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What Is a Snack Bar?

By Mary Ellen Popolo
Updated May 16, 2024
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A snack bar is a small casual food establishment serving light and easy foods, snacks and beverages. The menu is usually limited, offering only foods that are quick and easy to prepare to ensure that they can be served to the customer with a short turnaround time. They can be found at assorted public places such as pools, beaches, recreational fields, and movie theaters.

Typically, a snack bar has limited or no inside seating, although some may have a counter with stools or outdoor seating. Many snack bars have a walk up window where customers place their order from a menu. Their food is prepared and then passed to them through the window. Counter-type snack bars, like those at movie theaters, allow patrons to place and receive their orders at the counter. Snack bars do not have waiters or waitresses to serve food to the customers, instead, in most instances, the same person who takes the patron's order, delivers the food to them at the window or counter.

The menu is usually very basic. Beverages choices may consist of canned or bottled drinks, such as water, juice, soda, or fountain-served drinks. Food choices are generally easy to prepare and quick to serve. Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and French fries are foods commonly found at a snack bar. Cold foods, including salads and sandwiches, may also be on the menu.

These establishments wouldn't be called "snack bars" if they didn't offer a selection of snack foods. Candy bars, cookies, and soft pretzels are some snacks that one might find at a snack bar. Bagged snacks such as potato chips and pretzels are other choices that are generally available. Some snack bars, especially those in a cinema, have their own popcorn maker to pop and serve fresh popcorn. Yogurt and fresh fruit are options that may be offered to customers looking for a healthy treat.

Ice cream treats are another snack commonly found at a snack bar, especially at one located at a pool or beach area. Choices typically include pre-packaged ice cream novelties like ice pops, ice cream sandwiches, and small cups of ice cream. Some snack stands may have a soft serve ice cream machine that offers the option of either a cup or cone, but the assortment of toppings to choose from may be limited.

A snack bar is also referred to as a concession stand. A concession stand, however, is usually much larger and has a larger menu, such as those found at sporting arenas and concert halls. A snack truck, or mobile snack bar, is another type of snack stand which has all of its purchasable items on a truck that travels from one location to another.

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