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Will This Food Booth and Menu Make Money?

By Barb Fitzgerald, posted 01/17/18 17:47:57

Will This Food Booth and Menu Make Money?
Barb Fitzgerald for

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This past year has been a year of transition for me. As it turns out, the older I get the harder it is to operate a high capacity tent operation at large events! So, last spring I made the decision to ground my tent/deep fry operation and instead spend the season doing small local events with a new custom built trailer and a new menu. Unlike the tent/deep fry operation that took many hours to set-up, this little trailer is easy to tow and can be ready to serve in less than an hour. The question was: would it make enough money?

Here are some things I learned:

-- Last season was scheduled with a variety of events to learn what market is the best for my new menu. I did the weekly 4pm to 8pm local farmers market plus many community events. All were close enough to home that I could easily commute each day and stock up from home, if needed. This was an important trial for this new menu. This season when I schedule events I'll know the type to target and the ones to avoid.

-- There is money to be made with a simple menu at small events providing you are willing to go to a lot of events! It just gets down to numbers. For example: a simple menu might do well to sell $500 during a four hour farmers market, a large capacity, multi-dish menu operation might sell $5000 at a two day community event. Simple enough. Therefore, to do $5000 with a simple booth/menu you would need to do ten days at the farmers market.

-- However, the math gets a little tricky. For example: the costs of doing business at multi-day events are much higher than short-term local markets because of traveling, lodging and labor. Additionally, event costs such as space fees need to be calculated on an individual basis. The fee for a single day at the farmers market might cost $35, versus the possible $50 to $1000 plus at weekend community events.

-- Food service licensing is also tricky to calculate because every county structures their fees a little differently, depending on what type of license you operate under (mobile or temporary).

As for my new little concession trailer, I designed it specifically to serve my simple menu at small, local events. I had very specific criteria in mind:

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-- Foremost, I wanted a booth and menu that are simple enough to work alone thereby eliminating the cost and uncertainty of hiring help.

-- I wanted the trailer to be as "open" as possible. So, I made it a "rag-top" where each side panel of vinyl is rolled up for maximum exposure. Alternately, I can roll down certain panels if the wind, rain or sun is coming in too intensely from one direction.

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