Are Event Fee’s Worth It?

When you watch long lines forming outside a food truck it’s easy to presume these vendors must be killing it. After all, it’s tough to order a meal for under $10 at festivals or events across America. At some of the more popular festivals that attract 10,000 or more people in a single day, there’s the potential to generate thousands in sales for just a single day of vending.

The experienced food vendor, however. understands serving food at the most well attended annual events usually comes at a price.

Take for example the Blues on the Green music festival in Austin, Texas. This is a free music event held monthly during summer months that attracts thousands of people of all ages. And while this is a no-cost event for attendees there’s a eye popping event fee of $1,600 per day for food vendors.

Keep in mind that this event fee is on top of all the other expenses vendors must payout to work an event. Other built-in expenses will include paying staff, transportation, food costs, and of course the investment in tents, signage, a flat top or other cooking equipment. After adding up all the costs of attending it’s easy to be a few thousand dollars in the red before you ever have the opportunity to sell a single menu item!

Risk Versus Reward 

As an added risk, you can never be 100% certain how an event will turn out or how many people are going to show up. There are so many factors that go into making an event successful some of which being little more than dumb luck. A warm and sunny day could yield a terrific turn out and sales. A rainy and windy day could result in half the people you would normally expect at an event to turn up and a net loss for the business.

As the owner and founder of Austin’s The Peached Tortilla’s Eric Silverstein describes it, attending events is not unlike gambling. Every event really is a roll of the dice on whether or not you’ll be profitable! Considering the risks are high for food business owners and reward uncertain is it even worth paying expensive event fees?

Paying to attend the right events is absolutely still worth the risk according to Silverstein. As you’ll learn in the video below, Silverstein takes into account the wider benefits of attending popular concerts beyond single-day profitably. Go behind the scenes of a music festival to find out if the $1,600 per day event fee was worth it for Silverstein and The Peached Tortilla below…

The Overall Benefits of Attending Events

In an ideal world Silverstein wants each event to be profitable or at the very least have the expenses covered. After all, operating at a loss is not sustainable for long. As mentioned in the video if Silverstein is able to break even at an event, he at the very least won’t be lose sleep over the decision.

While netting a positive ROI is the goal there are other factors Silverstein considers to be valuable. If you want to grow your food business, consider the following when evaluating an event’s overall value:

Marketing: No one can eat at your food truck or restaurant if they don’t know first that you exist. How could they? They don’t know you exist! As the owner, you need to give them the opportunity to find out about your awesome food.

Start to think about every event not just as a revenue opportunity, but a marketing opportunity too. After all, the people that are going eating out at events are the same people frequently eating at restaurants. People that you see out and about and engaging in activities are your ideal prospects. Make sure you take some chances to attend events that make sense for your brand.

Networking: When you start participating in events, you start to get invited to more events. Imagine that!

Being friendly to people and building a broader network is an important tool to growing your business. One easy way to develop more business relationships is to attend events where other vendors will be at. Although it may sound counter intuitive, forming relationships with other food businesses is a really smart idea. Often there may be events where another vendor is already booked. Since these businesses are already booked, they may recommend your services instead. This happens a lot more than you might think.

Second, a lot of promoters will attend events of their colleagues. You never know when you’re going to be approached at an event and asked if you’d be interested in coming out to a future event. This is another common way of developing more business.

You’ll Need to Take Some Calculated Risks

At the end of the day, as a business owner you’ll need to take some risks to get ahead. Some things will work and others won’t no matter how calculated you are. This doesn’t mean you should be reckless and invest all your available cash into a single make or break event. Instead, spread the risk around into a few different events that you believe could have the most value in the calendar year.

To build a successful restaurant in your area you’ll need to put the business in front of new customers. Attending a popular event is one of the best ways to familiarize your brand with the local community and advertise your business. You may not hit a home run on your first event, but when done consistently it will pay dividends.






Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, sign up for our newsletter that includes our food business startup kit and most popular interviews sent straight to your inbox.

Know someone interesting that should be interviewed on the website? Tell us about them here.