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November 13, 2017 Staff

How to Start Vending Outside Home Improvement Stores like Home Depot

Depending on where you live, you may have noticed a concession trailer or hot dog cart serving outside of a big-box home improvement store like Home Depot and wondered… How can I get my concession business to vend there?

Home Depot’s can be desirable areas to vend because there can be foot traffic in-and-out of the store all day, seven days a week. Home improvement stores attract a wide-range of professionals including contractors, laborers, and even the weekend do-it-yourselfer. In this post, we explore how to get your business approved to vend in these locations, what the process is like, and if it’s the right decision for your business.

Getting Booked in Front of a Home Depot

Many vendors are surprised to find out that there’s more red-tape involved in serving food at a Home Depot or Lowes than one might expect. You can’t simply make a phone call to your local retailer and ask when the best time for your arrival is. You’ve got to go through an application process with a third-party that manages all of the vendors outside of Home Depot’s and other larger retailers nationally.

Young man outside of a Home Depot location.

The organization you’ll need to work with to vend at Home Depot is called Best Vendors. Best Vendors offers a variety food services for businesses including vending machine stocking, break room services, and also book third-party vendors in front of retail stores through their sub-division called Street Eats Limited.

To be considered to vend at these locations, you first need to contact the Street Eats Limited and request an application to vend. Along with the completed application, you will pay a fee associated with this. At the time of writing the fee is about $50.00, but could change in the future. It can take 4 – 8 weeks to get written approval from this company build this time frame into your expectations.

In addition to submitting the applicable keep in mind that your concession trailer or cart must be fully compliant with all local health / fire codes, meet NSF requirements, and certified in food safety courses.

After getting through the approval process, you will learn how much it will cost to vend outside your particular Home Depot or Lowe’s location from Street Eats Limited. Each location has a different set price for renting or leasing the space. The arrangement is almost like having your own rented restaurant space, where you pay a monthly lease fee in exchange for the opportunity to operate here.

Ultimately, you’ll need to determine if going through this process makes sense from a business perspective.  Many vendors determine it’s not worth the effort or expense. Still there are some businesses that find success operating with this arrangement. As with any business arrangement there are advantages and disadvantages that should be considered.

Understanding Your Target Market

Before you move forward with vending outside of a home improvement store there are some things you need to keep in mind. The most important consideration is whether or not your concession food makes sense to sell outside of these retailers.

Do you know your target market?

Monday – Friday you’ll find a lot of folks like contractors, laborers, painters, construction workers and grounds keepers shopping here for work. When these people enter a Home Depot, they usually have a clear goal in mind. Pick up a specific tool or material for the worksite and return to work. These people do not have a lot of time to spare and the faster they return to the job site the better. As a result, if these individuals decide to eat they want something that’s fast, portable, a preferably low cost.

One of the food concepts that has proven to be successful outside of Home Depot’s is the hot dog trailer. Hot dog’s can be served fast and eaten on the go if needed. They are also an affordable meal for any worker. Other menu items with the potential to work well are tacos and pizza.

Bottom line, if you plan to serve food that’s higher end or takes a long time to prepare this will not be the right venue. If you’ve got a 2-gallon can of paint in your right hand and a bag of brushes in the left, you simply aren’t going to be in the right state of mind for a sit-down gourmet lunch.

Other Location Factors

Not all Home Depot or Lowe’s allow food vendors to serve outside their location. If you happen to live in Northern states it’s unlikely you’ll find food vendors at all. Before putting too much effort into the application process, it may save you some time to ask if the store even accepts vendors in front of your location. That will give you a quick red or green light in determining if you should move forward.

Another factor you need to consider if the location will be regularly hosting charitable or other organizations outside of store. While organizations like Boy Scouts of America are wonderful their presence may not be ideal from a business perspective if they are also selling food to raise funds. This is yet another consideration to keep in mind before moving ahead with this location.

In conclusion, if you have a food concept that makes sense for a home-improvement store, vending at these locations can be a profitable option. There are some examples of hot dog vendors that are able to operate profitable businesses outside of a Home Depot for many years. Just like any other vending location, sometimes this strategy can and other times it won’t. We hope this post has given you some additional information on whether or not this spot will work for you.

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