This book is dedicated to my lovely wife Rose who always encourages my business adventures.
All rights reserved Copyright © 2009 by Quantum Media NW Cover art by Mat Chaudhry This book may not be reproduced in whole, or in part in any way, without permission. For information email: [email protected] ISBN: 00‐00‐00‐00 (in progress) Quantum Media Northwest Publishing Seattle, WA Created, designed and published in the United States of America 4
Table of Contents
Introduction__________________________________________ 7
Chapter 1 __________________________________________ 12
Chapter 2 __________________________________________ 15
Chapter 3 __________________________________________ 25
Chapter 4 __________________________________________ 28
Chapter 5 __________________________________________ 36
Chapter 6 __________________________________________ 39
Chapter 7 __________________________________________ 42
Chapter 8 __________________________________________ 52
Chapter 9 __________________________________________ 70
Chapter 10 _________________________________________ 79
Appendix ___________________________________________ 88
How to start a corn roaster business
In 1998, while visiting the Puyallup Fair, I noticed a huge banner reading “Roasted Corn” in the food court area. I love corn, but I had never tried machine‐roasted corn before. My internal craving for a good ear of corn pulled me toward the vendor, but I was shocked at what I saw next. There was a line of 100 people trying to buy corn. I thought this person must be giving away free food to attract this crowd, but no, he was charging a whopping $3 for an ear of corn. After seeing the long line, I almost gave up the idea of eating corn but then my nose caught that melted butter, freshly roasted corn aroma, and I felt my feet locked to the ground. The vendor and his workers (probably a family‐run operation) were well organized and experienced. It took me only 15 minutes to reach the serving counter. When I looked back, to my surprise, the line was still there with 100 new faces. A light bulb turned on in my mind, my internal entrepreneur started to wake up, and I started to crunch numbers in my mind. The results were amazing. If they could move 100 customers in only 15 minutes, then 400 in one hour, 4,000 in 10 hours, at $3 per corn, they were making $12,000 per day, and during 4 days, they were taking home a whopping $48,000. That total did not even include those customers buying more than one ear of corn. Not until I started my own business did I learn that you do not make that kind of money. Otherwise, every lawyer and doctor in this country would be selling corn and potatoes. To attract that kind of crowd, you have to find a very big and good festival, have a good product, and provide fast service. Even then, there are 7
slow moments in every event when you have no one buying for several minutes. That corn roaster guy definitely got my attention. When I finally reached the counter, I paid for my corn, a woman took my money, and the other person dipped the corn in the hot melted butter and wrapped a napkin around the husk stick before handing me over. There were two teenagers working on the roaster at a brisk speed. One of them was removing the corn from the boxes of corn, and I saw a big pile of them. He was cutting the loose husk and silk with a pair of scissors and then putting them in a huge bucket from where the second teenager was loading the roaster. He was non‐stop feeding that big hungry roaster, and in return, the hungry monster was laying the golden eggs—the big, beautiful golden corn with the irresistible aroma. A table was set up just a few feet from the counter with a great variety of spices. I saw everything from chili to Cajun spices, from black rock salt to garlic. The spices definitely added a nice ambiance to the corn booth. The customers were experimenting with the spices. I tried some black pepper and lime, and the results were a primal goddess in reincarnated form. Not to mention, I stood in the line for another 15 minutes to get the second one because the first one only served as an appetizer. After enjoying the corn, I stood there for an hour observing the operation. It was almost the end of the day, but it had little effect on the corn enthusiasm. Finally, I got an opportunity to ask some questions of the vendor, who looked quite cheerful despite a hard day of work. After talking about a few generalities, I got straight to the point. I was so excited and did not even hide my intention to be in business myself. Within a few minutes, I was rudely awakened by the reality that I was dealing with a secret cult where outsiders were not welcome. Within a few days, I almost forgot the dream of becoming a corn roaster vendor, but then in January 2006, I saw a small ad in Craigslist for a corn roaster for sale. This ad renewed the spark 8
inside me. Within a week, I was in business for myself—well almost. The only thing I had going for the business was that I owned the roaster. I had no idea how to get permits and supplies, and most importantly, how to find some events. Several weeks of running around, Internet hopping, and calling local public offices proved fruitful. However, the most difficult experience I had to face was signing up for the events. The majority of mega events already had a returning corn roaster, and the ones who did not have a corn roaster were not impressed with my résumé. I spent that first year learning about the trade. Initially, it was very hard to find information. There was very little information on the Internet that could help me in my quest to learn about my business. My passion for knowledge took me to events where, for hours, I watched experienced corn roaster vendors do business. I called several manufacturers to ask questions. Some of them were helpful, and others were too busy to answer my questions. The more events I attended, the more I learned the secrets of the business. I realized that running a corn roaster was a science. Following or not following the processes and formulas could make or break your business. There were too many new things to learn, and in the absence of training and information, I had to experiment a lot. How much food to buy, what items sell better, cooking to perfection, presentation, pricing, customer service, spices, supplies, negotiation, and signing up events were a few things I had to learn very quickly. After a year of experimentation, I started to document what worked and what did not work. I wanted to take my business to the next level, so I started to convert my learned secrets into best practices. You might be surprised to learn that the best tricks of the business came from my customers. They were out there as critics to offer advice. I never undervalue customers’ advice, and that was my secret of success during the second season. 9
Within a year, our company grew from one lonely roaster to a family of five roasters, two vans, and 10 part‐time helpers. We successfully secured the invitation of several big events that did not even want to talk to us a year ago. We were not only attending events, but we had three permanent locations in various downtown parks. The success of my locations created a lot of buzz and within weeks, I sold the permanent locations at a very reasonable profit. With a full‐time job at a large corporation and a seasonal business, I did not have time to run three full‐time businesses. I was not the only successful vendor in this business. One competitor comes to Washington from Arizona every summer to sell corn at festivals. Her little corn empire owns 11 roasters, and most of the time, they all are busy at different events. I saw them sell more than 100 boxes of corn in a single event. Each box contained 48 ears of corn. I never desired to expand like their company. My biggest motivation when I started this business was to take a break from the corporate world and make some part‐
time money. However, I soon realized that if you do things right, the business could grow very quickly, and it almost becomes a corporation itself. I am not suggesting that you should not expand business quickly; you must follow your heart. My goals were not to jump from one corporation to another. However, I came closer to that life‐altering decision several times during my short endowment, but thank God, common sense and wisdom won the battle every time. This book was written to help you save time and money. More importantly, the biggest motive behind writing this book was not to make money from book sales—which I believe cannot be made with a very small target audience, anyway—but to share knowledge and advice with those seeking answers. We all have a guru sleeping inside us, who often wakes up to help others—the way in which universal consciousness attracts new information in 10
the pool of existing knowledge. The rough sea of economics is hurting many families lately, and starting a business that does not require a big investment could be a lifesaver for many. This book is probably the best investment you have made to jump‐start your new venture. My good friend, Mark, a veteran of two decades in festival business, used to say, “A part‐time festival season is much better than an entire year of a full‐time job.” Please go over the information provided in this book. You do not have to follow every single tip provided, but use my advice only as a baseline melody and then try to create your own symphony. This book will offer you solutions to almost every major issue you will face in the new venture. In my personal view, the festival business is one of the best businesses in which to meet new people, make long‐term friends, and have fun. My wife and I normally attend events together, providing us an opportunity to spend an entire day together—a wonderful tonic for our marriage. My sons, who attend grade school, have had an opportunity to learn about business at a very young age. My son, Daniyal, normally earns 60 to 70 dollars a day, just selling drinks at the festivals—pretty good for a third grader. All he does is invite visitors to buy a drink. You might be surprised to learn how many people will buy cold bottle of water on a hot summer day. I also think Daniyal is a very gifted salesman. He always engages customers with his lively conversation and shows them the value in his beverages, which is acutely sobering for his age. I think that once he grows up, he will be very a successful businessperson. 11
Chapter 1
Are You Ready to Start Your Own
OK, that question is worth a million dollars. You want to start your own business, but does your personality have all the traits required to become a successful entrepreneur? To learn if you have the qualities of an entrepreneur, ask yourself the following questions:  Are you positive?  Do you consider yourself resourceful?  Can you work independently?  Do you think out‐of‐the box?  Do you consider yourself optimistic?  Do you have support for your business from family and friends?  Are you a high‐energy person?  Are you a firm decision maker? If the answer to any of the above questions is no, you might want to consider a little more training in that area. I believe anything can be learned, as long as there is a strong desire for learning and a sense of open‐mindedness. According to Peter Sange, one’s ability to overcome historical perception about new or change is known as open‐mindedness. Your thoughts, feelings, and actions create almost everything in your life. If you have been thinking about starting your own business, then you must act in that direction. The universe will take care of the rest. The hardest part of starting any business is the beginning. Many people out there will discourage you from almost anything they feel is a change from the status quo. Now, think about this … They are projecting their own fears and lack of optimism onto you. You do not have to live with their interpretation. You must start interpreting the universe’s song in your own version. Whether to Go for Sunlight (Full-Time) or
Moonlight (Part-Time)
