Originally Posted by filthyhippie
... For the first year or so, we'd like to hit up as many music festivals as possible. We make some mean pizzas and pepperoni rolls, we were planning on selling them to friends we make along the way...
For starters, I think you are too idealistic to survive the festival circuit.
1st rule of events... Promoters Lie.
2nd rule... Promoters lie about everything.
3rd rule.. see rules 1 and 2.
How much do you think it would cost in site fees to get into a festival and vend? Cheapest event we have operated at was $45. We don't do any event over $75. These are the tiny local festivals. WE can make $1K AT BEST at events of this size with our tiny cart and our current menu. That is flat hustling and slinging some sandwiches. We can also make $0. Bigger events can run from $300 to $3,000. And that's not the fairs. As a newby, you will be put in the worst location possible. Stay far, far away from festivals with carnivals. You can get your legs broke and lose all your $$ to the "competition". And that's a "nice" outfit. Make sure you have all your licensing. You have to pass a health inspection in every state you set up in. Some states want you to have a food managers certificate... you can get one online. I paid $100 and had to pass the test in order to get mine. You will need insurance for Food Vendors. That is a specialized insurance and covers you if you get accused of giving someone food poisoning and get sued. Ours cost over $550 for a year. You have to buy a license for each state you vend in. And remit sales tax. And pass a health inspection. I paid the state of TX $500 for the privilege of collecting sales tax. They sat on my money until we closed down and moved back to NM. Reason was because we lived in a campground and were a flight risk because we were transients.
If I caught you vending without a license, I would call the Health Dept inspector, get your car tag number and turn your butts in. I am tired of having to be legal and paying for the licenses we have to have while some idiot skates on that. I told the HD guy when I turned in the last person... "I want a refund for my permit if you aren't going to stop this... and I'm not paying for next years permit either!". Hey, I can use the $200 in my pocket. Some states are very lax about permits and rules. But things are getting tougher.
FIRST! If you want to vend food go to Roadfood
and READ before you ask any questions.
State Retail and Food Service Codes and Regulations by State
these are fun to read. GA is food vendor unfriendly, FL is not much better. As are some towns.
pics of our food cart
We mostly street vend and started out as a hot dog cart with an umbrella in 2009. We built the cart from scrap for about $500. We had a lot of scrap and we have been in construction for over 35 years.
After going to TX and having to enclose the cart in, we are now classified as a mobile kitchen and do not need a commissary. We spent a lot of $$ that we did really not have to do this. Corpus Christi is not a good town for food vendors. We got permitted but the folks there don't buy. You never know. Oh Rule # 4 would be Snow Birds/Winter Texans do not spend their very limited $ on food carts! We watched them since we were in two different campground over the winter. They are some cheap people. IF they eat out, they go to a cheap buffet.
I will tell you this. Get a mobile kitchen... completely self-contained, if you plan on vending either in one state or multiple. Based on what I have read on Roadfood, I believe that eventually the open carts will be regulated out of existence. You can figure on paying $20K and up for something that will pass inspection.
It will take you a minimum of two years to set up a good event/festival circuit. The events that you can get into between now and the end of the year would be events that don't pay well. To get into the good events/festivals, you need to be booking now for events that will occur 1 to 2 years from now. With fuel costs rising, and entry fees going up, you will have a hard time chasing events and making a profit.
Many places will want a police background check before issuing you a temporary permit. Some places want a background check to issue a regular permit.
All this is BEFORE you have really considered your menu. Cost out your food, multiply by 3 or 4, add sales tax. This would be your selling price.
You CANNOT use the kitchen in your RV/bus as your commercial kitchen.
I hope you don't have any pets. Pets and food vending really don't go together very well. 1 pet hair = lawsuit at worst, if the HD finds it, you can lose your permit to vend.
We started out in NC in 2009 and worked a racetrack in GA for a few months before heading out to NM. Permitted in NM and worked a few months before heading down to TX. Spent a lot of $$ getting setup for TX only to return to NM when winter was over. We have been in NM (again) in a too small town since June of 2010. Like I said, we are street vendors. This is hard work. We sell on the street 5 days and drive 70 miles to Albuquerque to resupply. So we are working 6 days a week, usually 9AM to 5PM. We have always been self employed. We would rather be self-employed than work for someone else. We will be changing to a larger town (hope to make more $$) as soon as the bus will be decent looking on the outside so that we can get into the ONE PRIVATE CAMPGROUND in the town that has already said they would take a skoolie AND the food cart. If that town doesn't work out, we will move to another one here in NM. We can sell anywhere in NM with our state permit. We are no longer doing events since David's heart attack. The events are just too much work on top of vending on the street.