Well, if ZestFest Midwest was a musical comedy, then this past weekend could have been viagra 100mg explainable. However, since the show was dismal on a number of levels, it was ANYTHING but funny. I made it a point to observe closely what went on and listen to a lot of people involved in the show, and here is my take on the the proceedings and what went wrong:
No media presence – There was no obvious attempts to incorporate radio, and the promoters only contacted only 1 TV station, the NBC affiliate. The problem with that is that NBC happens to be the one with the lowest ratings in central Ohio. It would not have taken much more effort to contact ALL the local stations to see whether they would fight over who would cover this event. Radio promotions are always a good idea too, but none were to be had.
Lack of effective advertising – We live in Columbus and paid attention to the media. We saw no billboards or commercials, and it is unknown what was done in print media. It made out to be a big deal about the show’s partnership with the local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch. However, print is a dying media compared to other options and anything they did in that regard had little effect in town and certainly NO effect outside the metropolitan Columbus area.
Overpriced admission cost – $15 per day would be a lot for an established show, but is certainly way too much in a market that you are trying to build the brand. The Jungle Jim’s show learned that lesson when their prices for admission were too high, and managed to get a boost in attendees by lowering the per day cost.
Timing of the event – Of ALL the weekends that they could pick, they picked the weekend of ComFest. For those of you who don’t know, ComFest is essentially a huge community festival filled with food, drink, and live music. It’s also been around for four decades and is well established. So, imagine a big foodie event going on in town opposite your fledgling foodie event that most people know little about. Good luck trying to compete with that.
Problems with the venue – How about Draconian parking issues? Heaven forbid that you had to leave the event…getting back in would cost you another $5. During Saturday’s time slot, they closed the area due to the Kenny Chesney concert, so either you couldn’t get in at all or they made you pay $20 to park. To add insult to injury, the VENDORS had to pay to park. One thing you don’t do after you’ve bled the vendors for overpriced booth space is ask them to pay $5 per day to park. Bad idea.
Oh yeah, speaking of the Kenny Chesney concert going on Saturday…not only did that detract from the potential patrons, but THEY LOCKED OUT ANYONE BEING ABLE TO GET IN AFTER 2PM. That’s right, the venue made it impossible for anyone to get in for half the whole day on Saturday. There isn’t a “facepalm” loud enough to cover the WTF with that.
No concessions – Every event has to make it possible for patrons to eat. Not so with ZestFest Midwest! Apparently, they were going to have local food trucks (which are pretty good) be available to provide a variety of food options. However, they have to be reserved 30 days in advance, and the show’s promoters didn’t do that. So they were not there, and any hunger you had was only going to be satisfied by pretzels, or you bringing food with you to the show. They had plenty of drink options, but nothing to eat. It’s a FOODIE show, people. Please provide food options for your customers.
Cutoff of phone & wi-fi – That darn Kenny Chesney again. Apparently, the venue didn’t want “those darn kids” mooching wi-fi and any other technology being provided for the show. At 5pm on Saturday, those options were shut off. Here’s the kicker…THE SHOW WAS GOING UNTIL 6pm! All the vendors who were counting on being able to do electronic transactions were totally out of luck. Anyone unable to pay with cash was unable to make purchases.
No contact with the vendors from the show’s management – Now this is common with other shows where there is a disconnect between the show’s management and the vendors, but there is a higher expectation on a first-year show where goodwill amongst everyone is crucial to pave the way to even HAVE a second-year event. Given the litany of issues, it should have signaled the management to be MORE hands-on dealing with these issues and offering incentives to the vendors. Perhaps offer a credit to those who lost money due to the cavalcade of mistakes? I don’t know, but the silence was deafening from the management…at least based upon the vendors with whom I asked about it.
BOTTOM LINE: This show had the least attendance of any hot & spicy food show I have ever attended, and I’ve been going to shows since 2001. Without people going through the gates, a show has NO chance of succeeding financially.
There were some good things about this show, but not very many. Overall, the way things were done did not really offer a formula for financial success for the vendors or for Spicy Foods Productions LLC. It seems that Spicy Foods Productions LLC had a “formula” that they intended to use that worked decently well in Texas, but had little to no customization for the Columbus market. I’m no marketing genius or anything, but that seems like an express route to failure. ZestFest may have brand recognition in the hot & spicy food industry and in Texas where the flagship show is, but outside those spheres of influence they carry little effective weight. This show should be a cautionary tale of how NOT to do things here in the future. If there is going to be a ZestFest Midwest 2014, there needs to be a HUGE number of changes and improvements, including some serious sucking up to vendors to see who they can get to come back after this year’s financial disaster. We ALL want to see a successful show, so hopefully these things will happen in the future.