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ACityDiscount Ranks the Top 25 Concession Stand Food & Equipment Ideas

Concession Stand owners and operators need efficient and reliable cooking equipment to run a profitable operation

Concession stand food ideas are perfect with this selection of equipment

Consider this Concession stand food ideas 101: Concession stands across America spend the spring, summer and fall treating patrons to a variety of festival foods - from Oldies but Goodies like funnel cakes, roasted nuts and chicken on a stick to New age selections: fried cookie dough, hot chicken and waffles and doughnut ice cream sandwiches.

Yum! Time for seconds - maybe thirds. This leads to the age-old mobile foodservice question: "What should I serve at my concession stand?"

In this article, we'll discuss the money-making factors that lead to your menu inspiration. And there are as many factors as there are festival food options.


ACityDiscount's ranking of the top Concession Stand food ideas and equipment ideas

Concession Stands - The Numbers

Thinking about participating in a fair, festival or sporting event? Answer these questions first

Don't forget about food prep and storage

Mobile points of sale

Location, location, location and presentation

Other points to remember

Final points to remember

ACityDiscount's ranking of top concession stand food ideas and equipment ideas

No. 25: Assortment of foods

Perfect piece of equipment in outdoor environments. When electricity is sparse, go with:

Buy This: Update 8qt Chafing Dish

Or This: Nemco Counter Top Food Warmer

No. 24: Fruit salad

Fairs and festivals are full of fried foods, BBQ and frozen treats. We love them. But from a business standpoint, would you rather be the 15th BBQ vendor...or the only vendor selling a watermelon, strawberry and tomatillo salad?

Buy This: Winco Food Round Mill

Concession stand food ideas are perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 23: Beignets

It's a sweet New Orleans treat. Want to take it to the next level? Stuffed beignets - think fruit or seafood!

Buy This: Globe Electric Countertop Fryer

No. 22: Gyros

The perfect, on-the-go festival fare with plenty of options: pork, chicken, lamb, beef or veal.

Buy This: American Range Verticle Gas Broiler

No. 21: Pizza

Build-Your-Own Pizza will be a hit at your next event. We’ll order pepperoni, green peppers and portabella mushrooms.

Buy This: Hatco Revolving Pizza Display

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 20: Premium sandwiches

Dress up a basic sandwich with toasted lines and homemade condiments.

Buy This: Winco Counterop Panini Grill

No. 19: Ice cream

A timeless frozen treat modernized by Instagram-worthy presentations. Don't forget lots of garnishes! Try candied pecans with blackberry and brandy sauce.

Buy This: Waring Waffle Cone Maker with Rolling Cone

No. 18: Iced tea

Transform this everyday Southern beverage with a Strawberry Basil recipe.

Buy This: Update 3 Gallon Iced Tea Dispenser

Also Buy This: Winco Cup and Lid 3 Tier Organizer

No. 17: Cotton Candy

Come on. You have to buy it - on looks alone. The only question: blue or pink?

Buy This: Benchmark Cotton Candy Machine

Or Buy This: Benchmarck Cotton Candy Starter Kit

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 16: Snow cones

Big sellers in coastal states. Want to stand out from the frozen competition? Create your own snow cone flavors.

Buy This: Benchmark Snow Cone Machine with Starter Kit

No. 15: Bottled water

Sometimes, you just want some H20.

Buy This: IRP Portable Can and Bottle Beverage Holder

No. 14: Rice dishes

Utilize this piece of equipment to create the base for so many dishes, including red beans and rice (Rice and beans), seafood gumbo, jambalaya, etc.

Buy This: Winco Electric Rice Cooker

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 13: Hot dogs/Sausage dogs

Sure, you can cook hot dogs and sausages on a griddle. But this unit creates a different taste, thanks to the constant movement.

Buy This: Nemco Hot Dog Roller - Fits 27 Hot Dogs

Or This: Nemco Countertop Hot Dog Merchandiser and Steamer

Or This: Nemco Dual Well Chili and Cheese Warmer

Or This: APW Wyott Hot Thermo Drawer

No. 12: Frozen Yogurt

Sorry (not sorry) ice cream. Meet your healthy match.

