10 Steps to a Better Restaurant Event, Just in Time for Mother’s Day Brunch

Mothers-Day-BrunchValentine’s Day dinner. Mother’s Day brunch. New Year’s Eve. Pop-up night.

If you’re in the restaurant industry, you know these days are all about efficiency. You need to get as many diners in and away from their tables as possible without a hitch.

Look at your tables as well-planned events and you can increase profits substantially. Ticketing your tables as events allows you to slot out times diners will be seated and served.

 

You can also determine:

  • How many heads to expect
  • What they want to eat and drink
  • A specific refund policy to eliminate costly no-shows

Don’t do all of your tables at once. Start with one section, so the rest of your staff can operate as they normally would and you don’t have to reorganize everything. Select your strongest servers for the ticketed tables and make sure they are good clock-watchers.

Inform the kitchen of the time-sensitive aspect of turning these tables and see if you can work with the chef to prioritize those.

1. Create Your Event Page

Once you have your team excited and on board, it’s time to set up your event page.  There are lots of ways that you can customize your Brown Paper Tickets event page, however, simple and clean always works best. If you set it up in a way that’s too complicated, the page will confuse potential customers.

Here’s an example event page for a Valentine’s Pre-Fixe dinner. Trouble setting it up? Email me for a consultation.

2. Set Up Specific Table Sizes

You don’t want to discourage larger groups, but set your floor in advance and have a clear section created. Even if you create a clear section, you can still make it flexible.

For example, if you are hosting a Mother’s Day brunch and want to keep things fluid, create a variety of various-sized tables as options. If you get a special request, you can always direct them to the general seating portion of your restaurant.

3. Develop a Pre-Fixe Menu

Develop a pre-fixe menu with a few options for each course, and include a dessert, such as chocolate-covered strawberries or mousse. Make the dishes simple to modify (diners will want to modify them) and to help the kitchen out with the volume, be clear there is no splitting.

4. Have a Few Pre-Selected Wine Options

Make sure they are good options and that you have plenty. The price point should be reasonable, since you are charging more for the pre-fixe and other aspects of the service. Emphasize the time slot ending to your servers so they can manage lingering slow pokes.

If you allot the proper amount of time based on your service style, it should work out well. Don’t make anyone wait more than a minute or two to be seated.

5. Set Clear Policies

Set up clear policies for lateness, no-shows, cancellations, and up charges.

This way your staff and customers are all on the same page.  In my opinion, gratuity should be separate and up to the customer, but speak to your team and find out what works best.

You can always add the gratuity to the registration price on Brown Paper Tickets and cash your servers out later.

The refund policy language should relay the worst-case scenario such as, “absolutely no refunds.” You can still have mercy and refund someone, but this phrase covers your bases in case of a blatant no-show.

6. Check Local Calendars for Events

If there is a play, musical, or other event, use the show times to set your schedule. For example, if the first showing is at 6:45, your first time slot should end around 6:15, thus giving your customers enough time to get to the show. You can reach out to the theaters and offer to cross promote as well, maybe even bundle the show tickets with your meal to create a “dinner and a show” price level.

7.  Keep It Fun and Stay Positive

Special nights are slammin’ busy.  Keep your staff happy and it will transfer to guests. Buy your helpers some chocolate or prepare a staff meal, and project the good vibes yourself.  Keeping the energy level and morale up will pay off when your customers leave happy and on-time. There is no substitute for genuine positivity–it is the heart and soul of good service.

8. Remember, Scoop and Serve is Your Friend

Ask servers to scoop ice cream, ladle soup, garnish desserts, plate chocolate-covered strawberries, and perform other tasks to help them control the flow of their sections.  This also takes pressure off of the kitchen staff, which is always a good idea.  Provide a little training for your service staff, and watch in wonderment when they are garnishing beautifully presented dishes for your guests.

9.  Leave a Lasting Impression

Ticketing your tables is not just a good way to increase efficiency during a special event date.  If you can really pull it off and make a lasting impression, your guests will come back.

Every aspect of the restaurant is pushed to perform at its peak to provide the optimal event experience. Keep the expectations realistic and stay true to your goals, the organization and pre-planning will do the rest.

