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Safe and Effective Food Freebie Practices for Exhibitors


Food at any event is an automatic crowd drawer. People love their food, whether it’s popcorn or a yummy treat being given away for free in a booth, samples being offered from any business in the food industry, or a food truck set up at an outdoor concert. Moving forward, the ways of food service have changed, and these changes will probably be sticking around for a while.

It’s important to be up-to-date on proper food service techniques, especially when you’re giving away snacks as a form of a freebie at your trade shows or events. If your business is not in the foodservice industry but you’re giving away snacks in your booth, you might not be quite as up to date on those who are in the foodservice industry. Even if you are up to date on proper serving and preparing techniques, there are specific things to remember to make your food freebies effective giveaways.

The first step is to check show regulations to ensure that you are allowed to distribute food or beverages within your booth space. Some show organizers have elected to have designated areas in the exhibit hall for food and beverage, so it’s important to double-check your event’s rules before selecting a food option as your giveaway. Once you have confirmed you are allowed to do so, keep these tips in mind for sharing food in your booth in a way that’s safe while benefiting your business:

Masks and extra safety precautions will make attendees feel more comfortable.Masks will most likely be required at events for some time – especially for booth staff, although we have already seen different states gradually start to drop these requirements. It may be smart to continue having whoever is serving food in your exhibit wear a mask and gloves for the peace of mind of your booth guests, even after the mandates have been lifted. Consider masks as extra “real estate” for branding and provide a company branded mask for your booth staffers. That extra touch of cohesiveness between your graphics and booth staffers will go a long way with attendees remembering your brand and the experience they had in your booth space after the event is over.

The FDA’s Food Code recommendations for handwashing and glove use are still the same as they were before the pandemic. Also, remember that gloves aren’t a substitute for hand washing, so be sure that staff is aware of proper handwashing prior to gloves and after removing them.

Delegate a staff member to hand out food items.It will be important to have a staff member hand out food for two main reasons. The first is that while food is a great attention grabber to get people into your booth, letting people come in, grab a snack, and head right back out the door is doing you no good. Keep guests in your booth beyond the first few bites by having a staff member engage with them when they receive this freebie. This could mean having one or more staff members (depending on your traffic flow and booth size) hanging out around the area where the food is being served so that they can begin a conversation right away.

The second reason it will be important to have a staff member hand out food is to prevent the spread of germs. With one person handling the food with gloves on, it will prevent attendees from all reaching into the same tray or bucket. Don’t forget to make sure this person is knowledgeable of your business so they’re able to engage and create meaningful conversations around your brand as well. It may even be smart to include this staff member as an added team member during your trade show, rather than rotating your trade show staff in this position, for example. Why? Because having these extra hands will ensure that proper cleaning and sanitation are being completed as much as needed.

Use safe and impactful food packaging.It’s probably pretty clear that you won’t be able to have a stacked tray of cookies up for grabs like you may have been able to have prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With something like cookies, they’ll need to be wrapped individually. This will keep the spread of germs down since you won’t have your food sitting out in the open.

While individual packaging may add an extra step to your food freebie plans, take this as an opportunity to implement your branding! Putting saran wrap on each cookie? Top it off with a sticker to keep it together that has your logo and brand colors on it. Offering free popcorn? Don’t forget to put your logo on the bag! Giving away drinks? Personalize your water bottle wraps or coffee sleeves. The more you can increase brand awareness and recognition of your brand, the better!

Share about it on social media.It’s always important to promote your upcoming trade show presence on social media. This is a smart way to let your followers and those searching for your shows’ hashtag to find out that you’ll be at the event. Informing your audience that you’ll be exhibiting is a great first step, but you’ll also want to get them excited to come to your booth. Let guests know what they can expect (especially if you’re giving away some free and tasty treats). When they’re hungry mid-show, they’ll know exactly where to go. Just be sure that you engage with them once they’re inside your space!

Another point that you can share on social media is how you’re ensuring safe food service to make them aware that you’re taking extra steps for their safety.

It’s so important for your trade show staff to know the proper way to offer food to your booth guests. Keep these practices in mind to get people excited for some tasty food, feel safe eating it, and leave your booth with not just a snack but a better understanding of your business.


About the Author

In her experience at Skyline's corporate office in St. