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Festivals & Events, Vendors & Entertainers

Concessions for a Fair, Festival or Event
by Don Frenkel, Pensacola Interstate Fair, Pensacola, FL

Concessions and Fairs, "A True Partnership"

Having handled the sales and operations of concessions for the Pensacola Interstate Fair for 26 years before being named manager of the fair, I feel that I have acquired a vast and extensive knowledge of what to expect in dealing with these wonderful people.

One getting started into this phase of the fair business has to enter into every transaction with the "Golden Rule" foremost in his mind. Learn from the very start that people like to be treated with kindness and respect.

As concessions manager, it is your responsibility to create an atmosphere where concessionaires, from every walk of life, know that they will be treated professionally and fairly. Building trust is something that does not come automatically, but is something that is developed over time and with repeated dealings with each concessionaire.

It should be the desire and goal of every concession manager to have concessionaires that will not only be a onetime participant, but to build a relationship with all vendors so that you can look forward to their returning for many years.

Most concessionaires, you will fi nd, are professional people. This is their livelihood and they are in the business, like you, to make a profi t. That's the bottom line. At the same time, it is important to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable at your event. The object is to create an atmosphere where each individual can enjoy themselves while at the same time keeping in mind, "we have a business to run."

Don't make things so diffi cult that even though they may find your event profi table, they don't look forward to, nor enjoy, being a part of the event. You have to realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are a major and a very integral part of the success of your event. That is why I emphasize that the fair manager and the concessionaire are partners. I'm not going to look good if they do not look good. They have a one-on-one relationship with the fairgoer that you don't have, and you have to consider so many factors as you handle the many requests for space at your fair.

So, now that you realize the relationship that is to be created here, how does one go about making it happen? Well, I'm glad you asked!

Your initial contact with your concessionaire or vendor will probably be either by phone or written correspondence (either letter or e-mail). This is your chance to open a positive dialog with a stranger that hopefully will become a friend and partner. There is an old adage that states, "There is only one chance to make a first impression." Take every advantage of that opportunity. I don't care how busy you might be or what kind of day you have had. You hold the reputation of your fair in your hands. You want to make this person feel perfectly at ease and happy that they chose to call you.

Of course, there are many questions that you have to ask that can seem to be long and laborious, but are totally necessary. You have to know the nature of the operation that they desire to bring to your event. This would be questions pertaining to the product sold, dimensions or front footage required, electrical requirements, etc. These questions have to be asked in your original conversation so that you can make a decision as to whether you can allow this particular concession or vendor to take part in your event.

It is quite probable that you already have your quota of the product being sold. If that is determined, after these issues have been satisfied, that you would like to have this particular concession at your event, you then would send them an application. This application seeks basically the same information, but in more detail, and actually gives you a written record for your files.

I am enclosing a copy of the application that is used by our fair. It is concise and asks the necessary information. Please note that it is not a contract for space, but rather an instrument to get all of the necessary information for you to make an informed decision.

One might ask, what is the reason for the application, after you have already asked relatively the same questions while talking to the prospective vendor.
  • You can have the correct contact names and addresses.
  • You have on record a description of menus and products offered to eliminate any misunderstandings.
  • You can ask for references.
  • You can ask for pictures of their operation.
  • You can get accurate information concerning their needs or special concerns including front footage (awnings, doors, tent stakes, hitches included, electrical requirements, camping needs).
One of the major concerns of management in the placement of your vendors is to make sure that you do not have concessionaires selling the same product right next to each other, or to have too many selling the same products.

Your concern should be the satisfaction and profitability for all concerned.

Variety is the spice of life and the fairgoer wants to find and experience things at the fair that he cannot find everyday in his city. Another great concern of management should be the condition, appearance and upkeep of the concession operation itself. One thing you must constantly protect against is keeping the integrity of your fair intact and foremost in your mind. You don't want your fairgrounds looking like a flea market. If they look good, you look good.

