What equipment do you need to start a concession stand?

The equipment you need to start and run a successful concession stand depends on what you're serving and from where you're serving it.
In this post, we'll stay broad and discuss equipment and supplies used to prepare and serve popular concession stand food like:

Tips for Choosing Concession Equipment and Supplies

It may be easy to decide what concession equipment you'll need, but the range of offerings can be intimidating once you start shopping. The same holds with concession supplies. Keeping the following factors in mind while you're shopping will help you make better choices:

  • Choose high-quality products that are well-built and will last for years.
  • Equipment that is energy efficient will save you money in the long run on utility bills.
  • Make a budget and stick with it. It's easy to say you'll only overspend on one or two things, and before you know it, you're thousands of dollars over budget.
  • Find trustworthy suppliers that give you high-quality offerings at reasonable prices.
  • When comparing prices between suppliers, be sure to look for hidden fees like shipping and lift gate charges.
  • If you're worried about affording everything, consider your financing options.
  • Create a list of the equipment and supplies you need. Consider your menu, how you'll serve items, and what extras customers may expect. Remember the equipment and supplies you'll need to prep, close, and clean.
  • Extended warranties on equipment that's expensive or that you can't operate without can give you an extra layer of protection and give you one less thing to worry about.

What Equipment and Supplies do You Need for a Concession Stand?

The equipment and supplies you need for your concession stand can be divided into several categories.

What Cooking and Warming Equipment do You Need for a Concession Stand?

  • Fryers: Deep-fried food is often the backbone of a concession stand's menu. But the type of fryer you need depends on what you're making, how much of it you're making, and what kind of power you can access. Fryers can be powered by electricity, gas, or liquid propane and come in two broad categories: floor fryers and countertop fryers. Beyond that, a big determiner is the type of pot the fryer has. Open pot fryers have a V-shaped frying area that gives you an easily cleaned sediment zone. Tube-style fryers retain and regain their heat faster because the heating elements are in the oil. Flat-bottom fryers are specialized for food with wet batter or dough, like doughnuts and funnel cakes. Pressure fryers combine pressure cooker techology with a deep fryer, decreasing cooking times. Pressure fryers are usually used for fried chicken.
  • Hot dog cookers: These specialized machines are designed for cooking hot dogs and sausages. They allow hot dogs to be cooked and warmed while your employees do other things and grab a cooked sausage to serve immediately. Roller grills are popular models that use rotating heated cylinders to roll and cook hot dogs evenly. Cradle-style broilers use a Ferris wheel-like device to move hot dogs through a cooking environment. Hot dog steamers often have separate dedicated areas for the sausages and buns. Some roller grill and cradle-style broilers also have built-in bun drawers. For models that can't hold buns, separate bun boxes are available.
  • Popcorn machines: Unless you want to toss a bag of popcorn in the microwave every time someone orders it, having a popcorn popper in your concession stand will let you serve your customers faster. The smell of popcorn can also help attract customers.
Hot dog sausages on turning roller grill. Moisture and grease on the hot dogs are highlighted by light hitting the machine.Hot dog sausages on turning roller grill. Moisture and grease on the hot dogs are highlighted by light hitting the machine.

The type of cooking equipment your concession stand needs depends on your menu and where you cook and serve food. 

  • Grills: For indoor locations, this can include charbroilers or griddles. A commercial outdoor grill is an excellent choice for cooking burgers, hot dogs, and other items if you can cook outside. A charbroiler and outdoor grill will give your food a smokey flavor that customers crave and leave attractive grill marks.
A small potato sits on the blades of a manual french fry cutter.A small potato sits on the blades of a manual french fry cutter.

What Food Preparation Equipment Should Concession Vendors Have?

Before you cook your food, you'll need to do some prep work. At the very least, you'll need some utensils or other smallwares to help you cook.

  • Quality: Choose durable products that will last as long as you need them. You don't want to replace condiment dispensers every month, and you want to avoid plastic utensils that snap every time someone uses them. Choose plates and bowls that will stand up to your food's weight, heat, and moisture.
  • Convenience: Look for products that are easy to store and transport, like individually wrapped utensils or condiment packets.
  • Sustainability: To reduce waste, consider environmentally friendly options, such as biodegradable or compostable paper products.
  • Cost: Evaluate the price of each product and determine the best balance between quality and affordability.

What Refrigeration Equipment do Concession Stands Need?

Keeping your ingredients and premade food cold before cooking is critical to keeping your customers safe. When considering what refrigeration equipment to purchase, consider size, capacity, and accessibility.

Ketchup being pumped from a condiment dispenser onto a grilled onion covered hot dog, with a checkered tablecloth in the background.Ketchup being pumped from a condiment dispenser onto a grilled onion covered hot dog, with a checkered tablecloth in the background.
A young woman with sunglasses on eats a snow cone in front of a concession stand.A young woman with sunglasses on eats a snow cone in front of a concession stand.
  • Ice machines: You'll need ice to put in cups when serving drinks. An ice machine will make ice for you all day and store it in an insulated ice bin.
  • Beverage Dispensers: A refrigerated beverage machine allows you to sell ice-cold drinks to your customers at the turn of a spigot. Keep your customers cool with a snow cone machine or slushies from a granita machine.

What Type of Point of Sale and Payment System should Concession Stands Have?

When choosing cash-handling equipment for your concession stand, the best option depends on your specific needs and preferences. Below are some factors to consider when making a decision:

  • Transaction volume: Consider the volume of transactions you expect to handle in a day and choose a cash register or credit card payment system accordingly.

What Serving Supplies do Concession Stands Need?

Popular serving supplies you should consider keeping on hand are paper or disposable plates, disposable serving bowls, takeout boxes, napkins and napkin dispensers, straws, cups, plastic utensils, squeeze bottles and holders, salt and pepper shakers, and other condiment holders and dispensers and caddies. When you're purchasing consumable supplies for your concession stand, make sure you keep the following in mind:

  • Security: Make sure your chosen system provides secure transactions and protects against fraud.
  • Ease of use: Choose a user-friendly and simple system, so your staff and customers can handle transactions smoothly.
  • Integration: Some point-of-sale systems integrate with inventory systems or have their own built-in. This makes keeping track of your inventory and reordering simpler.

In addition, it's important to have a secure system to store cash and other valuables overnight or during the shift like a safe.

What Awnings and Tenting Should Concession Stands Have?

When setting up an outdoor concession stand, it's important to have proper shade and shelter from the elements for customers and employees. Awnings and tenting can provide this protection. When choosing an awning or tent for your concession stand, consider the following:

  • Size: Ensure the awning or tent is large enough to cover the entire stand and provide enough shade for customers.
  • Material: Look for a durable, waterproof, and weather-resistant material to protect against rain, wind, and sun.
  • Set-up: Make sure the tent or awning you buy is easy to set up and take down.
  • Branding: Add branding or signage to your awning or ten to promote your concession stand.
  • Cost: Look for an awning or tent that fits within your budget.

There are many options for an awning or tenting for outdoor concession stands; choose the one that meets your needs and fits your budget.