Five Tips For Running A Successful Food Festival Booth

My BFF for the day fried chicken.

My BFF for the day fried chicken.

It's (almost) summer, summer, summertime.  Whether you're a savvy diner or service industry saint, you've likely already been hitting the circuit because festival season is in full swing.

Here in Richmond, our big street food festival, Broad Appetit, draws an estimated 20,000 people to sample $3 small plates from a collective of over 100 restaurants and vendors.

I walked the event, I took a few mental notes and had some takeaways as I joined my resto friends in slinging fried chicken to the masses.

1. Less Is More

If this is your first time working the festival circuit as a restaurant owner, keep it down to one or two of your very best items.  You'd rather wow the crowds with those showstoppers than try to plate ten separate dishes.  It will save you and your team a headache.

2. Talk About Your Restaurant!

People in your line have complete tunnel vision and are so focused on the transaction.  You're investing staffing and maybe even shutting down your restaurant to be at this event.  Consider it a marketing expense and treat it as such -- extend that invitation to come in the door to every guest in line and make sure they know who you are, where you are, and what you're about.

I was surprised -- even the most popular of restaurants had plenty, and I mean plenty of new folks that had never stepped foot.  And with an estimated 20,000 people, that's a big opportunity to drive new traffic to your spot.

3. Have Print Collateral

There's a lot going on at these festivals and it's sensory overload.  Yes, you just had that conversation about your restaurant, but some people love a tangible takeaway.  Even if it's a menu that you printed in the office - have a little something for your new friends.  If you are investing in printed collateral, I always, always recommend to my clients making something you can use again).  It can even be a business card.

4. Find Your Staffing Flow

You're in a tent, it's hot, it's crammed, it's chaotic and if you have one person talking to 500 people, they will turn into a zombie within hours (for real fact for even the biggest of extroverts).  Make sure you line up shifts and enough people to switch-off cash handling, plating, and food running or clean-up.

5. Holding A Line Isn't The Worst!

In those moments when we were talking to our festival goers while plating their food and getting that opportunity to genuinely interact, things felt much smoother.  A 30-second transaction where someone feels taken care of instead of a 15-second transaction where someone is tossed a plate is ultimately more meaningful for both the customer and your business.  I noticed that when we were pre-plating, we would get through the line quickly only to get back down to zero and have to speed through again.  

Do you have any tips for navigating food festivals?  Share them here. 

Thanks for the photo Christine!

Kevin ClayArchive