2009 Concession Season
Special Report by Barb Fitzgerald
The 2009 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
coordinators’ attention and increase your chances of securing booth
• 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.
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.
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.
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 else’s 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
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 Entrepreneur’s Complete Guide to the Food Concession Business,
can be ordered from her site: http://www.foodbooth.net.