How to Make a Successful Concession Stand

So you want to Own and Operate a Concession Stand Business did you know that concession stands can be started with low to minimal costs, and can yield hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you know where to go to get lots of customers.

I volunteered at a concession stand during a swim meet this weekend and in about 6 hours we had made around $500.

Like any business you have to know what you are getting into

I’ll explain trends I noticed, what foods sold the best, how to attract customers, how to minimize costs, and pictures of concession stands that were at the Cloverdale Rodeo that I attended one year

Concession Stand Foods That Sell – Foods that sell the best in concession stands

The food that sold the best was undoubtedly the hot foods. I recommend lots of options for hot food. The ones that sell the best are nachos, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and breakfast sandwiches.

All of these are easy, for the nachos fill a crock-pot with nacho cheese and have a bag of chips ready and when a customer asks for nachos simply put chips in a plastic bowl and cheese on top. Hot dogs and grilled cheese can be made slightly ahead of time and can be kept warm by wrapping them in foil and placing it on a grill or on a double boiler.

Candy is another bestseller item. It is incredibly cheap when bought in bulk and can be kept for a long time, in case you don’t sell out. Cup of Noodles is also very cheap and we sold each cup for a dollar each and sold about 20 or 30 cups.

Its also good to keep some healthy foods in stock as well, such as fruit and yogurt, because people do look for that and are willing to pay high prices, meaning that if you can get the food cheap, then you can make a lot of money. We sold bananas for a dollar per banana, and sold about 40 of them.

How To Make Serious Money – With your own Mobile Food Business

Concession Stand Shopping Guide – Simple food items to include in your concession stand

People love to eat especially if they don’t have to cook it themselves. There are many foods that will work for a concession stand which are simple and cheap to buy. You’ll be making a profit in no time.

Concession Stand Food List

  • Weiners and Hotdog Buns
  • Hamburger and Hamburger Buns
  • Cheese and Sliced Bread
  • Nacho Chips and Nacho Cheese
  • Condiments: Ketupe, Mustard, and Mayo
  • Potato Chips (few different flavors), Popcorn and or Bulk Candy
  • Cotton Candy
  • Beverages: Water, Pop, and if you have the machine Coffee
  • Fruit: Bananas, Apples and even maybe Oranges
  • Pickles: Pickled Eggs, Pickled Sausage, Dill Pickles

How To Attract Customers – A clean and sanitary concession stand is a must to attract the buying public

To get people to buy food, you have to display your “hottest” items as close to the customer as possible. Display your available drinks in one area, your healthy section in another, and candy in yet another area.

If you have limited space, try to put your best selling items up front, to attract as many people as possible. If you have lots of one item that is not selling put it in a prominent position, ie right next to where you pay. You should also suggest that the customer buy whatever you have a lot of, this really works!

hotdog cart

Hotdogs, Hamburgers, Smokies the All Time Favorites Here In Canada

Keep the area where food and money is exchanged clean and dry, there is nothing more deterring than an unclean space. Make sure that the people preparing food are wearing gloves to at least give the appearance of being sanitary.

Secret to Starting a Food Business – Steps to help with starting a concession stand business

Where To Set-Up A Concession Stand – There are a few places where you can find customers

  • In or near a public park
  • Along the beach if you live by the ocean
  • In the heart of the city along a busy sidewalk
  • At the rodeo if your city or town is hosting one
  • Events happening around your city or town for example: 4th of July (in the USA), Canada Day (in Canada)
  • Outside a grocery store is a good place for fund raising with a concession stand
  • Out front of a retail store for example: Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Walmart, Rona, Home Hardware

Some cities and towns will expect you to purchase a business license also known as a street vendor license and the fees for this license will vary depending on where you live. I live in Vancouver BC, Canada and the street vendor license fees are: $1052.24 + 126.27 HST for a food concession stand. No matter where you decide to set up your concession stand chances are your going to need the license or at the very least a permit.

concession stand 1

Cotton candy the all time favourite for kids everywhere

Also where I live before you or anyone that is helping can handle and sell food you must take the Food Safe course. There are two levels to the food safety course and as the owner of the concession stand level 2 is mandatory.

The Food Safe Program British Columbia’s food safety training program is a good place to start some research should you live in Canada

Cutting Costs Means Bigger Payout – Concession stand costs should be minimal

The best way to minimize costs is to make sure there are no leftovers. If you are operating your concession stand for multiple days, you could make your prices 50 cents higher the first day than the 2nd or 3rd day, and by the last day of operation, you should practically give out food, just to get your initial investment back.

You can reduce leftovers by predicting what people will buy. You could even do a survey to see what people want. Let me be the first to tell you that hot food is THE most popular thing to sell, and you will sell out more often than not.

Some items that are less popular are obscure things, like pasta salad, or taco in a bag. You should still stock your obscure items even though they sell less, because people do buy them. Don’t be afraid to buy lots of candy, it takes forever to expire (so you could put it in storage until you are operating your stand again) and it is cheap to buy in bulk, and can be sold for a high price. Make sure to buy your items in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s Wholesale.

mini doughnuts concession stand

Mini doughnuts bring the adults lining up, here in Canada we love our mini doughnuts!

If you do end up with leftovers, you should store the non-perishable items (for the next time you run your stand), and donate the perishable items to a food bank or homeless shelter. Make sure to safeguard your money, the worst thing is having someone throw away all the hard earned cash because they can’t give change back correctly, I’ve seen this before, it sucks. You should also have somebody come by every few hours and collect all the large bills and most of the money.

Hot Dog Cart Business Answers – Is a concession stand business right for you?

Something Important to Note

Do some research to get the lowest prices on food, sell everything you get, and protect the cash register from theft or other accidents.

Have You Ever Ran A Concession Stand? – Have any ideas or thoughts to share about running a concession stand


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