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George's Fun Foods Keeps Deep-Rooted Fair Traditions Alive

George's Fun Foods - Serving at the Minnesota State Fair
George's two year old Schantz Frozen Banana trailer occupied a new location at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair

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Based in Gibsonton Florida, George's Fun Foods is on a mission to serve great fair fare and have fun while they are at it. Marketed with the tagline “Superior Food service with a Smile,” the company truly has an appreciation for each and every guest and takes pride in serving others.

Founded by Joseph George in 1901, George's Fun Foods started out as one small food stand that sold corn dogs. Today, the business features 25 concessions and serves fairs and carnivals throughout the Midwest and Southeast.

“It was a little ten by ten corn dog stand and we also sold fresh-made lemonade,” said Richie George, reflecting fondly on the beginnings of his great-grandfather's business.

What his grandfather started years ago has grown into something quite remarkable today. Since the company's inception, the goal has continued to be to serve high quality products at fair prices, while offering fantastic customer service and guaranteed satisfaction.

“Our fun food brings a lot of fun and different food to the table,” said George. “We have the traditional foods –  like hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey legs, funnel cake and cotton candy – and then things like deep-fried strawberry shortcake on a stick.”

Other concession options include open pit barbecue, pizza, Cajun chicken, ice cream, Cuban cuisine, the 'American Diner' experience and even a 'Candy Factory,' which offers treats like popcorn and caramel or candied apples.

But food is only part of what has molded the company into a highly successful business. It's the people behind the scenes who truly enable George's Fun Foods to shine.

“We bring a lot of family values to the table and are vested in the industry,” George shared. “My family and I are vested and care a lot about the industry and having people always have fun. We train our team members thoroughly, sending them to learn the ins and outs of the business.”

He added that a big perk to his job is bringing a fresh vibe to the industry – helping customers have fun, encouraging singing and dancing. “My daughter, nieces and nephew will be taking over and I also want them to continue to be vested in the company, listen to the consumers, grow new ideas,” he said.

Of course, maintaining a business isn't always all fun and games. Some of the biggest challenges George said he has come across have been related to the weather and personnel.

“But the new H-2B visa program is helping the industry,” he added. “Foreign labor is committed.”

As the industry transforms, George's Fun Foods rolls with the times and adapts as well.

“It is changing like everywhere else,” George said. “For example, we used to use the old cash boxes and now everything is turning to the Cloud, POS and credit card machines. Credit card use is a big percentage of sales. It's around 50% right now and will no doubt rise to 100%. As cash is used less, we have to think of new ways of operation,” he continued. “When you continue to do things the old-school way – if you are raised five generations one way, and you don't change –  you are going to get passed up. We definitely want to continuously strive to enhance the industry and bring more unique products to the consumer, helping them make new memories.”

George places strong emphasis on the fact that his company is a family business and is not there to take money from customers. He said he and his family make it a priority to care deeply about the industry and the people they serve.

“We have to work with legislators, politicians, the local community and show them that we are here and we do care. The Showmen's Association does care. Our industry is out here, and we have a lot of great things to offer. There are so many free and educational programs.”

George aims to keep the legacy of the George's Fun Foods going and not lose sight of all that is special about the fair industry.

“It's those moments like when a baby gets his or her first taste of a cotton candy or corn dog – or the first ride on a merry-go-around – those smiles from ear to ear, they make it all worth it,” he said. “This is worth it. That's why we do what we do, to see people have fun. I am proud to have been a part of it all for so long. It's a special industry, one of a kind, and the greatest business in the world,” he added. “I have the biggest family and making all those memories is all worthwhile. I would never trade it, not for a million dollars.”
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