If you are currently unemployed and the new business would be your major source of income, then I strongly recommend starting it as a full‐time business. However, if you currently are employed and looking only to make extra income, then moonlighting is the way to go. The beauty of this business lies in its flexibility. You can still maintain your main job while trying to establish your weekend or holiday gig. If you are living in one of the Northern states with long winters, then it is wise to find a job during the winter months and do a full festival business during the summer when most of the events and festivals are happening. There are some interesting advantages and some pitfalls in operating as a moonlight business. More often than not, the advantages of starting as a moonlighter outweigh the risks. Starting part‐time and going full time later is often a proven strategy. By keeping your current job while you are still learning the ropes of the business is smart. You also have an opportunity to keep your health, retirement, and vacation benefits while still enjoying a profitable business. However, you might find it hard working six to seven days and feel burned out very quickly. Mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion from overwork can also become a problem for moonlight business owners. I know several vendors holding jobs such as county executive, schoolteacher, and corporate employee who are making a decent second paycheck as a part‐time vendor. 13
There are other advantages to operating a business. If you are a moonlighter, the family or employee can run the business while you are at work. You have a built‐in organizational structure. You can teach your kids and others the benefits of owning a business. However, the most successful festival vendors are the career vendors. These are the business people thinking and living this business during most working hours. When you are very focused on any task, you attain excellence in that trade. It is a simple fact. 14
Chapter 2
Checklist for Starting a Business
Six-Step Process
Decide the size and the scale of the operation. Decide on the menu for your concession business. Purchase your equipment and tools. Register your business. Apply and obtain all the required licenses and permits needed to run a food concession business. 6. Secure events and have fun running your concession stand. Checklist for Starting a Business in Most
Google “how to start business in ______ (insert state’s name).” You will see several helpful sites to guide you in starting a business in your state. Check with your corporate division, secretary of state, or bureau of commercial growth in your state (every state has a slightly different name) to determine if the business name you want is available. In some states, there is no central agency where all businesses must register. Depending on the legal structure chosen, the business entity might be required to file with 
the local county clerk's office. Many states allow you to register a business through the Internet now. Most states require you to choose a legal business structure: corporation, LLC (limited liability company), limited liability partnership, general partnership, or sole proprietorship. You might have to pay a fee to register the business. The following are brief descriptions of business types. You might want to consult the secretary of state’s office or your state’s Web site to learn about these in detail. o A sole proprietorship is the most common form of business structure. There is less paperwork involved with this type of business, and generally, fees are much lower compared to an LLC or limited partnership. However, the biggest drawback is that the business owner is personally liable for all debts incurred by the business and lawsuits. You might want to ask your accountant, if you are interested in this form of business. o A general partnership is formed between two or more partners. Each partner shares the profits, losses, and management of the business and each partner is personally and equally liable for the partnership’s debts. Formal terms of the partnership are usually contained in a written partnership agreement. o A limited partnership is formed between one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. The general partners manage the business and share fully in its profits and losses. Limited partners share in the business’ profits, but their losses are limited to the extent of their investment. Limited partners might or might not be involved in the daily business operations. A limited liability partnership is very similar to a 16
general partnership except that, normally, a partner does not have personal liability for another partner’s negligence. o A corporation is a comparatively more complex business model. Corporations are considered chartered legal entities with certain rights and liabilities beyond those of an individual. Doing business offers several benefits such as a tax break, but it is the most expensive business model, with higher licensing fees. Corporations might be formed for profit or nonprofit purposes. o The limited liability company (LLC) is formed by one or more persons. The LLC agreement details provisions for management, interests of each member, and distribution of profits or losses. Limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships are permitted to engage in any lawful, for‐profit business or activity, other than banking or insurance. The members of an LLC cannot be sued personally. This is one of the most favorite form of business among festival vendors. 
To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of various legal structures, check online resources available in your state. Legal Requirements and Implications Choosing a business name is a very important part of business. The name could provide you a tremendous advantage over competition. The business structure also affects the naming process. For instance, some states require you to use your own name for a sole proprietorship unless you file another name as a trade name. 17
Most important in choosing a name is finding out whether another business is using your chosen name. Some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so the same name could possibly be used elsewhere. The name that is easy to remember and reflects your line of business makes business sense. Business Name or DBA (Doing Business As) There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good and that you happen to like. Thought must be given to state and local requirements and making sure you do not infringe on the rights of someone else’s business name. DBA or Doing Business As is the use of an alternative business name to trade under in business. DBA allows you to do business legally under a different name without having to start a new business unit. With DBA, you can sell, buy, accept payment, open a bank account, and file taxes. Every state’s DBA rules vary slightly, so you must check with your state’s secretary of state to learn more about your state’s rules. The biggest benefit of DBA is choosing a name that truly represents your brand. You must choose a business name thoughtfully because the name makes a big impact on the perception of your business. The name should represent your goods and services. Before finalizing a name, you must investigate to ensure the name is unique and not being used by someone else. You can be sued for using someone else’s name. You can use the following resources to help you search for a good business name and to avoid names already in use: 18
o Search the secretary of state’s database for names of registered corporations, LLCs, and limited liability partnerships. o Search the Department of Revenue database in your state for names of registered businesses. o Search with the US Patent and Trademark Office for registered trademarks. o Search for registered trade names with the Department of Licensing. o You might also contact the Corporations Division at the Office of the Secretary of State for your state to look up trademarks registered in your state. State law does not require you to register your name as a trademark, but believe me, it is an excellent idea if you think your business name offers an advantage. Trademark gives you protection in case someone uses your business name or a name likely to be confused with your business name. You can register for DBA or a business name with the secretary of state’s office or Web site. Now, remember you do not have to register a trademark right away. This is something you could always do later, as your business grows. Employer Identification Number (EIN) An Employer Identification Number or EIN (also known as Federal Employer Identification Number or (FEIN)) is issued to businesses or individuals who have to pay withholding taxes on employees. You need an EIN number if you are planning to hire employees, open a bank account under your business name, or if you operate your business as a partnership or corporation. Please carefully study the IRS Web site to learn if you need an EIN number. Most small businesses do not need an EIN number right away. If you need an EIN, you can apply online. 19
Permits, Licenses, and Inspection
Every state has laws governing business licenses and permits. Most likely, you will have to register your business with the state agency, so you can do business in the state. A tax ID number, business license number, and tax registration number can be issued to your business, depending on the state in which you are operating. Depending on the county and city in which you want to start a business, several permits or licenses might be needed to start the business. You should verify with the city or county that the business location is zoned for that activity. Most cities require all businesses located within the city limits, or who conduct business within the city limits, to be licensed with the city. License approval might go through the city police and fire departments. Contact the agency directly if you have regulatory questions. Unemployment Insurance and Industrial Insurance
You must have Unemployment Insurance and Industrial Insurance before hiring employees. Most likely, you will start your concession business with the help of your family and might not need the unemployment insurance. You can find more about this from the website of secretary of state’s website Minor Work Permit
Depending on the state where you are operating, you might need to have a State Minor Work Permit before hiring anyone under 18 years old. 20
Health Department
Food safety
As a business owner and a food worker, you will be preparing food for other people. These people trust you to do all that you can to keep their food safe. It is your responsibility to safely prepare and serve food to them, so they will not get sick. According to the health department, the top three food‐safety defense concepts are personal hygiene, temperature control, and cross contamination. Contact the health department of your county or state to receive a copy of a food safety guide that will help you greatly in learning more about food safety. General guidelines:
1. To avoid a late fee, always submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadline of the county in which you are planning to work an event. 2. Most health departments require at least one person with the food handling permit card present during the business operation. 3. Always check with the health department if you are unsure about the appropriateness of a menu item. For instance, you might not be allowed to cut raw meat or fish in the booth, or you might need a steam table to serve hot dogs or potatoes. When in doubt, you might want to call the local health department to confirm the type of equipment needed to support your operation. 4. Most health departments do not allow food preparation at the festival. The food preparation, including meat preparation, vegetable washing, and cutting, is only allowed in an approved commissary or facility such as a restaurant or catering facility. Food preparation in a booth 21
is limited to cooking and portioning. Home preparation of foods is allowed only by community, non‐profit organizations when such items are not considered potentially hazardous. Temperature Control: It is very important to follow temperature control guidelines set by the health department. The cold holding of potentially hazardous food must be below 41° F. For instance, if you are going to serve sour cream or cheese, it must be stored in an ice chest at or below 41° F. The hot holding of cooked potentially hazardous food is at or above 140° F. Most health departments do not allow the cooling of potentially hazardous food in the booth. Leftovers are not allowed for reuse. The leftover must be discarded. The potentially hazardous food must be reheated to 165° F within 60 minutes. Always carry a few food‐grade thermometers in the booth. I have a bad habit of losing thermometers. These evil little guys always disappear when the health inspector shows up. Now, I carry three to four thermometers, so if I lose one, I can find another one. A thermometer is also a most stolen item during events. Why not? Everyone needs them. Sick food workers are not allowed to work in the food booth. Arrangements for hand washing must be available in each booth. Most of the higher quality corn roasters like Texas Corn Roasters and Original Corn Roasters come with built‐
