First off, congratulations! Getting in your first farmer’s market or fair is an amazing feeling. You get to share your food with your community and earn an income. But every event, also comes with a ridiculous amount of planning.
● What will your display look like beyond a food truck wrap?
● How will you package your product?
● How much do I sell my product for at markets?
● How much product should I bring?
● How much change should I bring?
● Are you going to have any special deals for this event?
● When do I need to get there?
● What if it’s raining?
● Will everything fit all my food inside my truck or trailer?
● Do I need hire more help for this event?
● What if I don’t sell anything?
(Yeah that would suck, but with the tips coming up, you’ll be going to the bank with a smile on your face). See? TONS of questions arise when you’ve never done this before. Let’s tackle one at a time.
What will your display look like?
Displays are going to make or break your sales. If you have a simple display, you may get passed over. If you have a complex display, customers may get overwhelmed (and it’ll take you forever to setup).
I work with three guidelines when I’m designing a display (which I tend to redesign each summer:
Do customers know what I’m selling?
It’s taken me four years to nail this one down. I always get asked “What is this?” or “Is this hummus?” (no). Make it clear what you’re selling. When your product is in jars or bags, it’s hard to know at a quick glance what you’re selling.
The solution? Get a couple banners.
We have one banner that goes at the back of our tent. It has our logo and a call to action to get more mustard on our website. It’s simple, clean, and a splash of color.
Now, this is optional, but I have a second banner that’s almost the width of our tent that simply says “MUSTARD”. It gets hung on the outside of our tent so customers can identify from the other side of the market what we sell.
Where do I get my banners?
I get all of my banners printed a DesignToPrint.com in Utah. You get a quality banner shipped to your house for a lot less than Staples or Vistaprint. Plus, it holds up in all weather scenarios. And get grommets in your banner. They help attach your banner to your tent or food truck.
Another idea (which I haven’t implemented) is a tabletop sign. I wouldn’t add another “MUSTARD” sign, but you could add the flavors you have to sample. You could also add a more detailed menu with pricing and ingredients.
Design and print a sign at Costco (it’ll cost you less than $1) and frame it up at Walmart or if you have an IKEA, go there. And lucky you!
Can customers easily access samples and product?
Barriers to sampling are barriers to sales. Having customers ask for samples is tough. They have to go through a decision process…
● What the heck is this?
● Do I like it?
● Do I want to taste it?
● Does the guy behind the table look approachable? (more on that later)
● What flavor do I want to try?
● Do I have to ask for a sample?
● Oh, I do?
And that’s when your customer either runs away or asks you for a sample. That’s a lot of internal questions they’re asking. To avoid this paralysis, make samples available to people that pass by. If they’re intrigued, they’ll grab a sample. If not, they simply walk by.
Some food business owners have told me they like to strike up a conversation in other words, force people to talk to you. That’s why the withhold samples. I get it. And sometimes it works.
But, when there are a lot of people, such as at a fair or festival, holding your samples hostage is a bad idea. Get your product in as many mouths as possible and do it quickly. Sure, some health departments prevent you from doing this, but when they don’t, SAMPLE!
How fast can I set it up? Can it be setup by one person?
Your first farmer’s market is likely going to be a complete disaster. You’ll forget things, realize it takes much longer to setup your display than you thought, and it’ll be a stressful experience. Remember, it’s all for the customers, though!
What does all this mean?
Make your setup simple and possible for one person to setup. It’s awesome to have a second person help, but keep in mind you’re probably going to be alone for a good amount of weekends or you might have two markets on the same day. That’s a crazy thought for right now, so I’ll stick to your first market.
Our first market…..
I was selling energy bars at my first farmer’s market. I bought a small green tent the Quest brand that falls apart after 2 years of hard use. It worked as our first tent, but I quickly upgraded to a white EZUp Tent. Then, a tent from Costco (we have both now).
I brought product in a cooler and quickly realized our chocolate varieties were going to melt in the sun….and they did. Our samples dried out in the sun, too. Disaster. It wasn’t pretty.
Fast forward a few years and we have an incredibly optimized display, perfect for a large sedan or a van (that was one of my requirements as my Dad and I were designing the new display. Our basic setup can be brought to life and packed up in under 30 minutes. Efficiency at its best.
Here’s every piece of our setup:
● Bin for all miscellaneous items (get a sturdy one)
● 6’ folding lifetime table
● One piece sampler (picture)
● 2 wooden boxes (open ends to store bags and business cards)
● A wooden stair (from Home Depot)
● Back Banner (3’ x 7’) + bungees
● Top Banner (2’ x 8’) + PVC poles and rope
● 10×10 EZUp Tent
● Dolly with plywood to maximize load
Other pieces (optional):
● Wood to level table when we’re outside
● Extra 4’ table to process orders faster
● Clipboard with email signup
● Chairs (I never sit.)
You don’t need much. And don’t overcomplicate it. You need a setup that’s quick, easy, and cheap. Our display does that, but use my display materials as a reference.
You may own a small home bakery or prepared foods business. That should be setup differently. With baked goods, it’s all about grabbing attention, varying heights, and clear pricing.
We hope this article gives you strong insight into the different things you need to prepare for when planning for an event. Best of luck vending at all your events this year!