This summer has been a mixed bag, with boiling temperatures in July and then unwanted rain just as you think you’re getting the hang of the weather (looking at you, August Bank Holiday). But it still paid the bills, and has been for 8 years now. So here we are, aged veterans of street food, and I would like to share how we make long term money.
The answer is not, and this may seem counter-intuitive but bear with me, to work more. Doing more gigs in more places at more times should increase your turnover, which is lovely, and improve your cashflow, which is nice. But those things are still a couple of steps away from actual money. You’re still paying pitch fees, staff and wastage, you’re still spending time organising and booking those events and you’re still actually having to show up on the day. We worked more days in 2012 than any other year. And we made the same amount as 2011 and much less than 2013.
Rhetorical questions are just the worst, aren’t they? So this isn’t really the solution either, for much more obvious reasons. Actual long term money still needs to come from somewhere, so hanging up the tongs and waiting for the lotto win isn’t going to work either. I propose that when booking for next year you do two things: focus on making the good events you do even better and (although it pains me to use the word cause it’s all a bit nu-office-speak) diversify.
Say you had an excellent year at your local Really Awesome Taster in Beston Upon The Shore street food gig (RATBUTS for short). It runs every month and you sold out each time. Nice. Next year they are doing more dates and want you to be a big part of that.
Good-o. So now look at how this event can make you more money. Could you bring a second unit selling different food? Could you add in an extra counter to serve from and plough it out faster? Could you add in a top-end niche product that will make you nice chunky profit when it sells? Or a fast-service cheap product that everyone will want (chips)? Can you make your signage clearer or your location better? Can you just straight up bring more Tofu & Quinoa Smash, because the TQ Smash sold out really quickly last time?
Just before you fill your calendar with Ratbuts, consider what you will do if Ratbuts, as successful as it is, suddenly fails. This usually happens when the organisers fall out with the venue, or the venue sees an opportunity to make more cash doing the same thing, or the organisers just don’t want to do it any more. I’ve seen all of them happen. But it could as simple as Ratbuts falling out of love with your Tofu & Quinoa because they’ve found a newer, sexier combination of vegan ingredients. The work dries up and there you stand, bean-curd in hand. Quinoa dripping on the floor.
This is where Diversify comes in like a well choreographed street dance group. There is a temptation to be faithful to the organisers, supporting the event and and sticking with them through thick and thin, but money makes fools of us all. So you may be better placed trying to spread your trade far enough that, if any one event or organiser fails, for whatever reason, you won’t go down with them. This means not signing up for every market or event run by this one provider here, even if they are usually ok. By all means keep doing the events, but don’t let them own you. You also never know what opportunity lies ahead when you have a free weekend and can take a last-minute gig.
I’m writing this because we got a last minute spot at a festival this year and it was one of our best events ever. At the time we were only booked to do regular street food event that weekend. We still did the street food gig (yey double units), but I’m glad we were able to go to that festival. Next year: maximise profit.
In the meantime: Bring on the winter markets! We will be back on the Parade in Leamington Spa every Sunday from the start of October. See you there!