12 Top Tips for Selling at Food Festivals
I thought it was time to share the lessons learned from doing food festivals and shows over the past few years! We don’t do many farmers markets [weekends are usually but not always the domain of the mini-Martinsens] – but they would be just as applicable to farmers markets too!
- ARRIVE EARLY – Leave plenty of time to get there, and to get set up. Generally the earlier you arrive the closer you will be able to get to your stand or area, and the easier it will be. There can also be unforseen problems on the roads or getting there, and starting the day feeling flustered is just not a great feeling [trust me!].
- TAKE TIME TO DRESS YOUR STAND/TABLE/GAZEBO – Its no good having the most amazing tasting food without it being presented brilliantly too! Over time you get quicker at setting up your stand, and at knowing what goes where and why………..but it takes a few times to perfect. I use jute which is nice and cheap,but also hardwearing and looks attractive. You can buy it online from Ebay, or through John Lewis. I’m also a big bunting fan – I make mine myself [nothing fancy just using Bondaweb] – but dress your stand to whatever you like. A pull up banner or PVC banner to back the stand is also invaluable.
- DRESS IN LAYERS – Rule of shows – it will always be colder than you think, so dress in layers and make sure you take lots with you. Feet can get freezing standing still on concerete or tarmac, and if that happens then a square of carpet is amazing [or failing that then standing on a couple of layers of cardboard really does help]
- TAKE REFRESHMENTS WITH YOU – Take food and drink with you. It saves time, it saves money, it saves hassle. It’s just simpler in the long run!
- YOU ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR PRODUCT – When people buy a well known food brand, they buy into all that that the brand promises. With an unknown or small scale product then those brand promises are simply not known……..therefore the people selling the product are almost as important as the product itself. Think about how you dress, what you wear and your overall appearance! Don’t let the product down by not thinking it all through.
- PRICING CLEARLY – Don’t hide the pricing away – have it on clear view to everyone coming to the stand. At the end of the day you have products to sell, and you need to tell customers how much they cost!
- TAKE PLENTY OF CHANGE – Go to the bank the day before and get a stash of change. Handy [but obvious tip] – tailor your change to your pricing. If your products cost £3.50 then you are going to need lots of 50p’s but probably not that many 20p/5p’s. If all else fails you can probably get some change from other stand holders, but much better to be organised.
- SAMPLE – SAMPLE – SAMPLE – Its the best sales tool that you have. Sample your product at Food events and convert customers to the great taste of the product! If you are just starting out, then you need to think about how you are going to sample and what additional equipment you’ll need….eg for drinks we use 2cl sampling cups. Health and environmental health will be key to how you choose to sample.
- LIST OF WHERE TO BUY – If customers love the product then they want to know where to buy. Going equipped with a list of stockists or a website of where to re-order will enable customers to re-purchase [and that has to be good news all round!]
- ENGAGE WITH EVERYONE – Its true, people buy from people! Just as in #5 above the people on the stand are key in engaging with people, at being a real champion of the food product that they are there selling. Days can be long and its essential to keep up the energy, the conversation and the chatter throughout the day. If people want to buy from miserable folk there are enough big supermarkets out there, at Food Festivals and Farmers Markets it should be a pleasure for customers and a really welcoming experience.
- SET A TARGET AND EVALUATE – Its quite boring[!] but do set a target before you go of how much turnover you expect to take. Take into account everything like labour, travel, stand costs, waste, samples etc. Do a quick evaluation afterwards – what went well, what didn’t go so well, what stock/varieties sold, what can you do differently next time. Then be really harsh about whether the event is right for you. It takes time to build up clientele at a farmers market, so give it at least 6 weeks. But equally if things aren’t working out then try something new – don’t keep repeating the same mistakes [now that really would be a travesty]
- TAKE ENOUGH STOCK – If you’ve set a realistic target, then an optimum stock level should fall out of that. It’s nice to run out of stock, but not half way through the event – that’s just lost sales that you could have had. Similarly if you have a fresh product then you don’t want to be taking home lots of ‘waste product’. It takes time to build up knowledge – [ apologies – we’re one of those lucky people who have an ambient product and can just take it home again, so we can overestimate and not have any issues]
Any other ideas? Would love to hear them if you do!