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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.