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12 Top Tips for Selling at Food Festivals

by Claire Martinsen on Thu 05th Jan 2012 03:38

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!

Here goes!

  1. 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!].
  2. 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.
  3. 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]
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!]
  10. 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.
  11. 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]
  12. 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!

xx Claire



Posted in: Food Festivals and Shows Tips for running a food business


Lynne Clark (@josordoni)
Thu 05th Jan 2012 07:38
Follow up! It is not just straightforward customers you are likely to meet at a trade show (and maybe at a farmer's market as well if you are lucky). If you are approached by major buyers, they won't be making a decision there and then. Don't forget to follow up straight after the show to keep your name in their sight, and to make a date with them to contact them again later when they think a decision may have been made. Don't let these valuable leads die!

Claire Martinsen
Fri 06th Jan 2012 05:21
Great comment Lynne! Yes, don't forget to have a notepad and pen to hand to write down details - and as you say make sure you follow up straight after the show!

Sat 07th Jan 2012 05:13
No 10 is so important. I recently went to a fair where too many stallholders just sat behind their product looking miserable and unsurprisingly they had no customers.It's important to set up your stand so you can easily engage with your customer rather than create a barrier between you.

Claire Martinsen
Sat 07th Jan 2012 05:44
I agree Anne - its also a fine line about deciding whether to take a chair or not. If the day is really long then a rest of the legs really helps, but on the other hand it potentially makes the stand holder look a bit dis-engaged and uninterested!

Bobby Stearns
Wed 29th Aug 2012 14:55
Yes, yes, yes! how you display it says almost as much about your product as the product itself. And a big yes to number 10, there's a reason why the WBC stand is always buzzing, we try to keep things fresh, we constantly demo product and we smile the hell out of the place for 3 days. See you this weekend Claire x

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