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Festival time! What are the risks for catering vans?

The UK music festival scene is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, welcoming revellers from all over the planet every year. After a hard day of dancing and partying, everyone’s going to be very hungry indeed. Feeding the millions of people who attend these events is a massive job. Something that a mobile caterer like you play will play a big part in. However, it’s not all plain sailing at such big events, a lot can go wrong if you’re not prepared. Read our guide to the best UK festivals worth visiting with your catering van in 2022 and be prepared for some of the risks you might encounter when you get there!

With countless festivals taking place all over the country every year, ranging from a day in a local park to the extravaganza that is Glastonbury, there’s bound to be somewhere for you to pitch up and turn a profit. Provided you’ve picked out the right catering van insurance.

people outdoors at a festival

Are UK festivals a good place for a catering van?

When someone talks about going to a festival, they’ll be looking forward to partying until dawn to their favourite acts. And about the up-and-coming talents they’ve just ‘discovered’. But as a food-obsessed mobile caterer, it’s not just about the music for you – it’s also about the business!

While others focus on the headliners, you’ll be thinking about the demographic of the people attending. How much are they likely to spend on food? And whether your catering van might be just right for them.

According to the latest figures from the government, over 5.2 million people attend UK music festivals annually. While huge events like Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, and the Isle of Wight attract big crowds, hundreds of smaller festivals are also well attended. Since people don't tend to leave the festival site once they’re there, you’ve got a captive audience primed for your delicious treats.

Even after buying a festival ticket costing up to several hundred pounds, festival goers are still happy to splash the cash when they’re having a good time. Researchers have found attendees spend a grand total of £1.2bn on food, clothes and merchandise. That’s around £67 a day spent on stalls, rides and other festival activities. Of that, by far the largest daily spend is on food, with the average music fan spending £46 a day on tasty morsels.

Not only are festivals great places to make money. They’re also a great opportunity to get your brand into the limelight. Who knows? You could be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tom Kerridge, Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Olivier before you know it!

Don’t forget, while there's no doubt you'll all be working hard, you and your team will also be soaking up those festival vibes. You might even have time to do a bit of star-spotting and listen to some of your favourite bands while you’re there.

If you’re wondering how much it could all cost you, and how best to maximise your profits then our Mobilers festival catering guide has all the answers.

What are the biggest UK festivals?

So, if you think the festival game sounds tempting, which one will it be this summer? To get your decision-making off to a great start here’s a selection of some of the biggest and best festivals taking place in summer 2022.

That said, if you’re only just starting off in mobile food trading, perhaps it would be better to start on a smaller scale. There are many hundreds of smaller festivals dotted around the country where you can hone your skills, get used to festival trading, and work out what goes down best in such an environment. While you might not make as much money as you would at the bigger festivals, the pitch will be much cheaper and you’ll be much better prepared when Glasto comes calling.

Radio 1’s Big Weekend

When? 27-29th May 2022

Where? War Memorial Park, Coventry

How many people attend? 70,000

What’s it all about? BBC Radio 1 runs this brilliant three-day festival that moves to a different UK city each year. It’s Coventry’s turn in 2022 to host some of the planet’s biggest names in pop music and plenty of new artists. This year crowds will see Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris, Aitch, AJ Tracey, Anne-Marie and many others.

BST Hyde Park

When? Various dates in June and July 2022

Where? Hyde Park, London

How many people attend? 65,000

What’s it all about? Held over two weekends in London’s Hyde Park you’re always certain of catching some of the biggest names in music. Rather than a single large festival like Glastonbury it operates more like a series of mini day festivals, with headliners and a whole host of support acts into the bargain.

Isle of Wight Festival

When? 16th-19th June 2022

Where? Newport, Isle of Wight

How many people attend? 59,000

What’s it all about? From Bob Dylan in 1969 to Kanye West and Jay-Z in 2010, the Isle of Wight festival prides itself on its unique line-up of up-and-comers, chart-toppers and legacy favourites.

Glastonbury Festival

When? 22nd-26th June 2022

Where? Worthy Farm, Somerset

How many people attend? Around 200,000

What’s it all about? The most famous music festival in the country, if not the world. Glastonbury Festival is unquestionably the pinnacle of festival catering experiences. After cancellations in 2020 and 2021 and a 50th anniversary to celebrate, 2022 looks set to be something truly special. If you’re one of the lucky ones to have already grabbed a pitch here, know that you’re in possession of a solid gold opportunity.

glastonbury festival field of tents

Wireless

When? 1st-3rd July and 8th-10th July 2022

Where? Crystal Palace Park and Finsbury Park, London. NEC outdoors, Birmingham

How many people attend? 49,000

What’s it all about? This urban music festival is set to expand significantly in 2022. Huge stars are expected to perform at three events across two weekends in July. In London, Crystal Palace Park and Finsbury Park are the host venues while in Birmingham it’s NEC outdoors that will be flying the hip hop flag. The initial line-up includes Cardi B, A$AP Rocky, J.Cole, Dave, Nicki Minaj, SZA, Doja Cat and Tyler, The Creator.

