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Planning a Menu Fit for a Concession Stand

Planning a Menu Fit for a Concession Stand


A common concession menu board
The cornerstone of any good concession stand is the menu. Whether you are interested in selling the old standby concession favorites or you have a unique idea that you want to sell from a booth, it is important to spend time planning out your full menu before you start buying equipment and potentially renting space.

Sit down and write out all of the things that you would like to see on ideally your menu. Once you have everything written down, take a long hard look at the items on your menu. Chances are that some of these items will have to go because you will not have the resources (time, space or money) to sell them all. There are many things to consider when setting up a menu including cost, space and prep time.


Choosing a Concept

It is best to choose a unifying theme for the food you serve in your booth, and we’re not talking about picking between clowns and cowboys here. All the items on your menu should have a mutual concept whether they all have common ingredients, are all high-margin items or are made to order or use common pieces of equipment. 

Pre-Cooked Dishes
Pre-cooked dishes are made and ready to go when your customers come up to order and include soft bake pretzels, pre-made sandwiches or fruit salads.


Roasted pecans and almonds are a food that can be prepared ahead of time and customers can eat immediately.

Pros 

  • These dishes will be ready to serve immediately, allowing you to serve a greater amount of people in a shorter period of time.
  • Customers will be pleased that they were able to get their food so quickly versus other vendors.
  • Lack of prep needed in cart means that less equipment is needed in the truck or trailer.

Cons

  • Prep time before the cart opens will be a lot greater than if you prepared the dishes in the trailer.
  • There is greater chance of waste since you have to guess at the amount of food to prepare ahead of time.
  • You run the risk over running out of a dish early if it is unexpectedly popular or you underestimate the crowd at a certain event.
  • Dishes will not be as fresh because they were prepared hours earlier.

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Made to Order Dishes

The food on this menu is uniquely crafted according to each customer’s preferences when they order the product at your stand. Made to order meals can be anything from nachos to hand crafted burgers.

Pros


  • Funnel cakes have the same base ingredient, but can be made to order using various condiments.
    The greater variability allows guests to have exactly the type of food that they are craving, satisfying their appetite better.
  • Since the dishes are made to order, it adds a premium service to the food and allows you to be able to charge more, increasing your profits.
  • Customers will appreciate the freshness of the meal that has just been created for them.

Cons

  • The amount of prep needed in the cart or trailer means that you will have to purchase more equipment for your stand.
  • Longer wait times mean that you cannot serve a lot of customers at a time, cutting down on your business volume.
  • You may have to hire additional help to increase production, which will lower the amount of money you take home at the end of the day.

Popular or Common Dishes
Old faithful dishes that customers have come to expect at certain events, such as cotton candy or kettle corn.


Corn dogs are always a popular concession food.


Pros

  • Emotional link between the customers and the food is strong, so they are more likely to buy food at the event or location.
  • Familiarity with product makes menu description simple since most guests will already understand what the products are from only a few words.
  • The common occurrence of these dishes may make the equipment easier to find at a more affordable price.

Cons

  • Competition will be fierce between other vendors that sell the same thing, resulting in the need to make prices competitive.
  • Some events may prohibit your menu to prevent duplicate foods if there is already a vendor selling those products.
  • Production will have to be perfect in order to stand out from the rest of the crowd. This means harder, faster work using higher quality, more expensive products, lowering your margin.

Unique Menus

These menus have food that is not found all to commonly at events and includes ethnic or vegetarian items. Items found on unique menus can be Mexican or soul food.

A delicate dusting of powdered sugar covers a waffle displayed on a wire rack.
Waffles are a different type of food to sell at a concession stand, but well-known enought hat customers are willing to try them.

Pros

  • Different menu will ensure that no other vendors have the same menu as you, cutting down on competition.
  • The appearance of exotic ingredients or different preparation will allow you to charge a higher price than regular menu items.
  • Similar ingredients and spices used in many of the dishes will allow you to cut down on initial food costs and preparation.

Cons

  • Initial prep time can be more extensive if the products need to be cooked or prepared a certain way.
  • Cost of unique ingredients will be higher than common food found at any grocery store.
  • The risk of customers choosing more familiar food--and not trying yours because it is too different--is greater at many venues and events.

Planning a menu is a critical part of your business. It pays to sit down and plan out your dishes well ahead of time, as they will dictate what kind of equipment you buy, how much money you will be spending and how much money you could be making.

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