How to Maximize Your Exposure at this Summer’s Hottest Food Festivals

There is no doubt that festivals have become extremely popular in recent years. According to, more than 100,000 people per day attend music festivals such as Glastonbury, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Lollapalooza. Food festivals are gaining momentum, ranging from celebrations of top culinary talent, (i.e., Taste of Chicago), to reverence of specific foods, such as Meatopia (U.K.), Maine’s Lobster Festival, or even the Waikiki SPAM JAM (Hawaii). Food events offering a prix-fixe menu within restaurants across a city (i.e., Toronto’s Summerlicious) are attracting large numbers of guests as well.

Driving the popularity of these events is a demand for experiences. Whether the focus is on music, food, comedy, film, culture, art, or a combination of all of the above, people are looking for unique moments to share with friends and family. This willingness to pay for experiences is especially common in the young adult demographic (a.k.a. the often-talked-about Millennials). In a survey by Eventbrite, 78% of Millennials said they choose to spend their money on experiences or events instead of things, and 90% said they would visit a restaurant after enjoying it at a festival.

This trend represents a huge opportunity for restauranteurs. A festival can offer brand exposure to thousands of curious foodies looking to sample their next favorite restaurant. But how do you prepare to create a memorable and enticing presence at the event? The following strategies will help you connect with customers and stand out in a competitive festival environment.

1. Maximize presence through booth design

Getting noticed can be a challenge at festivals. Space allotment is limited and competing vendors are close by. There are often standards to follow that can restrict your initiatives. Clear, visible signage and appealing visuals are extremely important to ensure that your booth catches the attention of passersby. To differentiate from surrounding vendors, consider unique design elements, structural shapes, and different textures. Sight-lines to the food being prepared, interesting displays, and friendly staff can help attract curious guests.It’s important to connect with past, present and future customers. Using key feature from your restaurant in your booth design, such as the same logo, uniforms, colors, graphics, and shapes will help leverage brand recognition from current customers and help new customers find you after the festival.

2. Present a clear message and seamless experience

With limited time and space due to  so much nearby competition, it is vital that your brand message is communicated efficiently. Similar to your restaurant design being modified into food stall format, your brand message must also be condensed for the festival environment. Keeping your messaging as clear and succinct as possible will make it easier for overwhelmed guests to understand your value proposition. What are the top three things that you want to communicate to customers?

Not only do you have to entice customers and effectively communicate your value proposition, you also need to ensure your customers have a seamless experience while at your food stall. Ordering methods need to be carefully planned, as chaotic and confusing processes will detract from the experience. Consider customer flow, queuing, and a reduced menu to ensure that the process is smooth.

3. Invite engagement

Festival attendees are looking for unique experiences, so offering interactive engagement will help you stand out (in a positive way). At The Big Feastival, for instance, cooking classes, live demonstrations, and question-and-answer sessions are incorporated into the event to create a more participatory experience. Adding games and customization stations can help make a booth experience more memorable. These initiatives will create excitement and energy around your stand, and will give guests more reasons to visit your restaurant.

4. Generate buzz

The above strategies will attract guests, drive traffic to your booth and peak interest. People attract more people, after all. Another way to create buzz is through food presentation and using purchasers as mobile advertisements and brand advocates.

Have you ever suddenly craved cotton candy, ice cream, a caramel apple, or a “tornado potato” after seeing someone walk by with it at a carnival? Unique products will draw attention as customers carry them away from your booth, and invite questions about their origin. These products are likely to be shared on social media, which spreads awareness to people who are not even physically present at the event.

Participation in a food festival provides an opportunity to spark the future growth of your restaurant. These tactics of booth design, message clarity, seamless experiences, guest engagement, and buzz generation can create a strong brand presence at food festivals ensuring your attendance is a success.