How to Become a Food Vendor at Fairs, Crafts Shows and Art Festivals

March 2009

Cooking Food At Festivals: A Great Business Opportunity

If you are looking for a fun seasonal job or want to be your own boss, then consider vending food at your local flea market, seasonal festival, craft show, or bazaar. There are many opportunities to set up and become a food vendor in a variety of locales.

Some things you’ll need to keep in mind are the kind of food to vend for your particular festival, creating a unique food display, and buying the right equipment. You’ll also need to learn about local laws and finally apply to many different festivals. You’ll need a convincing application in order to become a food vendor. Check out these tips to get a head start on your business today.

Serve It Up Right

One of the hardest parts of vending food is getting your first break at a festival or fair. You’ll need to convince the organizers that you should be vending food at their event. There are a few things you can do to accomplish this goal. For starters, pick your food carefully. Maybe you have a specialty you’d like to serve up, but try to aim for a large target audience. For many organizers they want something that will stand out from the rest.

Vegetarian or vegan options could be a good idea if this fits in with the demographic of the festival. Vending food that is ethnic could also be a hit, which makes you stand out from the crowd. Creating a successful pitch to organizers is important. Vending food out a unique booth will drive traffic, as well as to impress a festival organizer. Having interesting uniforms for your employees is one idea or any other themed ideas that you can create for your booth could work well. Stay away from music or anything noisy, which is usually a turn off for organizers.

All In Order

You’ll need to do some research on the specific fair or festival you would like to set up at to know what paperwork you will need. You may need to get a license from a local authority for vending food, which could include a fee. You will have to present this in your food vendor application and you’ll need to make sure you have all the right documentation. You should also find out about insurance requirements. Does the festival cover vendor insurance or will you need your own? These are all important questions to find out in advance. Ask about electricity availability for your booth, as well as how garbage disposal works. Each fair and festival will be slightly different when it comes down to the running of the operation. Make sure you ask all the right questions before you submit your application. You want to make sure that you’ve covered all your bases.

Making The Cut

Event organizer will take into consideration your food selection, references, and set up. If you haven’t set up before, then create a mock-set up in your backyard to photograph your booth and equipment. You can present any references that you have from the restaurant industry or any other relevant qualifications if you are new to the festival scene. Make sure to always apply early. An early application is key to getting into the game. You have to remember that food vendors book spots at big festivals up to a year in advance. These are the regulars and you need to try to squeeze into one of the few spots they have available to new food vendors. To make the cut always emphasis that cleanliness is of the utmost importance to you and your business.

You may have to fill out many different food vendor application at first, but it will get easier as you accrue more experience and become more known in the food vendor community. Make sure you find out why you were turned down each time so you’ll know how to improve your food vendor application. Stick with it even if you ear a lot of “no’s” at first, you’ll soon receive a positive response if you keep trying.


Links to vendor applications are available in the members only area detail section.  Many of the event listings will have a direct link to the application or the event itself. The events only area also provides phone and email information for the promoter so you can contact them directly for applications.  If you are new to food vending you’ll want to make sure you get all the details up front.  There are licensing, health permits, and insurance requirements for most events.  It is usually a good idea to call the promoter because most well-known events have waiting lists for common food items.  If you want to get into a time-tested show with food, you’ll usually need to come up with a unique food item.  You can find applications without a site membership, but it usually is a lot more work because you need to google with your parameters, search through many different links to actually find the site link and then go through the site to find the right info.  Many events don’t even have websites…just links to the Chamber of Commerce that sponsors the event.  $34.95 for a years worth direct info on Festivals, Craft Shows, Art Fairs and Events is one of the lowest I’ve seen.

By Food Guru on September 15, 2009

I would like to apply for a vendor permit to sell food at festivals, sidewalk sale, plates sells out of my house. Could you please send me some information on how to apply for this type of permit, and the fees that it would cost.

By vanessa Johnson on September 21, 2009

Vannessa—different food permits are required based on the state, county and city where iyou will be selling.  And, depending on what type of venue…festival or house there will be different requirements.  Selling out of your house will likely be difficult because of most city restrictions on commercial endeavors in a residential area as well as the safety of the prep area etc.  Most any festival or event you’d apply to will have a list of the the licenses, insurance and permits they require you secure before they agree to let you sell food at their festival.  I would start by doing some solid research into the types of food you want to sell find out what type of equipment commercial or otherwise you’ll need to prepare and keep in serving condition ie if you’re serving meat it must be cooked to and kept at a served a certain temperature, if you’re serving dairy, it must be kept at a certain temp etc…of course you want to know all the details re what it costs to produce and what you can sell it for to make sure its profitable…good sites and books on with starting info on this are: and for food safety  as a starting point for general licensing information by state go to

By Fairs and Festivals Staff on September 23, 2009

Just starting up a food vending businass for all festivals fairs etc Thanks for info   Looking into food vending concession trailersetc Have got plenty of ideas & experience but from restaurants that are established ...just wanna take it on the road….Thanks Tom Redfern


By Tom Redfern on February 15, 2010

Just purchased a Hot Dog vendor trolly, Any info for a first timer? Overwhelmed with all the rules and regulations that ive been pouring into my brain…any help would be greatly appreciated.

