Concession sales at fairs, festivals and sporting events can be lucrative operations perfect for owners seeking flexibility or who like to travel. Trailers and other mobile food prep and sales stations are the heart of any concessions operation. While there are usually plenty of used concession trailers available for sale on line, you can also build your own custom trailer with some research and planning.
Types of Trailer
The type of trailer you need will depend on the degree of food prep that will be done inside the trailer. All concessions trailer operations that feature the handling of fresh foods must acquire a health department food handler’s license. Most fairs accept any license from any state or municipality but some events do require concessionaires to pass an inspection on site. Such a concessions trailer will need to be a fully equipped kitchen on wheels. If you will be selling nothing but packaged foods, like potato chips in bags, candy other wrapped snack items, and canned or bottled beverages, you need not be as concerned about food storage and preparation regulations.
If you will be preparing fresh foods for resale, like hot dogs or funnel cakes, you will have to provide adequate refrigeration for your ingredients. Refrigerators and freezer units for trailers can be powered by gasoline generators, electric transformers connected to the towing vehicle, or propane. You will also have to equip the trailer with a supply of fresh “running” water, through a water line hook up, or onboard storage tanks with a faucet pump. Running water also implies a waste water storage tank system. Your grills will most likely run on propane gas: concession operations rarely are permitted to use outdoor charcoal grills at events. Ice chests, designed for dispensing ice into beverage cups, are another common equipment item. But don’t mix beverage cup ice chests with food storage ice chests however.
Packaged Sales Trailers
If you are only reselling pre-packaged goods, you do not have to equip your trailer with any stoves or running water. You may want to have refrigeration units to keep beverages cold but you’re only required to use refrigerators if you sell items that could spoil like cartons of milk. The “cleanest” and simplest type of beverage service is to sell cans or plastic bottles without cups and ice. Cool the beverages in ice chests but don't use this ice for human consumption.
Ideally, your concessions trailer operation should not require any other vehicles to haul equipment and supplies to the event site: just your trailer and your tow vehicle. You should install cabinets inside the trailer, fitted with marine cabinet latches, to store supplies and equipment out of sight and between uses. With some planning you can find ways to fit everything you will need for a “gig” into your trailer, including any exterior “yard” equipment like market umbrellas, folding tables for condiments, or awnings and signs. Don’t forget “Operator Comfort” equipment, such as a lawn chair and an umbrella “out back,” during occasional breaks.
Retrofitting Tool Trailers
It is relatively easy to adapt conventional tool or equipment trailers into suitable concessions trailers with the help of someone who is good with power tools and fabrications. Standard tow-trailers can be retrofitted to include swing out service windows, cabinetry, and all sorts of power generation equipment and fittings. You can use equipment designed for recreational vehicles to cover needs, including power, water, and refrigeration. Just make sure that the trailer remains safe for towing, with operating taillight kits, and that it is licensed for towing purposes in your home state. Paint the trailer in attractive colors and graphics to complete the look.
- "Concessions Stand"; Jason Hall; 2010
- "Food Booth: The Complete Guide to Starting and Operating a Food Concession Business": Barbara Fitzgerald; 2006
A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.