008 and works as a government contractor on Fort Hood, but he hopes to make the restaurant his only job in the future.

Maria Lahmann serves as assistant manager in charge of the register, kitchen prep and cleaning. She is also a mother to three young boys.

“It’s hard because I want to be at home, but I fully support the family business,” she said.

Business ventures come naturally to Brian Lahmann, who as a child worked in his uncle’s candy and nut shop at fairs, he said.

He is completing a finance degree at Texas A&M University–Central Texas.

While the hours are long and work grueling, the future looks bright as Lahmann sets his sights on opening more stores and becoming a franchise brand.

“I want to be the McDonald’s of barbecue on every street corner.”

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