Eight Savoury Considerations Before Vending at a Food Festival


Having executed events in the foodservice and consumer space for several years, I have learned extensively to what length festivals not only expose brands and businesses to new customers but also compel them to continue to foster brand and purchase loyalty. For chefs and chef owners, signing up is the easy part, but there’s so much more to participation than just showing up: delivering a unique experience, engaging festival goers with a memorable activation, encouraging product trials, getting those social shares and converting prospects into repeat customers, all of which our team has been working on behind Toronto’s food scenes annually.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Caiti McLelland, Senior Project Manager at Varsity Events, who has more than 10 years’ experience and specialization in event management, operations, logistics and marketing. She provided her insight on considerations chefs and chef owners should take into account to best gain advantage during event vendor opportunities, such as the Toronto Soup Festival.

  1. Booth Type – If serving space is priority over prep space, corner booths can be king. Depending on certain placement logistics, these booths can enable you to serve from more than one side. Meanwhile, having a standard, front-facing booth allows for additional counter space.
  2. Space – For prime exposure levels, a space close to the entrance gates is typically the most in-demand. On the other side of the ladle, placement by the exit gates can capture guests who are looking to spend their last tokens/credits before leaving.
  3. Equipment Beyond Ownership – Don’t let the fact that you don’t own certain equipment needed for remote activities stop your company from participating. You have more options than you realize. Festival organizers typically provide some booth necessities. You can also see which companies they’re working with and potentially get a discount on your rental needs for being involved, as volume discounts are not uncommon in these scenarios.
  4. Save on Delivery – If you order rentals through the festival’s outside provider, check to see whether the sales representative will add your order to the delivery truck(s) already coming onsite. This could reduce your delivery fee or waive it all together.
  5. Redemption Awareness – Understanding the sales redemption processes and standards are crucial, which is why it’s imperative to keep in contact with your exhibitor relations coordinator. There are a variety of ways patron payments can take place at festivals today; tokens, vouchers, cashless mobile apps, cards and, of course, cash. Find out your options and which would work best for you.
  6. Load-In Leeway – Many festivals tend to implement load-ins on a staggered schedule, giving businesses individually selected time slots. Ask for earlier times, if possible, should you require extensive loading and installation times, and to avoid long vehicle lines.
  7. Branding your Booth – Always find out from festival representative if any vendor branding protocols exist as some events do have tighter aesthetic standards than others. Also, be aware of what kind of advertising signage is being provided to each booth, if any. Any additional materials such as takeaway pieces should have permissions finalized by the festival before guest distribution to avoid penalization.
  8. Payment and Prospective Planning – Before those gates open, ask the coordinator when you can expect to see your payout and via which method you will receive that payment. You may even have the option to put a portion of your pay toward a deposit on prospective booth purchases for future events.

Ready to participate in the upcoming Toronto Soup Festival? Give Caiti a buzz at info@varsityevents.ca.

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Marian Staresinic is vice president of Branding and Buzzing. Over the past two decades, Marian has become a sought-after expert in the food and beverage business. She’s been featured on Fox TV, Food Network Canada, CTV and CBC Radio. Marian is a graduate of Stratford Chefs School, owned a cooking school, managed luxury culinary brands and up-and-coming culinary talent, edited the Food section of a major Canadian magazine and founded a Slow Food chapter. Branding and Buzzing is a modern food marketing agency that brings the buzz to their clients through engaging consumer conversations, marketing campaigns, social media and real-life experiences that are inspirational, memorable and most importantly, brand-driven.

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