10. Test All Your Options

When planning your big night, it’s important to account for every possible issue that may arise.  Ensure that the set-up is right for your restaurant’s flow and service style.  Try a soft opening or trial run before the big day—that way, you can gather feedback and make adjustments ahead of time.

Have questions, tips or thoughts? Comment below. Or email me and I’ll help you you get started.

Food & Drink >

How to Take Your (Boring) Corporate Snack Table to the Next Level

food-catering-eventsYou’ve seen this setup at everything from networking events to author readings to workshops: a table with platters of cheese, crackers, crudités, and other assorted munchies.

If you’re lucky, hot water for tea and coffee. If you’re really lucky, cheap wine or beer.

As long as the vegetables are crisp and the coffee, caffeinated, there’s nothing wrong with this setup. But a next-level snack table creates positive memories of your event and keeps guests mingling and occupied while your staff works on all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

There’s a big difference between an event starting 10 minutes behind schedule with a snack table and an event starting 10 minutes behind schedule without one.

To Cater or Not to Cater?

If you are going to make your own snacks you can potentially save cash, but only if you have the time. Forgo the caterer and you’ll spend precious hours shopping and planning.

You can always order a few bulk items from a restaurant and fill in the rest on your own.

Whatever you decide, to keep your attendees satiated, focus on protein-rich foods like hummus, cheese, cured meats, smoked or cured seafood, and whole grain breads and crackers. Offer a wide range and make sure to accommodate dietary restrictions.

Don’t settle for under-ripe melon and rubbery Crudités—select high quality, local and fresh. Go to the Farmer’s Market late in the day and ask vendors for deals on “ugly produce.” Once prepared, funny-shaped vegetables still look and taste fantastic.

Add Your Own Twist to Classic Party Snacks

Chex Mix is ubiquitous at snack tables. Take it to the next level with Thai curry paste, chili powder or miso. The same flavorful twist concept can be done with other “retro snacks,” like deviled eggs, smoke salmon or the classic cheese ball.

Avoid cookies, chips, soda and other types of processed junk food (except the Chex Mix). Not only does it run up costs, it takes away from your style and originality. Make your own popcorn, chips or trail mix instead—whatever you create will taste and look better than the packaged stuff.

Keep the table tidy. Arrange serving vessels, utensils, napkins, cups, and serving implements. Expect to be extra busy the day of your event, so perhaps delegate snack table cleanup to another team member. And don’t forget to place clearly labeled recycling, compost and trash bins around the venue.

Go Lux with a Local Chef

If you have the budget for it, consider hiring a local chef to create next-level eats. Many restaurants have catering options—reach out to the ones you like. If you offer it up as a sponsorship, you may even get a discount rate.

Before you approach a chef or catering company, consider the following:

  • Make sure the timing of your event doesn’t clash with their busy days, typically Thursday through Saturday
  • Plan far in advance. Busy season or not, the restaurant will appreciate having a solid lead on filling your catering request. 

Set realistic expectations for what you would like to have made, especially if you are on a tight budget.  This will allow the chef to relax and focus on what they do best, rather than work off a complicated list.
  • Focus on quality.  Remember that many event organizers aren’t putting the thought in care into their snack tables as you are.  A nice spread will help you stand out and get your guests’ attention, which creates return attendees.

Whatever your idea of the perfect snack table is, eating socially creates a sense of comfort and community. When you genuinely want to impress people through food, it shows.

What’s your favorite event snack? Ring in below and our food and beverage specialist may give you a few ideas on how to prepare it at your next event.

Event Tips >

9 Ways to Grow Event Attendance

grow-event-attendanceLike growing orchids, growing event attendance is tough—it takes a careful balance of creativity, consistency, community, and customer retention.  In a competitive market such as craft brewing, most may be tempted to isolate events from the competition, but building a cooperative events community benefits everyone and may even boost event attendance. When you work together, you can share resources and attendees and even recommend each other’s events.

