In my attempts to consolidate information for you, I've created a new video. It's all about working events. It covers everything from creating your own events to how to prepare, what questions to ask, and how best to limit your risks. You will also learn what questions you should ask before working events.
Some of the quickest ways to make huge incomes in hot dog vending is by working events. It's also a great way to lose money fast. By following these steps, by listening to this hot dog vendor training on working events, you can limit your risk exponentially.
Are you ready? Click play on the video below and enjoy. I've included a rough draft of my content below as well.
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Working Events – Hot Dog Vendor Training
One of the most asked questions I get is about events. And over the years I’ve added to amount of articles and videos I’ve done on the subject.
In my top 40 questions found at learnhotdogs.com/40 you will find the answers to the top 40 questions new vendors ask me. The very first one, doesn’t necessarily deal with events, but it comes close: How many hot dogs do I take with me, and if you have about 3 months of free time and don’t need anymore sleep, you can find over 35 times I’ve answered this same question on the free training site: learn hot dogs.com , on the radio show, hot dog vendor radio and in some free vendor training courses I’ve made.
But who has that much free time and wouldn’t rather spend it fishing? NOT ME.
So let’s talk about events and we may even cover those questions where the answer applies to both catering and doing events.
Pros & Cons of events
1. Events can be huge income producers, it’s like a big cash injection into your business. I’ve seen vendors work a one day event and profit over $10,000. After an event, you’re going to need a stiff drink or ten and enough time to count the money. This isn’t always the case though, I’ve seen vendors lose money in attempts to do otherwise. To avoid this problem, we ask questions and we make our decisions based on this new information.
Let’s cover some of the key ingredients to a successful and profitable event. First I’ll cover some of the ways to get an event.
1. Search for fairs and festivals online – google is your friend
2. Search local and surrounding town chamber of commerce websites and city/town websites for upcoming events
3. Use google search features to send you an email anytime an event is mentioned online in your area.
4. You could check local papers but honestly, with the Google Alerts feature, you’ll be notified automatically if any news or announcements are made. If you dont’ know how to use it, Just Google, Google Alerts
5. Create your own events
So you’ve found some events, what’s next?
1. Contact the event coordinator and find out this stuff:
a. Expected attendance
b. How many food vendors are planned to attend
c. Are vendors menu’s protected
d. What location at the event would you be placed
e. Will power be provided
f. How much space will be available for coolers, truck, trailer etc…
g. Will there be a food distributor on stand by and which one
h. Will there be any restrooms, cow, chicken or pig exhibits nearby
i. How much?
j. Are fees refunded in the event of a weather related cancellation
k. Will there be trash pick up, if not where do we take trash
l. Are guests allowed to bring in food from outside, picnic baskets etc…
All important questions. Some will determine if you want to be there at all and others will help you plan and prepare for the event.
Weather can ruin an event and there is really nothing you can do about it. It’s an inherent risk but some events offer weather refunds, others don’t. It’s up to you to take the risk. Honestly, the most you should be out is the entry fee if any and the time. Your products should keep unless you’ve planned for a huge event and there are no standby “buy as you need it” suppliers.
You’ve decided on participating at an event. Now is the time to take the info gathered from the event planner or manager and make some decisions on quantity.
I use a simple rule, it’s my fall back rule. I don’t really like to gamble so I do not attempt to win the entire pot, my goal is to consistently make gains, taking smaller wins and reducing risk.
My fall back rule: Take enough to have a successful day selling and if you sell out early, then mark it up as a win and go home or go fishing.
Some will say, but what if I run out at 1:PM and had I had 600 more hot dogs I would have sold them. Yes, but you still did great and there is no guarantee that you would have sold another 600 hot dogs.
Had you only sold 300 more of the 600, you now have 300 leftover buns and hot dogs that must be used, donated and risk loss. Not including the necessary condiments.
Now don’t get me wrong. If your normal business can handle the increase or the overage, then by all means, go loaded for bear and if you dont’ sell out, then you have a means for selling otherwise.
This is why I like on site distributors. Let’s say Sysco Foods is going to be on site. You could pre order enough dogs for the huge day, enough buns and enough supplies and stock. In the event you don’t need them, they take them back.
If there is no on site distributor at the event, then it’s all on your shoulders. Do you have enough coolers, storage and places to keep dry all the necessary supplies?
A professional vendor I have had the pleasure of knowing for years now, goes to a huge event each year. He was kind enough to share his methods with the BensCarts family of vendors. You can read his tips and hear how he served thousands from a Big Dog Cart here: First time dogger – First time out – HUGE SUCCESS!!!
This week a vendor wrote me and asked:
Any advice on how to calculate how much product to buy for a high volume event? We are a small cafe (don't normally have hot dogs on our menu) located on a large city park where there is a stage with events. A popular music festival has rented the entire plaza for a 3 day festival (Friday 5p-10p, Sat 1p-10p, Sun 1p-9:30p). The park will be closed off with us inside it so we will not be open to the public but only to the ticket-holding festival goers. The capacity of the park is 5,000 people, although it obviously won't be at capacity the entire weekend. We are the ONLY food vendor (we can also sell beer/wine on our patio) and have never done anything on this scale. We have opted to change our menu to hot dogs with a 5 different options of toppings (chile dog, curry dog, etc) as this will be faster than our typical menu of made-to-order sandwiches/tacos/salads. How do we calculate how many hot dogs we will likely sell, and therefore need to buy/prep? Thank you!