in hand washing unit but if your roaster did not come with a corn roaster then you will have to build a temporary hand washing unit. It is very inexpensive and easy process. A minimum of a 5‐gallon insulated container with a continuous‐flow spigot of warm running water at a 22
minimum of 100° F should be provided. You can buy a used 5‐gallon coffee urn from a local restaurant supply store. You must buy one that offers a continuous‐flow of warm water for hand washing. Health department inspector might not approved other type. A bucket for wastewater, pump soap, and paper towels must be set up and available at all times. 9. Sanitizing rinse: Add one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of fresh water for wiping work surfaces, equipment, and utensils. 10. Always separate the corn roaster and other cooking devices from public access by using ropes, cones or other approved methods (minimum of a three‐foot separation). 23
11. Check out the Web site of the relevant health department for additional requirements. Food Worker’s Food Handling Permit
Almost every health department requires a Food Worker Card these days. The Food Worker Card is a permit to work with food served to the public. Everyone working in the food industry by preparing, cooking, or serving food to the public must have a Food Worker Card. Those successfully completing the training and passing the required test will receive a Food Worker Card. The training class lasts approximately two to three hours, depending on the county. You cannot be allowed to sell food without the health card. This is very easy to get card, do not sweat. You can check schedule online. Inspections
Whether you are required to have your festival business inspected depends on if you will use a trailer. Trailers are subject to inspection, depending on the state and county in which you are operating. If you are not serving food from your trailer, then you might not be subject to inspection. However, corn roasters are not subject to L & I inspection like other food trailer. That is a huge advantage. 24
Chapter 3
Fortunately, a festival food business costs very little compared to opening a full‐service restaurant. Businesses such as kettle corn, elephant ears, roasted nuts, and corn roasting do not require heavy investment and a load of fixed expenses such as leasing, utilities, and ongoing maintenance. However, you must have enough funds in the bank to maintain a positive cash flow for the first few events. After you purchase your equipment, you still need from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for signing up the events. Most people do not realize that the festival’s application fee requires additional funds, so it is important to set aside some funds to pay for application fees for festivals and health department fees. Initially, you might not need to hire people. Your family is the best source during the start‐up phase. They will be excited to help you because they are also excited about your new venture, and it is always fun to be part of festivals and fairs. However, as your business grows, you will need to hire more folks, which will add payroll expenses. Most festival business requires an initial investment between seven thousand and fifty thousand dollars, depending on the type and scale of business. Although, I have seen gigs where the investor spent more than $100K to buy an expensive cool‐
looking kiosk or trailer. I do not recommend throwing out thousands of dollars on a start‐up business. I recommend starting modestly and then growing, as your business grows. Most entrepreneurs start a business from personal financial sources such as savings, a loan from retirement funds, a loan from the family, a line of credit, and so on. Banks are very reluctant when it comes to approving a loan for a festival business. Personal savings is the best form of investment, so if you do not have the required funds, start saving now. You might want to contact your local office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to find out about loan guarantee programs available for start‐up businesses. You can find more information on the SBA by researching it on the Internet. Under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, there are several small loans and grants available for small businesses. Please check out for more information. Lease Option
Leasing equipment can be a good option if you have limited capital. Leasing business equipment preserves capital and provides flexibility but might cost you more in the end by charging a high rate of interest. One benefit of leasing equipment is that your lease payments can usually be deducted as business expenses when filing a business tax return, reducing the net cost of your lease. The biggest disadvantage of the lease option is that you will not own the equipment. However, most leasing companies offer to sell the leased equipment at a very reasonable rate at the end of the leasing period. If you do not have a leasing company selected, you might want to contact the manufacturer to see if it works with any leasing firm. It will save you some time. Start-up Costs of a Corn Roaster Business
In this scenario, I will use the corn roaster business as an example. If you are planning to start a different business, the cost will change. 26
Brand new corn roaster with warranty $10,000–$12,000 Used corn roaster $5,000–$8,000 Additional equipment and accessories $1,200–$2,000 Used van or truck $2,000–$10,000 Food cost for first two events $300–$1,000 Event sign‐up fee $800–$3,000 Fuel, utilities, and miscellaneous $200 How Much Money Do You Need for the Start-up?
How much do you need to start your festival concession business? That is a valid question, but the answer depends on the type and scale of the business. The factors of whether you will buy new equipment or used equipment, lease equipment or purchase, could change the answer. For example, the corn roasting business can be started with $10,000 to $18,000, but you could also spend $50,000 to $100,000 if you were going to buy a fancy trailer, booth, or kiosk for your business. You can start a hot dog cart for under $8,000—even cheaper, if you can find one for rent. Keep in mind that the cost of buying small accessories and tools to run your business could add substantial cost to your budget. It is important to know what is needed to start your business and then try to buy those small tools, accessories, and equipment from used market or restaurant supply stores. I find Craigslist very useful when it comes to buying a used steam table, pots, small grill, fryers, drink fountains, refrigerators, and warmers, depending on your specific menu. 27
Chapter 4
Marketing and Business Plans
The statistics show that more than 80% of vendors who start a festival concession business never make it to their second year. The staggering number of failures is attributed to lack of business planning. Too many people think business planning is something meant only for big corporations, but it is equally applicable to small businesses such as the festival concession business. You have to know everything you can about your products to sell them effectively. Putting even your simplest business plan in written format, so you can go back to it from time to time, is highly recommended, and it will serve as a goal setter. Check out the resources available at the Small Business Administration Web site. Recommended elements of any business plan should include the following: A. Description of business B. Marketing C. Competition D. Operating procedures E. Personnel F. Business insurance Check Out the Small Business
The best marketing is word of mouth. A good product sells when the buyer tells others about the food. When a customer is 28
walking around with a big ear of corn, a bag of kettle corn, or an elephant ear, it is very tempting for the other visitors. Web Site
A business Web site is an essential part of the success formula. If you want to come across as a professional vendor, think about a Web site. One guy who runs a corn‐roaster concession business really took it to the next level by promoting his Web site and business cards at various events. Within a few months, he started to get calls from big corporations such as Microsoft, Boeing, and big auction companies to cater corporate employee parties. He lined up several of those events, each bringing in $2,000 to $5,000 in profits. Business cards can do amazing publicity for your business. If you offer good quality food in a pleasant‐looking booth, you can expect invitations to do some private party events. I have seen hot dog carts, corn roasters, and kettle corn and pizza vendors doing private parties, wedding parties, and corporate events. Your profit from the private parties is normally much higher than at festivals. Anyone can put together a simple Web site, but I recommend using a professional Web designer to design a Web site that creates a more positive image for you. You can hire a very inexpensive Web designer from a freelancing Web site such as where hundreds of Web designers worldwide bid on projects, and it is very competitive. Corn roaster Web site: Signage
You have probably heard the saying “flash is cash.” It is very true when it comes to the festival business. You could have the most delicious food, best prices, well‐trained staff, and a festival with thousands of people. If your booth fails to attract 29
people, it is probably the poor signage. You do not want to cut corners in this area. Remember an average festivalgoer has less than a few seconds to make up his or her mind. Dozens of other vendors are competing with you, probably with very attractive booths. So many times, I have seen two vendors with similar menu items and opposite results. One does really well, and there is a long line of people all day buying his food. He is happy, money is pouring in, and the food is flying out of the booth like hotcakes. On the contrary, the other vendors with similar equipment and similar food is totally ignored by the festivalgoer. If you pay attention to their booth signage, you can find the answer. Poor sign placement The guy with continuous lines of customers has a big bright banner with regular fonts and easy‐to‐read text. It is very easy to tell from the sign the type of food he is selling. He also has two flag signs sticking out vertically from the top of the poles. 30
Each flag also tells what kind of food he is selling. The vertical flags are visible to anyone, even someone who is not in front of his booth. You can also spot a small A‐board at the entrance to the festival, welcoming the visitors along with his booth information. You can also see another banner on the rear end of the booth, advertising to those who happen to be on that side. In addition, there is a small vinyl menu board hanging from the booth with a brief description of the food along with prices. He also has a couple of nice‐looking small paper signs listing his specials. It is very easy for a customer to figure out the food description and prices. On top of everything, he has a nice display of the food he is serving, depicting exactly what a customer will get when he orders it. 31
On the other hand, the unfortunate vendor with infrequent customers has a sign crowded with information about different food items, prices, and pictures that are hard to understand. There is no menu, and no food is on display. You cannot tell if there is anything on special. In a quick glance, one cannot tell the type of food offered. This is what signs look like from 80 yards 32