Buy This: Waring Countertop Ice Cream Maker

No. 11: Seafood Gumbo, Jambalaya

The bigger the pot, the profit.

Buy This: Update 80qt. Induction Stock Pot

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 10: Popcorn

Kettle popcorn, caramel popcorn, cheese popcorn OR a combination of all three? Hmmm.

Buy This: Benchmark Popcorn Machine

Or This: Star Nacho Chip and Popcorn Warmer

No. 9: Nachos

You can't go wrong with the classics: Nachos & cheese. But, Supreme Nachos (ground beef or chilli, cheese, olives, jalapeno peppers, diced tomatoes) give me life...

Buy This: Vollrath 72430 4 Quart Cheese & Topping Warmer w/ Inset, Cover, & Hinge

Or This: Star 11WLA-HS 11 Qt. Countertop Lighted Condiment Pump W/ Heated Spout

Or This: Nemco Dual Well Chili and Cheese Warmer

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 8: Smoothies, Fresh-Squeezed Juices

You don’t have to travel to the Caribbean to drink out of a pineapple.

Buy This: Robot Coupe 6.5 Qt. Juicer

Or This: Vollrath Manual Juice Extractor

No. 7: Cheeseburger, Cheese steak, sausage hoagie

Eye candy at its best. Medium-well burger with extra peppers and onions on the cheese steak and hoagie, please.

Buy This: Toastmaster Countertop Gas Griddle

No. 6: Frozen beverages

Slushies stop the world from melting away.

Buy This: Eurodib Frozen Drink Machine

No. 5: BBQ, Burgers, Elote (Mexican Corn), etc.

Win patrons over long before they reach your booth by distributing free smells.

Buy This: Big John Grills Charcoal Grill and Rotisserie

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 4: Fried chicken wings, French fries

We adore hot chicken and loaded fries. Can’t go wrong with new versions of the classics.

Buy This: Pitco Gas Deep Fryer

Or This: Update French Fry Cutter

Also This: Nemco Infrared Food Warmer / Heat Lamp

No. 3: Beer

After all, your burger needs a companion.

Buy This: IRP Portable Beverage Cart with Canopy

No. 2: Pretzel

We love any concession stand food ideas that are tasty and portable.

Buy This: Nemco Revolving Prezel Warmer

Or This: Star Countertop Revolving Pretzel Merchandiser

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

No. 1: Funnel Cakes

Ahhh, the top spot! Traditional funnel cakes are great… but so are the red velvet version with cream cheese icing – Yum yum!

Buy This: Comstock Castle Funnel Cake / Donut Fryer

Concession Stands - The Numbers

Successful concession stands can expect to make approximately four figures a day at events that host at least 5,000 patrons.

If concession stand owners select a hip and profitable menu item, they can expect one in 20 patrons to purchase items with an average sale of about $8.

At large festivals, Jazz and Heritage Festival (New Orleans), Austin City Limits (Austin), Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN), the California State Fair (Sacramento), Lollapalooza (Chicago) and others, the best concession stand owners can expect six-figure, even seven-figure paydays.

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

Even high school booster clubs amass six-figure revenue during year-round sports seasons (varsity, junior varsity, etc.).

Imagine the business life of a successful concession stand owner: invest $10,000-25,000 in a large event, and yield a six-figure return in less than a week. No wonder some concession stand owners only operate at a few festivals a year.

Unlike restaurants, where the brick and mortar location must open six or seven days a week (in most cases), concession stand owners can work their foodservice duties at their own pace. Participate in a festival once a month? Sure. How about twice a month? No problem.

How about three times a year? That's cool too.

Thinking about participating in a fair, festival or sporting event? Answer these questions first

Is the fair, festival or sporting event a one-day event or held over multiple days? If it's a one-day event, what are the expected peak hours of attendance?

Inventory control transforms concession stand food ideas into profits. Selling out two hours into a 10-hour event? Good, but not so good...Leaving an event with an abundance of wasted product? Not good either.

