If you haven’t noticed recently, there’s been a massive surge in mobile food and product vendors across the country. And there’s good reason for that.
Fast and convenient food options that go where the action is don’t just give consumers more options than ever before, they also lean into the instant gratification and delivery-world we live in today. Which, I think we can all agree, is a pretty nice place to be. Long gone are the days when hour-long delivery windows are commonplace, and the nearest niche cuisine is two cities over.
Which brings us to this blog. It’s a great time to get a concession trailer, find your niche, and make your way to the crowds looking for the next big thing. But, before you pull up, lift the window, click on the open sign, and start slinging food, there are some things you’ll want to make sure are ready to go.
By checking off the following boxes ahead of time, you’ll set yourself up for success.
Know the Rules of Engagement
Permits — While not all do, many places require permits and inspections before you can open up for business. And, not all counties are the same, so if you plan on traveling with your concession trailer, you’ll want to research the new location and requirements ahead of time.
Size and Setup — Some fairs and parkgrounds put restrictions on the type of setup you can bring. This includes weight, size of the unit, type of signage, and sometimes, even stipulations regarding the goods and services you plan to sell. Just like a permit, ask the city or event coordinator what you need to adjust before assuming you can roll on in.
Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse
We’ve written about trailer branding before, so we encourage you to check this post out
. However, we’ll recap a few of the more important elements to getting your name out there.
Messaging — Like a billboard, you need to convey information in a few seconds. Many times, people will see your stand from their car or as they’re passing along in a crowded area. So, make sure to consolidate the information and utilize high visuals. And, it’s always a great idea to make your business name loud and clear—include your phone number, website URL, and social media handles.
Wraps and graphics —
Artistic food trailers tend to get a lot of attention these days, so when it comes to the trailer exterior, it’s best to go bold rather than simple. After all, you want people to talk about your trailer and point it out from the crowd. You can always opt for full or partial graphic decals that are customized to your stand’s size and shape. Plus, decals can be interchanged as menu and prices change.
Harness the Power of the People
Social Media — Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are must-haves in the concession stand world. Not only are they essential for brand awareness and loyalty programs, they allow you to tell fans where to find you throughout the day and engage in customer service questions. We know immediate responses can be the difference between a good and bad reputation, so it’s a good idea to keep a tablet handy with your accounts pulled up should someone be talking good (or ill) of your shop while you’re on the job.
Social media opportunities include:
- Contests and Giveaways
- Photo and Location Tagging
- Customer Spotlights and Testimonials
- Menu Announcements
- Special Locations and Limited Times
Location — When someone’s craving your cuisine, the last thing you want them to do is give up hope that they’ll ever find you by randomly roaming the streets. So, it’s best to make sure you’re consistent in your location. At an event every year? Try to lock down the same corner so people know right where to find you.
Consider the Marketplace Before Opening for Business
Health is on the Menu
Sure, we all love a good deep-fried dish at the local fair, as well as the massive turkey leg that takes all your willpower and napkins to finish. However, as trends show, healthy eating is starting to rule the food truck market. So, no matter what your particular niche is, offering some healthy options like salads and fruit sides is a good way to get more cash in the door.
The same goes for sustainable food options and vegan dishes. Other types to focus on include non-GMO and organic options. It can get more expensive to source, but mobile vending allows for a more flexible price range that can make up for your initial investments.
Gluten and particular allergies are nothing to joke about. They can make or break a business. If it’s possible, make an effort to include gluten-free options and make it clear with signage and special orders if your ingredients come in contact with peanuts or other potential allergy-inducing items.
The same goes for concession stands focusing on non-food items. If you can show consumers that your materials were sourced responsibly, are eco-friendly, and manufactured ethically, then you’ll be an instant go-to.
What About the Drinks?
Much like the craft beer craze, craft sodas and independent suppliers are getting a lot of love in brick and mortar locations. Which means, it’s a good move to bring the same to your vending trailer. You can bring in all sorts of demographics just by offering a variety of drinks, from all-natural root beer to coconut water and cold-brew coffees.
Still deciding what kind of product to bring to the masses? Start by asking yourself these questions:
You may want to avoid these or offer a new take on them.
- What types of concessions do you always see at various events?
Don’t be afraid to charge more for the really special dishes people will be talking about.
- How much are others charging for their goods? Do they offer specials? Combos?
Definitely copy this method. Long wait times are the worst. I think we can all agree on this.
- What setups are getting customers through the line fastest?
It may be a good time to stretch your culinary or crafting skills to make a splash in your city.
You Got to Pay to Play
- Is there a cuisine/craft/service not being represented in your area?
Invest in WiFi that patrons can log onto while they peruse or eat. Sure, you’ll need to pay for this upfront, but your customers will be more willing (and able) to log onto social media and review sites to offer up their five-star reviews.
Speaking of Pay…
With Venmo and Apple Pay and every credit/debit card logged into our phones, cash is becoming a ghost currency. With platforms like Square available to vendors, you can make it extremely easy for buyers to pay, add a tip, and request their receipt preference. This won’t just save time, it’ll save you from handling bills and change, as well as a register that needs to be counted at the end of the day.