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Festival Network Online

March 2012
Temperatures are on the rise, and it's time for outdoor festivals again! Take a look at this month's article for tips on making your concession a success.

As always, if you have any particular topics you'd like to see covered here, or if you'd like to contribute an article to the FNO newsletters - drop me a line!

Happy cooking!
FNO Newsletter Editor

Concessions Season Special Report
by Barb Fitzgerald

The 2012 concession season is just weeks away. Although the season officially begins Memorial Weekend many concessionaires are already hard at work making money at spring events. Those still waiting for the weather to warm are busy readying equipment and filling out applications for event booth space. As the season gets underway, all of us wonder how the economy, the worst in decades, will impact our sales. Many concessionaires are also concerned there will be an influx of new vendors vying for limited booth space. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and are in desperate need of income. Everyone in the concession business understands, firsthand, that selling food from a mobile food booth is a viable, though not easy, way to earn money.

My view is: As long as people continue to eat, concessionaires will make money. Although, this year sales may not be as high as they have been in recent years, there will be enough sales to make our living. I plan to offset any reduction in sales by cutting costs wherever I can. I also plan to consider carefully whether I will schedule events that charge admission. I suspect that free events will be well attended, but many families will not be able to attend events that charge the public to park, and again to come through the gate.

Concessionaires coming into the business this year may find it particularly difficult to get event bookings. In any year there are a limited number of booth spaces at a limited number of events. The difference this year will be in the number of applicants for every available space. Where normally event coordinators may get 20 applicants for each space, this year they may get 40, 50, or more applications. Therefore, it is critically important that new vendors present themselves and their new concession business in the best light possible. Here are some things you can do to get the coordinatorsí attention and increase your chances of securing booth space.

  • Serve a unique menu. A concessionaire applying with only corn dogs, snow cones, or any typical fair faire will likely be round filed. Think up a menu that is unique, but not so crazy unique that people will be afraid to spend their money on it.
  • Have a clean, attractive, and professional looking booth, display and signs.
  • Better still, have a gimmick. Design a particularly fun display or booth/menu name. Something as simple as painting clown faces on your trash can lids (mouths open to receive trash) might be enough to make your booth memorable to the decision makers.
  • Design a brochure, pamphlet, or flyer and include it with your booth application. A brag sheet introducing your business, booth, and menu to event coordinators is the best way to make an early, positive impression. A color photograph or drawing of your booth and menu, along with a blurb about your delicious food and your professionalism is critical to setting yourself apart from the herd and getting placed on the short list. You want the coordinators to know what an asset you and your booth would be to their event. Further, you want them to be excited to have you.

This year every concessionaire will be challenged to earn every sale. For many people the concession business will be a financial life saver. All new vendors will find that the business is harder than they thought. Some will drop out because it is not a lifestyle they enjoy. But, some will wish they started a food concession business many years earlier.

No one, as yet, knows how this season will play out. However, I, for one, have never been happier my livelihood does not depend on the affairs and health of someone elseís business. Although self-employment has its drawbacks, in the current economy, the empowerment of being responsible for my own income in a field that is recession sturdy is priceless.


Barb Fitzgerald has more than twenty-four years of experience in the food concession industry. She additionally held a position on the Oregon Food Services Advisory Board, founded Northwest Vendor's Network Association, and designed and operated a successful espresso cafe for Portland Oregon's Tri-Met transit system. Her dedicated passion for the concession business makes her a leading authority on this unique mode of self-employment. Her book, Food Booth: The Entrepreneurís Complete Guide to the Food Concession Business, can be ordered from her site:

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