Starting a concession stand business can be an easy way to be your own boss… See the steps you need to take
Starting a concession stand business can be an easy and profitable way to be your own boss. Whether you want to run a stand at a local fair or festival, in a busy urban area, or at a sporting event, with the right planning and execution, a concession stand can be a flexible and rewarding venture. But where do you begin?
To start a concession stand business you first have to develop a concept, research your competition, and come up with a pricing strategy. You also have to get the correct permits and licenses to operate legally and serve food to the public along with getting the right equipment for your needs.
There are also a few more things you need to consider in order to do things the right way, which I go through in more detail in this article, How To Start A Concession Stand Business In 13 Easy Steps.
How To Start A Concession Stand Business
- Step 1: Come up with a concession stand concept
- Step 2: Naming your concession stand
- Step 3: Research your competition
- Step 4: Purchasing equipment and supplies
- Step 5: Pricing your concession stand products
- Step 6: Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses
- Step 7: Handling food safely
- Step 8: Finding a high-footfall location
- Step 9: Finding the right staff
- Step 10: Marketing your concession stand
- Step 11: Providing great customer service
- Step 12: Inventory management
- Step 13: Evaluating your performance
Step 1: Come up with a concession stand concept
First, let’s brainstorm some ideas. What kind of food do you love cooking and eating? Maybe you’re a grilling enthusiast, in which case a barbecue-themed concession stand could be a great option. Or perhaps you’re all about healthy eating, and you could offer fresh fruit smoothies and vegetable salads. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think about what makes your concept unique compared to other stands in the area.
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Step 2: Naming your concession stand
Once you have come up with the food you want to sell you also need to come up with a name for your concession stand business.
A good tip is to choose a business name that is short and not too wordy, is catchy and has a nice play on words, is memorable so people will go away and remember who you are, and include in the name the food(s) you are selling.
Step 3: Research your competition
Take a stroll around other concession stands nearby and see what they’re offering and at what prices. If you notice that everyone seems to be selling the same thing, it might be a good idea to try something different. For instance, if hot dogs are a dime a dozen, why not stand out with vegetarian or vegan options? Do your research and find a way to set yourself apart from the rest.
Step 4: Purchasing equipment and supplies
Once you have done your research and know what products you want to sell it is time to make a list of catering equipment may need.
For example, if you are selling popcorn then you will need to purchase a popcorn machine as the main bit of equipment, along with popcorn boxes to serve it. Likewise, if you are selling hotdogs you will need hot dog roller grills and hot dog steamers as your main equipment.
As a cost-saving tip, it’s also worth seeing if you can source your concession stand equipment second-hand from online marketplaces such as FaceBook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist. Alternately you can often get new equipment on a hire-purchase basis so you can spread some of your start-up cost.
Step 5: Pricing your concession stand products
When setting your prices, you’ll need to consider the cost of the ingredients you need to make or source your products and add a markup so you can make a profit. For example, the cost of ingredients for products that are meat-heavy such as burgers or hotdogs will be cheaper to produce than products without it (think vegan dishes or smoothies)
You’ll also want to research what other vendors in the area are charging for similar items. This will give you an idea of not only the demand for particular products but give you a rough idea of what you can price yours at.
While you want to make a profit, you also don’t want to price yourself out of the market. It’s a delicate balancing act, but with a little research and some number-crunching, you should be able to come up with prices that work for you and your customers.
Step 6: Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses
In order to operate legally you will need to get the right licenses and permits to sell to the public. This can get a little confusing as Depending on where you’re located, the types of permits differ from state to state.
However, some common permits and licenses you will need to start a concession stand may include health department permits, business licenses, and food service permits. Check with your local government to determine what permits and licenses you need, and make sure you have them in place before you start selling.
Step 7: Handling food safely
Along with all the relevant permits you need to trade legally you will also need to think about food safety as a commercial food enterprise so that you keep your customers safe.
For this, you will need a Food Handlers Certificate which can be obtained by taking an online course that teaches you and your staff how to store, transport, prepare, and cook food safely along with best practices for keeping your concession stand clean and sanitary.
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Step 8: Finding a high-footfall location
I can’t emphasize this enough but one of the most important factors that can make or break a concession stand business is location. Look for locations that have a lot of footfall where people are likely to be hungry and in need of a quick snack or meal before you commit to signing any lease.
Also knowing what time of the day a location is busy may influence the type of product you sell at your concession stand. For example, if it is busy in the main or around noon but quieter later in the evening you may want to gear your food and drink to cater for breakfast and lunch
Step 9: Finding the right staff
Depending on the size of your concession stand and how busy you expect to be, you may need to hire staff members to help you. This can be a bit tricky when you are starting a new business as you won’t know what the demand will be at a new location.
However, when the time comes and you do need people, look for staff who have prior experience in the food or customer service industry and are willing to work the hours you need. A good tip is to look for staff that already have a food handler permit as that will save you time on some of the training.
Step 10: Marketing your concession stand
Marketing is an ongoing process which means you want to start letting people know you are opening soon and continue whilst you have opened to get new customers and retain them over time.
Use social media, flyers, and word of mouth to let people know about your stand. Post pictures of your food on Instagram and Facebook, and use hashtags to make your posts more discoverable. Print flyers with your stand’s location and hours, and hand them out in the surrounding area. You can also offer discounts or free samples to entice people to come and try your food.
Step 11: Providing great customer service
When customers feel valued they want to spend money with you, and a way to make this happen is by providing great customer service. It can go a long way to retaining customers and keeping them coming back.
Make sure you and your staff are friendly and helpful and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure your customers are satisfied. This could mean offering suggestions, accommodating special requests, or simply being patient and understanding when things get busy or stressful. Remember, happy customers, are more likely to return and recommend your stand to others.
Step 12: Inventory management
Once you are up and running and operating as a thriving concession stand business you need to have processes and procedures in place. Boring I know, but something that will make your life a lot easier. Keeping track of your inventory is an important example of this so you don’t run out of popular items or are not wasting food.
One way to do this is by using a point-of-sale system that tracks your inventory and sales data. You can use this data to identify trends and adjust your inventory accordingly. For example, if you notice that a certain item is selling quickly, you can order more of that item to avoid running out.
Similarly, if you notice that a certain item isn’t selling well, you can reduce the amount you order to avoid wasting food and money. Good inventory management can help you stay on top of your finances and keep your customers happy.
Step 13: Evaluating your performance
Once you have been up and running for a while it’s worth evaluating your performance every 6 months or so to see what is working, what isn’t, and if there are any changes you need to make.
You can do these by monitoring and analyzing your sales data, looking at customer feedback, and making adjustments to your menu or business strategy as necessary. To make sure your business is sustainable keep an eye on your expenses to make sure you’re operating efficiently and profitably.