My interview with 53 food vendors from the 2021 Oregon State Fair

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    Every few years I attend the Oregon State Fair and when I do. I always interview food and donut vendors and ask them one simple question?
    What advise would you give a newbie just starting out in this business.
    The quotes listed below are from vendors who chose to participate and are in random order (which is how I received them), Some were edited slightly for grammar purposes. The idea behind each was never altered. Enjoy!

    1. “Deposit all your cash you make from an event when your bank is not busy. You can only imagine what kind of looks you’ll get if you walk up to a teller with $1,500 in one dollar bills and there is a line of people waiting behind you.”

    2. “Consider selling at auctions. With the right product they can be a great source of additional income.”

    3. “If you operate from a tent don’t forget to buy some lights for the inside. You’ll need them at night.”

    4. “Be sure you secure all your signs and banners to your booth somehow. Even a slight gust of wind can take these suckers away. Happened to me the last event.”

    5. “I operate both a temporary and permanent food stand during the summers. My permanent stand sits in front of a major retailer and I work it during the week. It’s great extra income. My temporary stand is for weekend events.”

    6. “If you decide to sell soda, consider selling fountain instead of bottled. It’s much more profitable and a lot less hassle.”

    7. “You will have to create an identity to develop a following. Your identity will almost certainly become one or more of your products.”

    8. “Most of the time you’ll be taking in lots of cash in a day. Make sure to clear it out of your drawer often. I learned the hard way on this one. I lost half of my entire earnings for the day thanks to some thief.”

    9. “Always put back some money for the unexpected. Things like equipment going bad or just having a bad event. Trust me, you will need it for something eventually.”

    10. “The best thing I ever did was to involve my family in this business. We have made more good memories together in this business than I could have ever imagined.”

    11. “Before you decide on your booth design and menu items, go out to some events to pick up all kinds of great ideas.”

    12. “If you work out of a tent you may want to buy a large rubber mat for your entire area. This makes it easy to walk around your work space and helps prevent the possibility of injury from falls, especially if you are going to be working with grease.”

    13. “No matter what type of booth you have, keep it clean. I think this is one of the most important factors in making a lot of sales. You would be amazed at how many people are turned off from a dirty looking booth.”

    14. “Always secure a tent to the ground as best as possible. I have now had a total of four blow away in bad weather from not doing this.”

    15. “If you can afford it, have your concession trailer custom built. This way you can have everything built specifically to what you will be selling plus any extras you would like.”

    16. “Just like when working for someone else there are times when you have to kiss ass in this business. It’s to health inspectors and event managers. Trust me on this one.”

    17. “You will always need at least one other person to help you work an event. It is easy to think you can do it by yourself but trust me you can’t.”

    18. “Never ever book two events consecutively. Always give yourself at least one full day off between for cleaning everything and rest.”

    19. “Some days this business is hotter than hell. Just keep thinking green and you’ll get through these days just fine.”

    20. “Don’t ever give up. I did almost twenty two years ago and I am now a millionaire from this business.”

    21. “I always walk around the whole event during setup. If I see another vendor selling the same thing I am, I try and get them to sell it at the same price I do. This eliminates price wars.”

    22. “Watch your portion sizes. Giving out too much can kill your profits.”

    23. “You’ll have to put together a hell of a business plan if you want to obtain any type of financing in this business. It’s possible, but I’d plan on any financing you might need to come from your own pockets.”

    24. “Do not forget to obtain an employee identification number from the IRS if you ever hire any employees. I did when I hired my first two people and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.”

    25. “Don’t forget to bring a fire extinguisher to every event. Make sure it is the appropriate one required depending on what you sell and it is tagged correctly. You’ll have to check with the local fire department of where you will be working an event to find this information out. I have actually had to drive two hours before an event started one time just to buy a fire extinguisher so the fire chief would approve my booth.”

    26. “Keep any type of trailer attached to the vehicle hauling it as much as possible. Early on, I disconnected my utility trailer from the truck that was hauling it and the trailer got vandalized. My auto insurance company refused to pay because they said it had to be attached to a vehicle in order for it to be covered.”