 

Here are 9 ways grow event attendance by forming a cooperative events community:

1. Research events in your area

Create a calendar of all events in your area and in your niche. This will ensure that you aren’t having a similar one around the same day as your peers. Knowing what the rest of your events community is doing will help you adjust your strategy. You can then change your event’s date, time, pricing, and theme to make it more appealing to your attendees.

2. Be present at event industry happenings

Introduce yourself to the other business-owners in your area who have similar events. Letting people know who you are and what you do is a great way to get the ball rolling. Compliment their projects and offer to share resources.  Half of the effort is just being present and available for conversation.  Who knows? You might make some great new friends along the way.



3. Invite and include relentlessly

Reach out to other event organizers in your market and invite them to third party events, functions, happy hour, or even to your own event. Offer your event discount or comp the tickets if possible.  It may take you some time and effort before you get a taker, and then again it may not.  Either way, extend the olive branch and make it apparent that you have good intentions. You have nothing to lose.

Be consistent with your engagement; make sure that you leave a positive and lasting impression.

4. Be kind and patient

It’s important to treat others in your events community with respect and kindness whenever you reach out. Follow the golden rule, “treat others as they would treat you.” You may find some resistance and encounter folks that aren’t all peace and chicken grease, but all you can do is be patient and move on when necessary.

5. Collaborate and share

Find ways to work with other event organizers in your market, and have a blast doing it.  If you are launching a new product, invite your new friends. Swap venues, pick out a third-party venue together, share ingredients, exchange recipes, create a product together or do a cross promotion.

Give it a try, and see the wonderment of your attendees as they enjoy a pro-event created by two or more of their favorite event organizers.



6. Communicate well

It helps to figure out how people prefer to communicate.  Some like e-mail while others prefer face-to-face interaction. Take note of what communication channels get the best results.  Knowing their preferences will take the pressure off. For example, you won’t fret so much if you haven’t had an e-mail returned for a while by someone who prefers phone calls. Consider your communication needs too and let your acquaintances know what they are when you exchange contact information.

7. Follow through on promises

Follow-through goes a long way in life and an extra long way in the often hectic events community. Knowing that you can count on someone in a pinch is clutch when it comes to organizing events, as I’m sure you realize. Consistency and reliability are outstanding ways to win the favor of the cooperative events community.

8. Evaluate accurately

Measure twice and cut once when you are planning an event. If you are going to offer a collaboration or cooperative promotion, make sure it benefits all parties involved. Some efforts, whether toward a relationship or an event simply aren’t worth the time. Dig in, list and evaluate benefits and pitfalls. Then you can re-calibrate and try again if you make a mistake.

9. Break bread

All work and no play makes for a dull and weary events community.  Get folks together over a meal and try to create long-lasting relationships.  It shouldn’t be too difficult—these guests share your same interests and operate in the same community. Eating a meal together is a deeper way to connect, and it takes a lot of the pressure off.  It doesn’t need to be a big formal event; in fact it may be better to host a potluck or barbecue.

Letting your guard down a bit to share food and laughs can cause a ripple that will carry your community for a long time.

Event Tips >

Farming Events: Getting Started

As a small farm owner I can tell you that the struggle is real, and you need to hustle to make ends meet. More and more farmers are turning to events to add another revenue stream while marketing their brand and engaging the community. If you are getting started with your farm events – or maybe just trying to refresh your current efforts – you should take a few steps into consideration.

Going it alone with Special Meal Events

If you have the knowledge, skills and resources you can consider hosting your own on-site special food events. You may still need a hand with the dishes, but at least you will be in the drivers seat. It may be difficult to get the buzz out about these types of events at first so don’t get discouraged. Stick to what you know and keep your number of guests where you can handle it – cooking for 6 people is very different from 12. Try finding events that are similar to what you want to do and attend a couple. Think of it as market research that involves delicious food, drink, and event some new friends. This is a great way to meet people that like to attend farm to table dinners and that is good for your budding new endeavor.

