A Food Concessionaire Remembers Her First Event

food booths at festival

food booths at Longbeach Kite Festival

I think every food concessionaire remembers his or her first event. Mine was with a stick joint made of scrap barn boards, screwed together on sight by my dad and me. It took all day and lots of hand tools to have it standing straight enough to throw a tarp over it and call it a food booth. Inside I had a folding table, folding chair, stack of napkins, cash box, and, a tall stack of coolers full of my one and only menu item –sliced loaves of banana bread.  I knew it wasn’t the perfect menu for a five-day Fourth of July event, but, since I was already baking loaves to sell to restaurants, it was easy to bake extra. Besides, what’s not to like about banana bread?

In anticipation of sales, for a week prior to the event, I stayed up late each night baking bread in my home kitchen. By fair time I was ready with two freezers full of bread.  I mistakenly believed I would sell every one of them. It’s amazing now to recall how, back then, the health department was much more lenient in their food service licensing than it is today. By just answering a few questions, such as: “Is your dog an indoor or outdoor dog?” I was able to get a license to cook commercially at home.

I wanted a classy looking booth so an artist friend hand lettered wooden signs for me. On the front counter I plunked down a nice bouquet of flowers. I was set to make my mark in the concession business.

Looking back, it is obvious to me (and, most likely, everyone else) my first mistake was my choice of menu. Luckily, a more experienced vendor saw my dilemma, and helped me out by showing me how, in addition to bread; I could sell a quick and easy nachos dish. He spent a lot of time at my booth talking about the concession business. Experienced concessionaires are not usually inclined to help naïve new vendors; something I didn’t appreciate at the time. I expect he simply found me attractive, but, I was extremely lucky to benefit from his thirty years of experience…thanks Tom.

I probably don’t need to tell you, the event didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. But, it was the start of my concession business education that continues today. Lesson number one: selling food is not as easy as it appears. Lesson number two: your menu matters.  Lesson number three: it helps to have a good mentor.

Please share your “first event” story. It might get featured as a blog post.

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: http://www.foodbooth.net
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2 Responses to A Food Concessionaire Remembers Her First Event

  1. Silas says:

    Many thanks for making the effort to explain the terminlogy for the starters!

  2. Marilyn says:

    Well I truly liked reading it. This information offered by you is very constructive for proper planning.