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Food Vendors

Hello Ragbrai-ers! Our organization will be hopefully an offical food vendor stop at an overnight stop. Just looking for some ideas as to what YOU would love to see served. I’m aware of the traditional spaghetti meals but don’t you get sick of that? What else are some ideas you feel would be nice to have. Thanks for your help!

12 Replies

Michrider !!!, March 8, 2017 at 9:48 am

I like Iowa Beef!!!

BTW RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


RDaryl Daryl, March 8, 2017 at 10:11 am

Keep it simple. Do what you do best.
Accept advice/suggestions from TJ and Scott.
Slow/custom cooking time equals long lines & fewer sales.
Not all people will sit down to eat. Not all your customers are bikers.
I prefer a grab & go sandwich. Rarely take the chips & drink option.
Iowa has the best steaks, pork chops, and beef! I can live on that.
Keep your pricing simple. Bikers don’t like carrying coins.


jwsknk, March 8, 2017 at 10:14 am

like beef & noodles, or chicken & noodles? But probably wont make it in time for either. So many open so early are sold out by the time I get to the overnight, between 6 and 7.


trek2300, March 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm

What your organization serves also depends on how much space you have for seating. If you are cooking in a church or school, you may have a fair amount of seating capacity. In that case, a sit down meal of spaghetti can work well. Maybe you can try multiple sauces (meat, Alfredo. etc.) to set your venue apart from others. If you don’t have seating space, try walk away tacos, pulled pork, tenderloins, or something similar.
If possible, do as much food prep work a day or so in advance so you’re not waiting for meat to cook.
Did I mention dessert? Pie is good, pie a la mode even better.
Remember, having a lot of volunteer servers reduces the lines and increases your sales.


powellpd, March 8, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Hello- I rode RAGBRAI last year. Since I came into the towns later than most riders it was difficult to find anything left for lunch or dinner. Two nights I had no dinner at all. I would also say that some simple food items like hot dogs or hamburgers in addition to other more elaborate items you may serve since that might give us late arrivers an opportunity to get something to eat. Another suggestion is to have enough servers and ability to get food out quickly so the lines do not get too long. For me, after riding all day it’s difficult to stand in a long line waiting to be served. Before I left Florida for Iowa last year, I got $300 in one dollar bills so I wouldn’t need to stand in line waiting for change! Seating for tired riders would be nice, but we didn’t complain if we had to sit on the grass. I read the responses so far and there are great suggestions offered. I have to say, every food vendor I dealt with last year was so gracious and helpful. Thank you for offering to step forward and provide a much needed service for us cyclists. No matter what you decide to put on your menu we will be very appreciative.


Chris Miller, March 8, 2017 at 7:03 pm

I found myself craving “fresh” food…. a good salad….corn on the cob….even good pasta. A church last year had the usual but very good lasagna, along with freshly boiled corn, and decent bread. Excellent and much appreciated. The pie tables helped.
Two of my riding friends still marvel at simple fresh things like tomato sandwiches at one stop….and good quiche at another.
Bone up on marketing……tell folks where you are. We are all lost and famished and looking for directions.


BillSpriggs, March 8, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Since Iowa is known for pork why don’t you think about Carnitas or Chili Verdi. Both could be made in large batches, ready to serve with rice, beans and tortillas.


KenH, March 9, 2017 at 7:49 am

Sarah Kerns: I’m aware of the traditional spaghetti meals but don’t you get sick of that?

I can only speak for myself but not as much as you would think. We are crossing Iowa. On bicycles. Every day we are burning massive amounts of calories compared to what most of us burn on an average day. The thing we desperately need to do when we eat is to shovel all the coal that fits into the maws of the fireboxes that keep our boilers up to steam! We need fuel!! When you come right down to it spaghetti and meat sauce makes pretty good cycling fuel.

You can profitably feed us other things but keep in mind that you are in effect feeding farmers, day laborers, athletes. Simple comfort foods with good nutrition and high calories are what we need and crave. Stuff your great grandmother would feed the field hands. And plenty of it. My biggest problem with the food offerings, especially in overnight towns, is that they sell out before I get there. It seemed to be particularly an issue last year so long about Tuesday I would roll into town, grab my gear and set up my tent quick as I could, and head immediately to supper. Sorry for the smell but niceties like showers come in second to feeding the firebox!! If that didn’t work (but it did) my fallback plan was to leave the gear and tent until later too and just eat as soon as I got to town….

So, I don’t want your organization to be harmed financially by preparing a large amount of food in advance that could go unsold. But do give some thought to how you might set up a “scaleable” operation that could keep bringing in raw materials and preparing new meals for as long as customers are lined up at the doors. Perhaps you can make arrangements with local grocery stores to have supplies on tap if you need them. Perhaps the families in your organization could stock up on materials for your chosen meal that they know they can use up before it goes bad if you don’t need it, but which they can bring to ground zero on RAGBRAI night if the crowds just don’t quit. If you can use all the materials you acquire efficiently, without waste, whether they are needed on RAGBRAI night or not yet serve every customer who knocks on the door that night you will maximize your profits. We come to Iowa for many reasons, helping you financially to serve good causes is one of them.

There is nothing more depressing during RAGBRAI week than to get to the overnight town and find that there is nothing left to eat but the “fair food” in the nightly expo. THAT we get tired of, real fast!!


T. Gap Woo, March 9, 2017 at 8:27 am

KenH: The thing we desperately need to do when we eat is to shovel all the coal that fits into the maws of the fireboxes that keep our boilers up to steam! We need fuel!!

Spoken like a true engineer, Ken. You are truly a silver-tongued devil. Well said!

Sarah Kerns: I’m a “meat-and-potatoes” man. If your organization is planning a sit-down dinner in a hall, grilled chicken/pork/steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for an entree; salad, fruit and rolls for a side; PIE and ice cream for dessert; and, coffee and tea for a drink should do nicely. If you are setting up a booth or small stand, then a selection of meat and veggie wraps and Greek gyros would do well, accompanied by chips or fries and a drink.

Take a lesson from the food vendors who follow the route from town to town: ADVERTISE. Put up roadside signs starting about 15 miles away from your location. This is a great way to get rid of all the political campaign signs that were left over from the last election. Get your children involved in the project by having them do the artwork. They’ll learn some valuable life lessons and will be kept busy while the adults are doing the heavy lifting.

Good luck and best wishes for your success in this venture.

See you along the I-O-Way in July.


Nico ZZZ, March 9, 2017 at 11:29 am

Mr. T. Gap Woo hit on a real problem I saw last year especially along the route – horrible signage or lack of signage. Many signs looked like a kindergarten project gone off the rails. Get the signs up high, as sidewalk sandwich boards will be blocked by all the walking cyclists. Product & Price in big block letters. One morning I found a bar serving at 6:30am, so I had a wonderful Bloody Mary and conversations with the local townsfolk. But no cyclists were in there as the bar didn’t look open. I suggested they prop their door open so people will come in for some healthy Vitamin C! And signage in the window proclaiming they were open and serving Bloody Marys. I think the pass through towns need more guidance from the RAGBRAI/Register team on how to make money off of this herd of cyclists riding into their town ready to eat and drink!


Brian Wallenburg, March 10, 2017 at 6:49 pm

I’m still waiting for a potato bar. Roasters and roasters of spuds with lots of toppings. …with a fresh salad and pie with ice cream!


RustyC, March 11, 2017 at 3:41 pm

It wouldn’t hurt to mention right here, what town you’ll set up in and what your organization’s name is. We’ll come find you if we know ahead of time! Good Luck, and hope to get there before the food is gone.


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