So we dont’ really know how many people will attend and our only figure to work with is the max capacity figure. First I would look at the weather forecast. I would search google for past event participation for this type of music or the actual bands.
I would check local news outlets to see if it’s getting a lot of press. I would attempt to garner as much info from the event planner or the event committee to attempt to narrow down their expectations.
If I had to rely solely on the info provided in this email, I would take 500 hot dogs on Friday, then on Saturday based on my Friday number I would increase my products to handle at least 3 times the amount of people and Sunday I would probably do the same. I would take into account if the following monday was a holiday, because Sunday events are historically less successful than Saturday events.
I would over stock with drinks if I was going to be a main supplier of beverages, I’d have at least 1000 waters and 1000 sodas on the first day. Based on the success and weather for saturday, I would triple my stock for saturday.
It’s rare that we get to be the only vendor at an event, so I will pretend this vendor told me that there were 6 other vendors going to be present. In that case, and based on the very little info I have on attendance, I would probably take 200-300 hot dogs the first day just to get a feel of the event. I risk very little this way.
Another email I received this week:
Hello Ben, my name is Eric and this is my second week as a
hot dog vendor. I work the downtown area of Cleveland, Oh which
is a little saturated with vendors, but anyhow I do about 40-50 dogs
in a 5 hour span and recently did an event for 2 hours and sold 50
dogs without a problem. I have recently found a promoter who
is throwing a party that will consist of around 700-1200 young
adults and they have no vendors to serve food. I inquired and they
would love for me to serve food but they are wanting a flat rate fee in
order for me to work the event. My question(s) are, how do I go
about preparing for this event? Can this be done with 1 cart?
How much should I offer to pay if any? how many people should
work this event with me? Thanks for your time and I look forward
to learning tons more from you!
They want a fee? I don’t get this, but I would limit my risk. Assuming only 350 actually purchase, that’s half of your lowest number for attendance, then I would offer about $350 dollars. Of course I’m a cheap ass, so I may offer $250 and see the response I get from them.
Are the kids allowed to bring in their own food? Can they access other off site foods easily?
You ask, how do you prepare for this event? We are covering that now, but for more info tips and stories from other vendors, go to learnhotdogs.com and type in the search box: events or event
Each article that pulls up on the search page will have more info to help you prepare.
You certainly can work the event easily with 3 people total, but two would work. One to take the money and one to cook and serve. Of course your questions are already answered previously when you read about Thunderdogs serving thousands over several hours all from a Big Dog cart.
Now remember the first email I read from the lady that is doing the music festival. Well one of the big problems for new vendors just starting out is Cash Flow. Assuming she uses my figures, she’s going to need quite a bit of cash in order to stock up for the event. 1000 hot dogs will cost you on the very low end: $275 3000 sodas = almost $800 you still have condiments, napkins, all your supplies, ice, extra drink coolers, food containers and much more.
You could walk in already having invested several thousand to only have it get rained out. Not the end of the world as long as you have a steady location and can use the product there. But most of us would lose many of our fresh condiments and breads (buns).
- Pre thaw
- keep water boiling
- Pre bag in correct quantities
- layout everything to flow, no sense in reaching over here for this and over there for that when you can start in one place and work a smooth line – like an assembly line
- have back up help
- Have backup containers with product ready in case of spill or cross contamination
- Be rested and smile – good attitude
- A tip jar
- plenty of trash cans nearby
What if it’s a flop and you need to get rid of 2000 buns quickly? I would turn this huge loss into a win. I would call the newspaper, the radio stations and the city hall offices and tell them that on such and such date, I will be at this location feeding the homeless or needy. I would make it a big deal that for this day or days I would be serving the public for free.
If not free, I would still call everyone to get some publicity and offer $1.00 hot dogs with proceeds going to a local charity. Proceeds would be the profit after my food costs.
Either way, you would end up being a hero and no better way you could spend the potential loss in funds marketing yourself to the locals.
I once teamed up with a charity outfit food bank and marketed the event that anyone that brought a can of food got a free lunch on me. Drinks not included. I sold drinks for a dollar which offset my food costs and the best part was the charity group helped advertise and get support for the event. The charity got tons of canned foods and I nearly broke even on what could have been a huge loss.
That one thing brought me countless other opportunities to cater and to be invited to local events. Plus I got to help many people. Win Win!
I can not cover every example or every situation that could occur, but if you will follow these guidelines you will increase your odds of success exponentially. Working events with your cart has some other potential benefits. Usually the event organizer has a license for the event, this is an umbrella license which allows the vendors in without having to get permitted or licensed in that city or state. This also means you can probably serve whatever you like from your cart at the event.
Want to do new england lobster rolls or hamburgers, it’s probably going to be ok. It’s almost as if the HD doesn’t care because it’s an event.
So there ya go. Try a small event or two and then work your way up to the bigger ones. I’d love to hear how you did, what you learned and how this information may have helped you be more successful.