[Checklist] How Restaurants Can Make the Most Out of Food Festivals

Imagine having access to a new lot of customers, presenting your food in front of them, getting social attention, feedback and industry knowledge – all in one place.

Food festivals are the secret to that. They not just offer an amazing variety of food, but an overall experience including live music and pretty decor. This is what drives the huge amount of people and it ultimately means good business opportunity for your restaurant.

But there’s a lot of planning involved in setting up shop at a food festival. From which food fests to attend to managing the operations and promotion, we’re breaking it all down for you in this post.

Let’s jump right in.

Why are food festivals important for restaurants?

Increasing brand reach to being the testing ground for new ideas, there are a lot of reasons for you to participate in food festivals. Here are a few of them explained:

Reaching new customers

First off, they put your restaurant right in the middle of the crowd, creating a stream of potential customers. People crave for experiences and these fests give them a package of food, music, art and more. The footfall at such festivals keeps increasing every year.

Amplifying your brand reach

Food festivals are an attraction for crowd and media alike. Participating in them is a great way to expand your brand reach and get some media attention as well. The key lies in putting your best service and experience forward along with some cool ideas that get you positive attention. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about it in detail further.

food festival grub Delhi
Food festivals are the arena for the restaurant industry networking

Networking with industry stakeholders

These events prove to be great for networking within the industry. They help in identifying new trends, meeting fellow owners and even working out potential collaborations. So, always keep your business cards and ideas handy!

Testing new menu items

Didn’t we just mention the crazy footfall at these events? It’s an opportunity to test your new menu items and ideas with the customers there and then. In fact, a lot of chefs say that these fests prove to be a great platform to get early feedback on their new dishes and plan newer additions to the menu accordingly.

How to choose the festivals to participate in?

There are over 30 food festivals that happen all over India. Deciding which ones to participate in can be a bit tricky for restaurants. Here are 3-steps you should always check-mark while making this decision.

Get all the details from event managers

Details like costing, venue, space, the supplies like tables and electricity that’ll be provided are important to decide if the festival is a right fit for you and would be operationally viable for your team.

Do your research

Is this festival apt for your brand? What were the restaurants present here last year? How was the footfall? All these are important factors that’ll require research from your end. Participating in a fest is one thing, but standing out in a festival fit for your brand image requires a lot of effort. Stay with us for the detailed checklists you’ll need for the same.

Ask other restaurant owners in your circle

Your best source of information are your peers, the restaurants that take part in these festivals every year. If you’ve questions about any particular fest, ask around. How was their experience? Did they make profit? How was the customer response? These are some things you should definitely discuss around before making the decision.

Here are some festivals to start your research with:

The Grub Fest
World Street Food Fest
The Palate Fest
Asian Hawkers Market
Dessertarian Fest
National Street Food Festival
Great Indian Food Festival
The Food Truck Festival

Your Restaurant’s Action Plan

Now that you know why to participate in food festivals and how to choose which ones, it’s time to make an action plan. Food festivals involve a lot of work for restaurants. To make it easy for you, we’ve divided it into smaller tasks and further different checklist (after all, who doesn’t love some tidy organisation?)

Checklist – Operations

chefs cooking

Select the menu you want to showcase – You’ll have to be selective in terms of the menu for the festival. Think about your star items and any new additions that you want to test. Make sure the menu you select is easy to prepare in limited space, equipment and time.

Secure transport for the festival days – This is really important to ensure that there are no last minute delays. If you’re not into catering regularly or don’t have a van of your own, hire a vehicle for the festival days as there can be a lot of to and fro to bring or drop stuff.

Do cooking prep in advance – The thumb rule is to prepare whatever you can from your kitchen itself so that the preparation time at the festival is quick. Items like curry or chopped vegetables are basic can be used for multiple things. Sit with your chefs to discuss the workflow well in advance.

Get portable packaging – Most of the people in the food festivals are always on the move. They eat while standing, walking and talking. Your food should come in easy to carry packaging and plates. Also, don’t forget your very own branding on items like tissues, packages etc.

Prepare your staff – Your staff needs to be trained to be on-location. Cooking in a restaurant kitchen is very different from cooking in a small tent/stall. And, to add to it is the quick volume of orders and anxious crowd. The staff should have proper guidelines for the event days and a manager should always be present with them.

Be ready according to the weather – If it’s summer, make sure you come prepared to deal with the heat and also protect your items. If it’s winter, think about how to keep your food hot and piping. These are small yet very important details of planning your on-day operations. Don’t forget how unexpected the weather can get depending on the cities.

Checklist – Marketing

Big announcement – Get creative with your announcement. Your customers should know where you are popping-up. Send out an SMS or email campaign to them, put up posters in your restaurant and announce it on all your social media handles.

Social media promotion – Announcement is the step 1, the promotion leading up to the fest needs to happen over a period of time. Run a contest/giveaway for your social media followers leading up to the fest. Share some behind-the-scenes preparation images and details about what new they can expect.

The good-old PR – Do PR the new way! Send special invites to food bloggers for a tasting session at your stall. It’s your best bet at organic publicity. Inform your media contacts about your presence at the event and any new launches or offers you might be running.

Signage for the event day – You need to stand-out, right? Make your event day banners and standees do it for you. People should recognise them from the crowd. You can even put your special menu items on them for highlights. Have some props at your stall for entertainment and decor. Who doesn’t love an aesthetically pleasing space?

Food festival stall decor
#Tip: Use the event hashtags or create your own to display.

Unique offers and combos – This is where you win the show. Present your best combos and offers for the festival and make sure the people visiting know about them.
Don’t forget to share your outlet and website details with them so that you gain customers even after the fest.

Live updates – Don’t forget to share live updates from your stall and record some customer reviews that can be shared on your social media handles. We even suggest doing an Instagram or Facebook Live from your stall to attract best social media attention.

Over to you:

We hope this post helps you ace your next food festival appearance. Do you have any tips to share with us? Do mention them in the comments and we’ll include them in the coming posts.

Niharika Maggo

Niharika Maggo

Niharika is a Content Marketer at LimeTray. When she’s not busy wearing down the keys on her keyboard, she's found listening to podcasts, reading or drinking tea. She can be reached at marketing@limetray.com.