You’ve long wanted to work for yourself as a food vendor, but before you can begin living your dreams, you need to know your earning potential. This article will discuss what your festival income might look like.
How much do food vendors make at festivals? Although it varies, the net income for food vendors at festivals is as little as $500 and sometimes as high as $13,000 per day. Factors such as the type of festival and the rate of competition can drive your earnings or reduce them.
In this informative article, I’ll talk in more detail about what your income potential may be as a food vendor at a festival. I’ll also discuss what you’ll pay to get a space at the festival and how this impacts your earnings, so keep reading!
How Much Money Can You Expect to Make at a Festival as a Food Vendor?
You got a spot at a big festival, and you can’t wait to start selling your unique brand of food. How much money are you going to make doing so?
That’s hard to say, as every festival is different, and every vendor is too. Most festivals don’t allow outside food and drink, so you can assume that the festivalgoers will be hungry and thirsty eventually.
Thus, you should earn at least something. Maybe that’s $500 or $1,000 per day. Some food vendors make a killing at festivals, raking in $6,000 to $13,000 daily.
Most festivals are multi-day affairs, so even if you don’t sell well on the first day, you might have a second or even a third or fourth day to increase your earnings.
Although you probably won’t make the same amount of money per day, let’s simplify things and say that you do.
If the festival is three days and you bring in $500 every day, that’s $1,500 for the entirety of the festival. Should you earn $6,000 each day, then you’ll bring home $18,000.
How can you determine if what you earned is sufficient? Well, you want to at least recoup what you spent on the festival.
After all, becoming a food vendor is not a cheap process. You must apply for a food vendor’s license through your health department. Obtaining the vendor’s license will cost you anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
Then you must pay for all the other related costs, such as a food truck (if that’s how you sell your food), equipment, ingredients, food storage, employee payroll, and booth space at the festival. (You didn’t think you got into a festival for free, right? I’ll talk more about festival costs later in this article).
To make your food vendor business a lucrative venture, your profits must exceed what you’re spending. That’s how you stop breaking even and get into the black.
ZipRecruiter states that the national average for food truck earnings in 2022 is $13 an hour or $27,774 a year. You want to aspire to at least that level of earnings as you get started.
However, to keep up on the price of fueling up your truck, maintaining it, and paying for ingredients to make your signature dishes, you’ll likely need more money than $27k a year.
What Factors Influence Your Earnings Potential at a Festival as a Food Vendor?
Why is it that some food vendors make fewer than $1,000 at a festival and others bring in five figures? Several factors are at play, some of which I touched on earlier. Let’s talk about all the factors now.
Type of Festival
A festival can encompass many types of events. Depending on which type of festival you get a spot at, you might earn a significant sum as a food vendor or only a moderate amount of money.
Statista compiled the festivals around the world that grossed the most money in 2019. Topping the list is the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, which raked in $29.63 million.
Here are the other festivals and their earnings from that year:
- Life Is Beautiful Festival – $17.7 million
- Lollapalooza Brazil – $14.48 million
- Corona Capital Festival – $12.23 million
- Southside Festival – $11.93 million
- Hurricane Festival – $11.38 million
- Paleo Festival – $11.26 million
- Bluesfest – $11.12 million
- Electric Daisy Carnival – $10.54 million
- Longitude – $8.66 million
- Vive Latino – $8.62 million
- TRNSMT – $8.24 million
Did you notice a common thread in that list above? The overwhelming majority of the high-earning festivals are music festivals.
Music festivals bring in big attendance. In 2019, Lollapalooza Brazil sold 246,000 tickets, says Statista.
If you can get a vendor position at a music festival, you can expect more money compared to a small community festival in your city or town.
I talked about this in the last section, but it’s worth mentioning again. Longer festivals offer you more opportunities to earn money, and as a food vendor, who doesn’t like that?
Your earnings might remain consistent from day to day, but they will more than likely fluctuate, so that’s something to keep in mind.
