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A supplier's guide to festival catering

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Written by

Melanie Griffiths

Content Lead

As our Content Lead with 10 years experience in content creation, chances are Melanie's had something to do with most things you read on the platform.

A long-standing team member, she's been with Togather since the company's early days and can be found eating her way through London's food markets at the weekend.

Published on Mon 23 November 2020

If you’ve been successful in your application for a pitch at a festival, congratulations!

It’s now time to turn your thoughts to the festival itself and put yourself in the best position to make your time there a success.

With over 100 public-facing events under our belt, we’ve identified the common trends seen from food and drink vendors that really knock it out of the park.

If you want to be a part of some of the UK's biggest events and festivals you can apply through our partner page here.

Prepare the right amount of stock

As you gain festival experience, understanding how much stock you need does get easier. Start by preparing the amount of stock you’d need to sell to determine the festival a success from a financial perspective. So, if you need to sell 1000 units in order to make a profit, order enough stock to cover this.

Make sure you get a good idea of the number of festival attendees. It’s always worth speaking to other food vendors who serve similar products to get an idea of what they’ve experienced too.

Be clever with what you sell

Smaller menus make it easier to predict stock levels, putting you in a better position to make a profit. It also means the number of portions you can serve in an hour will likely increase as you become more efficient at making fewer things. Most importantly though, it will make it easier for customers to make a choice rather than move on and look elsewhere.


Have branding and design that stands out

You can read a menu from five meters away, but you can spot a vendor that stands out way back from the campsite. Having the best menu in the world is one thing, but if you’re not attracting festival-goers to come and have a look, you’ll inevitably lose out.

Good branding and design isn’t confined to just your logo, think about your truck, the uniform you and your staff wear, how you display your menu and signage too.

Offer samples

The oldest trick in the book, and the best marketing technique, is offering samples. Even if it doesn’t work the first time around, the next time someone is deciding where to grab food from, they might just remember you and better still, bring 5 of their friends too.

Make your prices obvious

Don’t hide your prices away. Make them clear and obvious to help passers-by make a decision between your business and the hundreds of other vendors on-site.

Festival catering

Be charismatic

As the old saying goes, people like buying from other people and a friendly team are undoubtedly going to create a memorable experience and encourage repeat business.

Use it as a marketing opportunity

Where else would you get the opportunity of a weekend of brand exposure to hundreds of thousands of people? Two or three days at a festival could potentially bring you more customers than the rest of the year combined.

Make sure to have your social media branding on your truck and packaging. Clear and obvious branding encourages customers to capture a quick photo of your product and spread the word about your business (tagged photos are great for sparking brand awareness!). And who knows, they could be about to have their wedding and think you’d be a perfect fit!

Always keep loose change

Most people will likely pay via contactless but you need to have a good amount of change for cash buyers. Get to the bank and exchange some notes for change but do so in accordance with your pricing.

If you’re charging £8.99, consider rounding the price up for ease. No one wants to carry 1p round with them.

4 ways to measure success at a festival

Once the festival is done and dusted, it’s time to sit down and establish whether it’s been a success. Success can be determined in numerous ways and this process is important to help to make your next festival experience even better. Here's our guide to determining success.

1. How much money did you make?

Did you come out in the green? If not, were there any errors in your early predictions? Consider if you got the amount of stock you ordered right, if you attracted as many customers as you thought, and if you could have done anything differently.

If you did come out of the festival turning a profit, was it by the skin of your teeth or do you now feel ready for your next, perhaps larger festival?

If this is your third or fourth success in a row, it could be time to think about expanding and getting more trucks to attend more festivals.

2. Did you grow your brand?

The number of followers you have isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s still important for brand awareness and perception. Festivals are a great marketing opportunity and growing your social presence could be a key success factor.

You can also track how many repeat vs new customers you gained over the festival. Payment providers such as iZettle and Airslip make this possible through their POS systems and such analysis will highlight what you might be able to improve or do differently in your marketing efforts.

3. Did you get it right operationally?

How close to your original estimations were you? Did you have the right amount of staff to deliver the number of portions you needed to make a profit? Were you close to your stock projections or did you fall short?

It’s only with experience that you really nail down the operations, but it’s vital you make a note and track the changes you make to see if you’re getting closer next time round.

4. Did you enjoy it?

Was the festival you’ve always dreamed of what you imagined it to be? Even if you turned a profit, if you didn’t enjoy the experience, you could consider applying for something different the following year.

If you're interested in applying to some of the UK's largest festivals through Togather, you can apply here.

Papi Churro