Expanding Your Mobile Food Business to Festivals & Fairs
Food truck owners continually write to us concerning alternative revenue streams outside of travelling the streets of their local truck stops. Because of this we are always looking at how a mobile food vendor can expand their business without straying too far from their original concept.
Today we will look at the food or beverage concession sector. Festivals and fairs can be an excellent way to supplement an existing food truck business, or it can be a viable mobile food business in its own right. Because most festivals and fairs take place outdoors during the spring, summer and fall, a food or beverage concession can offer seasonal work that allows you to pursue operating in your local market the rest of the year.
It is relatively easy for a truck to transition their mobile food business into a festival or fair concessionaire. The first step is to contact the local health department where a fair or festival is located and ask about licenses and permits for operating a food or beverage booth at festivals and fairs.
Most will require that you do all your prep in a licensed commissary kitchen, just as you are required to do for your daily runs. If the event is too take place out of the area your commissary is located, you will need to arrange the use of a shared use kitchen or commissary in that area.
You may also need to obtain a separate temporary event permit for each festival or fair.
Just as you did when you began your food truck, you will need to design a menu that is both interesting and simple. There should be appealing options, but each item should take a minimum of time to prepare.
If you use similar ingredients in multiple menu items, you can streamline your processes and reduce waste. Offer food that smells good and is interesting or exciting to prepare, to lure potential customers over to your booth. The easiest route would be to use your existing food truck menu.
Be sure to visit a variety of festivals and fairs before choosing the ones where you will vend. Focus on events that draw the kind of clientele that will enjoy your food, for example, if you offer vegan food, you may not wish to vend at a wrestling event. Choose events whose scale matches your production capacity. If an event is big and busy it will probably have a high booth fee, and if you don’t have the experience and resources to produce enough food to cover the fee, you could lose money even if you are very busy.
Although you already own a portable kitchen, you may have to purchase or rent additional kitchen equipment to meet the demands of the crowds you want to serve. To transport this additional equipment, you may have to rent a moving truck. If you know you are going to be serving large crowds, speak with the event organizers to see if they will provide you with a trailer or truck with a refrigeration or freezer system so you can stay on site while replenishing your food stock.
You may also need to buy a portable tent canopy with signage, tables, a cash box and whatever small wares your operation requires.
Each fair or festival requires vendors to agree to various conditions. Some fairs cover vendors under a blanket insurance policy, while others expect you to carry your own insurance for the weekend or time of the fair. Research a festival before you begin the process of filing applications to make sure you’re willing and able to meet all requirements.