- Samples, 1-2 flavors
- Mini muffin cups, for serving the samples
- Cocktail napkins
Booth traffic depends on free samples. No, it’s not required but if you are a food vendor, it’s expected.
There are sometimes rather strict parameters around how food can be served at bridal bazaars and food shows, so be sure to check in your vendor packet for the list of rules and regulations around samples. For large convention centers, you may have to obtain a temporary food permit if you do not already have a food operating license. At some of the bigger venues, food booths might even get visited by a health inspector.
I recommend making samples out of squat (one inch high) full sheet cakes or pastries. Briefly freeze the cakes so that they are cold and solid before using a large double-handled cheese-slicing knife to slice them into tiny, bite-sized squares. Just like petite fours, transfer each one into a mini paper muffin cup for easy handling.
So that the cake remains fresh, slice it the day before the event. I’d recommend enlisting the help of a friend or family member if you do not have employees. I don’t recommend slicing cake at the event itself. That is a messy undertaking and you will probably not have a sink nearby to wash up.
I also do not recommend giving out large samples that are representative of your actual product (whole cupcakes, for instance). This is too costly. A bite sized portion will do.
Also, do not feel obligated to offer a wide range of flavors like the variety in the image above. I have found that one or maybe two options is sufficient.
Bring lots of samples! It’s easy to run out of your supply before the show ends. Hide some extra to keep on hand for the more serious shoppers, just in case you run out. The majority of people who attend trade shows are grazers who will take your sample and walk away without even looking you in the eye. At best, one out of every twenty people will be a serious shopper. For this reason, I highly recommend approaching your samples situation with smiling patience and economy.
- Extra folding table/s
- Backdrop or back splash
- A large banner with your bakery name on it
- Crates or items to add height to the display
- Colorful linens to cover your tables and crates
Usually the venue provides 1-2 tables and 1-2 chairs per booth. However there is always room to build so it helps to have some extra folding tables, especially if your display is large.
The furnishings that are automatically provided by trade shows are usually the basic rented folding kind with starchy white linens and basic table ruffles. To help your booth stand out from the rest, bring extra linens in bright and contrasting colors.
Keep in mind that once an event gets going, the aisles may get crowded, which means that bodies will visually block your booth. For this reason, I recommend hanging your main sign up as high as possible so that it can be seen even when people are crowded around your booth. Likewise, use crates and vertical elements to add height to your display.
- Fake display cakes (with foam or bread interior)
- Large framed photos of your work
- Ipad, laptop, or computer monitor programmed with a digital slideshow of your work
Just as there is an art to decorating cakes, there is also an art to decorating a trade show booth. You want your display to look yummy and enticing, both up close and from afar.
For cake artists, photos go a long way in terms of advertising your style and skills. A binder with a full portfolio of your work is always helpful to have on hand but large framed prints work even better. The larger your decorations, the easier they can be seen and the more effectively they will draw potential customers to your booth.
Collateral Marketing Materials
- Business cards
- Postcard size advertisements
Your collateral materials, in other words, the print marketing materials that potential customers take home, should be eye-catching, fun, and alluring with all your relevant business and contact information included.
Most customers get home and then sort through their bags of swag to find the contact info for the vendors they plan on following up with so it’s very important to provide materials that stand out from the rest.
An effective sales tactic for trade shows is to offer a coupon for free cake delivery (within a limited, pre-established radius like 20 miles) or 10% off (with an expiration date) for show attendees. Staple the coupon to your collateral material and you will surely get more leads. Also, make sure to account for the cost of these discounts in your overall price.
Sales & Reference Materials
- Clipboard with a signup list, to collect customer names and emails
- Your menu & sales material such as cake serving/portion charts, pricing information, and delivery costs
- Testimonials from happy customers, such as photos of brides/grooms with their cakes or a scrapbook of client thank you notes
- Call-to-action sign, such as “book your free cake tasting today!”
Potential customers will have many questions. You will essentially be conducting informal consultations all day long, so bring the same reference materials that you would normally carry with you to a cake tasting or client meeting.
Every booth at a trade show must be manned by at least one staff member. Typically, a bakery booth is represented by one or more of the following:
- Sales representative/s, dressed in business attire
- A chef, dressed in monogrammed chef coat and black slacks
- A helper or a friend to come relieve you at least once during the event, so you can visit the other booths, network, and use the restroom without leaving your booth unmanned.
Whoever works in your booth should be professional, courteous, and knowledgeable of your product line. Be sure to greet visitors, look them in the eye, and answer their questions with a smile.
Consider bringing snacks and drinks for yourself and your workers as there is no lunch break at trade shows. If you are working at an event alone and need to leave your booth unmanned for any reason, ask a neighboring booth to keep an eye on your things while you’re gone.
Remember to have fun! Trade shows are a great opportunity not just to meet potential customers but also to network with other local bakeries and vendors in your line of work. Introduce yourself to the people working in the booths around yours and exchange business cards with as many other professionals as possible, especially wedding planners, venue managers, photographers, and caterers.
Good luck with your trade show experience!
Read some more trade show booth design tips here.
Do you have any tips or feedback to add to this article? If so, please share your ideas in the comment section below.
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Keeping your samples bite-sized is a good idea, especially if you go to a trade show with other food vendors. People will want to try your product, but chances are they have probably already tried someone else’s as well. No need to stuff them! Thanks for sharing the tips.
Thank you for the tips, much appreciated.
These are great tips for someone starting out and I wish I’d had them years ago. I can add one more tip, for samples. I also do small square samples and place them in 2 Oz portion cups. Brides love that they can take a sample away to their groom.
Thanks for the tips!! Great info!