Power in Numbers, Collaborating Farm to Table

Pair with local restaurants and chefs to do exclusive farm to dinner events. You can start by researching the various dining establishments in your area. Research the different restaurants that host special events and try them out. Having a meal and drink at the place to get a feel for the style and quality is an important part of the vetting process. It far better to realize this earlier on in the game since it takes time to build regular event attendees and it can be rough to rebuild if the partnership ends. Talk to the chef and offer to provide some food for a special farm to table dinner at their place. Chefs obviously love food so make sure you select the best of what your farm has to offer for this meal. You can turn this event into a pairing dinner with a local.

Classes and Workshops

Many people want to learn how to farm – and the more small farms out there the better! Everyone is good at something, what are you/your farm exceptional at? Turn this into a lecturing farm tour, class, workshop, or demonstration. Perhaps you are exceptional at baking bread, or making wine? It’s crucial that you are extremely organized and prepare yourself well in advance for this. Once you have decided what you might be good at you can turn it into an event. If teaching is something you haven’t done before you should attend some different workshops, classes, or other educational events to get an idea of what you are up against. Teaching is in our basic human nature, but it may take some real soul searching for you to figure out if it’s for you. Brown Paper Tickets has many resources for putting together classes if you have any questions.

Think Outside the Box

Maybe mealtime events or teaching classes isn’t for you. The fact remains you still have some pretty exciting things happening on the farm. Hosting other unique events can still help build community and grow your farm business. Hayrides, pumpkin hurling, sack races, and corn mazes are also great options. Do you have a big open field and love the wind in your hair? Maybe a lawnmower race fits. Before you start busing droves of kids out to pick their own pumpkin, sit down and plan it out. Similar to the other event ideas shared in this post, you will want to go through the logistics of what you plan to do. Seeing your ideas on paper might help you get an idea of what specifically you are prepared for event wise.

 

Now you have an idea of how to get started. Remember if at first you don’t succeed give our resident event experts a call and let them help you get things going. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is available 24 hours a day to assist you with every step of the process. From start to finish; from event creation to promotions, we’ve got you covered.

Contact our 24/7 Support Staff if you have any questions about creating your Farm event or class: 800-838-3006×4 or Support@BrownPaperTickets.com

Event Tips >

Recipe: Double Chocolate Truffles

Our Farm and Food Specialist Patrick shared his delectable Double Chocolate Truffle recipe, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Total time: 3 hours
Yields: about 24 pieces

1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons coffee Liqueur (optional)
1 tablespoon brewed coffee or espresso
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for coating

Special equipment: Heat proof glass bowl that fits a sauce pan as a double boiler

Combine bittersweet and semisweet chocolate in a heat resistant glass bowl.

In a sauce pan over medium heat bring your heavy cream to a boil.

Pour the boiling cream over your chocolate and add remaining liquid ingredients.

Place your bowl over a saucepan with two inches of simmering water in the bottom.

Stir everything together until a smooth ganache has been accomplished.

Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes, then chill for two hours.

Scoop into 1 tablespoon portions and roll into balls.

Roll in coco powder, chopped nuts, sprinkles, spice blends, or whatever you like.

Chill for another 30 minutes, then enjoy.

 

Food & Drink >

20 Ways to Keep Costs Down At Your Next Food and Beverage Event

A cost-effective food and beverage event takes hard work, attention to detail and careful planning, but it can be done.

Here are 20 ways to save money and trim the fat without compromising quality:

1. Act extra nice when negotiating costs and dealing with service providers. If you’re polite and reasonable when asking for a better deal, chances are you’ll get it.

2. Avoid peak season when choosing your event date. Book during off-peak, when there aren’t a lot of other events going on. More events mean rigid and higher prices.

3. Make a list of all the essentials and have at least five options with reasonable prices for each. More options will make it easier to shuffle things around and cut costs.

4. Set a clear, reasonable budget and stick to it. Knowing how much you can spend from the beginning will help you prioritize when planning your event.

5. Partner with other makers and producers. If you are hosting a wine dinner, ask a winery you like to sponsor your event. These relationships often work out well for both parties, as you can help get their name out.

6. Choose reasonably priced beverages. The beverage industry is packed with affordable, high-quality beverage options. Shop around and taste everything—not only is it fun, it will give you a chance to save some cash.

