food concession trailer with descriptive signs

Hands down, one of my favorite times of the day is after the booth is closed when I trot off to the camper, crack open my favorite snack (chocolate), and get down to counting the money. That is; unless sales were poor. Then, I can’t wait to finish the day so I can slink away to scrub the big capital “L” off my forehead in private. 

There are hundreds of principles and variations of principles that influence the success of a food booth at any given event. Many are controlled by the coordinator, such as booth location, booth/attendance ratio, duplication of menus, and overall organization and promotion of the event. There are many more principles that are controlled by the vendor, such as; your menu, how well you promote your menu, booth presentation, quality of service and product, efficiency, pricing, and expanding your customer base by consistently returning to the same event. There are still other principles that are out of everyone’s hands, such as the weather and local economy. It’s my opinion that, in this business, the four most important factors that influence sales are: signage, booth location, menu, and operational efficiency. Of those four, three (signage, menu, and operational efficiency) are entirely within your control.

Signs Sell

There is a popular saying in the concession business; “flash is cash,” meaning: the booth that most captures the public’s attention is the booth that captures the most business. One of the most important things you can do to influence sales is to advertise your menu with a good sign. One of the main attractions at any event is the food. When people approach the food court they are on a mission to find their favorite eats. They eagerly scan the booth signs and consider their options. Yes, it’s true that quality, service, value, and other marketing principles play a role, but at this point, if your sign doesn’t draw attention and inspire enough interest, your menu won’t even be considered. The quality and visibility of your signs are so influential to sales that it can be said that almost any menu served from nearly any booth can be effectively marketed…with the right sign.

When designing your concession signs don’t make the mistake of many novice vendors who are influenced by the franchise signs familiar at local malls. Most of these signs don’t mention what the shops are selling but instead depend on name recognition, called brand, to draw in customers. Food concessions aren’t franchises and don’t have a brand. So, why waste valuable sign space displaying only the name of your business? Customers simply want to know what they can buy to eat. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes your business name can be used to your advantage. Some concessions are named specifically to promote sales. Take, for example, two booths with the charming names, “Buns on the Run” and “Two Guys and a Grill.” The fun-loving public may be attracted to these booths just for grins. In addition to being fun and memorable these business names hint at what’s on the menus as well.

It doesn’t take a catchy name to lasso customers. However, it would be helpful to have a sign that distinguishes your booth from the others, particularly if your menu is more common. For example: Instead of hanging a sign that reads “HOT DOGS” in big block letters, why not letter your sign with a distinctive typeface, and a large graphic of a bun cloaked wiener dancing over a hot grill while oozing its toppings?  This sign says your hot dogs are not mediocre. They are exciting, hot, and come with lots of toppings. It also says you are proud of your hot dogs. That is the booth I would buy from.


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:
This entry was posted in concession operations and managment, concession start-up, sales and marketing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.