Once upon a time, festival food was a simple choice – Burger & Chips, Chicken & Chips or Sausage & Chips or, just Chips. But at every festival you go to these days, it seems there’s a new niche in kiosk catering, festival food villages have become more like a chic bohemian London suburban high-streets. There’s everything from specialist veggie and vegan food to carveries, chinese, noodles, curry, cakes, smoothies – and in a strange turnaround of elements, you can even get a Roast dinner in a Yorkshire pudding.
Whilst festival catering can be a very anti-social business to be working in (you’ll be taking orders and working the kitchen – whilst everyone else is donning spotted or striped designer wellies to enjoy whatever event it is bringing them all together) it can also be quite lucrative. With punters paying premium prices for decent nosh whilst they are ‘between acts’ a food kiosk can be a modern day gold mine.
If you’ve got an idea for a fast-food outlet that’s a culinary and cultural original – the sort of thing that would garner a fanbase at a festival gathering – now might be a good time to take the plunge. With borrowing rates at record lows, it’s a good time to be starting a business. We take a look at the hurdles you’ll need to clear to get a quirky catering kiosk of the ground…
Financing any small business can be a big deal. You’ll need hardware, supplies and stock (such as tea and coffee) plus funds for wages. But if you’re feeling creative, a quirky food kiosk doesn’t have to cost ridiculous amounts to get off the ground. Traditional Banks will require a detailed business model, that can be time consuming, but it does force you to figure out where your business could go. But some people don’t have the credit rating that will encourage banks to take a second look. In that case, if you can beg and borrow enough to start off with one shoetstring-kiosk, you can prove the concepts works a whole world of crowd funding opens up in front of you. Sites such as Kickstarter allow you to bid for investment. You’ll also need to consider how you’ll take payment and handle all that cash. Will you be Apple pay enabled – enabling festival goers to rely on their smartphones?
If you’re feeling unimaginative you could just open up a burger kiosk – even at the most up market of festivals there’ll be a captive audience. But if you’ve got a favourite food that’s more unusual – or even better an old or secret family recipe – then that might get a little more attention. Maybe you are a whizz with meat-free? Or have you hit upon a unique local ingredient that is the basis of something fast, tasty and moreish? Definitely test your product out to see how yummy people think it is, and then get to describing it with alluring onomatopoeic language. If you can get people eating and enjoying it, word will travel fast. We’ll call it Word-of-Mouthful.
Original food needs original branding. You could go with a straightforward family surname (aka the best known high-street fast-food burger chain) or you could opt for something that simply describes the product (aka the best known southern fried chicken restaurant). But if you can find something with a neat and memorable double meaning all the better. IN terms of visual style, you’ll want to pick something that reflects the food your selling. If it’s rustic, then rough-edged font or stencilled graphics might suit, if it’s veggie or vegan then avoid red, if it’s young, fresh and dynamic then some italicised writing might be the order of the design. Keep your graphics flat (no complex gradients or graded drop shadows), it’s in fashion – but also makes it easier to reproduce in vinyl on vehicles and other marketing collateral.
So you’ve got the recipe. You’ve got the branding. Now you’re going to need the gear. Now you could simply buy a square box kiosk and something to tow it with, but if your brand has a retro feel you could get creative with ideas. Vintage vehicles are being snapped up and restored and if you want something you can drive yourself without having to hitch it up, then maybe a classic vehicle is the order of the day – the Citroen HY is a popular full sized van (and price now reflects that). Or how about a Cocktail Bar serviced from the back of an iconic – and cheap to run – Piaggio Ape Three-wheeled flatbed pickup or van.
If you’re at a festival for a several-day stint – you’re going to need your stocks replenishing regularly. Otherwise, whilst your intriguing tasty addition to the catering village might have a queue into the next field on the first morning, you won’t be selling anymore wares if you’ve run out of ingredients. Be sure you have everything in place to restock before you run out, because having to tell excited punters – who have heard just how brilliant your new flavours are – that there’s none left, will seriously damage your reputation.
Grumpy, surly staff are sure to turn-off punters – so first off make sure you take-on cheery, friendly souls to help you run your kiosk. Likewise, thorough training is going to be critical too. Fast-food kiosks thrive on being able to turn out tasty grub consistently and quickly. That requires a well trained team working to a production line formula that is super efficient. It makes sense to start off at some smaller festivals where demand will be smaller. Securing a pitch at Glastonbury for your fist ever gig might not be the sharpest thing to do.
When your kiosk is not in use, you might need somewhere to store it. Subject to availability our drive-up 24hr storage units in Wandsworth might be just the job. Equally, if you need somewhere for your cooking equipment and uniforms (subject to our restrictions), then a storage unit in any one of our stores – Camden, Southwark or Wandsworth – can help provide you some essential space.