7. Buy in-season produce and flowers. You will not only discover the freshest local ingredients and blooms, you will find cheaper prices due to the abundance.

8. Borrow what you don’t have. Reach out to friends and family and ask if they have what you need for your event. You never know—Nana might have a closet full of stylish vintage cutlery and tablecloths ready to show off.

9. Portion control is one of the biggest ways to save money with a food and beverage event. Keep an eye on the RSVP list but wait until your headcount is confirmed to do your shopping.

10. Negotiate everything. A price tag doesn’t mean the price is set in stone. You can also offer something in exchange—naming the caterer to reduce food costs. Always ask and always be polite.

11. Keep your event casual. Formal events require a lot of little extras and your guests will appreciate laid-back, let-loose vibe. A causal event also offers flexibility when it comes to venue selection—for example, air conditioning might not be necessary if guests can wear t-shirts and shorts.

12. Skip the DJ and make your own playlist. Download your own music or use an app like Spotify.

13. Don’t over serve. Everyone should get enough food and alcohol, but ensure your food and beverage portions are reasonable to eliminate waste and save money.

14. Keep registration simple. Eliminate the need for the guest to do anything beyond registering. This will free up labor that would normally be spent answering emails and taking calls from confused attendees.

15. Plan your marketing budget carefully. Appeal to food bloggers and use social media to promote your events. These methods are significantly cheaper than purchasing ad space or a radio spot.

16. Choose your venue carefully. Instead of getting quotes from 5 different venues, try 10. Once you have quotes and understand the pros and cons of each venue, you can start to negotiate. Ask them to come down on the costs if you really like the space, but have a cheaper option on your list.

17. Source reasonably priced food when ingredient shopping. Finding high quality ingredients at a fair price is easier than you think—you just have to shop around. Head to farmers markets late in the day and you will get a good deal when buying large quantities of an item.

18. Do a plated meal instead of a buffet. Serving food portioned for each guest will give you complete control over food cost. If you want to go more casual, have a set amount of light appetizers (between 3-5 pieces per person).

19. Pair wine, beer, or cider with each course. Prix fixe beverage selection and meals will allow you to tailor the guests’ experience and control portions at the same time.

20. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Avoid using disposable products and minimize food/water waste. Going green reduces costs and helps the planet.

Event Tips >

Go Green: 15 Secrets for a Fabulous, Eco-friendly Food Event

Before you get too far into your event planning, consider its carbon footprint. Making your food event eco-friendly is not only a social responsibility; it’s also a good way to save some dough. Plus, consumers are making more environmentally conscious purchase decisions and greening your event could lead to more ticket sales.

 

Here are 15 steps:

1. Swap disposable for second hand. Instead of bottled water, use mason jars as glasses. Instead of buying imported tablecloths, scour the local thrift stores.

2. Do the math. Save money and reduce impact by carefully calculating the amounts of food, drinks and other goods. This will ensure you don’t have a lot of leftovers. 


3. Make your guests aware of your environmental efforts. They’ll make more of an effort to use the proper receptacles and may leave inspired to take extra environmental measures in their own lives.



4. Carefully consider your location. Give your guests green travel options such as walking, biking or public transportation. Make it a goal to minimize fossil fuel used to transport event-goers. 



5. Go local for food, flowers and linens. Not only will you support the local economy, by eliminating long-distance delivery, you’re reducing fossil fuel emissions.

6. Be choosy when it comes to food. Whenever possible, make sure your food is organic, seasonal, fair trade, no or low packaging and locally sourced.

7. Allow guests to pour their own water instead of filling glasses on the table. This will cut water waste. 



8. Up-cycle as many objects as you can. Consignment shopping not only saves money, it ends the cycle of manufacturing. Buy your glasses, plates, silverware and other items from thrift stores or borrow them. 



9. Avoid plastic items. Plastics are quite toxic to manufacture, petroleum-based, and aren’t biodegradable. If you need disposable silverware, try the eco-friendly versions made from compostable plants. 



