Running a Concession Stand

by Lisa Kudva

Every chess player who has been to a tournament has had experiences with buying snacks or drinks at a concession stand. If you are a tournament organizer who is participating in running a concession stand, you need to look at it with a different perspective. Is your tournament a fundraiser for a school or a non-profit organization? If so, you have lots of opportunities to get almost all your concessions provided to you for free. You just need to plan ahead and be prepared to do some extra legwork and paperwork. Other items can be purchased in bulk to reduce expenses.

Here are some tips based on my experience:

  1. About 3 months prior to the event, contact the school where the event is held to get a letter stating that the tournament will be held there and that certain concessions are needed. This letter can be generic, but needs to include the school’s or organization’s tax ID number. The letter must be written on the school’s or organization’s letterhead. You can write the letter yourself if you get a copy of the school’s letterhead, if the administrators are agreeable. It needs the signature of the administrator to make it official.
  2. At about the same time, contact various stores, such as Winco, Costco, Safeway, Albertsons, Thriftway, Pizza places, Subway, and Starbucks to let them know you will be asking for donated concessions. Some chain stores only offer concessions at certain locations. It is important to know which one can deal with your request. Get an idea from each store after delivering the letter from the school/organization as to how much they will provide.
  3. Ask the PTO of the school to help out with the running of the concession stand on the Tournament day. If this is a school fund raiser, then you will be likely to get extra help in running the stand during the event.
  4. Cannot get all of your concessions donated? Your next best bet is to get them in bulk from Costco and other wholesale stores. With concessions, I found buying less than you think you will need. For example, I found that only one 36 can container of soda was enough when I thought I needed two for a 100 – 200 person event.
  5. Lunch time is a good time for making some extra cash. Pizza is the most favorite lunch food of all. I found that ordering 20 large pizzas for 100 people and 40 large pizzas for 200 people was plenty enough.
  6. Price the items reasonably. Do not charge higher than in the market. People can always drive a few minutes if they feel they are not getting a fair deal.
  7. Reduce the prices of items not sold by 2 hours before the tournament ends. This avoids having leftover pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next three days!