FESTIVAL SERIES: Day 1: A - D Vendor Tips

FESTIVAL SERIES: Day 1: A - D Vendor Tips

Wed Aug 09 2017

Welcome to the first in our series of tips collected from some candid chats with vendors at Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time 2017 (BST), held, as always, in London’s beautiful Hyde Park. If you’re thinking of retailing at festivals or branching out into a pop-up commerce venture, or you’re already doing it but want to do it better, read on. And check in with @BcardBusiness to see when the next in the series is live.

A - Always be prepared

At festivals, anything can happen, and probably will. That’s the message that came loud and clear from Waffle On, The London Po'Boy Company and many other vendors at BST. You might run out of key ingredients or till roll during a peak time, have to deal with a power outage, or struggle to find time to train up a last-minute replacement staff member on the payment technology you’re using. Whatever it is, our open, honest and highly talented vendors had two key pieces of advice:

  1. Build a vendor community at every festival, food market or pop-up location.
  2. Work with trusted partners in everything from food suppliers to payment solutions, who are as much about service support as they are about technology and innovation.

B - Brand isn’t everything

Andy, owner of The London Po’Boy Company is a BST veteran, having vended at the 10-day event – the world’s first fully contactless festival - for three consecutive years to date. He told us about the school boy error he made in his first year.

“In our first year at BST, I put our branding everywhere, up high and front and centre. But the crowds didn’t come and I realised it’s because they had no idea (and didn’t care) who London PoBoys was. Actually this crowd just wanted to know what delicious food we were selling, how much it cost and how they could pay. Once I realised that, business picked up dramatically and we haven’t looked back.”

So while branding might be important at some festivals or foodie events where the customer knows their street food, it’s probably not the thing to shout about at music events and festivals when all punters care about is what you sell and how delicious it is. It’s all about selling the sizzle, not the sausage.

C - Contactless & Community

Turns out ‘C’ is a particularly popular letter for vendor tips. C is for Contactless – 10 years old this year, and Community – something almost every vendor mentioned as crucial to festival success.

The street food scene is booming. At last count (on 26th July 2017) there were 59 food festivals listed on thefestivalcalendar.co.uk between now and the end of the year. And in London alone there are 29 food markets1. From the outside looking in, the image of this booming market might seem like one of intense competition, and while that’s definitely the case, there’s also a sub-story of camaraderie (another ‘C’) and community. Success once you’ve got your pitch is based on bonding with your foody friends and helping each other out.

And contactless technology is crucial for busy food vendors looking to speed through queues at peak times, such as at lunchtime, post-work shindigs and on Saturdays when tourists and locals alike swarm food markets. Some recent research we did showed that, on average, people at festivals spend £67 on festival food.

And 9 minutes is the average time people are willing to queue for food and drink at a festival2. It’s probably a lot fewer minutes during the lunch rush. So if you’ve got your marketing and signage right, you need to be prepared for the rush by serving customers quickly and efficiently. Accepting card and contactless payments is a great way to do this.

D - Diversify & Dietary requirements

Every business owner knows the importance of diversification. After all, changing consumer habits and desires means any business not adapting could easily fall out of favour. There’s always a new player vying for consumer attention.

So for food and drinks brands, having a successful high street restaurant or chain of restaurants might not be enough anymore. We spoke to PizzaExpress, who introduced their ‘Boxed Up’ initiative to the 420,000 festivalgoers at this year’s BST  to find out why they chose to vend at the festival for the first time.

The main point? To give consumers the same great pizza they know and love, but in unexpected places.

And when it comes to food and drink, diversification is not just about location – pop-up, high street or out of town mall, but also about catering to different dietary needs and trends. According to Canadean, almost 60% of 25-34-year-olds want to buy food and drink products that reflect their attitudes and opinions on life. The same age group also tends to be among the first in a family to try new and exciting foods3.

With this in mind, the advice links up with the tip from The London Po’Boy Company’s owner, Andy Smith, that putting your menu front and centre is much more effective than showcasing your brand. That’s because established brands can carry baggage, which can make it difficult to successfully venture into new space and appeal to a new demographic with a new product.

For so-called ‘blank-slate brands’ – those with little brand recognition or association – the entire food and drink space is wide open for business. Not only is this good news for up-and-coming pop-up players, but it’s good for larger, established brands looking for ways to invest in new routes to market.

Look out for the FESTIVAL SERIES: Day 2: E-H Vendor Tips, coming soon. Find out when it’s live by following @BcardBusiness on Twitter, and Barclaycard Business on Facebook.

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