What type of weather is in the forecast?

Yeah, we know your chili is great. But it's like 95 degrees outside.

Is there an admission for patrons?

Events that charge admission typically attract patrons expecting to pay about $25 for food and drinks during a four to six-hour period.

In the past, approximately how many patrons have attended this event?

Don't just take the word of the event organizer. Search for relevant photos - even media coverage - via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instgram.

Is outside food permitted?

Frozen treats are a great concession stand seller in a festival food environment where patrons are allowed to grill out and bring other foods and snacks - give them something they can't bring to the event.

What are the demographics of the residents this event is marketing to?

In other words, don't serve BBQ Brisket at an event where the patrons are vegans.

Are there catering opportunities at the event?

The event management team has to eat too! So do sponsors.

Don't forget food prep and food storage

In many cases, a food warmer is capable of solving food holding challenges.

In indoor settings, holding cabinets and food pan carriers are highly recommended.

Don't forget to allow for booth space to prep items, including plating. After all, those fresh-cut French fries aren't going to cut themselves! Solve this with a prep table and a selection of small wares.

Concession stand food is perfect with this selection of equipment

Mobile points of sale

It's 2018. Most people don't carry cash. Or, if they do, it may not be enough to cover the cost of their meals. So make sure your concession stand is set up for credit and debit card transactions. Fees differ based on usage and gross revenue.

Worst-case scenario? Use PayPal. Also, use a tablet. And don't fumble around with a smartphone for card transactions.

Make sure the event has a suitable wi-fi connection for your POS system.

Location, location, location and presentation

Plenty on concession stand owners are concerned with their 10x10 tent space – some want to be in the middle of the concession stand area; some want their booths set up on the sides; others prefer to separate their booths from the festival food competition.

Meanwhile, the real non-food factor is not location; it’s appearance. At outdoor fairs and festivals, make sure your business signs and/or menu is visible from 30 feet away. Because unlike narrow pathways inside football stadiums, patrons glance at concession stands from far away, and the slightest distraction – not recognizing what you’re serving – can sway them to another business. 

Remember: The “Eye contact at 10 feet and greeting at five feet” customer service/sales strategy does not work at outdoor events without creative signs that bring customers closer.

Other points to remember

Foodservice is different when you’re outside. First, you’re often in a temporary environment – under a 10x10 tent. And you have a limited amount of tools at your disposal – less than you have at your commissary or permanent commercial kitchen location.

Electrify is often a challenge. You may be tasked with supplying your own via a generator. Or, if you’re sharing electricity supplied by the event, you must prepare for the worse: if power goes out, do you have a backup plan?

Final points to remember

Don’t forget about licensing and insurance (varies in different U.S. cities).

Are you storing perishables and non-perishables correctly?

Do you have a free or discount meal menu in place for employees?

Do you have a strategy for tracking custom returns/damaged food?

Are you taking large bills from cash boxes on regular basis, and replacing with smaller bills (for change)?

Are you tracking starting inventory numbers vs. ending inventory?

Are you comparing these numbers vs. revenue in the cash boxes?

Do you have a rain plan: In the case of inclement weather, what must be covered/protected from the elements immediately?

More questions about running a successful concession operation or concession stand food ideas? Give ACityDiscount a call at 404-752-6715 or stop by our showroom in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross at 6286 Dawson Blvd, NE.

Copywriter Gary Estwick Gary Estwick writes about the foodservice industry and the equipment that keeps it running smooth – from deep fryers to pizza ovens. He’s a fan of chargrilled oysters, Nashville-style hot chicken, cool jazz, paintball and the TV show Quantum Leap (1989-93) – in that order... He’s written for the Miami Herald, New Orleans Advocate, Austin American-Stateman, Men’s Fitness and other publications. Gary is a native of New Orleans, and lives in Atlanta. Check out his ACityDiscount articles and videos. E-mail story ideas to And click here to join ACityDiscount's mailing list for more food stories, tips, tricks and foodservice equipment specials!

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