10. Limit the number of print materials to just what is absolutely necessary. 



11. Hand out practical swag. Be sure any swag you hand out is durable, reusable and useful. The cost might be higher but definitely avoid cheap, throw-away trinkets.

12. Reduce paper waste with paperless invitations and ticket delivery methods. 



13. Find charities that can use undistributed handouts, such as pencils and paper to schools.

14. Clearly mark recycling, food waste and trash receptacles. Make recycling, food waste and trash containers clearly marked and readily available



15. Allow your guests to go casual. When people have to dress formally, they will need their clothes dry-cleaned. Air-conditioning is a must for a black-tie event in the summer; allowing guests to dress comfortably eliminates the need for climate control.

Food & Drink >

6 Event Details You Should Never Ignore

Event-Permits-PlanningWhether it’s a farm dinner, charity benefit, pop-up restaurant or other event, it’s easy to focus on the big three: food, location, decor. But it’s the less glamorous, often overlooked logistics that can make an event the best night ever … or a total nightmare.

Pay close attention to these details to ensure a hiccup-free event day.

 

1. Permits and Paperwork

Established restaurants, catering halls and other venues will likely have all necessary permits. But keep in mind that loud music, the hours of your event and even dancing may put it outside of the space’s “usual business,” and require additional paperwork, such as a sound permit.

Spaces that don’t typically host food events may require you to take out a full event permit. Make sure your space’s Certificate of Occupancy is current and will accommodate the number of people you plan to host. If you’re entertaining in a public space, such as a park, town square, public building, you will have to take out permits from your local city government agency (Parks Department, Department of Buildings, etc.).

Rules vary by city and state. Grilling, selling tickets, selling alcohol, restricting space from public use and your event’s hours name some factors that could determine the kind of permit you’ll need.

2. Alcohol Permits

It’s extremely important to file a permit to serve alcohol—these should be on hand at all times should you undergo an inspection. Some event permits come with a booze clause, but not all. Make sure you have everything in writing.

The local agency that grants you an alcohol permit will consider the length of your event, time of day, proximity to schools or churches and the type alcohol you plan to serve (beer and wine only, or full liquor). Make these decisions early and stick to them as changing a permit you’ve applied for may be difficult.

More restrictions (depending on locality) apply when it comes to the sale of alcohol at events; permits to sell are different than permits to serve.

Do some research on your local regulations and determine what will work best for you. In some instances, there are workarounds. For example, instead of selling beer directly, an event can sometimes sell tickets that attendees can redeem for beer. Consult a legal professional if you have any questions about permits.

3. Event Insurance

Each space is unique and may pose its own risks for attendees. Work closely with your team and the location’s team to ensure you have proper insurance to cover potential accidents (including food poisoning). Many venues may come with basic insurance, but expect the organizer to take on additional liability. Know what you are covered for, at what level and for how many people.

Run your event insurance paperwork (again: always get it in writing) by a lawyer. When it comes to insurance, better safe than sorry is the right attitude.

4. Inclement Weather Plans

You can spend months planning an exciting event, only to have to cancel at the last minute due to weather. Clearly, rain is a factor for outdoor events, but even if you plan to be indoors, there are many unforeseeable weather-related factors that could prevent attendees from reaching your location.

Have a rain plan well in advance of your event. Renting tents, securing an alternate location or having a rain date, may cost you a more time and money, but will pay dividends if the worst happens and you don’t have to waste all of that incredible food.

If you are working with restaurant partners who will order their products in advance, discuss your inclement weather plan. Paying for food you can’t use may take a hefty bite out of your budget.

5. Food Allergies and Your Menu

Every chef wants to serve a bit of mystery with a wonderful food experience. However, food allergies are serious and it’s important to clearly label menu items and spell out ingredients.

Make it known at check-in that a food list is available upon request. Ask attendees to email you about food allergies when they buy their tickets and provide alternatives. You’re not obligated to accommodate every attendee, but transparency is key.

6. Where You Source Ingredients

What and from where, you source the food you’ll serve is a less formal, but equally important consideration. Many food event ticket buyers want to know where your produce, meat and dairy come from and whether it’s organic, local or fair trade. The extra care you take in purchasing high-quality ingredients reflects on your overall vision and your community.

