One of the most difficult items for the new food concession or vending cart operator is finding locations to place their vehicle or cart.
This is where aggressive marketing can make the difference. One area that is often overlooked is retailers who are having special events. Car dealerships are noted for having special day or weekend events and one thing that they always consider is supplying food!
I have been contacted on numerous occasions by car and motorcycle dealerships wanting a list of available food vendors in a specific city, town or county.
It is important for food concessionaires and vending cart operators to make themselves known in their food service area.
There are numerous ways to accomplish this:
Visit the car and motorcycle dealerships. Make sure you have a flyer or business card to leave behind.
Contact the local radio stations. Many radio stations will provide a D.J. for special events and actually host the show from the event. They will be aware of those events weeks in advance and may be willing to pass leads on to you or possibly create a package which includes a D.J. and food.
Send flyers out in the mail to local businesses.
Another area to consider are strip plazas. Many have merchant groups who are looking for promotions and other methods to draw customers to their stores. Talk to one of the local merchants and find out if they have a merchant group and how you might provide them with a presentation.
Local charitable events such as walk-a-thons and bicycling events draw large crowds. Offer the organizers a piece of the gross proceeds towards their charity, if you can set-up at the finish line!
Another similar challenge that new food concession operators face is how to find events such as fairs, festivals, and arts and craft shows/fairs that they can apply to.
Fairs and festivals and such are always looking for new and somewhat unique items to have at their venue, after all they want increased attendance and fairs and festivals that are always the same have a tendency to see attendance slowly drop from one year to next.
If you, as a new food concession operator, are providing nothing more than a 'me too' menu with nothing new, exciting or out of the ordinary you will definitely have an uphill challenge to obtain space. New and exciting does not have to mean some exotic food, although a new or unusual food concept is usually a fair management grabber, it can mean a well or uniquely decorated trailer, or unusual outfits for the staff. Always be careful if you are trying to promote anything that is audio oriented, theme music can be a negative as far as some fair managers are concerned.
I always suggest that food concessionaires produce a small but meaningful electronic brochure, showing what their food concession trailer looks like, inside and out, outlining the menu and prices, and how many customers can be served per hour. This gives the event management a feeling that you are professional and that you take the food concession business seriously. A food concession operator must always remember that the quality of the food concessions are always viewed, by the attendees, as a major part of the total event experience. Bad or poor food quality or poor health standards and the attendees will say that the fair was bad or poor. Highlight your commitment to cleanliness and quality and as time progresses add the fairs, festivals and any other events that you have attended as references.
Do not get frustrated. Filling out concession forms for fairs and festivals can be likened to sending out resumes. In the beginning you have to send out a lot in order to get a response from a few and like a resume, you have to indicate why you should be chosen over another food concession.
If your food concession trailer/vehicle is self-contained, you do not need an external source of power or water, I suggest that the new food concessionaire consider parking near little league parks on weekends. It is an excellent method of learning the business and how to cook and serve efficiently.