New guy on board

Junior Burger
2013/05/26 11:45:05
Hello all, I've been lurking for a few weeks.  I found this site while researching concessions supplies and new food ideas.
My fiance has worked for her grandfather for the last 15 years in his concessions business.  He started 40 years ago with a snow cone machine and a little shack. He built his concessions side business up over the years to two Wells Cargo 8' trailers and another Streamline or something. After selling off two of the trailers as he aged he is now ready to pass the remaining Wells Cargo trailer over to my fiance and me.
I started hanging around his trailer while dating his grand daughter and began fixing things on or in the trailer (I own a successful auto repair business and still work on cars). From the trailer brakes, wiring, plumbing, repairing the cotton candy machine, cash register and what not he figured that after I had proposed to his grand daughter that it was safe for him to retire (again since he is a retired postal worker) because he could back away now with me in the picture and not have to do any of the heavier work or mechanical repairs anymore.
I've worked in the trailer for two seasons now, we operate from May to October and do local fairs, festivals, flea markets, and the youth football league. My fiance and I will be taking over the stand for two seasons, saving all the revenue, upgrading, maintaining and hopefully expanding his business while saving enough to get the business loan to buy the business, equipment, and event contacts.  Her grandfather will stay on for a bit as the go between for the events so there is a smooth transition. 
We serve funnel cakes, corn dogs, hot dogs, brats, nachos, walking tacos, french fries, chicken strips, tenderloins, fresh squeezed lemonade, and an assortment of other "fair" foods.  I have been a hobby pork and beef smoker for about 6 years after building my own smoker and would like to incorporate that into the business after we officially own it and have some seasons under our belt. Good BBQ is pretty non existent in Iowa and I think I could eventually expand it to a restaurant  but the concession trailer would be a good springboard/testing ground for it.
I need to expand the brand of her grandfather's concession trailer though. Their caps are printed in a cursive that is not very legible and his logo needs to goo on all the glasses, napkins, and containers of food we send out.  I want people who don't know us from the years they have been coming to be able to differentiate us from the other vendors after having one of our hand dipped corn dogs made from home made batter or from our huge walking tacos made from fresh product. 
I have a lot of plans, some great dreams for the business and a great base to start from.  I'll be reading here as much as I can and learning as much as I can absorb when I find the time.
Thank you all for the great website.
Jeff Zieser
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/26 12:04:20
Welcome to Roadfood!  You're right, there's not much good BBQ in Iowa.  But you all have great steaks and Iowa pork chops and button bones!  ( My former MIL lived just outside of Sioux City ).  Good luck with your venture.
Filet Mignon
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/26 14:18:50
zieser: Welcome to Roadfood, great intro can't wait for the movie........Fair food has changed over the years, it's a pleasure to eat the great food some of the vendors prepare. I am by no means trying to tell you how to run your business, Grandpa did great for the last 40 yrs. I know it's nice to have your logo's on your paper products,but, it can be a large expense and to get a good deal you have to buy in a very large volume. This could be a lot of lost profit in the end and also a lot of storage of very bulky boxes. Your menu is large, adding on new items will also increase labor, prep time and again storage for the new items.............I wish you well in your new adventure, there are a lot of good people on this site with great ideas....................pnwc
