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Concession Trailer

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have been working in a job that allows me to travel to several state fairs and rodeos. One thing I have noticed is that regardless of how big or small the event is from our perspective, the food vendors are ALWAYS killing it.


Just recently I was at the Nebraska state fair (one of our smaller venues) and I spoke to a woman who had a little 10X10 German roasted nut booth, and she said she typically does about $25K at that one event. This is pretty typical from my experience. Last year at the Oklahoma state fair (a MUCH larger event) a German nut vendor had already done $60K and there was still a week left. These are nut booths for goodness sake!


This has my wheels turning, as I have owned 2 restaurants in the past and am familiar with the basics as well as the state fair/rodeo circuit. I have been thinking seriously about doing a smoked meat trailer featuring pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, nachos and burgers (topped w/ pulled pork of course!) Interested to hear from anyone who does this type of this, or has credible information about anyone who does.

post #2 of 7

More than a decade ago I had some experience with non-food booths at fairs.  Check rental space contracts and prices before the dollar signs start spinning in your eyes.  Rental space rates can have an exorbitant prices and often involve a base rental rate or a sizeable percentage of gross sales, whichever is greatest.  In addition there are fees for everything, especially electricity.


The devil's in the details.  Yes, folks can make a lot of gross sales but once you figure in travel, lodging, food, fees, rental, staff, insurance, supplies, pilferage, etc, you'll have a better idea of the real potential.         

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have researched the space fees a good bit. Typically the cost is either a flat fee based on square footage, or a % of sales and sometimes both. Of course you will pay extra for extra services like electrical etc. But with respect,a NON food booth is not the same as a food booth. As I posted originally, regardless of how the non food retailers are doing, the food booths always kill it based on my detective work. Any business has expenses, and this one is no different. I spoke to countless vendors and have obtained the vendor guides to numerous events, so I have a pretty firm grasp on the numbers. I am looking for input from food only vendors to try to pick up some additional info and 'food for thought' pardon the pun. I have spoken to several dozen food only vendors and have yet to find a single one who wasn't making good money. Non food vendors? Another story entirely. 

post #4 of 7
Keep your menu simple, but creative. Keep your food cost low, but not cheap quality. It is ok to only have a couple things on your menu, just make sure it is great. The nut carts are a good example of that.

Just make sure you go in with eyes wide open. It is easy to only see dollar signs. My wife owns a preschool and people all the time assume she makes money hand over fist. They will start to add up the tuition and number of kids, but miss all of the back operational costs. It is great you are doing your homework. Just keep it simple as you learn the details that you can only learn by doing.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have noticed that the fair vendors do keep it simple. No sides, no complicated plating. "Fair Food" is a cuisine unto its self. People wait all year to go eat the stuff they would never dare. Deep fried twinkies, etc. Being able to offer fountain drinks seems like a must as well. In a fountain drink, the cup and lid are by far the most expensive parts. I see the fair prices for drinks routinely at $5.00, which is well over $4.00 profit. Some are smart enough to offer discounted ($3) refills, which is even higher margins. Some of the food is good, some average- only a few have been great IMO. But everyone was taking in the cash. Some of my questions center around natural gas vs propane vs electric and also what is a reasonable size for a clean water and grey water tank etc. 

post #6 of 7
Go propane for cooking. If you go with a generator, I would spend the money for a Honda. They are very quiet. Size of water really depends on how much prep you are doing. I would figure on 50 gallons of potable and 100 gallon tank for grey water.

I am looking at building a competition trailer for BBQ. I am planning on using an instant propane water heater with a 12 volt water pump. I am also placing on the roof a solar charger for the deep cycle battery to run it. I am also going with led lighting that can also run by 12v batteries. This way I am completely self sufficient. I am not vending, so my power needs are very simple. Everything including the stuff indie will be designed for outdoor use. So if it gets wet I dont have any issues. Also when done with an event I can actually hose out the trailer if needed..

I know you said you are gathering info on licensing and other regulations. But everything I read and hear from those doing it, they wish they knew about this or that. So be ready for hidden things you did not find anything about. Fairs and carnivals are diffrent then food trucks, but there is still the "Good Ole Boy" factor.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Yes, the good old boy factor is alive and well for sure. From what I have seen the venue supplies electrical power and water, though perhaps not 100% of what would be needed. My rig will be a wood pellet setup in terms of the smoker, with minimal cooking actually inside the kitchen. I'm not going to be doing any deep frying, etc. The codes vary from event to event but are typically published well in advance in a vendor info guide. I'm curious about who my suppliers might be. There is always Sams, bu I wonder if I could use SYSCO for example with no brick and mortar setup? 

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