By Brian Balls of Carolina Beach NC on March 9, 2010

Thinking about vending in multiple states.  Is a permit I get locally valid out of state?  Thanks to anyone who can help!

By Steven Spitzer on March 27, 2010

Hi,  I am starting a part-time business as a food vendor. I purchased a griddle grill to start and in the process of getting my health card, I also made my business cards and was wondering what more can i do to get my business going…any ideas will be very helpful.
Thank you,

By Rosie on May 8, 2010

Please call 1-888-6-KIDSTOCK or email us directly for answer to your question.  Tonja, generally, must be insured (liability/W/C.), like to see picture of booth, menu with prices, other events done and references if any.

By loren on June 26, 2010

As a new vendor at festivals, what percentage of expected people should I plan for when preparing food?

In other words, for 10,000 what percentage of people are likely to eat at my concession?


By BC on September 28, 2010

As a new food vendor, i need some advice of the best way to keep my records of sales etc.(manually) i know quickbooks is the best way, but i’am not their yet.

By teresa on November 20, 2010

A bussiness plan is the first thing you do.  Get onlineand find one.  ANswer the questions and then sit back and you’ll get the answers to most of what your concerns are.

You people are all over the place.  Rest assured, if you had done any reasonable research on the topic you would not be considering the food vending business without prior food service knowledge.  AND-for those of you with prior knowledge you know better-it’s a deadly and difficult business to do IF you know something about it. FOr those getting involved for the first time.  The failure rate is over 90% in the first six months.  Yes, there are licences required, food handing classes, you deal with suppliers, advertising, marketing, writing menus, cost avergaing and pricing for profit.  It’s an absolutel everchanging mound of undetermined supplies pricong on supplies and it’s all compounded if you plan to move around some.  More licences and more inspections and more permits and fees. My adivce is to find something else.  It’s nothing more than swapping dollars.  Beef, CHicken and Pork are sky-rocketing and as long as McDonalds and Wendys and even Taco Bell continues to serve chicken Beaks and claws for .99 we can’t make it “Legally”.  Yes, the tax money you collect on each sale MUST go to the Department of Revenue.  Quit while you’re ahead. Go join a swin team you’ll have more fun and make just as much moolah!

By BJ on February 28, 2011

Hello out there!  I have a BBQ SMOKER and am looking for events to have the privledge of vending for. If anyone knows of any small events that might be interested in having BBQ without putting out HUGE $ I would greatly appreciate it.  I have done a couple of events before and have done OK, and the festival folks seem to like my set-up pretty good.

Thank you and happy trails to you!
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By Deanna G on March 29, 2011

does anybody have a hot dogs corn dogs or vending trailer for sale or know anybody that has a unique vending equipment for sale looking at getting into the business. Please e mail Dave.

By Dave on April 6, 2011

I have been in the food industry for the last 12 years.  I have been wanting to start my own restaurant but there is a problem with finances. How would I go about finding someone to potentially be an investor starting a food truck service?  I think that if I were to do this it would be a good way to get things going to start my own restaurant and getting my food out there.

By Kristy on April 7, 2011

I’ve been put in charge of food venders for a large festival. Are there any associations or vending groups operating in N. AZ.? I’ve done some festival vending but organizing and planning is another story. Aysuggestions out here?

By Larry Secor on April 13, 2011

On average, what does a food vendor made
On a festival that caters to say 100,000 people?

By Marty on April 14, 2011

im so excited ! i want to be able to start my first year off in 2011 at the state fair. i have a bbq consession trailer 14x20, and me and my beloved husband and 10 year old son , have some great tasteing bbq, brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken. sandwichs and plates. so please send me a aplacation. thank you and have a bless day!  MRS BRINDA DIAZ

By BRINDA DIAZ on June 7, 2011

As a food vendor at special events and farmers markets for over 15 years I have lots of experience. The easiest way to get accepted is to have a very special item, what is called niche item.
We have an item that very few have and is generally accepted when I have asked for space. To earn more about this specialty item you can go to:
You can email for more information on getting started and I will help you with any questions on starting up. We have helped a lot to get a good start in a prosperous business and will help you also.
Email : .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By Arne on August 11, 2011

Looking for an established vendor to work for/travel with to various events.I live in Myrtle Beach Sc.Love cooking and love people,my kids are now grown and im ready to have some fun

By melissa on August 11, 2011

Hi I would like to start selling caribbean food at festivals but is unsure of how to get on board ie applying to the right ones.  This is all new to me and would seek some help from the experts please.

Kind regards

Fiona - uk

By Fiona McIntosh on September 22, 2011

I just wonder how do you find a festival or flea market through out the country? I like to become a foods vendor.

