How do you set up a stall at a Festival?

Festival Truck

Finding a starting point to attend any event can be daunting, especially when you are going somewhere where there is likely to be heavy competition. Below I’ve set out an array of tips and suggestions to help you effortlessly prepare and set up a stall at a festival based on my own experience of running events.

To set up a stall at a festival, look online for any application page or contact details. You will apply by either by completing their application form or emailing them directly providing all their required information.

Before diving in, I will break the process down into three rough categories/steps as follows:

1.Finding events to attend:

Go to an event’s websiteLook for trader sections/application forms or contact details
NetworkUse fellow traders as an example when it comes to planning which events to attend.

Talk to event planners – they might be able to offer a discount or offer recommendation/contacts

Facebook groups like Festival Traders UK 
Event finding search toolsStallfinder* is a useful website to help breakdown events planned across the year

Stall and Craft Collective* is useful for craft and arts events

Pedddle* list local markets and events

*UK events only.

2. Reviewing finances and applying to trade:

Working out the financial benefitsCost of site space and/or % of your event profit the organiser might take vs expected sales and out costs (all your effort needs to be worth it).
Application forms/enquiringYou will need key information for this e.g. business name, copy of insurance, site space required etc.).

3. Event set up and running the stall:

StockWorking out stock orders to cover the whole event (look into sale or return on non-perishables if you are unsure of quantity).
Essential kitHave a chat with the organisers as it varies event to event what they supply you, e.g. power cables, floor matting etc.

Bring along some basics – scissors and duct tape can go a long way in some crises!

You’re probably wondering what are the time scales, how much is this all going to cost me, and how do I go about setting up?

Look no further as with experience both organising a festival with stallholders, as well as setting up and activating a stall at a festival; I have plenty of top tips to share.


How to find and approach festivals

One of the golden rules I have learnt is to start the process in plenty of time. The lead time for applications varies depending on the popularity, scale, and reputation of the event. Still, often the more prominent and more well known the event the earlier you will need to book.

As a rough guide, the pitching process for some of the UK’s major summer festivals starts in the autumn of the year before you plan to activate. That said, if you are looking to go to smaller scale, you can often get a site space closer to the event depending on popularity.

As a rule of thumb, the earlier you book in, the more likely you are to secure all your desired site at a festival.


Where can I find festivals to attend?

A simple way to find events near you can often be a simple search on the internet. However, this often can bring up a lot of information you will need to sift through. Stallfinder is an easy to use website that I have used numerous times before to help locate and identify a series of events broken down by the following:

  • Geographical location
  • Event/festival type
  • Date/month desired
  • Keywords, e.g. vegan, burgers, music festivals etc.

Some simple networking with organisers and fellow traders is also a great way to not only find out about different events but also to get in/get you preferential treatment when you apply to trade at an event. The event industry is a well-connected community, often the power of referrals or sharing tips and contacts can help you get into some of the most desired events.


How do you apply for a festival stall space?

Often you will need to go to an events website. Typically, on here, there will be contact details for the event’s organisers and/or an application form that you will need to fill out. From experience, there are a few core things that are always required, so it’s good to have to hand before you start the process:

  • What you plan to sell
  • The site space you require
  • The stall set up you have (is it a food truck, trailer or just free-standing tables and a gazebo?)
  • The dimensions of your stall and how much site space you require
  • What your electrical, Wi-Fi and water requirements are if any
  • Your contact details and business number/information/insurance
  • How many parking/entry passes you might need across the event

From someone who has trawled through applications from stallholders for an event, if there was one tip to share it’s the more streamlined and organised your application and setup seems, the more attractive you are.

Additionally, if you can keep to a minimum both number of passes needed and site space size requested, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting offered a site space.

This doesn’t always happen, but you may be asked for photographs. Even if the application doesn’t request pictures, but you can send some over, do so.

A picture can speak a thousand words and bring your stall to life for the organisers. It’s worth getting some good quality photos of your stall or truck (dressed nicely, good background etc. all help make you stand out more).


How much do stalls cost at festivals

There is no one cost fits all when it comes down to price as this depends on a series of factors e.g.

  • Size of event and reputation
  • Number of hours and days the event is live
  • Time of the year
  • Size of your stall and space required
  • What extras you might need, e.g. power, water etc.
  • The organiser’s % cut of your profits (often around 25–30%)

Below I have set out some examples to give you an idea of costs for site space *please note this is based on previous experience and is not an exact cost.

EventEvent footfallAverage cost (across the whole event)
Music Festival (e.g. Glastonbury)153,000£15,000 – 20,000 depending on site size power requirement etc. plus circa 20% earning
Food Festival (e.g. BBC Good Food)75,000£650 – £3,000 depending on site size
Music festival (e.g. Cheltenham Jazz festival)20,000£2,000 (plus any power etc. needed) or 20% total takings *whichever is greater
Food Festival (e.g. Brighton VEGFEST)10,000£300 – £650 depending on site size

On top of the cost for the site space, you will also need to consider your usual business running costs. Once you have these estimated/allocated, you will get a clearer picture of how much you will need to sell to breakeven and make a profit.

Although not limited to, these will be:

  • Your food/stock cost (and cost of samples if offering them)
  • You and or your staff’s wages
  • Fuel costs/costs to and from the event
  • Cost of renting or running power
  • Licencing and insurance (Public and employers’ liability as well as stall and stock insurance).

Top tips:

Consider cutting down your menu. You can work more efficiently, serve more people, and produce a higher volume of food.

At some smaller/less well-known events, pitch fees can be negotiated so don’t be afraid to haggle!


What equipment will I need to set up a stall?

Although this will vary depending on the type of stall you have, over the years, I have set up at enough events to know the key things that are always good to have, as often finding a shop that sells what you need is impossible once you arrive on site. Alongside your actual stall/truck and stock it’s always good to have the below:

– Power cables to hook up to generators (check with organiser what you require if you are unsure)

– Tracking or matting (the organiser may provide this, which you will be thankful for if it is a wet/slippery surface).

– Sundries/cups, cutlery etc. (check with organisers as you will be required to work in line with their event mission e.g. recyclables & no plastic. – this could be costly later on if you don’t check).

– Chiller and storage

– Basic tools e.g. hammer, screwdriver, duct tape, zip ties, scissors! (you never know when this might come in handy).

Tip: Make sure you ask the event organiser what they are providing before you go as there are times when each party assumes the other is providing something on the day when it’s a bit late!

Although not a complete one size fits all guide, I hope some of my tips and experiences will help you in setting up your stall at a festival.

Mark Norman

Mark has over 20 years of experience in the events industry from working in live music venues through to major outdoor events like the Olympic Torch Relay and the Tour de France. He now works as a feelancer, consultant and Senior Lecturer in Events Management.

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