If you’ve ever dreamed about working for yourself as a concessionaire or food truck owner, this is a great time to get into the business. Selling food as a profession is a big step though it’s one that can lead to big opportunities. Making money through your own ingenuity and hard work is a lifelong dream for countless people. Every year there is a fresh wave of eager entrepreneurs ready to try their hand at making a living working for themselves. Some of them make it but the difficult truth is that many will not. Hard work, a good business plan, and an enthusiastic customer base is sometimes not enough. There’s another element at work. This element might be called luck or serendipity. In reality, the secret ingredient is strategy.
The Advantages and Drawbacks of Selling Food
People in the business of selling customers tasty treats have long said, “Food sells itself”. In a sense, this is absolutely true. You can be all but guaranteed to have sales at just about any music festival, street fair, civic event, or sports game. Just park your food truck on a convenient corner during lunchtime and let your customers come to you. People attending festivals and street fairs will happily seek out food vendors. As a concessionaire, your customer base is never far away.
The trouble is that you share a customer base with every other food vendor at that same event. The intersection where you park your food truck probably has at least two food carts already. Convenient meals and snack foods are common at public events and food vendors are plentiful. It can be tough to distinguish yourself from these other vendors, especially if you’re selling food that’s very similar to their offerings. So how does a new food seller establish themselves in such a competitive atmosphere?
Something New on the Menu
One way to set yourself apart from other food vendors, food trucks, and concessionaires is to create a menu unlike those offered by others. For instance, if the food vendors you’ve observed at local festivals and events focus on traditional American offerings such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and french fries, you could create a pizza menu. Slices of cheese, pepperoni and veggie pizza can be eaten standing or walking around and typically require no special utensils. All that’s needed to enjoy a slice of pizza is a sturdy carton to hold it and a few napkins. Greek gyros are another simple food that can be enjoyed standing or at a table. Kebobs, burritos, lemonade, roast corn, milkshakes, corn dogs, and hot dogs are just a few of the other food items that can be made quickly and with a minimum of ingredients. These snacks aren’t seen as often as hamburgers, french fries, and soft drinks so you can feel confident that customers will seek you out.
Making Your Selection
Because your food offerings are unlikely to change very often, you have to consider carefully which items you’ll be selling. This means that you have to consider ingredients, food service supplies, available labor, and preparation equipment.
Ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Has the price of ingredients of a menu item risen and fallen sharply over the past decade or has it remained steady:?
- How quickly can someone be trained to prepare a menu item?
- How many appliances are necessary to assist with preparation? Will those appliances need certain parts replaced on a regular basis?
- What is the ease of set up and clean up?
- How many people will be working with you? Do you plan to hire others or rely on family members who volunteer their time?
- What are the storage needs of each ingredient? How do you secure your equipment when it’s not in use?
These are just a few of the fundamental questions that have to be considered when deciding what menu items you’ll be offering from your food truck or concession stand.
Putting it all Together
Starting any business takes years of hard work an commitment and getting started as a food vendor can be even more difficult. Even once you’ve finalized your menu selection and sourced ingredients and restaurant quality kitchen appliances, you’ll still need to pursue business licensing, food handling certification, and the registration of any vehicles you’ll be using for your business. Being a food concessionaire means thinking about your business in ways that the owner of a boutique or clothing store doesn’t have to. Planning and strategy are two elements of business success that can’t be stressed enough. Success is possible though; so long as you’re willing to see the process through to the end, you can count yourself as someone prepared to enter the food market.