Nicely done sign The sign can make all the difference, especially in the busy and large festivals. Pay special attention to the banners. If you are planning a 10 x 10 booth, then get a 10 x 10 x 5 banner. Use large red or black letters on a white or yellow background. The most important thing from a guest viewpoint is being able to figure out your product by seeing the banner, so make sure you spell it out big and clear. Keep it simple without adding any punch line, if possible. For instance, ROASTED CORN ON THE COB, FUNNEL CAKES, PIZZA BY THE SIZE, HAWAIIAN SHAVED ICE, THAI FOOD, and GYROS are good descriptions of the main entry. If you happen to sell other items, try not to put every item on the main banner. Use that prime real estate for items sold 80% of the time. 33
Red on white or white on red and yellow on black draws attention The rest of the items should go on the menu board. The vertical banners are a fantastic way to bring attention to your booth. You can also buy ready‐made post flags online to put on top of the booth. The main banner should be tied down with zip ties on the metal or PVC poles. I strongly recommend using zip ties because they are best in windy conditions and can keep the banner from leaning out. The A‐boards are not very necessary items, but they are fantastic if you are trying to bring traffic from other parts of the festival to your booth. However, be careful in using A‐boards. The festival management and other vendors might have reservations about A‐boards. Make sure to check with the festival organizer, and do not put your sign close to any vendor selling similar food. It is simply unprofessional, and it could backfire if you are not careful in the placement. You can always 34
place a small 2.5 x 2‐foot A board across your booth. It draws attention in case someone did not notice your nice big banners. If you have a logo, try to use it on the A‐board and banner, but there is no need to use a huge logo. Do not make your signs look cluttered. Remember—keep it simple. Food Display
I strongly recommend using food displays. You can increase up to 20% sale volume if you have good eye appealing products on display in your booth. The food display creates ambiance and aroma that draws passer by. For instance, if you were selling roasted corn then put a couple of ears of roasted corns on display. In addition, put out half dozen or more uncooked corn husked and partially husked on display to create ambiance. If you were, selling potatoes then put loaded baked potatoes with all the toppings on the display. Can you imagine selling pizza without a display warmer? Then why would you sell any sort of food without display? Do not forget to change the display every few hours. The last thing you want to do is turn off a customer with a bad looking food display. 35
Chapter 5
Equipment Required to Start a Corn
Roasting Business
 Professional corn roaster. Minimum 200–500 corns per hour.  Hot plate for melting butter. I always use an electric crock‐
pot instead. A crock‐pot can be purchased from Wal‐Mart for less than $15.  Steam table for storing cooked potatoes and turkey legs. You can use a chafing dish instead. A new one costs about $100.  Two 20‐lb. propane tanks. Do not buy very old tanks. You never want to play with risk when it comes to flammable material.  Fire extinguisher (ask your local fire marshal office about the type needed in your county). They will give you a rating such as 2A10BC for a portable fire extinguisher. You can pick one up from the local hardware store. If you are selling any items that need a deep fryer and oil, then you might have to buy a special kind of fire extinguisher, and normally, hardware stores do not carry those. You can ask the fire marshal’s office about the stores in your area carrying those types of fire extinguishers. Never buy a used fire extinguisher because the risk is too great when it comes to fire‐related hazards. Tip: always make a copy of the sales receipt for the fire extinguisher and tape it to the box or extinguisher. When the fire marshal visits you at the festival, he will ask for the inspection date tag, and in the absence of an inspection date tag, he will accept the date shown on the sales receipt. Remember—the fire extinguishers are required to be inspected yearly.  EZ up tent—commercial quality with four side‐panel leg brackets. Do not buy a cheap tent. You will end up buying another one within the first season if you buy a noncommercial tent. I recommend buying one available at Costco or Sam’s Club or buy any available commercial product from the Internet.  Four 40‐lb. leg weights for wind resistance (buckets filled with water can be used instead).  Two front‐leg banner pole brackets. The poles can be made of any PVC pipe purchased from hardware supply stores such as Home Depot, Home Base, or Lowes. You will need three pipes (each 10 feet in length).  Two sign banners 2' x 4'.  One sign banner 3' x 10'.  Moneybox or cash register. I prefer a moneybox because no power is needed to run it. However, some large events charge a certain percentage of the sales as a fee, wanting the vendor to use the cash register to track revenues. Tip: always take $100 in one‐dollar bills to your events. You will run out of change very quickly.  Soap, paper towels, waste container.  Extra bucket for waste water from hand washing (5‐gallon) and for holding sanitizing solution  Paper towels and cloth wiping towels.  Serving forks, tong, cutting board.  Platform for elevating food and paper goods off the ground. You can use an old wooden pallet for this purpose.  Food‐grade metal thermometer. Any restaurant supply store can sell it to you. Do not buy a cheap one. 37
 Tarp for floor covering. You can buy one from Wal‐Mart for less than $20.  To create your temporary hand washing station, you will need a 5‐gallon insulated container with spigot. Note: If your corn roaster does not come with a built‐in hand‐washing unit, then you are required to set up a temporary hand‐washing station. You can also use a 5‐gallon coffee urn with a spigot.  60‐gallon ice chest to store perishable goods such as butter, sour cream, and some condiments.  Two 50‐foot long extension cords and two canopy lights. You can buy these from Wal‐Mart for cheap.  Three folding tables (6–8 feet). Craigslist is a great source. Also, buy a table skirt from any thrift store. You can also buy disposable table skirts from restaurant supply stores. However, they will cost more in the end.  Napkin dispenser and condiments dispensers. Look for a restaurant supply store that sells secondhand equipment. You can save tons of money on used equipment.  Toothpick container with toothpicks.  Plastic forks and knives.  A glass vase or bottle to use as a tip jar. Tip: always put a single dollar bill as seed money in your tip jar, so customers know that you accept tips. During a good festival, you will collect between $50 and $70 in tips. 38
Chapter 6
How to Find Events and Festivals
There are many sources for finding festivals and events, such as your vendor friends, the local Chamber of Commerce, auto racing, fairs and festivals, flea markets, rodeos, and theme parks. The Internet is one of the greatest sources for finding events. Many good sites provide this information. is an excellent free site. another good site. http://www.festivals‐and‐ covers most states. not bad at all. if you are situated in Southern states. North Carolina festivals and fairs. for California residents. California Bay area. for Louisiana residents. another one for Louisiana. for Washington residents (it is not free). craft festivals in New England. for Indiana residents. for Missouri residents. for New York City. Northeastern states. for Kansas. for Maine. for Vermont.‐fairs‐festivals/ for Iowa. for Wisconsin. Here is another secret to finding great events. Become a member of your state’s festival and fair association and attend their annual event. You will have an opportunity to meet and network with many events organizers at those events. Make sure you exchange cards and give them your business portfolio. You will be amazed to learn how many organizers are willing to work with you just because they met you in a professional setting or had lunch with you. How to Sign up for the Festivals that Are
Hard to Get
Write a Proposal (See Appendix for a Sample)
Secret of Getting into Festivals
Come up with a unique name for your product without selling different food. Spicy corn is another gimmicky name to enter in festivals if they already have a corn roaster. Once you are in, no one cares if you sell regular corn or spicy corn. Most big festivals need two corn vendors, anyway. Here is the recipe for the spicy corn: 40
Fill a bucket with 4 gallons of fresh water. Add 24 oz. vegetable oil. Add Frank's Hot Sauce (16 oz.). Peel off the cornhusk and dip the husked corn in the solution, leaving it there for 10–20 minutes. You can fill the bucket with corn. After 10–20 minutes, wrap them in aluminum foil and cook them in the roaster just as you cook regular corn. It will cook in 5 minutes less than the corn with husk. It will come out nice and shiny with a hint of hot sauce without any ting. It takes more time to prepare, but this is a secret way to break into a festival with a permanent corn roaster. On the application, you will put spicy Cajun corn. Here is the kicker—at the event, you can mix regular corn with the spicy corn. No one will say anything because the competition will be too busy selling roasted corn. Now, you know the secret. 41
Chapter 7
Business Processes
Application Process
The application process starts with filling out the event application. Most event organizers make an application available online these days. You can simply download the application from their Web site. Keep in mind that good events sell out fast, so make sure to call the event organizers to ask them the availability of the online application. When the application is made available, make sure to send it quickly to beat the competition. Not all the events ask for the application fee upfront, but those who ask for the application fee with the application will not accept the application without the fee. The application fee could take a good chunk of your finances, so make sure to include the application fee in the budget early on. I strongly suggest mailing in the proposal with the application. You can see an example of a proposal in the Appendix. The proposal offers a professional image, and it helps you be selected in case there is any competition. Professional vendors also follow up with a phone call to make sure the right person at the event office handled their application. Be sure to let your insurance company know about the date of the event in case the event committee requires liability insurance. I strongly recommend not waiting until the last minute to send in the application. Some event committees will charge a late fee if you miss the deadline, and then losing your spot to your competition is another big risk you do not want to deal with in this business. Remember that just mailing out an application does not guarantee that you will be selected. You must make some follow‐
up calls to secure your spot in the festival. A professional Web site with good pictures and references could be very helpful in some cases. Suppliers and Producers
Suppliers and produce wholesalers are your key to success in this business. You cannot afford to buy the food from retailers, so you must find producers capable of providing you quality food at wholesale costs. Every state and big town has a local supplier who delivers food supplies to local restaurants. “Wholesale food distributor” in the Yellow Pages is a good place to start. If you do not find any name, ask the owner of a local restaurant in your area. They can tell you where to buy fresh vegetables and butter. A big name among food suppliers is Sysco Food, operating from 161 locations throughout the contiguous United States and portions of Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. You might want to find a local wholesaler if you want to have more control over the quality of the corn and potatoes. For instance, Rosella Produce and Charlie’s Produces in Seattle are among the best producers. If you are in East Central Wisconsin, then you might find A J Wholesaler Produce as a reputable name. If you are in Syracuse, New York, you might want to visit Andy's Produce Co., Inc to buy good quality corn. Baird Produce in Tampa, Bakker Produce in Indiana, and Beacon Produce in Chelsea, Massachusetts, are some examples. I found the following Web site a useful tool for locating the suppliers. Try your zip code, and see if you find any local producers.
