How to Start a Food Concession Business

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Food-concession businesses allow an entrepreneur to start a self-employed business with minimal capital.
Food-concession businesses allow an entrepreneur to start a self-employed business with minimal capital. (Image: rack of cotton candy image by Christopher Martin from Fotolia.com)

If you’ve been to a fair, festival or concert, chances are you’ve patronized a concession stand. Food-concession businesses offer the appeal of earning a full-time income as a seasonal and, therefore, a part-time worker. They also allow an entrepreneur to start a self-employed business with minimal capital. Food-concession businesses typically are cash businesses with less stringent licensing requirements. Starting a food concession business is a good way to become your own boss and set your own hours, but it is not as simple as it may seem. It is a competitive business with a lot of trial-and-error learning.

Things You'll Need

  • Vending cart or mobile food trailer
  • Cooking equipment
  • Required licenses and permits
  • Food supplies

Decide the scale and location(s) of your business. You can choose to operate a simple hot dog vending cart on the corner or opt for a large mobile food trailer selling barbecue sandwiches at all the craft fairs and carnivals in your region.

Determine the menu for your concession business. Keep it simple, and focus on one or two featured items backed by other smaller sides and drinks. Space will be limited.

Purchase your vending cart or food trailer. The price of a used trailer starts at about $3,000. You may elect to rent instead of buy. Check local auctions, newspaper classifieds and online sites and message boards for deals on food concession trailers.

Buy all the necessary equipment to operate your concession stand. You may need fryers, drink fountains, refrigerators, a roaster and warmers depending on your specific menu. Check with a restaurant supply company or look to a concession stand that is going out of business for supplies.

Obtain all the required licenses and permits needed to operate your food concession business. Check with your city or county municipal governments or health department for information about the guidelines and regulations for operating your concession business.

Enlist help. You will need a spouse, family member, friend or hired employee to help your business be successful. After all, everyone needs to take breaks, and you don’t want your concession stand closed during potential earning hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • Offer unique items that can be served quickly.
  • Use a cash register instead of a cash box. It is more secure and enables you to keep careful records for tax purposes.
  • Start your concession business by holding a grand opening for a weekend or even a full week. Give out samples and discount coupons.

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