Starting a Food Concession Business – Ask Yourself This

concession tent

concession tent

Two things I really like about the food concession business are the variety of food booths, and the people who run them.  Go to any event and you will see concessionaires who are young, old, educated, uneducated, liberal, conservative, cheerful and cranky. They run food booths of every description; from concession tents, concession trailers, and pushcarts, to food trucks and stick-joints.   Every concession business is operated in a way that suits the needs of the operator. They are run part-time, full-time, simply or with gusto.

I have known many concessionaires who hit the season hard with a robust crew, and a full calendar of contracts at large events and fairs. Some of these people make well over one hundred grand during the season. I also know as many other people who hold down full-time jobs, operating their concession at a handful of weekend events where they hope to make the extra money they need to feel financially secure.  There is no shortage of semi-retired couples who pull a concession behind their motor coach as they travel the country.  Last summer I met a group of students who were collaborating on a concession booth to pay for college.  They figured each would make enough to fully pay for a year in school. I didn’t doubt it. Four strong, energetic young people can manage a full-service concession with ease. I meet a lot of families with concessions. Many are started by parents who raise their kids in the business, then, as they get older, pass the business on to the next generation.

The flexibility of the concession business to be individually customized to suit the needs of the operator is unusual amongst small businesses, and one of the key reasons people go into it.  A concession is most rewarding when the concessionaire first examines their own personal needs, abilities and goals and then designs their business to accommodate their personal situation.

Four questions should be asked and answered by anyone starting a concession business.

  • What is your purpose for starting a concession business? Do you need extra money to help make ends meet or buy the extra things you enjoy? Is your job at risk? Do you need to earn money for college? Is your retirement nest-egg inadequate? Are you tired of working as an employee?
  • Ultimately, what do you expect to achieve from your concession business? How much is enough? Will an extra twenty thousand dollars provide you a more satisfying retirement? Perhaps an extra five or ten thousand dollars will bridge the gap in your inadequate income or make a down payment on a new car. Perhaps you need to earn enough from your concession to entirely replace your existing income.
  • What are your financial resources? Do you have the financial resources you need for start-up capital, as well as enough reserves to see you through the first season or two of low returns?
  • What are your personal skills, resources, and capabilities for seeing your plan through? Will you be juggling your time and energy with other responsibilities such as parenting small children or working another job? Do you have the skills required to manage a business, or drive a large vehicle and pull a trailer?

The monetary rewards of running a concession business are almost always proportionate to the operator’s investment. A moderate investment of time, energy and capitol will produce moderate returns.  A small investment will produce small returns, a large investment; large returns. Fair enough.

About admin

With nearly three decades of experience in the food concession business, a position on the Oregon Food Services Advisory Board and as founder of Northwest Vendor’s Network Association, Barb Fitzgerald is a leading authority on this unique mode of self-employment. Her own experience and dedicated passion for the concession business drives her belief in the food concession business as a path to self-employment for nearly anyone with the desire to become responsible for their own income. She is a concession start-up consultant, and the best-selling author of, Food Booth, The Entrepreneur’s Complete Guide to the Food Concession Business. Go to:
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    ive been researching starting a concession business to increase my fun money each weekend, i have a good m-f job and looking to make some extra money. Im very handy and can build my own concession trailer, im thinking of a open air trailer with all the goodies, my question is is it better to go with a enclosed generator and electrical fryers and griddle or lp gas. i know i need 2 refrigerators because of cooked and uncooked meat have to be seperate. but the cost of gas equiptmen is 3 times the price of electrical. and cheeper to purchase a generator to run the equiptment. please need advise.

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    Without knowing more about your menu and targeted venues/volume it is tough to answer. My inclination is to go gas. Gas equipment is more powerful, dependable, holds up better in transport, and is easier to work on when it needs servicing. Many concessionaires are able to service their own gas equipment. Generators are prohibited at some events.

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