A sizable audience with thousands of people (or even tens of thousands) rather than hundreds could be a bigger moneymaker for you.
Of course, not every single festival attendee will gravitate towards your booth or food truck, but if enough do, then you should see a very nice uptick in earnings.
The rule that many food vendors follow is known as the five-percent rule. You want at least five percent of the event attendees to purchase from your booth or food truck. That’s about one in every 20 people.
Level of Competition
Festivals like to give their attendees as many food and drink options as possible.
For those on a budget, they can eat cheap hot dogs and beer. If attendees don’t mind spending more money, they can savor high-end cuisine and spirits.
You will not be the only food vendor at the festival. That won’t ever happen. What you’re hoping for is that not too many other vendors are trying to get in on your niche.
For example, if you make wood-fired pizzas and you’re surrounded by hot dogs, popcorn, and hamburger vendors, then that’s not such a big deal. Those who want pizza will come to you, as will anyone who smells the wafting aroma of wood-burned pizza as it cooks.
However, if you’re not the only pizza vendor at the festival, your earnings can be impacted. Attendees will have to choose between your services or those of the other pizza vendors. Who will they pick?
The next three factors I’m going to discuss will all play a large role.
From arts festivals to music festivals and food festivals, people look for every chance to take photos at a festival to post to social media. That of course extends to their food as well.
Vendors or food trucks with a big following are going to have long lines to match. Those customers who are already loyal will want to whet their appetites by eating their favorite food. Others will wonder what the hype is about, so they have to try the vendor to find out.
If you can count yourself as a popular vendor, then even if you’re not the only pizza vendor at the festival, and even if you’re not the only wood-fired pizza vendor, you should be able to expect a steady stream of customers.
Your name precedes you, and that’s huge. There is a reason that consumers choose Nike over smaller athletic shoe brands or why they purchase Apple phones instead of the competitor’s phones.
How you price your food is also very important.
You don’t want to charge too little, or else then you’ll end up in a situation like I described earlier. The money you make won’t be enough to recoup what you’re spending to be at the festival. Maybe you just recoup that money, but you don’t earn a profit.
By going in the opposite direction and charging too much, you can alienate festival attendees, especially new potential customers.
There are some exceptions, of course. If you’re a well-known food vendor and you have the goods to back up your prices (aka your food is really, really good), then people typically won’t mind paying more.
Since you’re selling your food for higher prices, if you have a good turnout at the festival, your earnings could be higher than a lot of other vendors at the festival.
Location on Festival Grounds
At festivals, where people spend hours upon hours on their feet, convenience is everything.
You don’t want a spot by the entrance of the festival, as most of the attendees will walk right past your booth after they’re let into the event because they want to claim a spot at the rail, buy merch, hit the bathroom, or just explore.
By the time the attendees are in the festival, going all the way back to the entrance gate is massively inconvenient. They’ll buy food from whichever vendor is closer, even if you’re more popular or your food is better.
How Do Festivals Charge Vendors?
As I mentioned before, you don’t take home 100 percent of the money you make at a food festival.
Instead, it’s divided among several revenue streams. You must pay your staff, so there goes some of your money. You’ll also have to replenish your ingredients and supplies, and don’t forget about Uncle Sam, as a cut will go towards taxes.
The festival organizer will charge you to park your food truck or to rent out booth space. The organizer will determine which pricing model they’ll choose, but there are three that are common.
One of these is to take a percent of your sales as compensation. The cut might be anywhere from 10 to 30 percent and is dependent on factors such as how much you earned.
A fixed trader fee could be another way you pay. The festival organizer will determine the fixed trader fee based on your product, the size of the festival, and where you are on the festival grounds.
You’d pay that fee, which is a one-time charge, and then you can sell your food.
Some festival organizers will use the fixed fee plus a percentage of sales earned. You’d have to pay an established fee upfront and then relinquish a percentage of your earnings. The percentage taken is usually lower, between three and 10 percent.