ourcesLinks Be sure to call several producers to compare prices. The standard box of corn comes with 48 counts. The price fluctuates between $18 and $35, depending on the season and your 43
location. In midsummer, the prices tend to drop, and in the early part of the season, you might have to pay more per box. If you live in one of the corn‐growing states, then your prices might be even cheaper. Business Insurance
A few insurance companies specialize in concession insurance, including K & K and Nationwide. The cost depends on the options, but minimum insurance costs between $450 and $1400 for the entire year. You might want to check with your insurance agent to confirm if they provide coverage. Nationwide Mutual is a good company with a good record of accomplishment. I recommend A & R Insurance and Financial Services, LLC (Phone: (425) 774‐1324) if you are interested in dealing with Nationwide Mutual. They are very good in providing a certificate with short notice. Frazier Insurance Agency and K & K are also reputable names. Call them, ask them questions, and compare rates before buying. Fire Department
Be sure you have a current fire extinguisher available on site when the inspector visits you at the booth. How to Serve Food at Festivals
Roasted Corn: butter or preferably liquid butter (some vendors mix butter and margarine (50:50) for better results), red chili powder, lemon pepper, black pepper, salt, garlic powder or 44
garlic salt, Cajun spice, Parmesan cheese, and mayonnaise, if you have a big Mexican population in your area. You should keep a few limes, in case someone asks for one. Most of these spices can be purchased from a local wholesale food supply store. Baked Potatoes: butter or margarine, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and chives (preferably green). Sweet Potatoes: butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Servings
Corn: Corn is cooked in husk for better taste. It takes 25 – 30 minutes to cook corn. The husk turns brown when corn is fully cooked. Once cooked, gently pull back the husks, as you would peel a banana and remove the silks from each ear. Do not remove the husk since you will use this as a holding stick. Now dip corn in the melted butter or use a pastry brush. Always give the customer a choice between butter and no butter, as health‐conscious people want no butter. Here Chris is using a pastry brush and crock‐pot to butter corn. 45
Tip: For best result, soak ears of corn in salt water for 1/2 to 1 hour without disturbing the husks. Remove from water; shake off excess water. Place in the roaster and cook until the husk is brown. On bigger events, you may not have time to soak the corn but on smaller event, you can soak it. In the early part of the season when size of the corn is still small soaking will make the corn size bigger. Soaking is highly recommended in the winter season when size of corn is really small and it will shrink after coming out of corn. The soaking will prevent the shrinkage and make corn look bigger. Tip: always use gloves when removing and serving corn. It is very hot and can burn your arm. Tip: Always buy multi color or yellow corn. Although the white corn tastes sweeter, but it does not creates that impression which draws customers. Yellow corn is very appealing when it comes out of the corn roaster. Multi colored corn tastes and looks great and I always like to use it but this variety is not available until mid summer. Baked potatoes Always wash potatoes very well before wrapping them in aluminum foil. I always use a small amount of vegetable oil for coating before wrapping a potato. Potato takes 45 – 60 minutes to cook. Toothpick test is a best way to determine if potato is fully cooked. Use a new toothpick and poke it into potato before removing from the roaster. If toothpick goes into potato smoothly without any resistance, the potato is ready to be served. If toothpick does not go in smoothly, you will have to cook potato for few more minutes. 46
Do not remove potato from the aluminum foil, and use it as a jacket. Foil keeps the potato hot. Use a sharp knife to slit 1.5” in the center of the potato, then crack the potato open by squeezing the ends towards one another. A well‐cooked potato will pop right open. Use sour cream, chives, bacon, and shredded cheese. Baked potatoes are served best with butter and sour cream but loaded baked potatoes are served with butter, shredded cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, and fresh chives. You can charge $1.50 to $2 extra for the loaded potatoes. I have seen some vendors carry chili, but I do not suggest chili because it adds expenses and work. Furthermore, not too many people ask for chili. Tip: Buy No. 1 or No. 2 variety of potatoes for best results. No. 1 are huge potatoes and look very impressive when serving. However, No. 2 is much cheaper than No. 1. Tip: For smooth looking potatoes, coat lightly with cooking oil. Sweet potatoes: Cooking time is 25 – 30 minutes. Select medium size potatoes, wash, and wrap them in aluminum foil for cooking. Remember, Yams and Sweet potatoes are two different vegetables. Although, Yams are very popular too, but it is sweet potato that creates that mysterious aroma that no one can resists. Southern style—brown sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon powder. You can add a tablespoon of maple syrup for additional flavor. Just slit sweet potato from center and sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon powder for serving. Sweet Potatoes shoulod not be stored for a long period because they will become soggy. You will have to use steam table to store cooked potatoes. 47
Punjabi style‐Chaat Masala, black salt and fresh limejuice. The sweet and sour savory taste is certainly a treat and a much healthier alternative to Southern style. You can buy Chaat masala from any East Indian grocery stores or from internet stores. Every town has at least one Indian grocery store these days. Smoked turkey legs: serve plain on paper plate. You buy pre‐smoked legs and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes in the roaster. Store them in a steam table or chafing dish. These legs are very delicious once they come out of the oven. I strongly suggest selling them at larger festivals. Condiments: Salt, chili, Cajun spice, lemon pepper, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper, Storing Cooked Food
I found the ice chest to be one of the best storage tools for cooked corn, but your local health department might not allow you to store baked potatoes and turkey legs in an ice chest. For 48
potatoes and meat they want you to use a steam table or chafing dish. Tip: Another trick I used was to place them on the top flat surface of the roaster, which normally gets very hot during operation. If you do not have a steam table, try using an aluminum or stainless steel tray and placing it on the top of the roaster to store potatoes. As long as you can maintain a 140‐degree temperature, the health department will not bother you. How to Get Free Training in This Business
Shadow a corn roaster from a different area who does not consider you a threat. Ask a roaster manufacturer to find you a vendor to shadow. They know everyone who purchased a roaster in the past. You can also try to call one of the local roasted corn vendors and offer them to work free for them in exchange of training. However, do not keep your hope very high with local guys. Inventory
Corn roaster operation does not need a big inventory. The food, such as corn and potatoes, should be purchased a day before the event, and spices and butter normally last you a long time. In summer heat, the cornstarch breaks down very quickly and the corn does not taste good. Use ice bags to prevent corn from spoiling. You should also keep corn away from direct sun light. Organizing Your Festival Data
I always keep a log of my festivals. I recommend using a spreadsheet with several columns, for instance, Date of the 49
Festival, Name of the Festival, Location of the Festival, Contact Information of the Festival Coordinator, Fee for the Festival, Health Department’s Contact, Product Sold at the Festival, and so on. It is important to keep that spreadsheet up to date. Pricing
Pricing is really an important aspects of the business, directly affecting the bottom line. You must carefully set the prices of your items. Many factors should be considered when setting price, for example, the type of the festival, host town, and the pricing trend at the festival. You might want to charge a higher price in communities with higher income, such as big cities or suburbs. However, you must keep prices moderate when serving communities with low incomes. Other things that can affect the pricing are the number of vendors at the event, the cost of the event, food costs, and traffic at the festival. The time of the year is another important factor because the cost of corn fluctuates a lot. It is very expensive during winter and spring, and in summer, the prices flatten out. People are willing to pay you more during winter because corn is not easily available in the supermarkets. An ear of cooked corn should be priced from $2.50 to $4.00, depending on the factors discussed earlier. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are not season sensitive. You should charge $3.00 for baked potatoes with butter only and $4.00 for the loaded potatoes. Sweet potatoes are normally priced about $4.00 per serving. I suggest adjusting prices based on your business location. Accounting and Taxes
These three measurements will define the financial health of your company: 50
 The balance sheet tells how much the business is worth.  The profit and loss statement tells if your business is profitable or not.  The cash flow statement predicts your cash balances into the future. Cash Basis Method: This is what the name implies. You recognize income when you receive the cash, and you recognize expense when you pay the bill. Most service businesses operate on the cash basis because it is much simpler to understand. This is all cash business but you are responsible for taxes on the entire sale. I like to pay my sales tax monthly so I do not end up with a huge tax liability. However, most of the vendors pay quarterly sales tax. You must call the department of revenue in your state to ask if you have questions regarding sales and excise tax. 51
Chapter 8
Not All Corn Roasters Are Created Equally
The corn roaster is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the corn roasting business. It is also the most expensive piece of equipment that you will buy in this business. Several manufacturers in the United States make different types of corn roasters. The most popular models are TCR (Texas Corn Roaster), Original Corn Roaster, and roasters made by Holstein. These three manufacturers make excellent corn roasters. Recently, several homemade Mexican corn roasters started to surface in Texas and California. I strongly recommend staying away from homemade machines. First, these homemade machines do not meet the safety standards of UL (Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc.) and the NSF standard for sanitation for the North American market. Homemade machines are often designed in home garages or small welding shops, and their design rarely considers propane safety. The life of those roasters is normally between three and five years, but you will end up selling them after the first year of operation, anyway. CONSIDER 6 STEPS WHEN BUYING A
1- Manufacturer’s reputation
2- Cooking capacity (minimum 500 ears per hour)
3- Quality of manufacturing
4- Age of the equipment
5- Ease of operation
6- Features such as hand washing unit, safety standard
Most Popular Models
TCR (Texas Corn Roaster)
I have used almost every available brand on the market and have good experience with these models. However, I have a personal liking for TCRs and the Original Corn Roasters. TCRs are considered the top‐of‐the‐line machines because of the high standard of manufacturing and excellent after‐sale support. The TCR is one of the best‐looking roasters in the business. You can even ask for your choice of color when ordering. TCRs are great if you want to buy an authentic looking roaster. TCRs are highly reliable roasters and work very well if you are looking for a high‐