You and the concessionaire know that "location, location, location" is the name of the game. But most of those that you will deal with will recognize the reality of being a first time participant in your fair, and that it might take a year or two to work their way up to a better location and, eventually, a great location.

Management should try very hard to build a friendship and trusting relationship with those involved. By accomplishing this, you try to assure that you will have a concessionaire that recognizes the possibilities present at your fair and will want to return again in the future. Nothing is more important than a satisfied concessionaire or vendor.

These people travel and work different fairs all over the country. If treated with respect, they can be great ambassadors for your fair as they travel the circuit. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. It feels so good to receive a phone call saying that your fair was recommended by one of their peers. Fair people are among the greatest people in the world. It is like a "brotherhood" and the grapevine between these people is swift and true. That is the reason that you want to work hard to build strong relationships. They will go throughout the country spreading the news that you and your fair are respected and a good place to be.

It is most important that there be a complete understanding between management and the concessionaire in order to prevent any surprises, and possible unpleasant situations which might arise upon their arrival for set up.

The last thing you need, at your busiest time especially, is to fi nd that you did not get adequate information from your concessionaire, only to find that they would not fit into the appointed or contracted space.

Honesty is always the best policy. Be completely honest with your proposed concessionaire and let him or her know of situations that might affect his or her operation while at your fair.

There are many concerns to consider such as:
  • Health requirements
  • Fire codes
  • Licensing
  • Inspections
  • Exclusives
  • Taxes
  • Complete understanding of the rules and regulations at your establishment. (These requirements should be clear and well explained in your contract).
Some in management get the attitude that they don't have time for the questions and concerns of the concessionaire. Always make yourself available. Have an open door policy and let them know that you appreciate them and the trust that they have placed in you.

Make time. Get out of your office and visit with your concessionaires, vendors, and exhibitors. Listen to their concerns and suggestions, and always remember that you are not doing them a favor by letting them be a part of your fair. They are doing you the favor and trusting you to put on the best show possible to make it a success for everyone involved. Listen and be concerned, and you will be surprised at what you can learn from these professional and wonderful people.

In conclusion, let us always remember that it is your job and the responsibility is on your shoulders to create an atmosphere where the welcome mat is always out and that all those taking part in your fair, regardless of their capacity, is made to feel part of your "FAIR FAMILY."

2006 Pensacola Interstate Fair, October 19-29th
Space Application
This is an application for space… NOT A CONTRACT! This application does NOT guarantee you a space.
Name of Exhibitor: ___________________________________________
Date: ___________________ Phone: _______________________
Address:____________________________________________________
City: ____________________________ State: _______ Zip: __________
Type of Operation:
___Promotional Exhibit. Space used for the purpose of advertising, promoting, or educating.
___Exhibit Concession. Space used for the purpose of selling merchandise or services.
___Food Concession. Space used to sell food and beverage.
___Non-Food Concession. Space used to sell photos, T-shirts, novelties, etc.
Description of Display, Menu and Total Footage needed:
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
Note: A photo of your display or stand must accompany this application for approval.
1. Inside Commercial Exhibits. Space is inside permanent, climatized buildings, and sold by the booth. Each booth is 10x10. The cost for a 10x10 booth is $900.00. One 110-volt electrical connection is furnished per booth. Any exception must be approved and paid for in advance.
How many booths do you need? ______________
2. Outside Midway Area. Outside space is sold by the foot with a 20-foot minimum. The cost for a 20-foot spot is $1,875.00. What are the measurements of the total space needed? Please be sure to include awnings, doors, tent stakes, hitches, etc.
What product will you be selling? ________________________________
Front footage ____________ft. Depth _____________ft.
What are your electrical requirements: amps_____
If space is not currently available, would you be interested, should we have a last minute cancellation? ______
If so, how many days notification would you require? _______

Please complete and return promptly to:
Natalee Brooks, Concession Manager
Pensacola Interstate Fair
2172 West Nine Mile Rd., PMB 210
Pensacola, FL 32534-9413
Please check out our website at www.pensacolafair.com.