How to Run a School Concession Stand

With all of the budget cuts being made in schools across the U.S. and, I would guess, in other parts of the world, parents and schools are trying hard to come up with fundraising ideas.

One of the more popular ways to make money is by running a concession stand. Here in the United States they can be found at almost every sporting event, as well as most other school events.

Concession stands take a lot of time and effort, but the money that can be raised is significant. Most schools already have procedures in place, but if a school doesn't, or if there is a need for a concession stand for a local sports league, there are a number of things that will need to be done.

How to run a school concession stand.  Here's a small one ready for business.
How to run a school concession stand. Here's a small one ready for business. | Source

A quick overview of what needs to be done

The steps are described in more detail following the list.

  1. Start planning in advance
  2. Obtain permission and facility rules to follow
  3. Have 2 or 3 leaders in place
  4. Organize cash box
  5. Organize volunteers
  6. Gather standard supplies
  7. Gather food needed
  8. Determine pricing
  9. Clean up
  10. Possible problems

1. Start planning in advance

There is no way that a concession stand will be successful without a lot of advanced planning.

Start planning in the spring for the next school year. With volunteers being hard to reach over the summer, it's better to get the ball rolling before the end of school. Then, once summer begins to wind down, begin the final planning. The school will have a better idea of upcoming sports schedules and events.

2. Obtain permission and facility rules to follow

Before the tables are purchased and volunteers are organized, make sure the appropriate permission has been granted. Also, make sure that everyone involved has reviewed, and is familiar with, all of the rules that need to be followed.

Work with school administrators to get everything in place, including access to facilities that may be needed during non-operational hours.

School concession stands can bring in a lot of money.
School concession stands can bring in a lot of money. | Source

Financial tips for concession stand leaders

It's a good idea to have more than one person in charge of the money. This helps protect both the money, and the person handling the money, in case any accounting questions arise. Remember to:

  • Keep all receipts
  • Keep an accounting of funds received and spent
  • Only allow the leaders access to the money box (except during sales times)
  • Have 2 people responsible for the bank account

3. Concession stand leaders

Depending on the size and scope of the stand, have at least 2 or even 3 leaders. It's best not to have just one person running the stand. Emergencies happen, and if only one person is in charge, the stand may not be able to function.

The leaders are the people that will plan, organize, and run the stand. They have many responsibilities which include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchasing supplies
  • Handling the money
  • Organizing the volunteers
  • Gaining access to event venues
  • Scheduling
  • Working with school officials
  • Filling in when volunteers fail to show up

4. Organize cash box

One of the leaders should always bring and take home the cash box.

The most important thing is to make sure to begin the day with plenty of change on hand.

Note how much money was in the box at the beginning of the day so the profit for the day can be calculated.

At the end of the day, count how much money is in the cash box and write it down. Have a co-leader count it also to double check.

5. Organize concession stand volunteers

Plenty of volunteers will be needed.

Determine the shifts that will need to be covered, making sure that the time periods are not too long. Shorter volunteer times make it easier for people to commit.

Make a list of food items that will need to be donated and ask for volunteers to donate them.

The best place to get volunteers is from the list of the children that will be participating in the event. Once that information is available, start an email list and send out volunteer times and jobs available. Provide potential volunteers with a schedule so they have a choice of how they want to contribute.

Below is an example of a signup sheet.

Sample Volunteer Schedule

Date (Please provide your name & number in the area you can help with)
Booth Help - 8am - Noon
Donate cookies (10 bags, 2 - 3 cookies per bag, individually packaged)
Donate fruit (10 bags in individual serving sizes)
Donate taco meat (4 pounds of taco seasoned ground beef cooked in a crock pot)
Donate hot dogs (48 cooked in a crock pot or roaster)
Donate hot dog buns (48)
May 1
May 8
May 15
May 22
This is just a suggested volunteer sign up sheet. Tailor sign up sheets to specific events and needs.

6. Standard concession stand supplies

Depending on where the concession stand will be set up, as well as it's size, here are the standard supplies that will be needed.

