Fun Biz concessions creating gourmet destinations with innovative presentation and quality cuisine

For many players in the fair sector, after the confinement of 2020, 2021 was a year of return. With heavy spending at most fairs, many midstream businesses have had profitable, albeit very stressful, seasons. For Nate and Stephanie Janousek, the couple behind Fun Biz Concessions Inc., 2021 was more than a comeback, it was a breakthrough.
The couple had been on the side of mid-market food and beverage distributors since the early to mid-2000s, Fun Biz was founded in 2013 and gradually gained a reputation for innovative presentation, quality foods and thinking outside the box, resulting in creating memorable dining destinations.

The couple, who have a long-standing contract with Ray Cammack Shows (RCS), have created large-scale concepts at the Minnesota State Fair and the State Fair of Texas. In breaking news, the company announced that it has formed a partnership to provide food concessions for Carnival Americana throughout the 2022 season.

Complete contract

The most recent turning point came during Cheyenne Frontier Days 2021 — one of the biggest outdoor events held in Wyoming last year — which drew 267,369 people. Sales were up 14% from 2019. Known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo” and by its famous nickname, “The Daddy of ‘Em All”, the 2021 edition also featured music superstars country Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton.

Fun Biz Concessions had the contract for all food and beverage dispensers, including midway and grandstand, a total of 55 booths, according to Nate Janousek. The 2020 Cheyenne Frontier Days, which would have been the first year of a multi-year contract, has been canceled due to COVID. But Fun Biz Concessions hosted a drive-thru event – Frontier Food Days – that both kept this beloved event alive for the community through the year of lockdown in 2020 and whet the appetite for the year ahead. to come.

In the local press, Nate Janousek was quoted: “We wanted to make people aware that for the 125th dad of all, the Frontier Days Rodeo event, there are all new concessions.”

The strategy has worked, further fueled by the pent-up demand and robust spending that has dominated the US for most of 2021. “We’ve had huge momentum in Cheyenne,” Stephanie Janousek said. “We doubled what we hoped to do. We went there a little blind to what we could do or if people would participate, but they had a huge entertainment lineup and a sold out rodeo.

For much of the 2021 season, the company traveled with three units, playing a series of dates with RCS as well as other intermediaries. But the units eventually converge for the company’s larger footprint gigs. Frontier Days may have been its only exclusive food and beverage deal, but Fun Biz Concessions ends its season with two large-scale operations at the Minnesota State Fair and the Texas State Fair. .

In Minnesota, the Hangar is a repurposed aircraft building, originally built in 1909 and the centerpiece of the North End’s multimillion-dollar renovation project that reimagined historic buildings, helping fuel record growth of the Great Get Together in recent years. Fun Biz Concessions had secured a spot on the fair’s menus with its flagship product – Texas Steak Out, a barbequed beef purveyor. The Hangar expanded the menu and offered craft drinks curated by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, as well as indoor seating and entertainment.

According to Stephanie Janousek, when the fair was looking for a new concept for the facility, “we flew up there and it was a huge building and I was like oh my God, it was from the turn of the last century when they had the l we used to have airplane shows in the beginning. That’s when the Hanagar concept was born. The Minnesota State Fair was the biggest fair we held, and doing something to this scale was daunting, considering that the first year over 2 million people came to the fair.

Big-Tex dinner

The State Fair of Texas was one of the first fairs for the Texas Steak Out concept to appear in any form. As the fair looked for new ideas to reinvent part of the park, the Janouseks once again used nostalgia as a gateway to new fair food inventions. They recycled shipping containers into a two-story dining room, with VIP service and quality food, bringing a contemporary steam-punk and hipster vibe that proved to be a hit.

Melanie Linnear, vice president of food and beverage, State Fair of Texas, credits the concession couple with designing this unique culinary addition to the Lone Star State’s annual tradition. The Fun Biz concept for the Backyard Steak-Out & Pizzeria was selected from dozens of proposals to develop what she described as “an underutilized area on our land…Each interested supplier submitted their proposals and concepts for design to a panel and went through a question-and-answer session. Fun Biz Concessions created and designed the cargo container concept… The State Fair was interested in the cargo container concept as well as the different food and beverage selections and entertainment elements incorporated into the area. Fun Biz was therefore selected to develop this area. .”

“We are truly partners in the fair,” said Nate Janousek, who points out that the facility includes a VIP section with special suites and catering, much like the Luxury Boxes at sports stadiums for private parties. “We’ve hosted VIP events for artists, sponsors, governors, mayors, and famous people. There’s a certain kind of customer who wants that experience.”

Catering ranges from shellfish and prime rib platters to special requests for more corndogs, funnel cakes, and other more authentic dishes. “We have a special concierge service and respond to all their requests.”

In addition to premium Texas Steak Out beef dishes, the fair added Spud Ranch, Texas Tater Twisters, Corn Dogs, Funnel Cakes, ice cream and wood-fired pizza. With food, presentation can be fun and tantalizing, but quality ingredients and innovative creation remain the focus. “We use certified Angus beef. We rub our own chest. What we offer the customer is an experience, starting with the quality of our food. That’s why we started getting booked because of our BBQ racks, and we built a following and a brand.

Half way love

The pair met halfway – Nate earned a philosophy degree from Augustana College in the midst of the 2006 economic recession and, needing a job, went to work for a personal friend who was a dealer and who was soon managing a series of stalls. at fairs and other outdoor events in the southwest. Midways was already in Stephanie’s DNA, she is the daughter of Steve & Pat Vandervorste of SJ Entertainment, a Texas-based carnival company.

Although she spent summers working her family’s itinerary, after earning a business and math degree from Notre Dame, she worked for most of her twenties in web design and marketing. . “A wise cousin once told me that carnival is all you’ve really ever known, go get some experience of the outside world,” she said. “But I knew my heart and soul were in the carnival business. That’s where my passion lies.”

The eureka moment came at an IAAPA show when she saw a spiral potato cutter. “That sparked something. I knew it was a whole new concept for American fair concessions.

In 2022, Fun Biz Concessions is set to have its biggest season yet. The company made a name for itself by transforming food stalls into foodie destinations, but the reimagining of the mid-sale was the result of not only hard work and creativity, but also a redefinition of the relationship. between the dealer and the fair. “It’s about building relationships, writing long-term goals and short-term goals, achieving those goals creatively. During the first years, we put everything back into the company. We have continuously invested, made capital improvements. It took us 10 years to get to Cheyenne where we had the whole contract. Just because things have always been like this doesn’t mean it should continue like this. Why can’t food concessions have as close a relationship with fairs as intermediary companies? »

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