A concession trailer will help you quickly set up at various events or venues. (As a part time venture, you probably will not be renting a store.) It will also grab the attention of customers. While you can buy a new, customized trailer, there are also many great used ones available. Keep in mind, your first trailer is like your first home - you will always remember it fondly, but there's always room for improvement as the years go on. As you build up a route of increasingly more productive events or locations, your first trailer might be reserved for specific needs like just funnel cakes. Later, you may get a larger, flashier trailer - like the type that can generate over $5,000 a day in sales at a county fair.
CHOOSE YOUR TYPE
There are a variety of trailer sizes and makes to choose from, including stationary concession stands, or mobile trailers and carts. The key is to figure out what you want to sell and how much you would like to invest.
Most people will start with either a concession trailer or cart. These units cost less and allow you more freedom to follow the money at special events. While you can buy a large mobile catering truck, most trailers will be pulled behind a truck. Trailers can include fryers, ventilation systems, serving windows, marquees, storage space, electrical hookups, generators, and much more. (You can also boost sales and attract more customers by having some type of seating with umbrellas outside your stand.)
HOW TO BUY YOUR FIRST TRAILER
You first need to do your homework. Start by searching either used or new concession food trailers on a search engine like Google or Yahoo. You will probably find more than ten pages with suggested sites. Next, check out the different sites and see what options are available, and if there are any testimonials. If you are buying new, read about the manufacturer's process and terms. If you are looking for a used trailer, check for sites that profile trailers from areas near you. This way you can see firsthand what condition the trailer is in. You can also search local auctions and contact trailer manufacturers. Be sure to investigate before you invest!
Lastly, attend a local festival/special event and ask other trailer owners what has worked for them and were they glad they spent their money on it. Some questions to keep in mind are:
- What is it made of and how durable is the trailer?
Hint: Steel panels rust out.
- How can I clean it? Can I hose it out and will the floor rot through?
- Does it have a ventilation system for fried foods?
- Will I have somewhere to wash my hands and dishes?
- How long does it take to build or customize?
- Do I need to keep something cold?
- What are the local and state ordinances on things like hand and utensil washing, screens, fire extinguishers, etc.? The health officials will make demands.
- Does the manufacturer or seller offer financing?
- What type of signage do I need? Or, should I customize the exterior for the flash that gets the cash?