Mobile WFO Questions

I’ve been reading posts here for months, absorbing information and hoping to not post blatant “noob” questions. I appreciate everyone who posts here, and I have to thank you all for the knowledge I’ve gained reading this forum.

I’ve been working on plans to start a mobile WFO business, at first a side business to learn how to do it, figure out and fix early mistakes, and see if I like it. I may take it full time later. I’ve never worked in a restaurant and I don’t have any desire to have a brick-and-mortar place.

I have a few questions:

I’ve determined that I would need to buy frozen dough in order to comply with health regulations, since food cannot be prepared in a home and I lack facilities to do food prep. Everything has to be prepared onsite at the event. I’m sure there are a lot of opinions on this, but can frozen dough produce a good product? Are there any brands that are recognized as being very good or not so good?

It seems to me that in this business dough management is probably very challenging. One needs to predict sales and thaw the right amount of dough. You can’t refreeze the dough and if doing only weekend events, the dough won’t be good for the next weekend. There’s a significant risk of loss. I know this is probably restaurant management 101; any words of wisdom?

Do foodservice supply companies not like working with smaller, less frequent customers like I would be in the beginning? Any challenges in this area?

I’m curious if there are other mobile WFO operators here, and what your ratio of fair and festival events versus catering events (i.e. parties, wedding receptions, etc.) is like. When I first started looking at this I was focused on just fairs and festivals, but it seems to me that to really develop this into a livable income, you need to do catering. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Yes, you can make a great pizza with frozen dough, the biggest detractor to frozen dough is the fact that it isn’t fermented so the flavor of the crust will only be OK, but don’t let that bother you, with your concept your pizzas will be served and consumer hot, and essentially all hot pizzas are great tasting. Just work with your oven to get a crispy crust and I think you’ll be just fine. Experiment with dough from different suppliers to see if you like one over another (do this AFTER you have your trailer and oven). Check into the licensing required for you to sell from different locations. If you cross state lines expect to be licensed in more than one state, also check on city or county licensing to if you plan to sell pizzas across your state.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I’ve been doing mobile vending for 20 years and would recommend keeping your day job while getting your feet wet. The business is becoming increasingly competitive while event fees are raised to the point that shows are not worth participating in. The trickiest part is finding viable shows. GL

I just got told by one of my clients, that some of the events they attend are charging up to 25% to get it…That seems insane to me…But they have been traveling for years and get to spend winters where there is no snow…

Gets worse then that sometimes. My first show of the year was $2,000 flat fee to participate and I did $4,000 gross.

I took a good look at mobile pizza a few years ago and purchased a trailer mounted gas deck oven. The shows I looked at were charging 20-30% of sales as mentioned above. I did not have much problem with that. The way I looked at it, the show provides space, utilities, trash service and best of all marketing. In that type of environment, selling slices at event prices, food runs under 20% and labor can be less than 15%. All in all the math works pretty well. It is the ones with high minumums that were more of a concern to me. I suppose the events have dealt with enough cheating vendors that they are leary of % deals.

In a well set up booth at a busy show, I figured I could sell 2000 slices at $4.00 each plus sodas, candy bars, brownies, chips etc for a max of about 10K and do it with five crew. A more typical show would be 600 slices and a 3K total.