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Just because it makes me happy …

One of my favorite photos from the fall show:

We call him Vandal.

 

Vandal works for me during the Texas Renaissance Festival. I snapped this photo one morning while he was ‘bumping’ the mixer, in order to incorporate all of the flour for the Cinnamon Squealers without making a huge mess. I had been trying for weeks to get a photo of these tattoos, but he always seemed to be wearing gloves.

It was obviously cold that morning, because in this photo he’s wearing pajama pants under his customary cargo shorts and chef jacket.

 

My friend Kenny Klein explains the Renaissance festival circuit from a working minstrel’s point of view: Here.

Friday equals Monday

RhonniRocks —  August 19, 2011 — Leave a comment

It’s Friday. When you have a business that is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, Friday is equal to the early hours of Monday morning. So today I’m running errands, hoping to catch a few minutes with a chiropractor, and making sure everything is in place for my employees to do their jobs tomorrow and the next day.

 

We’re headed into the third weekend of an eight weekend Festival. Traditionally there is a traffic flow to an eight week Festival. Weather is always a factor, but Festival traffic tends to increase over the eight weeks. No matter what types of advertising are used, word-of-mouth is always the most effective. This also means that you have to be selling a good enough product that the word-of-mouth is positive advertising. Most of the festivals we do have great reputations for putting on a good show. Some of them manipulate traffic by providing us with comp tickets to share with our employees’ families and with our vendors. These tickets tend to be dated for early weekends in the Festival. The theory being, more visitors early in the show gets word-of-mouth started sooner. So, third weekend is about when traffic begins to build. This summer, in New York, it’s been rainy. I know my Texas friends in the midst of a drought, may think that sounds like bragging. It would be if it were not raining on weekends. So far, we haven’t been able to string two good weather days together. There are two conflicting weather reports for this weekend as well. We will just have to see how it happens.

 

So I don’t know exactly what to expect in the way of traffic this weekend. When I know the weather’s going to be terrible I can call off half of my employees, and cut my payroll expense. However, we only have two days of the week to make any money, and missing a sale because you’re shortstaffed … Well, it’s not something I want to do.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted more recently. I’m in the midst of the busiest week of my busiest month of the year. Labor Day weekend is a weekend of great festivals nationwide, and if the weather is good, it can be a considerable chunk of a street vendor’s income. It’s gorgeous here this summer, and so we’re having an incredible weekend.

I say it’s my busiest month, because while my NY show is just peaking in traffic, I have to start opening my Houston show. I’ll spend the latter part of this week moving my office to Houston, and then fly back to NY twice for the last two weekends of the NY show. So part of my brain wants to be packing the car and making sure I don’t forget any important pieces of paper, but the business manager in me knows that I’ve got to be on the counter in one of my shops, serving customers.

There were lines at all of the food shops yesterday.

My competitors' lines just send more people to my counter. (This is *not* my shop.)

Some moved faster than others, but there was no finding a shop without a line. The Hubby and I hate lines, so we tend to overstaff, and keep our lines speedy. It might mean that 3 people are working a section of counter only big enough for 2, but that just makes for more of an interactive show. There are a couple of different theories about lines at a festival. One is that the line tells you where the best food is, so some of my associates like to keep a line in front of their shops. Our mentor had a different opinion. His theory was to keep food in the window, because  the customer will choose the fastest or the shortest line … then have a food quality that brings them back.  So we sell the best food we can, and our lines are some of the fastest at the fair.

Now you’re all figuring out that gourmet and healthy foods are important to me at outdoor events; but the truth is, while waiting for the mass of customers to shift to choosing healthy options at festivals …  Funnel Cakes pay a chunk of my mortgage. So when my competitors lines got completely out of hand, I jumped into the trenches with my crew, and ended the day completely covered in powdered sugar. My crew was awesome, and they all now know I’m not asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do … including ambidextrous funnel cake pouring, and getting sugaring blisters from dusting the powdered sugar.

P.S. We did sell a strong number of Spinach-Pesto Quesadillas out of that shop too …

I’d forgotten how the Texas heat folds itself around you as you walk out of an air conditioned space. At first it’s pleasant, but I’m certain that extended exposure would be a very different experience. I’m just moving from the air conditioned store to my air conditioned rental car.

I’ve flown to Texas to hire staff for our fall show. I’m out of practice for southern summers, as I’ve spent the past 20 summers in New York. Our New York show is in its second of  eight weekends … which is hardly enough time to have our New York employees solid in their role … but The Hubby stayed to run our eight locations at the New York Renaissance Faire, and we’re blessed to have a large percentage of our team return every year. We’re still building our core team in Texas, hence my flight to Houston to work on hiring people.
Here in Texas, the Texas Renaissance Festival promotes a hiring fair. After an introduction to festival management, and an inspiring speech by the Entertainment Director Jeff Baldwin… the show allows each of us employers five minutes on stage to describe our shops, explain the skill set we’re looking for in a potential employee, and plead our case as an employer. We then scatter back to our shops and commence taking applications and doing interviews. I have about 15 positions to hire for amongst our four food locations, and I took in 60 applications on Saturday. Due to the nature of the event, we end up with qualified leads lining up at the counter. I have to say … right now I’m feeling really rich with my situation of choosing between ‘very-very-good’ and ‘awesome’ amongst the applicants.

This is about one/third of the audience of applicants at the TRF Job Fair on Saturday. It was 97 degrees, and 97% humidity.

As my bakery becomes more complex, & I bring in foods not familiar to the region, I’m making more demands of my employees. In my five-minute presentation, I specifically talked about Gluten Free, special diets, and organics. Consequently I got applicants who were on the same page with me … or at least willing to read the same book. I’m really looking forward to this fall season.
(As an aside … I flew back into NY to find I needed to hire 4 people for the following weekend, due to the slammingly awesome customer traffic there. My poor Texan employees think they’re being skipped over, and I’m just too busy putting out fires in NY to get the TX chores done.)