By levi on October 10, 2011

Help! I’ve been scouring the internet, and can’t find an answer. Praying you can help me! I am going to be selling sandy candy. Flavored/colored edible “sand”. My booth will be set up where kids can sit down, make their creation using a tube or shaped container and it’s capped. But of course they can eat it! Am I food vendor?? I’m not looking to “feed” people. Just a fun craft that can be eaten. Everything comes in small bottles and done over containers to catch any spills. I have no idea and afraid when I go to apply for fairs, I’m applying under the wrong type. Thank you so much for your help!

Reno, Nevada

By Wendy on October 19, 2011

We have just started a business to sell prepackaged items such as dips, soups, bbq sauces & hot sauces.  Where can I find a list of festivals we can sell at in 2012?
Thanks for any help you can give.

By Jackie on November 1, 2011

I like to be a food vender, please let me know how to go about it in south Florida. Thank you kindly.

By john Foskolos on November 21, 2011

Do have specific laws and regulations I need to abide by to become a food vendor in the state of Wisconsin?

By Pamela on November 21, 2011

my name is alicia and i have beentrying to get more information regarding food vendors. i have read some of the letters here.just like them would like to get some advise on where and how to begin my own small business.I would also like to have a chance on how to get licenses or what kind i need to get. I would like to sell Cream puffs…how and what kind of license i must get..i live in Florida..and their very strict here on home bakers.pls. i need help..pls. email me some onfo and advise on how .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By alicia on November 27, 2011

Looking for quality Italian & Italian American Food Vendors for an Inaugural Italian American Festival to be held annually.
Venue: Vasa Park, Budd Lake, NJ
Food Vendor Fee: $ 250 for up to 4 items
Space: 10 x 10
Must have food permit from Mt. Olive Twp. BOH
Deadline April 1, 2012
Event Date: SUNDAY, JULY 1, 21012
Get in on the ground floor of this event. Thousands of guests expected to attend.

By STM Promotions, LLC on November 27, 2011

I sell concession tents for B & B MFG.  If you would like to go to our website or facebook page see below. Just emial or call for a quote.
Visit us on Facebook

By Cindy Friese on January 12, 2012

i am a bbq vendor i have a truck/ consession trailer what do i have to do to get started. i sell brisket, ribs, pull pork, stuffed potatoes, smoke sausage, demark links, turky legs, served with potato salad and red beans. my famous homemade sauce.

By BRINDA DIAZ on January 13, 2012

We are in Oklahoma and have concession trailers and equipment for your questions and number and will get back with you. Thank you

By Pam on January 20, 2012

Has your event grown enough to need a top rated carnival? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  Could your business benefit from knowing professional, capable,Experienced Large Event Operators with over 50 amusement rides & attractions, +Food,Drinks,Games,Entertainment! We r self supporting we generate our own power, (our generators have the latest technology! Best Fuel effiency in the industry, with custom sound proofing) only noise that’ll u will hear,will be all the screams & yelps of the guest enjoying our ATTRACTIONS & ENTERTAINMENT
            George Tobias IV
            PO Box 5865, Scottsdale AZ, 85268

By George Tobias on January 20, 2012

If your posting here about starting as a concessionare then it is difficult to take you seriously. Your first decision is to find something unique to sell that people actually want. Not lemonade, hot dogs, cotton candy, ice cream, sausages, and the like. You would be one in a million and believe me you will never beat out an established vendor for his spot going that route. Second, build or buy a unit that is mobile and meets all your health department requirements. In Ohio, I needed a hand washing sink, 3 warewashing sinks, hot water heater, frp walls, vinyl or linoleum floors, nsf approved freezers and equipment, electric to code, laminate or stainless counters, etc. You get the idea. I tried to build my concessions unit to meet all state health departments so I would have flexibility in the events I can attend. Obviously this all costs and extreme amount of money to be done right. Next go pay the health department for approval and pay to take any required course. Next, find someone to insure your unit and business for a minimum of 1 million dollars and pay for the policy. Next, find a safe secure place to keep your trailer and pay the storage fee. Next apply to 50 events or so hoping to make the grade as a rookie at 5 or 6. Next fill out the contracts you recieve and return with the required fee (which is normally hundreds to thousands of dollars). Next, stock up for your first event (if you run out you will be removed from the event). Next, gather up the gas money, camping or hotel costs, change money, etc. If you are serious, then stop blogging and do what I did…..RESEARCH.

By Michael on February 29, 2012

Looking for Vendors for our Spring Festival on May 19th, no food vendors needed, please contact me & I will be happy to provide more information. 860-293-2914

By ShayDe' Breedlove on March 29, 2012

I am looking for CRAFTERS(not vendors) for our homemade items only craft fair.  It will be held Sat. April 14th from 9 - 2 at Mohawk School in Bensenville, IL - a suburb of Chicago - contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information

By jean Walsh on April 3, 2012


You hit it right on the head!  The thousands of dollars it requires to get started is never talked about and then the money required by the events.  It is not uncommon for a 2 day event to charge $800.00.  Then you still have to pay your labor, fuel, health permits and city license fees along with product, lodging if out of town and supplies.  Then expect all the no’s because they are full or already have that product.  Great insight Michael!

By Paul on April 4, 2012

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