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/28 03:31:49
From someone that has been vending food (BBQ)at fairs all over the plains states IA,SD,ND,MT,MN for the last 15 years,I finally got out of the BBQ vending business,I still cater bbq, But I am vending a different product at the fairs.The reason is the profit on BBQ versus the waste.Good BBQ can't be held for a long period so you'll throw a lot away.It isn't quick to make 5-6 hrs for ribs,13-18 hrs for pulled pork.
As far as the printed paper goods I wouldn't bother,Most fair goers couldn't tell you where they bought what 20 mins later or do they care;It's mostly oh that looks good or never tried that.
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/29 16:17:35
Thanks for your input daddywoofdog.
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/30 01:37:00
Let your product be your Brand.
Do you have a name for your business on the unit itself?
A Catchy name related to your product will create your brand.
Don't waste your money on paper products. They all wind up in the trash anyway. Spend your money on quality raw product and your rig to be distinctive.
If it were mine, I'd streamline the menu and do fewer products but do them well.  
With rising costs of beef and low yields, the profit on meat products like BBQ is deminishing. Food Cost & Cash Flow are KING!
Since you're relatively close to a good Fish supply, I'd think a Killer Fish Sandwich would set you apart from the crowd.
I helped a lady from Maine who "Winters' in Phoenix start up a Lobster, Maine Seafood concession trailer. It's called "The Maine Lobster Lady". It took off like a rocket because there's nothing like it in AZ. She has a loyal following of people who can't wait for her to come back each year. Her food and her Trailer are her brand.
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/30 14:33:49
Until we actually sign the papers the business and concession trailer are just "her grandparent's last name Concessions" I'd like a catchier name but  that will have to be later after we are established with all of the venues as the owners/operators under his business name.
Pork prices aren't too bad in Iowa right now but I would be waiting for a while to incorporate that into the menu if at all. My main reason to do it is that it is something I do well, and you don't see many smokers in my area.  When ever I take my drum smoker tailgating it always draws a crowd from the smells.  We sell lots of hot dogs and brats on the trailer so i could try smoking them at home to see how they would do.  The only thing is  that I would need a commercial grade smoker and that won't be for a few years.
I just bought a Camp Chef three burner to run outside the stand to cook the meats on since her grandfather wasn't doing it 100% up to code (I just found this out...)
I have talked about doing fish tacos but the future Mrs. axed the idea right away because she said they wouldn't sell in a carnival environment. We aren't anywhere close to a fish source unless you count the muddy Mississippi but I could do some deep fried white fish and some killer pico that I make.  Something else to try down the road a ways.  I've got lots of ideas and plenty of patience.
Thanks for everyone's input so far.  Our first event on our own is in three weeks in which I'll be going over his recipes, cleaning and rearranging the trailer, and getting all my supplies and suppliers lined up.
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/30 15:13:51
Have a plan A and B on suppliers.Been there!
The Is a BBQ assoc. in Iowa.Competed in a few comps there.
Have you visited forum of Q'ers
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/30 19:25:16
I'll check it out.  I've been a member of bbqbrethren for a few years.
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/30 23:36:10
Ok, I'm a dumby. The concessions name is Funnel Cakes Etc.
I knew that too. I don't know who the chef dude is supposed to be in the logo.  I'll ask Gramps. Here's a photograph I took two weeks ago.

