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A Food Concessionaire Remembers Her First Event
A Food Concessionaire Remembers Her First Event
by Barb Fitzgerald of foodbooth.net

 

 

I think every food concessionaire remembers his or her first event. Mine was with a stick joint made of scrap barn boards, screwed together on sight by my dad and me. It took all day and lots of hand tools to have it standing straight enough to throw a tarp over it and call it a food booth. Inside I had a folding table, folding chair, stack of napkins, cash box, and, a tall stack of coolers full of my one and only menu item: sliced loaves of banana bread. I knew it wasn't the perfect menu for a five-day Fourth of July event, but, since I was already baking loaves to sell to restaurants, it was easy to bake extra. Besides, what's not to like about banana bread?

 

In anticipation of sales, for a week prior to the event, I stayed up late each night baking bread in my home kitchen. By fair time I was ready with two freezers full of bread. I mistakenly believed I would sell every one of them. It's amazing now to recall how, back then, the health department was much more lenient in their food service licensing than it is today. By just answering a few questions, such as: "Is your dog an indoor or outdoor dog?" I was able to get a license to cook commercially at home.

 

I wanted a classy looking booth so an artist friend hand lettered wooden signs for me. On the front counter I plunked down a nice bouquet of flowers. I was set to make my mark in the concession business.

 

Looking back, it is obvious to me (and, most likely, everyone else) my first mistake was my choice of menu. Luckily, a more experienced vendor saw my dilemma, and helped me out by showing me how, in addition to bread; I could sell a quick and easy nachos dish. He spent a lot of time at my booth talking about the concession business. Experienced concessionaires are not usually inclined to help naive new vendors; something I didn't appreciate at the time. I expect he simply found me attractive, but, I was extremely lucky to benefit from his thirty years of experience.. thanks Tom.

 

I probably don't need to tell you, the event didn't turn out the way I had hoped. But, it was the start of my concession business education that continues today. Lesson number one: selling food is not as easy as it appears. Lesson number two: your menu matters. Lesson number three: it helps to have a good mentor.

 

Please share your "first event" story.

 


 

comments

lizfj1
by lizfj1, posted 07/24/13 15:33:28

Yes, we all think that we have the perfect product and that we will sell out every time! I guess in this biz we all need a lot of confidence and to approach every event that way. We all must learn that we are learning every event, no matter how long we have been in the biz. We may be loved at one event, and bomb the next. Tried and true foods are not always tried and true. Fads come and go. Be flexible. I have a core of menu items but I also have some flexible ones. In this biz, even if you have been around, you will always need to add a new event, and then will be the 'new kid' again and again. If you are not flexible, you will find many events saying, 'no thanks, we have that', but if you have some others to add, you just might find your way in off that 'waiting list.'
No matter what - be nice to your fellow venders. Everyone has something to contribute, and you might just get a lead on a great event, find a new outlet for your products, or get a great new supplier out of conversations with others. I am fairly new, and working on adding to my code 'go to ' events for each year, so keeping my ears open often finds me good new events. But even though I am new, I find that I am constantly being approached by people who are curious about our business, want to be in the concession business, or just want to ask questions. I always try to take some time and answer as much as I can. I try to guide potential newbies to the biz, because the man I bought my first concession trailer gave me a lot of sage advice with the trailer, as he was getting out with the sale to me. I try to pay it forward, and heck, being nice will always get you further than being nasty. And I try to make people who want to get into this that it's not all roses, there are lots of health codes you need to address, never mind the mine field of licenses, taxes, hard work, and small paybacks at times.

But if you find a good event - stand your ground. Make sure the promoter keeps you in that position, and doesn't add a direct competitor. Be vocal, but be nice. Most events will not duplicate, so it you find someone stepping on your turf, make sure you talk to the promoter. If may not help you out that year, but the next, make sure they take care of you. The honest ones will.



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