How to Start a Concession Trailer Food Business

by Melinda Gaines; Updated September 26, 2017
Children (6-10) at fastfood vendor's window, reaching for plate

Concession trailers are commonplace at various types of events, especially those that are held outdoors. At large festivals and annual events, a concession trailer owner can earn tens of thousands of dollars. Many who own food trailers make the bulk of their profits during the spring and summer seasons--this can be a very lucrative business to get into. To ensure that your food concession trailer business is successful, you will need to do a bit of planning and preparation.

Step 1
Girl (8-10) eating hotdog, children (6-12) queuing at vendor's window

Choose a niche, or specialization. For example, you can choose to sell cotton candy, candy apples, burgers and fries, snow cones, hot dogs, funnel cakes, pretzels, or nachos from your concession trailer. While some trailer businesses sell a variety of foods, focusing on just one or two items will allow you to develop a better marketing plan and target your audience when you're at events.

Step 2
Amusement Park Food Signs

Research to find local events where you can be a vendor, such as carnivals, annual street fairs, flea markets, car shows or craft shows. This is important to do before buying any equipment or getting any permits--you need to be sure owning a concession trailer is economically feasible in your area.

Most events will require you to have insurance (they can often recommend a broker) and qualify for all permits that food vendors in your area must have.

Step 3
Rear view of a businessman standing at a hot dog vendor

Name your concession trailer business and get a DBA (assumed name certificate) from your county. This typically costs less than $25, but the cost depends upon the area you're in.

Step 4
Hands writing with pen

Obtain the permits needed in your city and state to run a mobile food business. This typically means getting a food handlers permit, food managers certificate, inspection of your concession trailer, and a permit to vend food temporarily at an event. To ensure your business can legally operate, be sure to have all of your permits at least six weeks before the event date.

Step 5
Empty Concession Counter at Movie Theater

Check to see if your city or state requires that those who operate vending trailers have a commercial driver license. Though this is not required in all areas, you will need to know ahead of time if this is needed--you cannot get a commercial driver license instantly, and not having one could cause you to miss an event.

Step 6
FairFood

Purchase a food concession trailer that will match your needs. For example, if you plan to sell ice cream, you will need to have a freezer. Those selling tacos or burger will need a cooking range or stove in their trailer. You can look for new, used, and custom trailers--custom concession trailers are the most expensive, new ones are less expensive than custom ones, and used trailers are typically the least expensive option. Concession trailers range in cost from $8,000 to over $30,000.

Companies such as Concession Trailers, Vending Trucks, Trailer Factory, and Russell Concessions sell a wide variety of food trailers.

Step 7
Fairgrounds

Buy wholesale eating accessories for your trailer such as napkins, plates, forks and cups from a supplier such as Oriental Trading, Instawares or Print Appeal. If you have the money to spare, buying branded napkins with your company's name and website address or phone number on them may be helpful when it comes to building your concession trailer company's reputation and brand.

Step 8
chef working in kitchen

Hire part-time help or independent contractors to assist with your first event. You cannot realistically handle cooking, serving, and customer relations at an event all by yourself. If you can get a family member or friend to help for free or at a discount, you may be able to save money.

About the Author

Melinda Gaines has been a freelance writer since 2006, with work appearing online for YellowPages and other websites. Her areas of expertise include business, beauty, fashion and sports. Gaines attended the University of Houston where she earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration.

Photo Credits

  • Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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