Six tips for improving your brand recognition at summer food festivals

By Diane Chiasson

The summer season is a great time for restaurants to bring in extra business by attracting tourists, opening your patio, reinvigorating your menu with fresh, local produce, and promoting ice-cold, thirst-quenching cocktails. But have you considered participating in a summer food festival?

Each year, there seems to be an increase in the number of food festivals being held. A quick search on Google yields hundreds of different festivals every weekend around the country. While it takes a lot of work, preparation and money to get your restaurant or foodservice operation on the festival circuit, it can help marketing your place and increase your brand recognition substantially.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm based in Toronto, believes that being a part of a summer food festival could be a great way to help increase business. Here are some reasons why, and what you need to do to ensure success:

1. Great exposure

Food festivals draw thousands of people who are looking for new foods, new cuisines and new brand names to try. You have a willing audience interested in what you have to offer. For well-known restaurants, it’s a good opportunity to reinforce your brand in the community by appearing in local food festivals year after year.

2. Good for the community

Your participation in your local summer food festival also shows that you care about being a part of your community. This can help bolster your customer loyalty and give your brand name a bigger spotlight. Consider donating a portion of the proceeds of your sales to sponsor a local school, team or charity as well.

3. Get personal

Unlike social media, your appearance at a food festival allows you to interact with potential customers in person. Begin creating relationships with potential customers by encouraging visitors at your booth to visit you at your restaurant and ask for you personally. Promise special, VIP attention to everyone you meet, and then deliver.

4. Sell a memorable dish

Many of the attendees at summer food festivals are “foodies” who are looking to try the next best thing. Sell your current signature dish or create a new one, but make sure that it is something new, interesting and tasty, and will create buzz around the festival. Study the latest food trends to see which items on your menu would generate the most interest.

5. Offer free mementos

Ensure that customers leave your booth with a lasting memory of your restaurant or foodservice operation. This means handing copies of your menu, coupons, flyers or any other promotional item that includes your name, logo, address, telephone and website. Consider printing all your information on magnets, pens, calendars or any other item that potential customers might use, and remind them of your restaurant/brand.

6. Choose the right festival for you

While it’s a good idea to be in a summer food festival, don’t get overzealous and participate in all of them. If your restaurant or foodservice operation is located in a metropolitan area, you may need to do some research on which festival(s) would be best suited to your operation. Consider what type of person you want in your restaurant, and try to look for a festival that most likely caters to your target audience. For smaller cities or rural areas, your community may only hold one food festival all summer, but it’s important that you be a part of it.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit

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