  • Tables - If the venue does not have a built-in concession stand area, 2 or 3 folding tables will be needed. Often, the venue will have some that can be borrowed.
  • Folding chairs - Some events run for a long time and volunteers need a place to sit when the stand isn't busy. Have 1 or 2 folding chairs.
  • Coolers - Have 3 or more large coolers available. They keep beverages and various food items cool. They also hold ice which is good to have on hand, especially at sporting events.
  • Utensils - Have some serving spoons and tongs on hand.
  • Plastic Cutlery - Plastic forks, knives and spoons are a necessity.
  • Hand towels - Drinks out of the cooler are usually dripping wet and the towel comes in handy to dry them off. They are also useful during clean up.
  • Napkins/Paper towels - Necessary for patrons and clean up.
  • Zip top bags - Handy for ice when a player gets hurt, zip top bags are also good for storing any leftovers.
  • Small sealable containers - Find containers that candy bars fit into and that seal. This way they can be filled and put away for the following week. Use plastic so they don't get broken.
  • Clipboard - For schedules and notes
  • Money box - Make sure it can be locked and that it has a drawer for change.
  • Extension cord(s)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Pens/Sticky Notes/Paper

Candy is always a huge seller at school concession stands.
Candy is always a huge seller at school concession stands. | Source

7. Organize food

Volunteers will be bringing their food items, but the other things, like drinks and candy will need to be stored. Have some large plastic containers to keep all of the food and supplies in during transport to and from the event.

If large containers are not available, use the coolers. At the beginning of the event, unload everything before ice is obtained, and at the end of the day, dry out the coolers and pack them with supplies and non-perishable foods.

For perishable items like fruit and cookies, either return them to the volunteers that brought them, or give them away at the end of the evening.

For perishable items like cheese or sour cream, decide if there is enough left to warrant keeping.

Popular concession stand food items

Always the big seller at concession stands, have a mix of candy bars, lollipops and other popular items. Don't offer more than 10 different items or it gets overwhelming for kids trying to decide what to buy, and holds up the line.
Bottled Water
Buy in bulk and the concession stand can earn a lot of money.
Offer 2 to 3 types of regular soda and 1 to 2 types of diet soda.
Sports drinks
Sports drinks are always a big seller. Offer 4 to 5 flavors.
3 to 4 popular brands should be enough variety for people.
This is a good item for volunteers to bring each week. Grapes are popular and don't go bad after sitting out for a few hours.
Another good item for volunteers to bring each week, cookies are popular. Pack about 2 to 3 cookies per bag.
Hot Dogs
Cheap and easy to prepare, hot dogs are a big seller at concession stands.
Walking Tacos
Everyone loves these and no plate is needed since it is assembled in a bag.
Keep warm food choices to a minimum and only a few condiments will be needed.
Food tip: When deciding what to sell at the stand, try to stick to things that don't require plates or cups. It will save a lot of money and clean up.
Toppings for one of the most popular concession stand items, Walking Tacos.
Toppings for one of the most popular concession stand items, Walking Tacos. | Source

8. Concession stand pricing

The most important rule in pricing items for concession stands is to make it easy. Price things in increments of dollars and quarters. That way only bills and quarters are needed to make change. If things are priced at 10 cents or a nickel, it takes too long for volunteers to make change.

Also, make sure that things are priced high enough to make money, but not too high that people won't purchase them.

Sample concession stand prices

$1 per regular size item. 25 cents for a small item like a lollipop
Bottled Water/Soda
$1 per can/bottle
Sports Drinks
$1.50 per bottle
Chips (Individual serving sized bags)
50 cents each
50 cents each
Hot Dogs
$2.00 each
Walking Tacos
$2.50 each
These amounts are only suggestions. The concession stand leaders should determine the amounts to be charged for individual items.

9. Clean up

Leave the area as clean as it was at the beginning of the event. If there are specific instructions from the facility, follow them. Wipe down and disinfect tables, throw out trash and pack up everything. Remember to pick up any trash that was left around the venue and in the seating area.

Always let the volunteers know that this is part of the duties so they don't take off, leaving the leader to clean up.

10. Possible problems

Concession stands always run into problems. Here are just a few that may come up.