    27. “Make sure you secure all your propane tanks properly. I was at an event one time and saw one explode. Actually, it shot off like a rocket to be exact.”

    28. “If it’s hot, sell cold items. If it’s cold, sell hot items.”

    29. “Always be looking for the next big idea. You can make a ton of money the first few years off any hot new food or drink item.”

    30. “People usually do not like prepackaged foods. If you can’t prepare the item at your stand, I wouldn’t bother selling it.”

    30. “If you don’t like your location at an event, inform the manager politely. They’re usually willing to put you in a better spot the following year if you’re humane about it. I see so many vendors end up getting angry at event managers over this and end up getting themselves kicked out.”

    31. “Add something healthy to your menu. Although most people go to events for junk, there are surprisingly some individuals that want something healthy. I wouldn’t make it your main item, just a supplement.”

    32. “If you have a chance to book a quality event under certain conditions, do it. Then worry about how you are going to meet those conditions. You don’t make money in this business sitting at home on your butt.”

    33. “Don’t let your customers wait too long in line for your products. This will put you out of business so fast it will make your head swing.”

    34. “It should take a maximum of two or three minutes to prepare an item. If it takes more, don’t sell it. You will never make any real money at it.”

    35. I would recommend selling bottled water no matter what your menu consists of. It is highly profitable . You can easily make your event fee back simply by putting a cooler filled with ice and bottled water in front of your stand. Most people are honest so you really do not need to even man it.”

    36. “If you are planning on selling soda pop at an event be sure to check if there is a drink sponsor. If so, you’ll usually have to carry their brand only.”

    37. ”’All I have to say is hide your napkins. If you don’t, you’ll have a million people taking them, people that never bought a damn thing from you.”

    38 “Make sure you have too many supplies rather than not enough during an event. The last thing you want is to run out of paper plates when you have twenty five people in your line.”

    39. “Not many vendors do this, but I accept credit cards. This has increased my sales dramatically. It costs me a little per transaction, but I more than make up for it in sales. Make sure to put a Visa, Mastercard or whatever types of cards you carry banner somewhere in front of your booth.”

    40. “I used to work county and state fairs. They were decent money but were way too long. I find l can make just as much from a good two day festival as I can in seven days from a fair. I also can’t stand the smell of goats.”

    41. “The best part about this business … weird people. You’ll discover some walking species that make you wonder if they are even human.”

    42. “If you buy a concession trailer to start with make sure it has a dropped serving window so it is easy for people to see inside of your unit, especially young kids.”

    43. ”Longer events do not always mean more money, I have worked fourteen day shows that were horrible. I’ve also worked single day events in which I brought in thousands of dollars. You just never know in this business.”

    44. “The best way to find good events is to ask other vendors for recommendations, assuming your products don’t clash.”

    45. “I have been in this business over twenty years. In my opinion, the best location at an event is where the majority of people enter and exit. I don’t know why, but I know that I have made more money in this spot than anywhere else.”

    46. “Buy a dual axle trailer instead of a single. It will carry more weight and is much safer when driving down the road hauling a lot of weight.”

    47. “Setup and tear down is the worst part about this business. If you hire any employees, make sure they are there to help you with both of these and not just working during the event only.”

    48. “I love this business. Never have I worked in an environment where
    everyone is so happy. I make a decent living from it, don’t have to answer to anybody, and am fortunate enough to spend my winters in Florida.”

    49. “Be careful about who you hire. Don’t just hire anyone. With the internet, it is easy to do a basic background check these days. You’ll be glad you did.”

    50. “Don’t ever think that you need a hundred products to be successful in this business. I’ve sold one product for thirty three years and am still selling it.”

    51. “I like booking events that charge a percentage of sales up to a maximum amount (usually 10 or 15 percent). If it rains, it never costs me much.”

    52. “Make sure to ‘check how long an event has been taking place before you book it. The longer the better in terms of making money. First year event holdings are risky.”

    53. “Don’t forget about flea markets. On the weekends if I do not have any events booked, I set up my booth at my local flea market and usually do very well.”

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