For example, if you work for a nonprofit concerned with migrant workers’ labor rights, you would be remiss to serve food produced on factory farms and in processing plants, as these types of places have a reputation for labor injustices. Your choices at all levels of the event reveal who you are and what you stand for. Be consistent.

These are just a few important details to consider as you plan your next big bash. Of course, all of the permit regulations will vary by your location. Leave yourself enough runway to seek legal advice and get all of your paperwork in order. Then focus on the fun stuff.

Got a question about this article? Our event specialist is happy to assist. Reach out.

Event Tips >

5 Easy Tips for Organizing Food Festivals

food-festival-breakout-eventsFood festivals are on the rise. Whether it’s cultural food, food truck rodeos, regional cuisines or specialty items like cheese (even mac ‘n’ cheese), food festivals draw in hordes of attendees. The appeal is obvious—everyone likes food and tasting a multitude of dishes in one spot is exciting and enjoyable.

But going from table to table outside in the elements, sampling different twists on the same ingredient can turn into a slog for attendees. Add variety with a breakout event—such as a cooking demonstration, a wine or beer pairing or even a sit-down, coursed-out meal. Breakout events offer a welcome distraction and a good way for attendees to recharge their batteries. A breakout event can also act as an additional revenue stream.

Before you add one to your festival, evaluate your resources and make a plan of attack. Treat your breakout like a completely separate event. This might mean relinquishing the organizing duties to a trusted crew member or bringing in a professional.

Once you figure out who’s doing what, it’s time to get all of the details in place.

Food Festival Event Tips

1. You’ll need a strong crew that can work independently to organize and pull off your breakout event. In other words, they need to focus on it, like it’s the main event. If you’re low on staff, this can be a challenge so consider this resource before committing to anything. Go over every detail and rehearse the event to work out the bugs. Expect issues to arise and have backup plans in place.

2. Promote, promote, promote. Festivals are busy, so be clear about your special breakout event. Get the word out early and pour it on. Ask sponsors, friends and other involved parties to promote via social media, as well as word of mouth. For event promotion advice, contact our promotions team.

3. Star power can help sell tickets. Reach out to local celebs—talk recognized chefs, radio or TV personalities, sports figures or government officials. Put together a proper proposal and send it to whoever fits with your event’s brand. Offer to include them in the official advertising efforts, include branding and logos, and announcement mentions. Don’t let speaking fees turn you off –partnering with a celebrity can boost ticket sales.

4. Consider the perceived value. When a ticket buyer is looking into your event it should be clear what they are getting for the ticket price—perks such as wine or beer with each course, exclusive access to celebrities, special tasting, take home goodies, etc. or anything else that can enhance the perceived value.

5. Don’t over complicate it. Find a solid and simple concept that your attendees will be familiar with, such as a cider or wine pairing. It will make your event easier to execute and for you to find people to help organize it. The overall concept should be simple, but you can spice it up with simple variations—just make sure your expectations and timeline are realistic.

Have a question about food festivals or breakout events? Chime in below or email me.

 

Event Tips >

How to Create a Suitcase Kitchen for Tours or Road Trips

Suitcase-Kitchen, Travel-KitchenLife on the road takes a toll on your body and wallet. Musicians, performers, traveling chefs and anyone living the van or RV life knows that. But it doesn’t have to. Bring in the Suitcase Kitchen and say goodbye to unhealthy hot dogs, burritos and instant noodles.

Cooking just one or two meals per week saves a fair amount of cash and benefits your mind and spirit—the better your diet, the more energy you’ll have for your gigs or sightseeing.

A portable kitchen doesn’t have to be a huge, costly project; you likely have a lot of this stuff lying around. The first item you’ll need is a clean, sturdy suitcase you don’t plan to use for clothes. I found a used one at a thrift store for $15 and it worked out great.

Consider your specific diet and the number of people you plan to cook for—the fewer the meals and number of people, the smaller and lighter the kitchen. As an exercise, cook your favorite meals for a day and write down everything you used.