Re:New guy on board 2013/05/31 01:10:00
Nice lookin' rig!
Filet Mignon
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/31 09:14:46
IBP, Inc., formerly known as Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., now Tyson Fresh Meats was born in Iowa, where there is Beef there S/B Smoke...........We have a "Doc of BBQ" on this site that is pretty darn good at his trade. The good Doc will not charge for info on this site, only if he has to make a house call................Anyway, if there isn't many people doing BBQ and I can't imagine why, then that's good for you. The thing that the good Doc and I talk about and agree on is, make a show of the Smoker, Fire and ice, smoke, smell of BBQ in the air. People running around wondering where the heck this is going on, lines of people forming around the concession trailer. Ok, you got the idea, BBQ pork sandwiches or even sliders maybe a good idea. I like the idea of offering smaller portions so people can eat a few different things at the fair. If I see a large portion of food at a concession, I think, if I eat that I'm done for the day. I think people like the idea of having smaller choices so they can try different foods, thats why I like the slider idea......................have fun with the new business, what are some of the ideas you have on the BBQ.............remember out front demo, fire and ice. I did demo cooking in my business, my customers and clients loved it..................take care..PNWC
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/31 14:38:48
Looks excellent Jeff!

The menu board on the side could use a little make it jump and capture the attention of the masses while answering questions...from a distance...especially @ events.
Re:New guy on board 2013/05/31 15:51:18
Wells Cargo makes the best.
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/01 00:58:28
do you have a close up of that menu board on the side?How tall and wide is each slat?I have been trying to design something just like that for a few years and keep making it to hard.But that looks like just what I want!
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/01 07:53:57
I'll get a photo of the menu board for you with some measurements. It was nice for a while because it was easy to change prices without having to redo a whole menu and there are events where we can't sell certain items, like hot dogs and brats when the Scouts are at one flea market we hit and they sell them.
We did just get a new menu board though.  It's a water tight locked case that has a magnetic back. I mess around with Micorsoft Office Publisher at my other business designing coupons, ads, flyers, banners,signs and such and I get them printed myself at FedEx. We are going to go with a full color printed menu board with maybe some photos if there is room.  
I'll get some before and after pictures.
I like the idea of pulled pork sliders.  I was thinking of eventually starting with one brisket at a time and selling until it's gone (or I take the leftovers home for myself!) If it goes over good I will start to increase the amount I do. It will never go to waste, smoked meat freezes and reheats surprisingly well since it doesn't get dried out. A lot of times if I'm smoking I will buy an extra 4-6 pounds of boneless chicken breasts and smoke them also. When they are done I'll half each breast, put in it's own ziplock, and freeze. Then I can grab one and a steamer bag of veggies for an awesome microwave meal during work. 
Her grandfather kept meticulous records of everything that was sold at every event for the past 15 years and I plan on doing the same. We will go to an event and he'll have extra  of a specific thing stocked up because one event people will buy more brats, or another we will get a much higher number of funnel cakes with strawberries instead of plain.
If I take this approach with the BBQ and let it build over the years while tracking sales I should be able to minimize my "waste" or should I say waist since I love BBQ. I've already done some thinking on this  and it's something I'd really like to do, but only at a really careful pace and only if it pays.
Filet Mignon
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/01 09:46:26
zieser: It sounds like Grandpa has a wealth of info that will help you immensely. I always thought I could remember all the catering I did, then I found out that taking detailed notes saved me, time, money and heartache.
  Anyone can cook a Brat, top a Funnel cake or simmer a hot dog. BBQ/Smoked meats are from the heart, it's a food you perfect and serve with pride. When a person gives you a compliment on a Funnel cake, you say thanks. When a person tells you, that was the best BBQ they ever had, you smile and swell with pride. A great BBQ meat is served will be served in your operation being the one food item that you really own. Even part of the process is you, so when it's good, it's means you have succeeded, you have done what you set out to do. This is why I got into this business, if you do it well, it's accepted by people as being great, it's a good feeling at the end of a long had day...................I wish you well..................pnwc
Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/01 10:34:42
BBQ is the one food item that can't be done well by a chain, and yes there are exceptions but generally people will seek out "Q" from Mom and Pop joints far quicker than a chain. 
That said it's not a fast prep item like your grand father served. As you know by now it requires careful attention and buying good quality meats to begin with.
In our area both Ribs  and Brisket prices just jumped big time. So keep in mind there is a 50% loss from shrinkage during your smoke for brisket and pulled pork. My prices are about 25% higher than anyone else in town and we do great. Never under price yourself or worry about what the guy down the street or other vendors are selling for. Just make your product that much better and you'll do well. Not a week goes by that some new customer doesn't say  something about being refereed by a friend, neighbor or hotel clerk in regards to our food. And that's a good thing cause I'm a cranky SOB that expects customers  to drive up order and beat it. LMAO. I'm not into diets new menu items, or what ever some goof in California is serving. My attitude is here is my menu and that's what we serve end of story. But fire and smoke as the Chef said is KEY to any food service that can't offer seating and ambiance, of a brick and motor.  
good luck
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/02 23:45:18
Here's the old menu board:

The side:

The mount on one side:

Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/02 23:45:19
*double tap* 
post edited by zieser - 2013/06/05 10:07:09
Re:New guy on board 2013/06/03 00:29:27
Ok I get tall is on board and wide?looks like it's on 3/4" ply.
Re:New guy on board 2014/02/03 22:46:26
Good vending information on BBQ Mr. Daddywoofdawg, The bottom line IS your bottom line. I am currently working on getting my Multi Special Event Vendors Licenses. Turtle66 (Foodie by heart Chef by trade)  
Junior Burger
Re:New guy on board 2015/03/22 20:51:38
Thanks for sharing the close-up of the menu board.