This year, now our 3rd whole year of trading, we will be returning to more festivals than those which we will be trying for the first time. This is a natural evolution of the street food calendar, as you root out the rubbish events and ditch them for ones that are worth the time and effort.

The problem is not so much that a bad event won’t make you any money, it’s that a bad event won’t make you money and is a wasted weekend during the precious 2-ish months of good weather when the people of Britain whip out their shorts, sun glasses, one endlessly repeated acoustic/a capella/ukulele version of an out of date number one single (2011 – Forget you by Celo Green, 2012 – Take That, Rule the World, 2013 – Daft Punk with Get Lucky, 2014 – Happy by Farrell) and head to festivals up and down the country.
Festivals everywhere doing acoustic versions of Farrell's "Happy"

Finding that perfect event is a complicated balance: An event you know is very often better than an event you don’t. In part this is because you have a better idea of layout, times, places and audiences. Mostly it is due to the Law of Festival Returns. Welcome to my newest theory in the science of street food. The Law of Festival Returns states that returning to the same festival the following year will, given equal or better weather, result in a noticeable increase in sales. Testing is still ongoing: double blind trials are proving complicated as we keep dropping stuff, but the theory seems solid.

Not that it is especially surprising: People tend to visit the same events, and having enjoyed your food the first time, chances are they will seek you out again because nobody got ill and we all love a solid routine. Therefore in the second year you enjoy repeat custom from the first year as well as the new visitors from the second. In year three you can then expect this to increase again, as two years of satisfied customers form an orderly queue.

the law of festival returns at Leamington food festival

Our last three years at the Leamington Food Festival, where the Law of Festival Returns was first conceived. Back 2014 on Sept 6&7th.

The exact level of increase is hard to judge, because it depends very much on what the organisers do with their year, but for the sake of having some sciencey-looking numbers let’s say 20%. In some cases the organisers will expand the event and add a load more catering, in others they are just about maintaining the status quo, but either way, so far we’ve ended up doing better. This makes a new festival an even greater gamble than, for example, a mediocre festival you’re visiting for the second year. At Mediocre Fest we know we’ll do 2013 + 20%, which means we’re not wasting stock by getting in silly numbers for a new event we know nothing about. This constitutes a win, even if we could have potentially have made more money elsewhere. Generally speaking, Actual Money works out way more functional than Potential Money, so if you are offered both, I’d take the actual stuff every time.

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