How to become a food/beverage concessions vendor at festivals & fairs

Written by devra gartenstein
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A food or beverage concession business at festivals and fairs can be an excellent way to supplement an existing food business such as a restaurant, or it can be a viable business in its own right. Because most festivals and fairs take place outdoors during the spring, summer and fall, a food or beverage concession can offer seasonal work that allows you to relax or to pursue other interests during the off season.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Health permit
  • Instant canopy shelter
  • Portable cooking equipment

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  1. 1

    Contact your local health department and ask about licenses and permits for operating a food or beverage booth at festivals and fairs. They will probably require that you do all your prep in a licensed commissary kitchen, and obtain a separate temporary event permit for each festival or fair, unless you have a cart or truck with approved sanitary features such as a handwashing or three compartment sink. Learn the regulations for operating a compliant booth, such as setting up a temporary handwashing station, bringing a metal stem thermometer and checking temperatures often, and keeping a bleach solution on hand.

  2. 2

    Design a menu that is both interesting and simple. There should be appealing options, but each item should take a minimum of time to prepare. If you use similar ingredients in multiple menu items, you can streamline your processes and reduce waste. Offer food that smells good and is interesting or exciting to prepare, to lure potential customers over to your booth.

  3. 3

    Visit a variety of festivals and fairs before choosing the ones where you will vend. Focus on events that draw the kind of clientele that will enjoy your food, for example, if you offer vegan food, don't vend at wrestling events. Choose events whose scale matches your production capacity. If an event is big and busy it will probably have a high booth fee, and if you don't have the experience and resources to produce enough food to cover the fee, you could lose money even if you are very busy.

  4. 4

    Purchase equipment that you can easily transport, with enough capacity to produce enough food to make your endeavour self sustaining. Buy a portable tent canopy, tables, a cash box and whatever small wares your operation requires.

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