DES MOINES, Iowa — Food vendors at the Iowa State Fair may not have it as easy as you would think. There are a lot of steps to getting to the fair that start months in advance.
Food vendors need to apply to the fair to get a spot and when they do they need to submit all of their menu items and pricing. Because the prices are set ahead of time they aren’t able to adjust for supply cost increases due to inflation.
Some vendors like Mandy White with Bettie’s Footlongs, a longtime fair staple, wish that they could go back and raise prices a bit as they locked in their prices in July. However, they are not strangers to supply chain issues.
“I wish we would have raised our prices a bit knowing what we do now but we’re not going to be in the red so to speak so it just cuts things a little closer,” White said, “but last year we had a different vendor because of COVID and this year we had to find another provider for other ingredients. So it’s kind of all balancing out.”
One thing that also cuts into food vendors’ bottom lines is the fair’s cut of the profits. The Iowa State Fair takes a portion of all sales the food vendors make.
“Every morning you have to go up and pay your privilege or your percentage that morning by a certain time to the fair,” White said.
Another added cost to food vendors is card transaction fees.
However, for Bettie’s Footlongs, it’s not all about the money. White lost her brother in 2018 and took a bigger role in running the stand since then. One thing that surprised her was the fair community that came to pay their respects.
“That blew my mind, like I didn’t know you could establish such great relationships in such a short amount of time. Whether it’s customers or other vendors out here it’s truly you have your fair family,” White said.
With more than one million people expected to attend the Iowa State Fair this year, food vendors are ready to feed hungry Iowans.