At music festivals, Missouri restaurants find recipe for revenue, exposure

When the bands roll into St. Louis and Columbia for LouFest and the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, they’ll usher in thousands of fans along with them. For the local restaurants participating in these festivals, that means a weekend of extra revenue.

LouFest, taking place Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis’ Forest Park, attracted about 50,000 fans last year, 14,000 more than in 2014, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

While LouFest is in its seventh year, Columbia’s Roots N Blues festival, which runs Sept. 30-Oct. 2, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Julie King, Roots N Blues N BBQ director, expects the festival to draw 27,000 fans to Stephens Lake Park throughout the weekend, 2,000 more than last year.



LouFest will offer 25 vendor selections in its Nosh Pit food-vendor area, according to the festival’s website, and the booths will house a variety of restaurants from the St. Louis area, ranging from pizza to ice cream to hot dogs.

Among the Nosh Pit restaurants is Evangeline’s, a French Creole and Cajun restaurant and live music venue that will participate in LouFest for the third year in a row.

Owner Don Bailey said he has enjoyed being a part of LouFest because it allows him to promote his restaurant among people who feel passionately about music.

“I think it’s great advertising, and it has helped me to think outside of the box on how to get the word out about Evangeline’s,” Bailey said. “I could advertise on Facebook or in the newspaper, but this allows us to get outside of the restaurant and show the music lovers at LouFest that we are doing things in the community.”

Evangeline’s made $1,263 at LouFest last year, and Bailey hopes to double his profit this year.

“I think that we are going to make about $2,250 this year, because now that it is our third year of doing LouFest, we have the system of the festival down,” he said.

Baileys’ Range, a burger restaurant in downtown St. Louis, will also be in its third year of participating in the Nosh Pit.

Dave Bailey (no relation to Don Bailey), the owner of Baileys’ Restaurants, said that being involved in LouFest is an opportunity for his restaurant to make extra revenue over one weekend.

“We don’t plan to make a specific amount of profit at LouFest ahead of time,” he said, “because doing so depends on several factors outside of our control, like the weather, the music lineup and the makeup of the restaurants in the Nosh Pit.”

Dave Bailey said he thinks his restaurant will be able to make a profit as long as the staff conducts three to six transactions per minute in the Nosh Pit during the busy times, such as lunch and dinner.

Even though being a vendor at LouFest costs Baileys’ Range thousands of dollars — he declined to give an exact number — Dave Bailey explained that he and his staff have controlled costs at their booth during the festival.

“We are very careful about not producing any food waste, and we keep a read on when the rushes of people will or won’t be coming so that we don’t cook too much food when times are slow,” he said. “We can cut back on staff at the booth according to when we know the valleys of sales are.”


Roots N Blues N BBQ

As of Sept. 7, Roots N Blues had vendor booths lined up for 26 restaurants from Columbia and across Missouri, said Morgan Williams, the festival’s food vendor coordinator.

“We might add one or two more food vendors in the meantime, depending on the last three weeks of ticket sales,” she said.

Harold’s Doughnuts, a craft doughnut shop in downtown Columbia, will return to Roots N Blues for a third year. Owner Michael Urban expects strong sales this year because of the festival’s milestone anniversary.

“Usually, between 2,000 and 4,000 people visit our booth during the three-day period, and we expect at least that many for this year,” he said. “With the 10-year anniversary and a good lineup of bands, I would expect attendance to tick up, causing our traffic to tick up, too.”

Urban also said Harold’s likes to get creative with the food it sells at Roots N Blues.

“Going to the festival stretches our imagination and allows us to try things we wouldn’t usually do in the shop,” he said. “This year, we are going to make mini hot-cake doughnuts on the spot so that people visiting the booth can see up close and personal how we make the doughnuts.”

In addition to the Roots N Blues food vendors, 12 restaurants will offer specials for festivalgoers throughout the weekend, according to the festival’s website. Among these restaurants is Gunter Hans, a European pub and cafe in downtown Columbia.

Manager Tiffany Stanger said that the restaurant will give a $1 discount on brats for people who bring in their Roots N Blues ticket. While Gunter Hans does not have a sales projection set for the special, Stanger said the pub hopes to attract new customers.

“We want the people who are visiting for the festival to spread the word about us,” she said. “We feel this is a good way to connect with the community, too, because Roots N Blues N BBQ aligns with Columbia’s culture.”

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