How To Start A Concession Stand

June 25, 2018 357 views

Image of a woman talking on a phone with a Concession Stand in the background

A Quick Overview of The Concession Stand Business

A concession stand typically sells snacks, ice cream, hot dogs, candy, sodas, popcorn, sandwiches, and pizza.

A mobile type concession stands often locates close to people who can’t get away for lunch, such as construction workers, or people who are looking for a quick snack throughout the day, which can be anyone walking down the street.

If you have access to a mobile concession stand, love working with people, and would enjoy moving around serving customers snacks and lunches, then perhaps a mobile stand is the best venture for you.

Each day determine what is selling and what is not. If popcorn, hamburgers, and pretzels are your best sellers, then you will want to prepare them in advance to cut down on customer wait time.

Before you open your stand, you need to make sure that you have everything you need by taking inventory. If there is something that you are out of or low on, get some more to ensure you do not run out over the course of the workday.

Be polite and friendly and be sure to listen to everything your customers say. Serve everyone as fast as you can.

Cities are filled with anxious workers who are looking for a quick lunch, hungry kids, and people attending sporting events and other activities. Concession stands are great in places where fast-paced people tend to gather.

It is critical to know which type of food to serve at each location. For example, if you are working at a baseball game or other sporting event, you will have good luck with hot dogs and hamburgers. If you were stationed at the county fair, perhaps cotton candy, popcorn, and candy apples might be a better choice. The types of food that you can offer are almost limitless; just be sure to do your research to determine what is right for your location.

The unique possibility of making a relatively large amount of money in a short period of time, a moderate investment of time and capital, and minimal licensing requirements, are some of the unique benefits of running a concession stand attractive to people who otherwise would not consider self-employment.

Skill Set:
  • Prepare food – Plus know peak hours so you prepare the right amount of food
  • Good cooking skills – Well cocked food results in repeat customers
  • Quick Service – Serve customers quickly and effectually – People won’t wait in line too long
  • People Friendly Skills – People want to be served in a friendly way
  • Good cleaning skills
  • List of Common Skill Sets
Approximate Daily Hours Needed:

General Hours of Operation – You will want to operate your stand, at times when there will be a lot of traffic in the area. This is heaviest around lunchtime and early morning. You could also do well with selling very late at night, as people are on there way home.

Employee & Job Consideration During The Start-up Phase Or In the Future:

Skill Set:
  • General knowledge of the operation of various food service equipment such as a microwave, soda dispenser, cash register, freezer, refrigerator, Sno-cone machine, etc.
  • The capability of establishing and maintaining a working relationship with city officials, landowners, employees as well as the general public.
  • General knowledge of all laws and regulations related to food service.
  • General knowledge of preparing and serving food and beverages.
  • General knowledge of any occupational hazards, safety precautions, etc.
  • Ability to deal courteously with the general public.
  • Experience in the foodservice industry is a plus.
  • Essential Office Equipment

The first step is to determine what kind of permits are required for your area. A state food handlers license is required in most states and you may have to have a local vendors permit as well. Other permits, such as permits to operate in a public venue, may be necessary.

You will need liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance in most states. Your mobile food trailer will need a trailer license. Contact your local health department and inquire as to what permits are needed.

You will need a business license, and because you are selling food, you may have to be inspected by the health department and obtain a food vendor license.

See our Page On Licenses and Permits

Approximate Minimum Startup Cost:

Bare essential – The cost of startup-costs usually breaks down to 25% for food, 25% for labor, 5% for power, etc., 15% pre-tax profit, 5% for insurance and 25% for miscellaneous costs such as vending equipment service, paper, liability, workman’s’ comp, condiments, etc. Depending on the type of cart you have will determine most of your startup costs. Carts vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Equipment, Supplies, & Services During Start-up OR In The Future:
  • A pull-behind smoker is ideal if you plan to sell barbecue.
  • A hot dog cart is right for a small investment.
  • A concession truck is the most expensive. A concession trailer allows you to cook an almost unlimited number of different types of food. A trailer with only electrical, plumbing, cabinets and windows will run you about $9,000. A trailer that comes with everything you need to can cost as much as $35,000.
  • A cotton candy machine will cost you anywhere from $50 all the way up to $400.
  • A hot dog rotisserie will typically hold up to 48 hot dogs at once and generally costs from $400 to $800.
  • Nacho equipment actually comes as two separate pieces: a nacho warmer will run you around $200 to $400, and a cheese warmer typically costs from $200 to $500.
  • There are two types of shaved ice machines. One makes small pellets from a bag of ice, while the other shaves a block of ice. Both types of machines generally cost between $1,000 and $3,000.
  • A commercial popcorn machine can cost you anywhere from $100 all the way up to more than $1,000.
  • You will need the tools, such as the microwaves, refrigerators, and other equipment to store your food
  • You will also need the food itself to sell. Additionally, you will want to supply things such as plates, napkins, and straws, etc.
  • Essential office Equipment
Monthly Expenses to Consider:

List of common business skills

Special Requirements and Considerations:
  • Find out all you can about the trends in the industry. Know your competition: in particular, their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you identify your competitive advantage. In other words, this will help you figure out what you can give your customers that they’re not getting from the other businesses. Keep from emulating the competition’s strategy. Instead, make the most of your own advantages.
  • There are a few different types of concession stands. A freestanding type stand remains in the same spot and lets customers come to you. A mobile concession stand, or a trailer, allows you to move from place to place, serving flea markets, festivals, fairs, etc. A cart also allows you to move about from street to street to serve hungry people. A concession tent can be either temporary or permanent is are the least expensive to open.
  • The kind of mobile trailer you buy depends on what kind of food you will be serving. Health department rules determine whether the trailer must have certain items such as a vented hood. The simpler the food, the simpler the stand.
  • For foods like cotton candy, a very simple mobile food trailer will suffice. You can often find used stands for sale on sites like eBay and in your local paper. If you buy a used one, make sure that all of the equipment is in good working order.
Pros and Cons:


  • Running a concession stand is one of the easiest ways to get into the food service industry
  • In the right location, a substantial income can be made
  • You get to meet a wide array of interesting people on a daily basis, as well as connect with your regular customers.
  • You will get to travel to different locations during your workday, giving you the chance to see a number of different sights and not have to look at the same place for too long.
  • Low startup cost.


  • You cannot simply set up shop at any location you choose. You need permission from the landowner and rental fees could cost you anywhere from $200 to $600 each month for a good spot.
  • Concession stand owners work in all kinds of weather and may lose some customers when the weather is not pleasant.

Many food vendors generate thousands of dollars in a single weekend.

Compared with nearly any other business with the same potential earnings, a concession stand can be started with very little start-up capital. Better still, substantial full-time income can be generated with part-time effort.

You have the freedom and independence to a good income without needing to settle for what your time is worth at a regular job. Further, you never need to worry about receiving the dreaded pink slip.