Cooking Accessories

Select light-weight and multi-functional items that you know work well.
 Test the items at home to make sure they’re functional, so you don’t end up packing a can opener that doesn’t function.

  • Utensils
  • Tongs
  • Basting brush
  • Ladle
  • Cheese grater
  • Potato masher
  • Rubber spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic spatula
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups
  • Kitchen sheers
  • Cheese knife
  • Chef knife
  • Honing steel
  • Bread knife
  • Utility knife
  • Whisk
  • Can opener
  • Vegetable peeler

Cookware

Consider cookware carefully—you have to find the right functionality while keeping the weight of your bag down. It’s OK to leave items behind in favor for multi-purpose tools. Before you go, test your items with a favorite recipe on the burner you plan to bring. You don’t want to get stuck in a pickle when whipping up some grub for the crew after the gig.

  • Stainless steel skillet
  • Non-stick skillet
  • Sauce pan with lid
  • Soup pot with lid (nothing too tall to be sure it fits)
  • Colander
  • Mesh strainer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Immersion blender
  • Light weight cutting board
  • Kitchen towels
  • Wide-mouth thermos
  • Tea egg
  • Coffee grinder
  • Small French press

Serving

Consider the pros and cons of disposable dishes. You will be creating extra garbage, which is a con for the planet. There are compostable versions of paper plates and silverware on the market however, most require a municipal composting program to avoid the landfill.

If you decide to use disposable serving items, I suggest only buying disposable plates, bowls and cups as needed and skipping the utensils and cups. Enameled camping bowls and plates are heavy side if you have more than a couple –they’re also durable and easy to clean. Tupperware or plastic are also valid options, but make sure they are durable.

Portable Stoves

I found that a butane burner is the most consistent heat source with the added benefit of being light-weight. If you’re flying, find a store that sells the butane when you get into town as flying with it is a no-no. If you try an electric burner include an extension cord long enough to reach outside your hotel room.

Most hotels frown on cooking in the room, so ask permission first or look for lodging with a kitchenette. When the weather is good, find a park or rest stop to cook at – many are equipped with grills and BBQ pits. Go old school—grab some charcoal or wood from the store. Always follow the safety guidelines.

  • Portable butane burner
  • Propane camp stove7
  • Electric burner

‘Tis the Seasoning for Travel

Buy the herbs and spices you like in the bulk section. This will help you buy less than what you need and also ditch the containers.

The containers that spices come in are made of glass and heavy, the ones that aren’t in glass jars tend to be the “Value” size which means that you will get more but it will be a lesser quality. I store my seasonings in snack-sized zipper bags to maximize space. I stash seasonings inside of other items in the case–I also use spice blends that I like, such as curries to save weight and space.

If you are adventurous, you can make your own seasoning blends at home–be sure to test out the mix first. Dried mushrooms and seaweed add a savory umami flavor to stocks, so I keep some in the case as well as instant potato flakes, which are a good thickener. If you use it sparingly, bullion cubes can add that extra something to a dish, but use it at the end it doesn’t end up too salty.

  • Salt
  • Whole black pepper (in a grinder)
  • Sugar
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Dried onion pieces
  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Red chili flakes
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried thyme

Other Suitcase Kitchen Tips and Tricks

SuitcaseKitchen for Road Travel

Leaving on a jet plane? If you plan to fly with your Suitcase Kitchen, look at checked baggage rates. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly first class since you get three free checked bags. This will vary depending on airline, but if you work it right you can travel in style and save money.

Include a few jumbo garbage bags in your suitcase kitchen. Besides storing garbage, leftovers or even dirty dishes in a pinch, they can be used to line an empty suitcase and create a wash-basin.

I pack dish liquid and iodine into my Suitcase Kitchen for cleaning. These two are essential, but add your own personal favorite cleaning supplies. Bleach is good for killing germs, but it’s also caustic and somewhat dangerous.

At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works best for you, and the way you like to cook and eat. It takes a little effort to put together a useful Suitcase Kitchen, but once you have it dialed in, it’s worth it. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.

Find this useful? You might also enjoy the 9-Step Recipe to Successful Cooking Classes.

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