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Managing a mass gathering: festival season

Festival season is back. After a year where every festival was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns, outdoor events have returned with a bang. But with their return has come a fear that COVID cases will spike and spread as a result. In August in the UK, those fears seemed to be realised when a spike in COVID infections coincided with the end of the Boardmasters festival in Cornwall. Public Health officials began to investigate when a large number of attendees claimed positive tests in the wake of the event.  

By their very nature, festivals are going to bring people together in close quarters. It wouldn’t be much of a festival if revellers were asked to keep their distance from each other and refrain from touching or sweating over other partygoers. That said, stall holders, bars and caterers can play a part in minimising the spread of viruses by continuing to observe some of the practices put into place by venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Digital ordering, for instance, could remove a large portion of the queues that jam up the space within festival grounds, freeing up movement around the fields. With almost all festival-goers bringing a smartphone, the pre-ordering of food and drink is now much easier than it once was. Just a few years ago, it would have been a challenge for attendees to use such a service – poor battery life (which has been rectified by portable power packs) and weak mobile signal rendered the concept all but redundant.  

One of the great benefits of digital ordering in an outdoor setting is that operations need little adaptation. Unlike bricks and mortar, which can require change to counter, kitchen and floor layout, pre-ordering in a festival setting (at its most basic) requires just a simple signposted and sectioned off collection area.  

Depending on the size of the festival and the product for sale, customers can also be encouraged to order their goods weeks in advance of their attendance at the festival. We have seen this be extremely successful in the past for event bars offering ‘crates’ of drink cans. Working with QikServe these vendors also circumnavigated the connectivity issue by sending a downloadable receipt that the customer simply presented in return for their chosen items.  

Even though the given example took place prior to the pandemic and digital ordering’s enormous growth in popularity, the resulting benefits were clear and extraordinary. Pre-ordered cold canned drinks were made available for collection straight from the campsite, meaning customers didn’t have to carry around heavy beer cases or drink lukewarm drink at their tent. Nearly 3,500 orders were placed in advance of the festival. A third of orders (32%) were placed for 2 cases of drink, while 68% requested one. In this case ordering began seven weeks before the gates opened and closed two weeks in advance. A significant 21% of all orders were placed in the first week, with numbers peaking three weeks before, when 35% were made. 

This early experiment in festival-based digital ordering didn’t include on-location orders, yet you can be rest assured that a mixture of off-premises and on-location would prove popular. Especially when the benefit of low-contact, COVID-safe collections are emphasised.  Plus, in keeping with the objective of limiting contact and minimising the infection risk, the collections points could be arranged in quieter areas, away from the main bulk of the crowds, so that queues and people are easier to control. 

We, like the rest of the industry, are glad to see the re-emergence of festival season. It’s a vital source of income for many of the brands we admire and work with. But, just like every other vertical within hospitality, all must do their part to keep risks as low as possible. The use of digital ordering – whether in advance or on-site – can play an important role in helping the effort.  

If we’ve struck a chord, get in touch to discuss the contents of this blog, today.

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