speed, high‐capacity roaster. TCRs also offer the best resale value because they are highly sought after machines in the corn roaster industry. The only problem I have encountered with the TCR is the propane line freezing during the winter months when the temperature drops to below freezing in the Northwest. We solved this problem by placing propane tanks under a comforter. The comforter provided the required insulation. There are two burners on the corn roaster, each controlled separately with a safety valve and a pilot light for each burner. I find a two‐tank system very handy. Once during the Hemp Fest, one of the tanks stop working, but it did not stop us from cooking corn. We kept our operation going using the second burner. We were able to cook less corn, and it took much longer, but at least we were able to continue operating. Texas Corn Roaster offers models that can cook up to 200 and 500 corns per hour. In my experience, none of the corn roasters on the market can cook 500 corns per hour, but every manufacturer claims that its roaster can cook 500 corns per hour. Logistically, this is impossible because you cannot put more than 80–100 corns in a roaster, and it takes between 25 and 30 53
minutes to cook corn. Ken from TCR is very honest if you ask about the true cooking capacity of their corn roasters. This roaster cooks corn, potatoes, and turkey legs to perfection. The TCR’s design is very safe for handling, moving, or pushing. The gas pilots also add safety to the overall design. The luggage rack on the top is an awesome feature, especially if you do not have much cargo space in your truck or van. You can load corn boxes or other stuff on the top, giving you more flexibility. The hand‐washing unit works great; the hot water heater is ready as soon as you start the operation. The wastewater tank is huge, and the manufacturer provides all the safety bells and whistles, such as a turn signal, safety chain, and heavy‐duty all‐weather tires. TCRs are almost maintenance free, but I advise you to maintain your equipment for the best operation. The high quality paint and steel plating make this roaster weather resistant and durable. TCR uses propane, and electricity is not needed for the operation. Another great benefit of TCR is the lease option available through third‐party financing. You can learn more about TCR at their Web site 54
Texas Corn Roaster – very appealing outlook
Texas corn roaster — hand-washing unit
How to Cook Corn on a Texas Corn Roaster
The following cooking process must be started 30 minutes before the event starts. 1. Heat up the roaster to 550 degrees. 2. Put a few ears of corn on the top shelf, and move it down one row. 3. Wait two minutes, and put more corn in the next row. 4. Wait two minutes and put a few more ears of corn on the next row. 56
Once you have loaded the roaster, keep rotating it every few minutes until the husks start to look dark brown. For a busier festival, you can add extra corn to the rows. When you remove an ear of corn, you fill out the opening with another ear of corn, unless the event is ending. You do not want to cook too much corn. Cooking time at 550 degrees: corn, 22 minutes; two potatoes, 45 minutes to 1 hour; smoked turkey legs, 15–20 minutes; sweet potatoes, same as corn. Note: Lunchtime is a busy time. How to Turn on the Roaster
Make sure the regulator is connected with the propane tanks. (1) Turn on the gas valve on the cylinder. (2) Push the safety valve in the Pilot position, and hold it down. (3) Turn on the pilot through the small windows. (4) Turn the safety valve to the ON position. (Make sure to hold the safety valve for three to five minutes before turning it to the ON position. (5) Turn on the burners on the roaster’s front panel. At that point, you will hear a hissing sound from gas going into the burner. (6) Once the burner catches fire, close the front gate immediately. The cooking is done between 500 and 600 degrees. Once cooking is finished, you can turn down the flame to use the roaster to keep food hot. Note: Never turn on the gas before igniting the lighter. Note on the regulator: This machine uses a low‐pressure regulator. Never attempt to modify the regulator. Once you have adjusted the regulator, do not adjust it to control the temperature. Instead, use the control on the propane tank to control the temperature. 57
Make sure the gas tank is not near the roaster. The fire department can shut you down for safety concerns. Troubleshooting FAQs
Question: The roaster is not turning on. Answer: Make sure the regulator is connected properly, the gas valve is in the ON position, and the safety valve on the roaster is turned on. Question: The roaster is not cooking properly or taking too long to cook corn. Answer: Make sure the temperature is set at 550 or higher, and you are rotating the roaster every few minutes. It takes 22 minutes to cook the corn with both burners ON. Question: In one burner, the flame goes off after five to ten minutes. Answer: You probably have a bad thermo couple. Try to clean it or replace it with part number 2E142. Tip: Call the manufacturer to find out the correct part number. Maintenance
The TCR is a low‐maintenance machine. Once a season, oil the movable parts. To clean up the roaster, open the front gate when the roaster is cold, and sweep the floor. Manufacturer: Texas Corn Roaster. For questions: 1 800‐772‐4345 58
Spare Parts numbers: Thermo couple 2E142 and safety valve 2E374 made by White Roger/Grainger 1 888‐361‐
8649 I strongly suggest ordering a few thermo couples for backup. You never know when you might need them. Warning: Never touch the outer wall of the roaster without gloves when cooking, and do not let young children play close to the roaster. Always keep a fire extinguisher ready. Original Corn Roaster
The Original Corn Roaster (OCR) is also a well‐respected name in the industry. They have been making highly efficient machines since the 80s. The manufacturer claims it as the Cadillac of corn roasters. One of the nicest features of the OCRs is that they are made with stainless steel, making them highly weather resistant and durable. I also like the lighter weight of the machine. The machine weighs about 1,200 lbs. It is much easier to move these machines around because of their lighter weight. However, stainless steel machines are more expensive compared to the TCR. The OCR cooks corn very nice and evenly. Unlike the TCR, the OCR uses a conveyer system. The chains require weekly maintenance during the busy season. You will need to use high temperature grease on the chains used by the conveyer system. This maintenance takes less than 30 minutes a week. Each tray on the conveyer can hold from three to five corns, depending on the size of the corn. Like the TCR, the OCR cooks corn to perfection. It takes about 30 minutes at 450 degrees to cook corn. In my experience, the OCRs are highly efficient with fuel usage. One 40‐lb. tank will give you up to 8 hours of full‐time operation. Low propane consumption means more money in your pocket. The OCR also handles baked 59
potatoes and sweet potatoes very nicely. However, I did not like cooking turkey legs on the OCR because of fat and juices dripping from the turkey legs. The fat and juices make the entire interior greasy. You can use aluminum foil inside the trays to stop the dripping, but you still need to be very careful. Some OCRs come with a hand‐washing unit, which the health department requires. The manufacturer uses a battery‐
operated pump, and the heat produced by the roaster heats the water. I never enjoyed their water heating system because it took forever to heat the water, and most of the time, the health department visited us within the first few hours of operation. The health department does not accept water temperature below 101° F. One way to fix this problem is by filling with hot water instead of cold water, or just using a portable hand‐washing unit. One warning when handling OCRs is to use extreme caution when lifting the tongue on an uneven surface. Because of the awkward balance, you can tip over the roaster, possibly causing a serious injury. One of my employees almost killed me when on slope he lifted the tongue too high and then lost the control. I was on the other end trying to push the roaster. The roaster almost landed on me when my employee lost the control of the tongue. I almost was crushed with the weight, but I was very fortunate to escape. However, it damaged the roaster, and it was not easy to lift the roaster from that state, either. If you are looking for a lightweight, fuel‐efficient, and simple roaster, then you want to invest your money in this machine. 60
Original Model 200S 61
Original Model 500S How to Cook Corn on the Original Corn Roaster
Cooking: The final cooking time depends on the type of roaster and temperature of the roaster. Please check out the section describing various models of corn roasters to learn more about cooking methods specific to the roaster. Use the following guidelines when cooking: 1. Corn: 22 minutes to 30 minutes 2. Baked potatoes (2): 45 minutes to 60 minutes 3. Yams and sweet potatoes: 22 minutes to 25 minutes 4. Smoked turkey legs: 17 minutes to 25 minutes 62
Model 500
How to cook corn
The following cooking process must start before the event starts: 1. Heat the roaster to 450 degrees. 2. Put an ear of corn (do not remove the husk) in the top rack and move it down one row. 3. Wait two minutes, and put a second ear of corn in the next row. 4. Wait two minutes, and put few more ears of corn in the next row. Once you have loaded the roaster, keep rotating it every 2.5–3 minutes until the first rows are completely cooked. The cooked corn should have a dark brown husk. For a busier festival, you can add more extra corn in the rows. When you remove an ear of corn, you fill out the opening with another ear of corn, unless the event is ending. You do not want to cook too much corn. Cooking time at 450 degrees: Corn, 25 minutes; potatoes, 45 minutes to 1 hour; smoked turkey legs, 15–20 minutes; sweet potatoes, same as corn. How to Turn on the Roaster
(1) Connect the regulator to the roaster. (2) Turn on the gas valve on the cylinder. (3) Turn on the lighter and stick it on the burner through the small windows. (4) Turn on the roaster’s safety valve. At that point, you will hear a hissing sound from gas going into the burner. (5) Once the burner catches fire, remove the lighter. You might have to adjust the oxygen valve if the flame is yellow. Make sure the regulator is adjusted to give you the best 63
temperature. The cooking is done at 450 degrees. Once cooking is done, you can turn down the flame to use the roaster to keep food hot. Note: Never turn on the roaster’s safety valve before igniting the lighter. The gas can be trapped in the roaster very quickly, which could cause an explosion. Always turn on the lighter and then the gas valve on the roaster for safety reasons. Note on the regulator: This machine uses a 20‐psi regulator. Never attempt to modify the regulator. Once you have adjusted the regulator, do not adjust it to control the temperature. Instead, use the control on the propane tank to control the temperature. Make sure the gas tank is not near the roaster. The fire department can shut you down for safety concerns. The roaster has an oxygen control that helps to prevent a yellow flame. It is not very easy to find because it has no marking on it. Always keep an extra regulator as a backup. Troubleshooting FAQs
Question: The roaster is not turning on. Answer: Make sure the regulator is connected properly. The gas valve should be in the ON position, and the safety valve on the roaster should be turned on. At that point, you will hear a hissing sound from gas going in. Make sure you have turned on the lighter before opening the safety valve. The lighter should be all the way in to start the flame. If the burner catches a flame but then goes away, you might have to wait a few minutes to drain the trapped gas. 64
