How to plan a food festival

Whether you’re an avid foodie, make your own produce, or simply like the idea of putting on a food festival for your local community – you’re in the right place. 

Planning a food festival can be an incredibly rewarding experience, helping you flex your event creation skills and even turn a tidy profit. Food festivals can also be a great way to raise money for charity – perfect if you’re looking for a creative way to give back.

Read on for all you need to know about creating a thriving food fest. 

What makes a good food festival?

Planning a food festival is a bit like planning a music festival – only, instead of bands and DJs, food stalls are the headline acts here. It follows then, that the quality of your food festival will hinge on the quality – and variety – of food on offer. Much like a music festival relies on a stellar line-up to attract attendees, your food fest will need to promise a brilliant culinary experience to catch the attention of local foodies.

You want attendees to be able to meander through a range of food stalls experiencing the tempting smells of exciting dishes before deciding which to try. And you want them to be able to do it all in a cool setting that makes for a nice afternoon out – whether that’s a quaint cobbled lane in your local village, or beautiful farmland set against a backdrop of rolling hills.

Feeling inspired? Keep reading to learn about the practicalities of organising a food festival.

How much does it cost to run a food festival?

How much it costs to run your food festival will depend on a range of factors, including where you are in the world, how many attendees you’ll be hosting, and what kind of entertainment you’ll be providing. 

While it’s impossible to say exactly how much you can expect to spend, as this really does depend on a large number of variable factors, here’s a breakdown of some of the things you’ll need to pay for:

  • Your venue

  • Entertainment (e.g. live music)

  • Permits

  • Insurance

  • Additional decor

  • Amenities like portaloos and parking

  • Electrical equipment

  • Staff 

  • Security

  • Water and power

  • Signage 

  • Marketing and ticketing

How do you make money from a food festival?

The main sources of revenue you’ll have for your food festival will be:

  • Tickets – charging for entry to your festival is one of the most effective ways to make it profitable. 

  • Food vendors – you may choose to charge each vendor a fixed fee and/or a percentage of their sales.

  • Sponsorship – securing sponsors for your festival can be a good way to secure more income and grow your profits.

How to organise your food and drink festival – 7 steps

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to organise a successful food festival:

#1 Do some research & plan your budget

First up – it’s important to do some market research to get a feel for what kind of food festival could perform well in your area. Look into whether there are any current food festivals nearby, and make a list of what defines these festivals. This will help you to make sure your festival has its own unique selling point/s. 

If there are no food festivals in your area, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no appetite for one. Try to get a feel for whether locals like attending similar events – for example, village fetes or even music festivals. If there’s a demand for these, it’s likely there’ll be demand for a fun food fest. 

Tip: If you have a following on social media, running polls and questionnaires can be a good way to gauge demand for your event. 

Next, it's important to define a clear budget for your event. This is the single best thing you can do when it comes to preventing costs from spiralling. When creating your budget, consider all the paid-for elements of your event (see the list under the above heading “How much does it cost to run a food fest?”).  

Tip: It’s always best to incorporate contingency costs into your budget – just in case you end up having to fork out for extras in the event things go wrong. Say, if a supplier dropped out at the last minute, resulting in you having to pay for a more expensive replacement supplier.

#2 Secure a venue for your food festival

Time to scout for the perfect food fest venue. You may already have an idea in mind of where you’d like to host your event – for example, a picturesque spot outdoors, or a local community hall. If you’re unsure, here are some food festival venue ideas to get you started:

  • A farm – some local farm owners may be willing to get involved, as your festival could act as a good advertisement for their business. Or, they might simply be willing to let you rent space on their land for a certain cost.

  • A public park or street – in this case, you’d need to get permission from the local council.

  • A private business – there may be businesses in your area that could act as a venue for a great food festival. For example, a pub with a sprawling beer garden. 

  • A community or church hall – there’s nothing to say your food festival needs to be held outdoors. Most community, village and church halls are available for hire for various types of events.

