Tags Posts tagged with "Fair"


What the Carnies Can Teach Food Truck Owners

You know the scene…the taste of dust in your mouth, the smell of livestock is in the air, the sound of rides, buzzers and bells ringing in your ears.

Yes, folks, you’re at your local fair.

For a few days every year, the empty lot transforms into a festival of noise, cotton candy and empty wallets. Children are running all over the place just out of the reach of their poor parents and the beer tent thrives with inebriated members of the community.

The local fair is an American institution and can provide a true education in marketing for food truck owners. Let the classes begin!!!

Become a Hustler

Hustling is the name of the game for both fair carnies and food truck vendors. Booth and ride carnies have to sell to people walking by – and that’s not easy. They need to attract the attention of people focused on something else, get them to look twice, draw them in, sell them on the fun or the prize, and get them to hand over their money.

The carnies hawk rigged dart tosses, squirt machines, and off-center bowling balls. They need to keep the place bustling and alive. Sound like a food trucker’s life? You bet it does. Replace the games and rides with your food and service and start hustling.

Learn Your Market

Carnies are street-smart to say the least. These individuals know just how to get people interested. Two men? Encourage competition and rivalry for the prize. Two women? It’s time to compliment a shirt or some earrings. Parents? The carnies go right for the kill: they market to the kids. Win the kids, win the parents.

They know exactly who they’re talking to, what rings the bell in that person’s mind and what gets them to slow down and walk over. They know their target market like the back of their hand, honing right in to make the sale. Mobile food vendors should to.

Give and Take

Carnies wheel and deal all day long; anything to lure people in and keep them spending. Three darts for $5. Try a free round. Trade in two prizes for a bigger, better one. The discounts and deals are no skin off their back. Their small tradeoffs keep their customers happy and reels them in.

Not only does it hook, them in, but if the carnie plays it right, the people spend more in the end. That’s a trick right there: the longer they stay, the longer they play. That’s key for the fair and for your food truck business. Not only that, but the carnies make sure their customers are happy, too. The happier they are, the more chance they have in getting the customer to return later on.

Sell, Sell , Sell

Game carnies are always selling. They don’t care about patting someone’s back and making them feel empowered. They have a job to do and they have money to make. They aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings, but they also aren’t afraid to pitch their game or ride and attract customers.

Food truck vendors don’t have to bark and shout to sell their products. Carnies don’t either. In fact, the next time you visit a fair you may notice that carnies only call out to people during particularly quiet moments. They are generally polite about selling their games. They watched people for clues, pick up on the subtle triggers and body language, and then they went to work.

Be Persuasive

Carnies aren’t ashamed of what they do to sell. They’re there to help people have a good time. That’s their job. Sure, the end result is more money in their pocket, but the carnies make sure that every customer leaves smiling and happy that the over-priced prize was money well spent.

That is a lesson in persuasion and good customer service in its simplest form. The next time you visit your local fair watch the carnies work the crowd, they can sell anything to anyone. They understand that if you can’t persuade someone that what you sell is really great, then you definitely aren’t going to make money.

And they make money. They’re real ringmasters at their own show. Everyone wins. No one loses. People leave broke, tired, and dirty; but they leave with smiling faces. The best part…they’ll come back again to do it next year.

Your food truck customers will too if you learn to play the game right.

festivals and 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.

Festivals and fairs can be an excellent way to supplement an existing food truck business, or it can be a viable mobile food business on its own. 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.

4 Topics To Consider When Operating At Festivals And Fairs

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 of the festivals and fairs you attend.

Menu Selection

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.

Additional Equipment

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 canopy with signage, tables, a cash box and whatever small wares your operation requires.

Bonus Festivals And Fairs Tip: Each of the festivals and fairs you wish to work will require 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 the festivals and fairs before you begin the process of filing applications to make sure you’re willing and able to meet all requirements.

Have you brought your food truck to festivals and fairs? How did that work out for you? We’d love to hear what did and what didn’t work. Share your experiences via email, Facebook or Twitter.

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