Latitude

When? 21st-24th July 2022

Where? Henham Park, Suffolk

How many people attend? 40,000

What’s it all about? This idyllic countryside festival takes place in Henham Park, near Southwold in the stunning county of Suffolk. The pioneering, award-winning festival prides itself on being much more than just a music event. Any year could bring you a heady mix of comedy, cabaret, theatre, poetry, politics, dance, literature and even stand-up paddleboarding.

Camp Bestival

When? 28th-31st July and 18th-21st August 2022

Where? Lulworth Castle, Dorset and Weston Park, Shropshire

How many people attend? 30,000

What’s it all about? One of the very best family-friendly festivals around. This one really caters to fun-seekers of all ages. With a full-to-bursting programme of events aimed at keeping both kids and adults happy. For 2022, the usual Dorset-based event will be joined by a new sister event in Weston Park, Shropshire. The festival is known for its exciting range of foods on offer so if you’re offering something a bit different then you’ll be in good company here.

Boardmasters

When? 10th-14th August 2022

Where? Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach, Cornwall

How many people attend? 150,000

What’s it all about? This Cornish beach festival takes place over five amazing days in the summer. While you can be assured of plenty of surfing and sounds, the sun may or may not make an appearance. A wet weather plan is always good to have at any summer festival in the UK.

Green Man

When? 18th-21st August 2022

Where? Brecon Beacons, Wales

How many people attend? 20,000-60,000 (Depending on pandemic)

What’s it all about? While Green Man is smaller than some of these other festivals, we still think it’s a real gem for mobile caterers. Almost 20 years old, this festival continues to wow with its varied line-up and fascinating programme of events. For foodies, the emphasis is on fresh and locally sourced ingredients inspired by all corners of the globe. You can expect to find a smorgasbord of street food on offer here.

Reading and Leeds festivals

When? 26th-28th August 2022

Where? Reading, Berkshire and Leeds, West Yorkshire

How many people attend? 75,000

What’s it all about? Generations of British festival-goers have attended these dual-running events. They’re always among the biggest events on the UK festival calendar with thousands of hungry mouths to feed.

woman on mans shoulder at a festival

Creamfields North

When? 25th-28th August 2022

Where? Daresbury, Cheshire

How many people attend? 70,000

What’s it all about? Without a doubt the UK’s biggest and most prestigious electronic music festival. For those wanting to listen to some of the best-known DJs on the world circuit then this is the place to come. It celebrates turning 25 in 2022 so expect a birthday party atmosphere.

If you’re looking for a festival earlier in the summer and further south, how about the new, 50,000-capacity sister event Creamfields South? It takes place in June at Hylands Park in Chelmsford. And has an unsurprisingly starry line-up including David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Amelie Lens and more.

Boomtown

When? 10-14th August 2022

Where? Winchester, Hampshire

How many people attend? 60,000

What’s it all about? An incredible, magical five-day extravaganza of eccentric entertainment. There really is nowhere else like it. Boomtown prides itself on the fantastic selection of food and drink on offer during the event.

Be aware, this year Boomtown is going to be an entirely cashless festival. Meaning everything is paid for via festival wristbands which will have funds loaded onto them. So, no more scrambling around for change as the customers grow restless.

What are the risks for catering vans at festivals?

When you’re weighing up which festival would be right for your mobile catering business there can be a lot to think about. Something that really needs to be considered are the range of risks involved. Every festival will be different but here are just some of the potential issues to think about. 

four people walking on a muddy field

Not planning far enough in advance

If you haven’t yet decided which festival to rock-up at then you need to get a move on. The most popular events will soon be overwhelmed with traders wanting the best pitches. Many festivals also have rigorous application processes which you’ll need plenty of time to get through.

Ignoring logistics

Operating from a festival site for a few days can make big demands on your stock and equipment. You really need to work out how to get everything you’ll need to the site and in place by the time the festival-goers descend. And don’t forget you’ll also be away from home for a couple of days. It’s important to be comfortable and in good shape to work those long hours. As well as an adequate supply of stock and equipment make sure all staff have enough clean uniform and a decent pair of non-slip shoes.

Damage and theft

With tens of thousands of revellers passing by your van over the course of a festival weekend, you’ll need to take into account the potential for loss or damage caused by fire, weather, vandalism, and even theft.

Mud, mud, mud

When you’re wrapped up safe on your sofa at home, all those images of mud-splattered tents and wellies can look like fun. However, when you’re in it yourself it’s no laughing matter. When you’ve pitched up in a field and the rain starts to fall, mud will be on every trader’s mind.

