Lesson 5: The Food Booth

While a Cottage Food business may work for you in the beginning, branching out into a local farmer’s market street fair or festival can give your sales a big boost.

In this lesson, we’ll look at options and opportunities to grow your business.



The Food Booth

Booth Basics

Your booth needs to capture a customer’s roving eye quickly. It needs to be in good repair, well merchandised, inviting and be able to tell your story – who you are and what you sell – in a moment or two.

The Tent

Buying the right tenting is not only important to draw the attention of customers, but it needs to be durable and easy to set up, break down, clean and repair. A 10’ x 10’ tent or canopy is the standard since most event layouts are designed with this size in mind. Purchasing a booth that is larger creates the risk that you will have to pay for two spaces or not be allowed to set up at all.

While it’s tempting to go on the cheap and buy an economy canopy that is designed for a backyard or picnic, it will not last long or live up to expectations. They aren’t made to last with repeated assembly and disassembly cycles and won’t stand up well if the weather turns on you suddenly.

You don’t have to break the bank, but you do want to get a booth that is made of a good-weight canvas that will stand up to the elements. It needs to be waterproof, and if you can afford it, get one with removable sides. You will regularly want to use the back wall to create privacy and separation from anyone behind you. Side walls may come in handy if you are squeezed in tight with other vendors so customers can tell where one seller stops and another seller starts. It will stop a brisk wind from shooting through your booth unexpectedly. If you are at a multiple-day event, a tent with a zip-down front is essential because you’ll want to leave your basic setup in place, so all you have to do is bring in your products each day. Never leave any valuables in a booth if you’re not standing in it.

If your booth is on grass, make sure that the sprinkler system has been turned off for the duration of the event. If your booth is at the bottom of a slope or hill, have a plan for minor flooding should the weather turn on you. Water runs downhill, and more than one booth has had its products ruined because they weren’t kept off the ground.



You’d think this would be a very short section: Get Weights. The End.

YouTube is filled with videos of booths that have taken flight, sailing across the festival grounds as if they had wings.

In a way, they do. In inclement weather, a tent can take flight without notice, even if you think it was properly weighted. This will not only cost you in terms of sales, but it can result in a lawsuit if someone is injured or something is damaged by your rogue tent.

As a lot of these events happen in parking lots, along walkways and in public parks, you can’t use stakes or auger in an anchor and tie your tent down with ropes. Additionally, stakes and ropes can create tripping hazards, and the last thing you need is someone tripping over your tent anchors and breaking a hip.

For a 10’x10’ tent, it’s recommended that each leg be anchored with a 40-pound weight. Some manufacturers say you can get away with a 24-pound weight per leg, but always assume that the wind will pick up, it will be more brisk than forecast, and your canopy will want to break its earthly bonds. Strong gusts can come out of nowhere and without warning. This is particularly true during setup and breakdown. Leave the weights in place until you are ready to break down the booth. And when you setup the frame and before you add the canopy, have weights at the ready.

What kind of weights should you use? There are plenty of options out there, from do-it-yourself solutions to the purchase of weights made specifically for tents and canopies.

    • Cement in an empty bucket. A 2.5-gallon bucket with cement in it that is lashed to each corner of the booth is one solution. Just be sure that the bucket is tied to the canopy itself and not just placed on the feet.
    • A PCV pipe capped and filled with cement is another good solution and more elegant than a bucket. Since it hangs on the legs of the canopy, it reduces the chance someone will trip over it.
    • A bucket of sand works, but you’ll need a bigger bucket since sand isn’t as dense as cement.
    • Vertical sandbag weights that are made specifically for tents are another solution. Most weigh only 24 pounds, though, so you may need two for each leg, just to be on the safe side.

Do not use gallon jugs of water. They only weigh eight pounds each, and you’d need an unsightly number to keep your booth anchored to the ground.

And never use cement blocks. They are tripping hazards and can create severe injuries.



Your signs should be able to read from afar. If you have specific colors you use on your product packaging or in your logo, use them for the signage. You want people to see you from each direction as well as in front.

If you have a logo, resist the temptation to use it as the only thing on your sign. Remember, this customer base is new to you. They may have never ordered products from your Cottage Food operation. Your sign should say what it is you offer. Your logo can be part of that message since you want to build brand awareness. Put it in the corner of the signage, not in the center.

If possible, have your sign run the length of your tent. Some tent manufacturers allow you to print your message right on the canopy. Be sure to ask if there are any event restrictions for signage. You don’t want to block other vendors or have such a big sign that people have to duck under it to see what you’re selling. If the event doesn’t have height restrictions, consider adding a vertical banner to one front corner that can wave a bit in a breeze to draw attention to you.

A vinyl sign with grommets is ideal, since it will not only last forever, but you can use it for other events you sell at, such as a bazaar. If you plan wisely, you can get one that will fit in the front of your table too, so you have additional flexibility and visibility.



Food Biz Academy

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Academy Staff