Should you pay to be a vendor at an event? I’m still new to food trucking, and have been asked to participate in both no-fee and fee events. Here’s how I think it through and make my decisions.
What You Need To Know
Before making this decision, I want all the event details: how many people, how many food trucks or food vendors, what else is going on at the event, is it a benefit for a nonprofit, how long has this event been happening, is there a cancellation policy? I want to know how it went last year, and how many and which food trucks were there. I look online for last year’s event photos at the organizer’s site and social media and participating food trucks’ social media. Does it look like a good set up? If I know any of the food truckers or friends have attended the event, I’d email or call them for some input. If it is a great event, well promoted, big numbers, then I’m happy to pay.
Then I do the math:
number of attendees ÷ number of food vendors = potential customers
[average sale per customer x potential customers] – expenses = potential net profit
Most events in my area with a successful history are flat fee events. The flat fee can range from $250-1000 for a one to three day event.
The percent of receipts model is another option, usually between 5-10% of receipts for the vending fee. When asked to do a nonprofit event that’s small or new, I offer a percentage of receipts as a donation, even if it’s a no fee situation. It can be the right thing to do. I like to be sure my customers know I’m donating to the cause with a sign on my truck. It doesn’t hurt to be a good guy supporting a nonprofit fundraising event.
There is also the “minimum of receipts before a fee kicks in” model. Food truck pros say a savory truck should expect a minimum of $500 in receipts before paying a fee, and a minimum of $250 for dessert or beverage trucks. I haven’t run into this, but keep it in mind if you are unsure of an event and the organizer can not give you a good estimate of attendees, it is definitely worth discussing to let them know you’re serious about your business at their event. If they’re not willing to agree to a minimum take and it’s not a big event, I’m probably not interested in paying a fee. That’s too much risk when I could be parked some place profitable!
Seeking “No Fee” Events?
There are a lot of events with no fees, too, and obviously seeking these is most profitable.
A new event may be small and unproven, but I may go for the advertising and good will. A first year event may be small, but maybe it will grow and I want to be in on the ground floor. Some new event organizers are generous and don’t charge a fee; others think they’re in the big time and go nuts with high fees I don’t want to pay. Taking gentle charge of that conversation is in order, and I try to show them how it’s done for a win-win — with no fee. There is a flat fee event locally that also has a gate fee for attendees. It’s a benefit event, and it’s huge, so I’m content to pay to vend there. The profits from a long weekend gig are worth it!
I like things in writing, so even if an organizer wants to do business on a handshake, I ask for a simple contract so there are no surprises down the road! Just the basics signed and dated by both parties is enough: date, hours, fees, insurance requirements, contact info for organizer and vendor.
Event fees are often a necessary part of doing business. Event fees fund the infrastructure at the venue: restrooms, water, parking and entertainment – things that make a successful event.
Should you pay to vend? Sometimes! Think through all the details, and your decision will be clear. Don’t sell yourself short. Although I work really hard in my food truck business, sometimes I forget that I am, literally, in the driver’s seat. That’s why we are in business for ourselves, right?