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CarFest: Taking the festival experience up a gear

CarFest is special. It’s as much about a family day out as it is about cars and it exists to raise money for charities like Children in Need and Starlight. But it’s also in a field, which comes with its challenges. Infrastructure has to be built from scratch and there’s never a decent wifi connection. Discover how NOQ helped Event Live and traders like Westlands BBQ and Billy Bob’s Street Food serve customers quickly and efficiently in a remote, greenfield setting.

Business Name
What they use
Multi-trader management, split payments, offline processing, reporting
Joined NOQ Family

As any event organiser will know, it’s hard operating out of a field. There’s a huge amount of preparation needed and, if you do your job right, no one will even notice your hard work. That might sound like a thankless task, but for Event Live’s Event Management Director, Matthew Blayer, it’s a good sign. “We don’t expect the public to acknowledge the effort that goes into making everything work,” said Matthew. “If anything, it’s a good thing if the public doesn’t recognise the effort. It means it’s functioning and doing what it needs to do.”

Event Live, a subsidiary of Event Merchandising, is responsible for sourcing and managing food and drink traders at events and festivals. Event Live has over 1,000 traders on its books and, at an event like CarFest, it will have over 80 traders onsite. Managing so many traders in a muddy field is not without its challenges, which is why Matthew needs strong tech partnerships to keep things running smoothly. With a finite period in which to sell, it’s vital to traders and event organisers that orders can flow.

To learn more about the challenges of operating a large-scale greenfield event like CarFest, we spoke to Matthew from Event Live, Paul from Westlands BBQ and Spencer from Billy Bob’s Street Food.

Getting it right for CarFest

CarFest is special. It’s as much a music and arts festival as it is about cars. And it’s all for charity.

“You’ve got music all day, as well as the motoring side, which is non-competitive,” said Matthew. “It’s just all about fun, the weird, the wonderful, and the crazy. But really, the whole point of CarFest is that it raises money for a plethora of children’s charities, which is unique. We wanted to be part of something that did the right thing for a lot of people so it’s always a pleasure to be at CarFest.”

With so many good causes at stake, it’s important for Matthew to get things right. That includes choosing the appropriate traders for a family festival. Each festival has its own character and clientele and the food and drink should reflect that, as Matthew explained: 

“At CarFest, we see a lot of families. You’ve got the grandparents, the parents, the kids, the nieces and nephews. And the behaviour of families is very different. Mum and Dad have kids to feed. They are very conscious of cost and how long it takes to queue. They don’t want their kids waiting an hour for a burger. We have to factor in that the customer experience will be different wherever we go.”

Partnering with NOQ

Another critical part of getting it right is ensuring traders can take and process orders quickly and easily. If it runs smoothly, you barely notice, but if things go wrong, you have a lot of hungry people and traders miss out on precious sales.

“We don’t have an event like CarFest every week,” said Spencer Finch, owner of Billy Bob’s Street Food. “We have to maximise our profits. So, for us, it’s all about volume. You’re often feeding 1000 people in a four-hour window. And if you’re slow, they will go elsewhere.”

That’s why it’s so crucial to have tech partners you can rely on to keep things running smoothly. For Matthew and his traders, NOQ’s value lies in its speed and the fact the solution is tailor-made for festivals. 

“For us, speed is everything,” said Paul Robson, owner of Westlands BBQ. “You spend years fine-tuning your unit, getting things faster and faster, and it’s incredibly frustrating to be stuck with a slow payment. We once used a system that took 15 to 20 seconds to process a payment and it often timed out. That might not sound like a lot but, if you have a 12 to 14-hour trading day, these seconds start to add up and you’re suddenly looking at between 60 to 90 minutes of people standing there waiting for a payment to go through. That can cost us £1000 a day. With NOQ, we average about three to four seconds per transaction, which is fantastic.” 

“Another thing I value with NOQ,” Paul continued, “is that they listen to us. They know simplicity is critical to traders like us and they’ve dedicated development time to ensuring the system is as uncomplicated and intuitive as it can be.”

This collaborative approach is also of huge value to Matthew. “The larger solution providers are not interested in feedback, they don’t really want to fix or change anything, unless they really have to. The guys at NOQ are different. They listen. We sat down with them and said: Right, these are all the troubles we have with other providers, and the fact they won’t fix them is frustrating. If you can provide a solution that is right for the festival world, we will commit to you. And that’s exactly what we did.”

Of course, any new solution needs to be tested against the more established competition before being rolled out. “In 2022 we benchmarked NOQ side by side with other systems,” said Matthew. “The plan was to run the test for a full year but, after the first month, we decided to commit totally to NOQ. We’ve put all our events through NOQ ever since.”

Trust and transparency

The relationship between trader and event organiser is important if things are going to run as they should. Trust is a premium so it’s extremely valuable to offer traders total transparency.

“We’re here to serve the event owner, but we couldn’t do our jobs without the traders. And it’s important that everybody trusts everybody in the circle. It’s also important that traders can trust the system. With NOQ, they can see exactly where they are. They know exactly where their money is at the click of a button and they know that the payout is fast, which is really important. NOQ enhances the experience for everyone.”

Insights App

Access to traders’ transaction reports is via NOQ’s Insights app, which gives both traders and the events organiser real-time visibility into individual traders’ performance.

“Traders can see their turnover instantly,” explained Matthew. “They can see exactly where they are either, within a date range or right that moment, and access is permanent. So, if they need a statement in a year’s time, they can go to the app, search the date range, and export what they need. That level of detail has been lacking in the other systems and it’s not as easy to access without having to log in from a desktop.”

This isn’t just a benefit for the traders, it saves a lot of back-office work on Event Live’s side too. 

“Previously the only people who could access the data in our system was us,” said Matthew. “So, if a trader needed a statement from a year ago, they had to contact us. We then had to log in, download it and send it to them. That’s a pain for everyone. But with NOQ, we have a dual login. We own the master account but the traders also have their own access, where they can view and download their own information and I don’t even need to know that they’ve done it.”

Similar to the experience &Much had with traders at the Scottish Open, NOQ is proving so popular with traders that they are voluntarily opting to use it at other events. “Because of the positive experience traders have had with NOQ during the summer, a number have been in touch and said they’d like to use NOQ at their Christmas events,” said Matthew.

As you can imagine, we’re delighted with this vote of confidence. On top of that, Matthew sees NOQ as an important strategic partner for future projects. 

“We’re always innovating and always growing,” said Matthew. “We’re currently in negotiations with several big concert promoters. As part of this, I’ll be introducing them to NOQ to demonstrate we’ve got the right tools for the job.”

We thrive when our customers thrive so it’s great to be part of Event Live’s future success. We look forward to our continued partnership.

“NOQ is a pleasure to have as a solution partner,” Matthew concluded. “What I really like is the visibility of the team. They come to events, so they’re actually seeing it for themselves. They’re hands-on with the setup and hands-on with troubleshooting. A lot of market traders are technophobes. The fact that they’ve taken to the software so well proves that NOQ has created something simple. Credit to them for being able to achieve that because it isn’t easy.”

Could we help you too?

We’d love the opportunity to explore if we could help you increase sales and improve efficiencies. Get in touch and we’ll set up a demo.

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