Not only do you need to be careful of the van getting stuck, but what about your customers. If you can provide a bit of shelter while they wait then it’ll make your business far more attractive. In muddy conditions, health and safety needs to be your top priority.

Equipment breakdowns

Whether you’re cooking on gas or relying on the electric, no mobile catering business can survive if you’re hit by power surges, mechanical failures, and other damages or faults to equipment. Check that everything is working correctly before you head off and make sure you’ve got catering van insurance for protection. After all, if you can’t provide a service then you may as well pack up and leave.

Unclear prices

With so much competition and so many musical distractions, if you don’t make your offering clear to customers then they’ll simply walk on by. Make prices clear and obvious to help those difficult food choices. Simplify your menu and price meals in easy round numbers – £5, £10 and so on – so customers aren’t fiddling around for change.

Expensive pitch fees

Pitch fees can range from a couple of hundred pounds for smaller festivals to over £10,000 for the big ones. The level of fees will also depend on the pitch location, size and what you’re selling. Some organisers may also take a percentage of your sales. Research your target festivals well in advance to make sure it works for you financially. And if you’re considering set-up costs, don't forget catering van insurance, too!

Not enough customers

The big fear of any mobile catering business is that there simply won’t be enough people at the festival. Whether because of bad weather or lack of publicity, this can certainly be an issue with smaller, local events in out-of-the-way places. Speak to others who have attended the festival before and see how they did.  

Getting stock levels wrong

As the excitement builds and you look forward to one of your busiest trading days ever there’s always going to be that worry in the back of your mind. Do I have enough stock? Have I got too much stock? Either situation could hit your bottom line. Speak to other traders, go on forums and get advice so you’re well prepared.

As you gain festival experience, understanding how much stock you need will get easier. A good idea is to consider how much you would need to sell for you to consider the festival a financial success. For example, if you need to sell 1,000 burgers in order to make a healthy profit then order enough stock to cover this.

Too busy

Okay, you might think this is a problem you’re happy to have. However, if you don’t have enough staff and the queue starts to build up then you’ll start putting off potential customers.

If you have enough staff, a good idea is to turn a long single file queue into a much less intimidating two or three-line one. You’ve got the same number of people but a much quicker order time.

Unhappy staff

Your catering van may never have been as busy as when attending a festival. While this is great news for your profits, the same can’t be said for the effect it might have on your staff. Your well-oiled productive team could soon run into trouble if they’re worked off their feet.

Always make sure they’re well-fed, well-watered, and well-rested. A nice idea is to find out if there are bands they really want to see and then schedule their shifts around these. Just because they’re at work, doesn’t mean they can’t have a great time, too.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning can be a particular risk at festivals where people are super busy and end up making mistakes. Keeping foods at the incorrect temperature, cooking them incorrectly, or using contaminated foods can all quickly lead to nasty foodborne illnesses. Having catering liability insurance to complement your catering van insurance is an important way to protect your business from legal claims.

Large, confusing menu

There are many benefits to offering a smaller menu at festival time. Not only is it easier to predict stock levels, but your efficiency should go up and you can increase the number of portions you can serve in an hour. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it'll make it much easier for customers to make a choice rather than move on and look elsewhere. When they’ve spent the whole day rocking out, simplicity is key.

Too many traders selling the same food

While you’ll have a big audience for your food, chances are there could also be more traders there selling similar products. Try to find a niche or something special to mark you out from the crowd.

Not enough change

With some festivals going cashless this year, make sure you’ve got your mobile POS systems, like card readers, set up. However, this won’t be the case at all festivals and it’s always wise to have a good amount of change just in case.

Inadequate catering van insurance

As you can see, festival catering isn’t always smooth sailing. Damage, theft and loss of profits can all put a sizable dent in your big weekend. So, having adequate catering van insurance cover is vital if you want to avoid the financial pain of such problems.

When choosing cover it’s important to pick a company that understands the unique challenges you face. Mobilers has been arranging bespoke catering insurance for over 20 years. It’s so quick and simple to find catering van insurance through us.

No proper risk assessment

As a mobile caterer you’ll need to manage a lot of risks. The best way to get a handle on hazards is to know how to conduct a risk assessment for your mobile catering van. Read our simple step-by-step guide on risk assessments to find out more.

And if something does go wrong, you’ll be glad you had catering van insurance to cover your vehicle, fixtures and fittings.

Not making the most of the festival experience

There are few better opportunities to get brand exposure than at a weekend event attended by tens of thousands of people. So, make sure you’ve got your social media ready to go and your branding in tip-top shape. We can’t think of a better way to spread the word.

Get catering van insurance from the specialists

Make the most of this festival season by getting the catering van insurance in place early.

Mobilers can arrange cover for different types of catering vehicle, with values ranging from £1,000 to £200,000. We can even include protection for fixtures and fittings.

Get a quote for catering/mobile catering van insurance today.

 

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