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Festivals Heat Up New York City: Setting Up a Mobile Restaurant, Bar, or Food Cart




As the temperatures rise, so do the number of food, art, beer, and music festivals and open air markets happening across New York City’s 5 boroughs. Though every festival is unique, no matter what the theme may be, the one commonality is that the visitors and the vendors come hungry. And nothing goes with the outdoors like beer, cocktails, and fabulous food.

The warm weather draws a lot of attention to outdoor activities happening across the city, so customers might not be heading to your restaurant or website during the events.


So if customers are not coming to you, it might be a good time to bring your food to your customers. While food trucks are a great way to get your menu on the move, there are other ways to get your food festival ready.


Setting up a restaurant mobile cart or tent at a festival is a great way to introduce your restaurant’s menu to festival-goers who may not have heard of you before. It’s a great opportunity to give these prospective diners a taste of what makes your restaurant special.





How to Make the Most of Outdoor Festivals

Signage: Like a billboard on wheels, a mobile cart could deliver a whole slew of new loyal customers. Be sure to advertise your restaurant’s website on your cart or tent. Use big, bold, and (don’t be afraid) to go a little overboard if you have to.


Giveaways: Another great way to promote your restaurant at a festival is to give away small reminders with every order. Think specialty advertising items like magnets, key chains, or stickers that the festival attendees can take home with them and the next time they’re hungry for your restaurant’s type of food, they’ll think of you!


Social Media: Post a sign that says “If you post a photo of yourself eating our food and tag us on Instagram, you’ll receive 20% off your delivery order.”


For tips and information about food trucks, see our blog post, Taking to the Streets: Food Trucks Picking Up Speed in US Food Scene


Benefits of Food Carts and Mobile Restaurants

  • Low-Cost Testing Centers

  • Meeting Eco-conscious Consumer Demand

  • Able to Move Where the Action Is

  • Low Start-up and Operating Costs


Brooklyn Beer, Wine & Spirits Tasting Festival
Brooklyn Beer, Wine & Spirits Tasting Festival

Taking your menu on the road by creating a meal cart or booth that can be set up at various festivals around town requires careful planning and preparation.


Here are some general steps to follow:


Dive into Festival Rules and Regulations: Before deciding to set up a mobile cart, research the festival you plan to attend. Check for permits, regulations, and other requirements needed to set up your cart. You should also consider the expected foot traffic and whether the festival is a good fit for your cuisine.


Create your menu: Decide on the food items you will be offering at the festival. Consider offering a paired down menu with a few popular items to keep things simple and manageable. Handheld foods that are easy to eat on the run are the best choices for a festival. Think falafels, burritos, tacos, burgers, pizza, fries, beer, to-go cocktails, and bowls.


Purchase equipment and supplies: This might be the most complicated and important step. Each festival will have its own regulations, types of stands or carts, and rules to follow. If there is an event that only allows tents, for example, then you might need to set up your own table, purchase your own tent, or conform to other restrictions. If a majority of events allow food carts, purchase a mobile cart that meets the requirements of those festivals. Because each festival is different, be prepared to lay out some cash at the outset. You will also need cooking equipment, food containers, utensils, napkins, and other supplies.


The 9th Avenue International Food Festival 2023
9th Avenue International Food Festival

Obtain permits and licenses: Apply for the necessary permits and licenses from the local health department and other regulatory agencies. You may also need to obtain a business license, a food handler's permit, and liability insurance.


Prepare your food: Do as much prep ahead of time as much as possible, as this will reduce the amount of cooking and preparation required on-site. Make sure to follow food safety guidelines when storing and transporting your food.


Hire an operator: If you won’t have time to work the festivals yourself, choose an employee that you trust to work the event.


Set up your cart: Arrive early at the festival to set up your mobile cart in a visible location with easy access for customers. Make sure to properly display your menu and prices, and have a system in place for taking orders and processing payments.


Provide excellent customer service: Make sure to provide your usual excellent customer service to stand out from the competition. Be friendly, engage with customers, and make sure that their food is served promptly and at the right temperature.

Young Hippie Gen Zs at 2022 Taste of Tribeca
Taste of Tribeca

Festivals Across NYC: Where Food is Always the Star


We’ve put together a list of the outdoor festivals happening around the 5 boroughs in the coming months.


Date: May 20

Place: The Triangle between Greenwich Street & Duane Street


Taste of Tribeca brings together 60 of Tribeca’s best restaurants for one unforgettable outdoor food festival and public school fundraiser.



Date: May 20

Place: Botanical Garden, Daffodil Hill Main Stage


Attendees can sip and savor spring during this wine lover’s weekend, featuring wineries from the Hudson Valley, Brooklyn, and Long Island, enjoy samples, relax to live music, and kick back with a variety of crafts and games.


Date: May 20th

Place: 9th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen


One of New York's largest and oldest traditions,the 9th Avenue Food Festival is a vibrant celebration of cultural diversity through food. The fair offers both traditional festival treats, it also features food and music from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Greece, Haiti, Ireland, Morocco, and Ukraine.


Date: March - October

3 Places: World Trade Center:185 Greenwich Street

Prospect Park: Breeze Hill.

Williamsburg: Marsha P. Johnson State Park


Smorgasburg is the food bazaar spectacular that unofficially announces summer in New York City every year. Founded by Brooklyn Flea’s Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler, the culinary extravaganza typically spotlights about 100 vendors across its locations. Smorg has three spots in 2023, two in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, and one at the World Trade Center. Each location operates from now through October.



Date: June 18th

Place: TBA


An LGBTQIA+ culinary experience and curation of Juneteenth food stories and bites from amazing LGBTQIA+ chefs. The annual event celebrates local business leaders and the impact they have made on their Queer communities.

Date: May 13th

Place: Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brooklyn Summer Fest is an all access pass to try beer, wine and spirits from around the world. With over 100 different types of drinks, food vendors are welcome to participate.


Dates: June 10–11 and August 12–13, 2023 Place: Governors Island via ferry ride


Now celebrating its 18th year, is the world’s original and most authentic Prohibition-era-inspired gathering, the Jazz Age Lawn Party, attracts thousands of time travelers each year, who come together to discover the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s.


Date: August 7th

Place: Brooklyn Expo Center


A national seltzer festival that's expected to be bubbling with excitement is making its way to Brooklyn this summer. A one-of-a-kind outdoor experience featuring everything from the big-name hard seltzer brands to newly discovered canned cocktails.


Date: Sun Jul 9, 2023

Place: Times Square


In the heart of Times Square, this festival features over 40 of the neighborhood's best restaurants serving up their signature dishes and music from local bands on 46th Street (from Broadway to 9th Avenue).



By Eileen Strauss

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