Your attendees come hungry. The options look delicious, the prices fair. But the clock ticks along and they’re still in line, bellies rumbling. Soon enough, they’re filing out the exits, but this time… they’re hangry.

The worst possible outcome for your food and drink event or festival is to leave your attendees dissatisfied and hungry. After all, good food is the whole reason they trekked to your food truck extravaganza, wine-and-cheese party, or dessert bonanza.

To avoid major disaster, take stock of these common food fest fails and make sure you and your team are more than ready to meet them armed with a plan.

Fail #1: Long lines that ruin the reward

For a “trendy” food item, people are willing to wait an average of 6-10 minutes. So that queue for your kimchi truck builds anticipation and hype. But if it’s too long, it will also build resentment.

How to avoid it: Do the math. If you have ten vendors to feed a thousand people, that’s roughly a hundred people per booth. If getting more food vendors isn’t an option, talk to your chosen vendors and work out if it is possible to have two lines for each. That way, people don’t have to wait in a line a hundred deep.

Having easily-identifiable festival staff on hand can help manage lines as well; if one booth has wonky lines, let your staff take charge of guiding people to the shorter queue (or to the vendors with fewer customers!).

Fail #2: Refusing to innovate your food options

With so many dietary restrictions and food fads floating around, your attendees are expecting variety. They want to be able to show up at your fest knowing that, as the world’s biggest hamburger enthusiast, they will leave satisfied — but so will their vegan best friend. And if they leave empty-handed, you’ll probably hear about it on social media.

How to avoid it: While you can’t accommodate every single diet, you can ensure that there are options for every palate. Get a vegetarian option that isn’t just a salad or dessert. Look for vendors that offer meat substitutes or are actively innovative in how they view meatless/vegan fare. If you stay modern with your food, your attendees will remember you as a festival that is looking forward with their offerings — not just resting on the classics.  

Fail #3: Decorating with no mind to your budget

Yes, you need to set the tone, and you certainly want to create an Instagram-worthy backdrop. But don’t let your bespoke mason-jar lanterns housed with $20 Edison bulbs send you into the red.

How to avoid it: People will mostly remember the food. If it comes down to a choice between an incredible foodie opportunity and fine china to serve it on, go for the paper plates and pass it off as hip. And if you’re still in the quagmire of budgeting and can’t be sure what decor you can afford yet, check out this budget template to help you get a better sense of your funds.

Fail #4: Selling tickets to more people than you can feed

Yes, you need to maximise profit, but not at the expense of event quality. Get greedy with ticket sales, and everyone’s experience is compromised. Jamming more people into your foodie festival or food-truck roundup is not the answer.

How to avoid it: Be smart about your ticket pricing. While free tickets can attract attendees with money to spare, they can also lead to no-shows and less revenue for you and your vendors. Charging a small fee or offering ticket types like VIP can be a boon to your event’s attendance rate. For the full 411 on how to price your event and discover your bottom line, check out this ebook: How to Price Your Event. 

Fail #5: Failing to find out what your vendors need

People love food trucks, but they often have different logistical issues to other types of caterers. If your food truck pulls up and demands 50 amps of power or a different type of connector, will you have it? Or will they be out of there as fast as their truck can take them?

How to avoid it: Nail down the logistics with each and every vendor and caterer ahead of time. It’s great to be innovative, but you have to address issues before they become calamities.

Here are three ways to keep your vendors happy:

  1. Cashless payments, either by phone or RFID technology, can help speed up spending, decrease wait times, and keep hungry attendees coming back for more.
  2. Boost awareness of your vendors long before the day of your event by highlighting them on social media. Vendor reveals can get people excited, especially if you conduct giveaways or share sneak peeks of setup on the day before.
  3. Build connections between your vendors and your attendees. Have some of your most hyped vendors give a pop-up demonstration or foodie talk near your food stations. That way, attendees will be entertained while they’re waiting in line — and get a little more bang for their buck.

Leave them hungry — for more of your events

Watch this video to see how Melbourne newcomer HWKR launched a successful event series in a hyper-competitive foodie market.