With warmer weather unfurling across most of the United States (sorry, Colorado!), it’s time for food vendors to start preparing to sell their wares. Whether you plan on selling at farmer’s markets, through a mobile truck or trailer, at a food festival, or by other means, there are some important ways you can prepare for a successful season:
- Diversify Your Products
Whether you’re selling meals or raw produce and other farm goods, having a diverse range of menu items or choice of produce is one of the best ways to appeal to customers.
When it comes to meals, people usually want something familiar—but with a twist. Fusion food, gourmet versions of childhood favorites, and unique flavor combinations are all a great way to attract customers
For farmers, diversifying what you offer requires a little more creativity. Instead of basic tomatoes, maybe this year you try growing those, as well as more colorful heirloom varieties. Or maybe, you sell fresh eggs along with your squash, peaches, and rutabagas.
Put in Some Design Time
Not only should the food you’re selling stand out, but you should also find a way to make your booth, trailer, or truck attract attention. A unique, well-designed booth will help others notice your food in the mass of other vendors. It will also help make you instantly recognizable so you’re easier to find for return customers.
3. Buy Food Vendor Insurance
Food vendor insurance is essential. Think about some of the big headlines over the last few years. How many of them had to do with food contamination and foodborne illnesses? While it may not be a huge percentage, there are probably at least a few headlines that stick out in your mind.
More than many other industries, those who sell and work with food face a lot of liability risk, no matter how careful and cautious you are to meet cleanliness standards.
What if the mulch and fertilizer you buy wasn’t properly prepared? It can spread bacteria and diseases to your leafy greens, radishes, cantaloupes, and other produce.
For others, a small slip-up in the crowded kitchen of your mobile space may lead to someone getting sick. Even if you don’t make a mistake, someone could think your food is what caused them to get ill.
If someone were to bring a claim against you, insurance with the right coverages and limits may help protect you from losing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Make sure you’re covered by an insurance policy that offers both general and product liability.
Apply for the Necessary Permits, Licenses, and Approvals
This one should be a no-brainer. It’s important that you don’t vend your food illegally. Take a little extra time up front to make sure you’ll be able to comply with the requirements of the farmer’s market, festival, or city where you want to sell your food. It will save you from the hassle and expense of fines, as well as the blow it might give to your reputation if (and when) word gets out to your customers.
Put Together a Schedule
Since most food vendors don’t operate during the winter, at least in those many states where it snows and gets cold, you’ll want to be able to maximize the food vending season. Planning ahead and organizing your schedule makes achieving this goal possible.
Before the season starts, do your research. Find the events you want to attend (or the best locations in your city to park your truck or trailer). Look at the dates and make sure there aren’t any overlaps. Decide on back-ups in case you aren’t accepted into one of your preferred events or locations. Review application deadlines and requirements. And then apply! Once you’re accepted, you have your schedule, and you won’t be scrambling last minute trying to decide where to sell next weekend and not securing a spot.
6. Practice Being Friendly!
Maybe this sounds a little silly, but selling your food can be a little stressful and a little overwhelming. But it’s important for you to have fantastic people skills. Building relationships with your customers is a great way to strengthen your customer base, and it’s also a big reason why people shop for food locally. Of course, they want healthy food that tastes great. But they also want to know their farmer or the vendor who’s making their lunch!
Food is never just about the food. It’s a way to bring people together. By making sure you’re friendly, even when stressed or overwhelmed, you’ll find greater satisfaction in your food business.
What do you think about our tips? How do you typically prepare for the food selling season? Comment below to share your thoughts!
BY ASHLEY BAKER
Ashley Baker writes about marketing, business, and insurance for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Ashley is a former Licensed Massage Therapist. She has a background in writing for state political offices, newspapers and was the web editor for two regional magazine publications. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family, attending college football games or kayaking. Find Ashley on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.