Question: I see a big yellow flame. Answer: Adjust the dial‐shaped oxygen valve located near the safety valve on the roaster. Rotate it to adjust the oxygen level. You always want a clear blue flame. Question: The roaster is not cooking properly or taking too long to cook. Answer: Make sure temperature is set at 450 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Rotate the roaster every few minutes. It takes 25 minutes to cook the corn, and 45 to 60 minutes to cook potatoes. Maintenance
Once a week, oil the chain with hot oil. That is the only drawback of this machine; it requires weekly maintenance. The best time to oil the chain is at the end of the festival. Manufacturer’s Web site: Price range: $10, 000–$12,000 Warning: Never touch the outer wall of the roaster without gloves when cooking. Do not let young children play close to the roaster. Always keep a fire extinguisher ready. Holstein Roasters
Another excellent line of roasters, I have not used a Holstein roaster just because I never had an opportunity to use on. This workhorse runs forever. However, Holstein roaster requires electricity in addition to propane. Some events, especially the smaller ones, do not have electricity. Without electricity, you cannot run that machine. Almost all the bigger events provide electricity. I have heard great things about their roaster. The Holstein roasters are heavy and a little pricy, but they last forever. 65
I recommend checking out their Web site to learn more about the roaster. Holstein Model 306 (check out Holstein website for features) Holstein features removable chassis 66
Home Made Roasters
You will find plenty of home made roasters on the market. Only one word
describes them best “JUNK”. Yes, these homes made roasters do not meet safety
or business requirements and you will end up selling them in few months. I will
suggest to stay away from these machines. I purchased the above roasters for $2800 from Texas and then paid $1400 to
mover for moving it to Washington. I was highly disappointed with this
purchase. It took $2000 and a lot of time to bring this up to the standard and
even then it was only half as good as TCR or Original Roasters.
Another home made machine. It was a cheap copy of Original Corn Roaster.
Operationally it was not a high performer.
Roaster sold on eBay
I often see roasters being sold on eBay at very attractive price but unfortunately
my experience with eBay roasters has been nothing but nightmare. First time the
seller misrepresented the roaster as a Texas Corn Roaster but it turned out to be
cheap copy of TCR. He used TCR name because of the high demand of TCR.
Second time the mover who picked up the roaster disappeared. It took me two
months and help from police to recover my roaster. Movers are a different story
and I do not want to go off the track here but stay away from the movers without
a sold reputation.
This roaster was sold as Texas Corn Roaster on eBay but it was not made by
TCR. Stay away from private seller on eBay.
Another cheap roaster. It cooked only 50 ears per hour.
Chapter 9
Tribal Knowledge
Hottest Festival Businesses
People often ask me what the hottest festival businesses are. There are many hot festival businesses. However, different parts of the country favor different food. For instance, elephant ears are not as popular in the Northwest as they are in the Midwest. Roasted corn on the cob is much more popular in the Southwest than it is in the Northeast. With that in mind, these are some of the hottest festival businesses:  Roasted corn  Kettle corn  Elephant ears  Gyros  Hawaiian ice (mostly summer)  Hotdog (variety)  Ice cream (mostly summer)  Funnel cake Why a Corn Roasting Business?
Wayne Gretzky said, "Go to where the puck is going, not to where it is.” I will cite 10 reasons in favor of the corn roasting business. I am not saying that it is the easiest or most profitable business. It is just one of the good businesses among many other ideas. 1. Low investment (between $10k and $15k). 2. Simple operation. No prep or intense cooking required. Remove the corn from the box and place in the roaster. Twenty‐five minutes later, you have corn ready to be served. 3. Fewer workers are needed compared to other vendors. 4. It is a natural and healthy food option for those who cannot stand greasy food. 5. Corn is everyone’s favorite. It is considered unpatriotic in some parts of the country not to eat corn on 4th of July.  6. Corn and sweet potatoes have a very strong aroma that can make people crave this sort of food. It is nature’s pheromone that the human body cannot resist. 7. Corn on the cob is considered low‐hazard food, thus it does not require special permits and high fees in most counties. 8. Profit margin is pretty high. A corn costs you less than a quarter, and it could bring you from $2.50 to $4.00, depending on the festival and the city. 9. There is less equipment to carry around. You know what I mean, if you remember the BBQ vendor’s huge truck with all the equipment they need to operate. 10. There is an easy exit. Corn roasters hardly lose any value when you sell them as a package. See the Exit Out section for more details. Interview with Ken O’Keefe from Texas Corn
Ken, what is your advice to a newbie? I would suggest that all newbies find a corn roaster (or any other concession) at an event and watch how they operate the business. I have found that many people want to start with a big event right off the bat, not knowing what to expect. This is one reason they fail in the beginning because they are not prepared. I tell all of my customers to take their machine home and invite 71
their friends and family over and practice cooking corn over and over at different temps and get familiar and comfortable with how the machine cooks corn before they sell to the public. The worst thing they could do is immediately go and sell to the public without knowing what the machine will do. I highly recommend starting with very small events and work slowly up to bigger events, as they feel they can handle them. This is the biggest reason they fail; they are overwhelmed from the start. Some people just want to do the smaller events; some eventually go to the bigger events. I send a DVD with all of my machines that goes over the operation and care of the machine, plus a supply list to help them get started. Plus, if they pick up the machine, I go over the machine front to back, and they can call me toll‐free anytime with questions. What is the hardest part of running a corn roasting business? The hardest part would be gathering up all of your supplies and equipment and setting up at the event. As with any business, there is work involved. You have to set up your booth, tables, machine; fire up the machine; load your corn; and start selling. One of the great things about the corn roasting business is normally you only work one to three days per week, depending on the event. A lot of my customers take off during the week. Where can I buy fresh corn year round? I recommend looking in the Yellow Pages under produce and look for Produce Wholesale, Farmers Markets, etc., and contact them and ask what the availability of corn is year round. It will vary from state to state. How often do I need to service the TCR machine? 72
The Texas Corn Roaster is virtually maintenance free. There is one bearing on each side of the machine that needs to have one pump of grease every couple of months. The only other maintenance is sweeping any burnt husk that falls down in the bottom after you are done cooking. Our machine is different than any other machine on the market. We do not put chain drive systems in our machines. The reason is you would need to grease the chains every time you use it; if not, the heat in the machine will burn the grease off, and the chains will get brittle and break. Plus, the grease smell will get in the corn as it cooks, and customers will complain about it. We do not put motors on our machines either for several reasons. You would need electricity everywhere you went to run the machine. If the motor goes out, you will not be able to sell corn. The only reason some manufacturers use a motor drive is because they have to constantly rotate their corn to keep it from burning up when it passes over the flame. Our machine is different. Our burners are on each side, and the corn is in between the flames, so you do not have to constantly rotate the corn in our machine. Our machines are called the Cadillacs of Corn Roasters. We also give a 5‐year warranty on our machines. Every aspect of the machine is quality built to last for years. What equipment do I need to start my new corn roasting business? A person starting out would need to purchase a 10 x 10 booth. I recommend a company called Caravan Canopy, They have the best booths on the market. You will need a couple of tables; hot plate, if you plan to melt your own butter; stainless container with lid for butter; paper towels; cash box; trash can and liners; gloves, for gloves; crescent wrench to connect 73
the regulator to tank; condiments; corn; and, of course, the corn roaster. How do I sign up for events? I suggest that anyone wanting to get into the business should contact the Chamber of Commerce in the city they would like to sell corn at and ask for a list of events that will be coming to that city. They will have contact numbers for vendors to call to see if they can book a roaster in that event. Once a person gets an event booked, they normally can book that event for the next time the event comes through. I also tell my customers to put their phone number on each side of their machine. They will have people calling them to do private events, corporate parties, etc. You can also check with flea markets, sporting events, etc. I recommend starting with smaller events to get their feet wet and then move on to bigger events. 74
Sample Monthly Statement Daily Sales & Expense Tracking Report Date Total Sales Concession Sales Tax Fee 9.01% 10% 1 $1100 $89.19 $110 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Hours Wages Worked (Hours x $9) 10 $90 75
Food Other Cash Cost Exps. in Hand $300 $100 Bank Deposit
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Net Profit Projection Sheet My Food LLC Item INCOME Historical % Ranges 76
Sales (Gross Receipts) VARIABLE COSTS Net Food Costs Non‐Management Employee Payroll Event Fee Cleaning Supplies Postage and Freight Professional Fees (Accounting, Legal) Repair & Maintenance Storage Expenses Propane Bank Charges Cash (Over) & Short Fuel (Truck) Travelling Expenses Depreciation OTHER EXPENSES 15%–17% 7%–10% 5%–20% 4% 2%–3% 5% 77
Business Insurance Expenses Truck Insurance Truck Payment Interest Expenses Taxes, Permits, and Licenses Loan Payments Total All Expenses Net Profit (Loss) 78
Chapter 10
Getting Out—The Exit Strategy
Getting out of your business might be the last thing on your mind at this point. However, every business is sold or closed someday. We really hope you never have to close your business, but no one can tell the future. Fortunately, unlike the brick‐and‐
mortar business, the festival business is much easier to wind up. Very few legal issues, other than due taxes, could create a problem for you. I see so many vendors leave the festival business quietly. Even those who had done very well left without any trace. The best part of the festival business is the exit, which could make you more money than you ever invested in the business. You can make considerable money by selling your equipment as a business. What I mean by this is do not sell equipment alone; you will get very little money for your investment. Try to make a package deal. The package should include all the equipment, all the festivals and events that you have attended and could go back to next year, contacts, training, and tribal knowledge. It will bring you three times more than what you can get just selling the equipment. Following are examples of ads that I have seen in Craigslist. Over the years, I have never sold my equipment à la carte. I always sell it as a business opportunity package. 79
Turnkey Festival Concession
Business for Sale
High-profit business with longest lines in festivals.
