One of the parents on our team [strike]went through a mid-life crisis[/strike] bought a 18’ trailer smoker/barbeque off eBay last year for $3k, and it’s just kind of gone on from there. Right now, this parent does a lot of smaller events like car shows by himself. For the larger country fairs and off-season competitions, the robotics team actively helps him. Depending on the fair rules, sometimes 100% of the profits have to benefit a non-profit (our team), but at other fairs the robotics team goes 50-50 with Big Country Hickory Pit BBQ.
Since he runs the show, he has the food preparation license, as well as a business ID that allows him to go straight to restaurant and wholesale food suppliers and buy large quantities of food and beverages through them. We also have a team alumni who is culinary school, and also has a food preparation license. AFAIK, the CT regulations state that everyone working in the food booth does not need a food preparation license, as long as at least one person who has one is there at all times.
The prices we charge are about consistent with all the other main food vendors at the country fairs, but they are cheaper than many of the concession stands I’ve seen at the Championships and various Regionals. Here’s a list of all prices from the Where’s Wolcott off-season competition:
(At our upcoming fairs, this will be replaced with a fancy banner with all the products cut out on our team’s vinyl cutter, which is something I have to finish at tonight’s meeting. ;))
The first event we did was the relatively small (about 60k-100k people) Meriden Daffodil Festival in our town in 2007, and again in 2008. Both years we made about $4k over the three days. Between the three upcoming fairs (which have a combined total of over 500,000 people on average), we expect to make somewhere in the five-digit range for our team.
Because these fairs are a large time commitment, everyone on the team - whether student, parent, or mentor - who works at least 20 hours between the three fairs will get a significant travel stipend for any out of state competitions from the profits. The rest will be divided into capital improvements for our team (DROs for our milling machine and a powder-coating oven ;)) and building up our rainy day fund again, which we would like to invest in something with a better-than-rate-of-inflation interest rate (like a bank CD).
And while we’ve tried other fundraisers in the past, like candy bars or Entertainment Books, the students often lose interest after a week or two. However, the students have shown us time and time again that they stay focused and have fun and really enjoy at the BBQ Fundraisers.
All in all, this is the result of a very long business plan of our team this year (along with incorporating as our own 501©3 non-profit), to make it easier to support ourselves in case we ever lose a major sponsor again (We did in 2004 due to company outsourcing, and it nearly bankrupted the team several times over the next few seasons, as well as completely drained the previous rainy day fund).
Here’s a photo of everything all set up at Where’s Wolcott. We are going to have the same for our upcoming fairs, but with large banners across the front and sides of the tent.