Top tips for food vendors working local summer festivals

With over 10 years of experience in catering, Chef Squad Caterers owner Ryan Hamilton shared his top tips with for anyone looking to participate in local festivals like Carabram.

Do your homework

“Know what you’re getting into,” Hamilton said. “Make sure that you have a close eye on your budget and marketing yourself properly.”

Improper crowd estimates can lead to serious losses. Hamilton cited an event where he was told to expect 60,000 people. When less than 5,000 people show, vendors were left with massive amounts of wasted food.

Be prepared

“Prepping is the bulk of the work,” Hamilton said, who has already hired his staff of seven and plans on preparing the food needed four full days ahead of the start of Carabram.

Offer something unique

In addition to offering jerk chicken, Hamilton is offering jerk pork, cooked the traditional Jamaican way in a drum, rather than cooked in an oven. “Any time I do any kind of festival, I always sell out of those two.”

Be professional

Hamilton stressed cleanliness was incredibly important to a customer’s first impression. “If you go and see a place is not clean and the area you’re serving the food is not clean, chances are the person preparing the food is not clean either,” he said, adding that staff also had to look presentable. “People look at those things, I look at those things.”

“At the end of the day, if they come to buy food and the presentation is not proper they’re not going to want to buy it.”

Having a great personality also helps

“When people are hungry, they could get a little rowdy, so you have to be able to deal with customers,” Hamilton said.

Have fun (and remember why it’s great)

Hamilton said it’s important to remember you’re outside, getting to meet all kinds of different people and introducing them to new kinds of culture and food.

“That’s one of the greatest rewards, when someone comes up and buys food five or six times,” he said with a laugh. “Because you know they really love the food and that person will tell someone, ‘Hey, this food is great!’”

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