Straightforward though the concept of a concession stand may seem, operating one at a festival, park, mall or stadium can involve a maze of regulatory requirements. Localities vary widely in their rules and regulations, so your local government authority will be a key resource during this process.
Health Inspections and Regulations
As a concessionaire that prepares and sells food to the public, you will have to pass health and safety inspections on the state and county levels and remain in compliance with regulations. Each state and county may have its own requirements regarding inspections, but the inspection will be a prerequisite to obtaining permits to operate the business. With some exceptions, concessions generally follow the same regulatory path as restaurants, notes food business resource website Food Service Warehouse.
Fire and Safety
Your state or county may require your concession to pass a fire safety inspection. Ask your health inspector whether you will need to do so. Depending on where you operate your concession, you may be subject to additional safety, equipment and construction requirements. For example, the Siskiyou Fair in Yreka, California, specifies fuel types that may be used, booth dimensions, fire extinguisher requirements, prohibited cooking methods and tent specifications.
Permits, Licenses, etc.
You likely will have to obtain a retail food establishment license from the state and/or counties where you operate, unless all you sell is hot beverages or prepackaged food. Check with your jurisdictions. You may also have to apply for a general business license, a food safety permit and an alcoholic beverage license. On the federal level, you will need to get an employer identification number. A sales tax account number from your state may be required.
Zoning and Insurance
Setting up shop as a concession stand requires getting zoning clearance from the municipalities and venues where you are stationed. You cannot just situate yourself anywhere. Ask the city, county and any property managers relevant to your site about restrictions that may apply to you. Some states may also require you to insure your concession while others may not. Even without a state-imposed requirement, insurance may be necessary at your venue. At the Lake County Fair in Indiana, for example, liability insurance of $1 million is required for each concession.