The sale of business includes
Great festival and events and one farmer’s market
500 ears top-of-the line
Like brand new corn roaster — Made in Texas
EZ top tent with roller
Two 40-lb. propane tanks
Two folding tables with table covers
1 huge banner for the tent
Smaller sign
Gloves, lighter, and fire extinguisher
New trash can & container
Steam table for potatoes
Butter melting pot
Burner for butter
Condiments supply
1 chair
Misc. small stuff to run the operation. Each of these items cost us a lot
of money.
Consulting and training if you do not have experience, or you want to
secure more locations.
Free consulting if you want to sign up for more events.
Roaster Specifications
Model: S500
Year: 2006 (Used only one season)
All stainless steel housing
No electricity needed for operation
Complete even roasting
High-pressure regulator + 6-ft. lines
Jet burner produces up to 5,000 BTU, NSF-approved machine in the
industry. Low consumption of propane.
Approved by the health departments in Washington state and other
Washington license plate with title.
EZ UP Tent
48-qt. ice chest
Insulated hot water container
2 folding tables
2 48” each
1 steam table for potatoes
Condiments supply for one season
2 banners 3 x 4
Free Consulting
Complete training
Ongoing consulting
New festival signup
Free Web site development
Free proposal letters
Trash can
Storage container
Roaster safety lock
Electric cables and canopy light
Tools kit
Napkins, holders & napkins
Plates, forks, etc.
Seven events and one farmer’s market
& all rental contacts
Here is another example that I saw in Craigslist. It is not very professionally done, but this guy was able to sell his business in two days because his ad resonated with a certain group who is out looking for this sort of business. COMPLETE KETTLE CORN BUSINESS FOR SALE
1. The kettle corn popper and sifter unit, the concession tent with signs, the
hand-washing station, garbage can, utensils, propane tank, and propane hose &
regulator; (Our popping unit is very user friendly). A 4'x8' fully enclosed trailor
is available at no additional charge.
2. Start Up Supplies: Everything you need to “get popping” for your first event.
(Also includes a list of vendor names, addresses and phone numbers where
supplies can be purchased); and
3. Hands-On Training: You are actually going to do the step-by-step procedures
of popping the corn and processing it for sale. You will also receive the shared
knowledge of running a kettle corn business from someone who has actually
done it, and has operated various types of concession businesses for years and
still uses the same type of equipment.
Hands-On Training includes:
A. How to pop quality and delicious kettle corn and its various flavors;
B. The proper way of setting up a temporary food booth that complies with
health department requirements,
C. Information on the permits/licenses that you will need; and
D. Shared ideas of how to increase your profit and expand your business for
very little cost.
$680.00....$600.00 "PROFIT"
EMAIL ME AT: [email protected] or call me at: (360) 000-1111
Rent Your Roaster When You Are Not Using It
Corn roasters are highly sought after machines, and not many people can afford them, but they still want to use them. I used to rent one of my roasters to a local farmer for the corn maze events held at the farm. I also rented my equipment to other trustworthy parties at a healthy fee. For example, the farmer used to pay me $1,500 for 45 days. Not a bad deal because I was not using the roaster, anyway. Normally, you can get $300 for the weekend for the roaster. However, be careful when you are dealing with strangers. Craigslist and other Web sites are good sources to find prospective clients. Check out the Rent Not Buy Web site for a free listing 87
Some interesting videos I found on YouTube Here is Mark and I at International Kite Fest 2007 on day one during slow moments. Mark is playing Ukulele. See the long lines of hungry customers Minnesota State Faire How the roast corn in India Some toothless customers may beg you for this Appendix
Original Roasted Corn’s Proposal
Chris and Shayna My Food, LLC. (2007). DBA Original Roasted Corn 88
Table of Contents Proposal Background Menu Stand Equipment Utilities and Services Commissary Sign and Advertisement About Us Events attended in 2007 – 2008 Proposal
The applicant is submitting a food vendor proposal for roasted corn and baked potatoes for the Evergreen Festival 2009. Roasted corn and sweet potatoes is an all‐time favorite snack food, and it creates a lively atmosphere with the old‐time method of roasting corn, sweet potatoes, and big potatoes in a roaster. People tend to crave the flavorful taste and enjoy watching the spectacle of roasting corn in a roaster, perhaps simply attracted by the fresh corn aromas. Contact person: Chris Sanford 12401 N 65th Street Seattle, WA 98103 425‐000‐0987 89
We use the freshest ingredients, preferably locally grown/produced whenever possible. We believe in providing excellent customer service with healthy and safe operation. My Food will carry all the necessary permits, insurance, and licenses to do business with the state, federal, and local governments. We also have contacted the county health departments to ensure compliance to their health standards and have acquired the documentation to file for required permits. Menu
The menu is priced moderately and very affordable. 
Spicy Corn $2.99 
Baked Potatoes $3.99 
Roasted Sweet Potatoes $3.99 
Drinks (Soda/Water) $1.00 90
Stand Equipment (Design & Operation)
Fully self‐contained eye‐appealing operation and a corn roaster machine meeting or exceeding the requirements set by the King County Health Department and Fire Department. Booth Dimensions: 10 x 10 Roaster Dimensions: 60" Tall and 50" Wide Color: Stainless steel Includes three‐part stainless steel sink, separate hand‐washing sink with hot and cold running water for each. Fresh water holding tanks and wastewater holding tanks built to health 91
department specifications. All stainless steel outer housing for durability and cleanliness. Utilities and Services
No permanent utilities are needed by the business. The self‐
contained roaster houses a 20‐gallon LPG tank, and it can store up to 9 gallons of fresh water. Electricity or running water is not needed for this operation. Commissary
The Original Corn Roaster will use the kitchen of DaVinci’s Pizzeria (located in the Green Lake area) as a commissary to store food and clean up dishes and pots at night. Signs and Advertisement
The vendor uses a 5 x 10 sign on the canopy for the signage. The vendor will follow the regulations adopted by the commission. About us
Chris and Shayna Sanford are not new to the vending or food business. Experience in starting a business from scratch and growing up around a small business gives them the tools to operate a solid business. Chris earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Information Systems. Shayna has run a successful home daycare business for seven years. She feels ready to move on to a more challenging but rewarding venture. Chris has owned a successful business in the past, and his organizational skills and work ethic will complement Shayna’s, as they continue to build the business. 92
Events Attended in 2007–2008
Long Beach International Kite Festival Taste of Edmonds Lighthouse Festival of Mukilteo Bothell Farmers Market Harvest Festival Hydroplane Races (Strait Thunder) University of Puget Sound Festival (UP Fest) Northgate Festival Hog Rally Oyster Run Maritime Fest Pioneer Square Park Westlake Park Seattle Events 93
Booth map
Thank you for purchasing this book. We highly appreciate your comments. Please contact the author with your feedback and tips at email: [email protected] 95
SUMMER WITH A CORN ROASTER Copyrights © 2009 All rights reserved Quantum Media Northwest Publishing Seattle, WA United States of America 96