  • Some people will want change for a large bill like a $20 or a $50. Always have plenty of change on hand, but if the someone keeps returning to break another large bill, just explain that there is no more change.
  • Little hands like to pick things up. If something gets taken, like a lollipop, it's best not to make a big scene. Most of the time a parent will return with the money.
  • Sometimes people take too many condiments. Either have volunteers put the condiments on, or don't worry about it.
  • Volunteers may not show up. Emergencies come up or people forget. Try to find someone to fill in or the job will fall to one of the leaders.

Why run a concession stand?

Concession stands bring in much needed funds for programs and program extras.

My daughter plays in a small local basketball league and the proceeds from our stand cover the cost of referees, personalized sweatshirts and duffle bags for the team members, and nominal rental fees for the facility.

While they are a lot of work, without the stand, we would not have a basketball team. This holds true for other events as well.

© 2014 Glimmer Twin Fan

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billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great suggestions. I was in charge of many concessions stands during my time teaching, and you hit all the major points with this one.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Hi Bill - I'm back from another hiatus. Nice weather tends to draw me away from the computer. I bet you helped out a lot at concession stands. Glad you stopped by to read and comment. Have a great day!

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is done up so professional looking. Great job with very good info! ^

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 2 years ago from USA

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan! Another great hub - this hub really has a lot of wonderful information that would be useful for a lot of groups and organizations. Voted up and pinned :)

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

These are wonderful and very practical suggestions! And you covered almost every little item. Thanks!

Voted up and shared on HP!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Thanks Jackie! That is so nice of you to say. One of my favorite things about HubPages is the formatting options so I like to play with them. Have a lovely day!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Thanks so much purl3agony - I hope it helps some groups. It really is amazing how much money some of these stands can make. I think about how many times I buy a bottle of water when I am at a school sporting event and kids love to buy things from them. I appreciate the support and hope you have a great day!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

This reads like A Complete Guide To . . . No going wrong by following this tutorial. Very helpful details all the way to Possible Problems. Voted Up!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

I appreciate your kind comments ChitrangadaSharan - I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Hi MsDora - What nice comments to wake up to. Hopefully it will help lots of school groups. Thanks for your support!

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

Very useful. I've ran concession on many occasions. All good advice.

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

Very complete information. It's obvious that you have done this a few times! I can remember working at the Little League concession stand. Our biggest seller was chili cheese and chips served in a little paper bowl.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Thanks Larry - Concession stands can be a pain to run, but they can really bring in the money. I appreciate the comments.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Hi Rochelle - I have done this a few times. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. It seems like chili or tacos always seem to go over well at these types of stands. Thanks for reading.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Concession stands save the lives of many a parent and athlete who didn't have time for food otherwise. Had it not been for concession stands at swim meets and baseball soccer games football games and volleyball games I would have died of starvation or frozen. The concession stand is a good place to be on a cold night, so I highly recommend volunteering.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

You make a really good point tirelesstraveler - during the winter it's nice to get a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a quick bite to eat to warm up. Thanks for reading and commenting.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

Great advice Glimmer. I remember these days well from when my kids were younger. You certainly hit on all the key points to consider. Great job. Voted up, shared, etc..

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Long live the Concession Stands. Great tips. Thanks, GTF!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Thanks Bill - I always dread working the concession stands, but it is always worthwhile in the end. What we do for our kids.... I appreciate all of the support. Hope you are getting ready for another fun trip!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Ha you are so right Rebecca! Concessions stands will always be a staple at school events. Thanks for stopping by!

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Excellent idea. Schools always need money for something.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Hi aviannovice - It's pretty sad how little money schools have these days. So these do help out quite a bit. Thanks for stopping by.

joedolphin88 profile image

joedolphin88 2 years ago from north miami FL

Wish I knew this in school. I guess one day when I have children I'll be successful at it. Thank you for the advice

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Thanks for reading and commenting joedolphin88. I hope the article comes in handy.

vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

This would be a fun, tiring and successful project. I like the idea of candy since that would minimize clean up. This is very useful information. Thanks!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago Author

Hi vespawoolf - It is a lot of work for everyone involved. A successful one is run by dedicated volunteers. Glad you found the hub useful. Thanks for stopping by.

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