#3 Secure vendors

Your food vendors are the lifeblood of your festival – so it’s important to get this crucial step right. Put out a notice in the local area stating that you are hosting a food festival and looking for restaurants, street food stalls, and other food businesses to get involved. 

You can take a multi-pronged approach here – post regularly on social media, send out emails to any contacts you have, and leave flyers around your local area. 

When you start getting interest from vendors, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to make an informed decision about participating in your festival. For example, they’ll need to know:

  • What the cost to them will be – will you charge them a fixed fee and/or a percentage of their sales? Or will participation be free?

  • Any requirements you have around the type of food they prepare – e.g. do they need to stick to a specific theme?

  • What you will/won’t provide in terms of equipment, electricity, water etc.

  • How many attendees you expect to attend your event. (This is important, as vendors will need to know how profitable your event will potentially be.)

#4 Set up event registration/ticketing

Now you know where your food festival will be held, and which food vendors will be attending you can start to advertise your event to the public. The first important step here is to set up event registration, so people can either buy tickets or register their attendance to your festival if it’s free entry.

It’s important to do this early on in the planning process, so you can start to get a feel for how popular your event will be. Getting a burst of early sales can also help with your cash flow. 

😌 Introducing Ticket Tailor

Setting up event registration is super easy with Ticket Tailor (hi! 👋). It’s totally free to sign up and there’s no commitment required. Then, you can set up a fully customised box office page, providing all the relevant details about your food festival. If you decide to set up your own dedicated food festival website, you can embed your Ticket Tailor box office directly onto it – so everything can be handled in one place. 

We’re free to use for free events, and we charge a small, flat fee for paid events. This is £0.20 per ticket when you buy credits in advance, or £0.60 per ticket when you pay as you go.

Find out everything you need to know about ticketing your festival with Ticket Tailor >

#5 Secure any permits

Depending on where you’re hosting your festival, you may need to get certain permits. For example, you may need to secure a premise licence to be able to sell alcohol on your festival site. Or, it might be the case that the venue already has a licence. Other permits you need may include things like food permits, park use permits, and electricity permits. 

To navigate this slightly complex area of event planning, it’s best to speak with your local authority – they’ll be able to give you all the information you need. You should also liaise with your venue manager or owner, as they’ll know which permits are already in place.

#6 Secure sponsors

Starting up a partnership with one or more brands can be a great way to secure extra funding for your festival. And there are many more benefits to get excited about, too. When you secure a sponsorship deal, you essentially embark on a mutually beneficial relationship with a brand that has a vested interest in the success of your event/s. This means your event can get way more exposure, thanks to the fact your sponsor is likely to carry out their own advertising of it. 

We have a full guide to securing sponsors for events, which explains all you need to know 😌.

#7 Market your food fest

Finally – it’s time to get the word out about your festival. There are many marketing channels – free and paid – that can be incredibly effective when it comes to event promotion. Social media is an invaluable tool that can be harnessed to not only spread awareness of your event, but to create a loyal community around it, too. Then, there are traditional (but often equally as effective) promo methods, like flyering around your local area. 

We have tons of event marketing guides which can give you lots of great tips and strategies to spread the word about your food festival. 

And don't forget, with a platform like Ticket Tailor you'll get a bunch of marketing tools to help you, from creating trackable referral and affiliate links to setting up pixel tracking. Plus real-time reporting tools mean you can see the instant impact of marketing campaigns on your ticket sales.

Planning a food festival – closing thoughts

Putting on a food festival for your local community can be a great way to bring people together, while giving local businesses a chance to show off their culinary flair. There are plenty of ways to make money from your festival, including charging guests for entry, and charging food businesses to take part. Securing one or more sponsors can also be a good way to boost funding, while landing your festival in front of a wider audience. There are quite a few costs associated with putting on a food fest – but with proper budgeting, you should be able to ensure your event is profitable. 

We hope this guide has been useful!

For lots more useful tips and insights on running your own festival, check out our articles:

Looking for a reliable, low-cost ticketing partner? Find out how Ticket Tailor can help you with seamless, affordable, and stress-free event registration >