If you enjoy cooking, being outdoors and meeting a wide variety of people, mobile food vending at fairs, carnivals and festivals is a satisfying way to make a living doing seasonal work. A mobile food business can be a simple operation vending once a week at a small neighborhood farmers' market, or it can be a full fledged concession with an army of employees providing food at the county fair. Because mobile food vending venues can vary so dramatically in scale and they can be so dramatically affected by inclement weather, it is good to plan a mobile food business that you can easily scale up or down, depending on demand.
Create a menu for your festival food concession. The more food you're able to crank out, the more money you'll be able to make, so it is important to plan a menu based on items that you can serve to your customers quickly, with a minimum of fuss. Choose items that use a minimal number of ingredients and can be prepared and served in just a few steps. Use ingredients that can be incorporated into multiple menu items, such as refried beans that can be part of tacos as well as burritos. Offer drinks and dessert as well as savory offerings.
License your food booth business with your local health department. If your menu requires advance preparation, you will need to lease and license a commercial kitchen as well. You will also most likely need to purchase a separate temporary food service permit for each event where you vend. However if you have a self-contained unit such as a truck or a hot dog cart, you may be able to license the cart or truck itself, and then you can legally operate it at multiple locations over time.
Purchase equipment for your food concession business. You will need a vehicle large enough to carry all of your gear, as well as a pop-up tent, stoves, tables, utensils and coolers. Design and print signs that will grab customers' attention and also provide clear information about what you are offering and how much it costs.
Contact festival organizers about vending at their events. Choose venues that are appropriate to your menu and focus. For example, if you base your menu on local, seasonal ingredients, speak to organizers of local food events and harvest fairs. Choose events that are suitable for the scale on which you can operate using the equipment you have purchased and the menu you have created. For example, if you buy a basic two-burner stove and can only make six hamburgers at a time, don't sign up for a booth at your county fair.
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Devra Gartenstein has owned and run a variety of food businesses for more than 20 years. She has published two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan" and "Local Bounty." She holds Master of Arts degrees in philosophy and English literature. This article was originally written for Demand Media, visit their site for more helpful info!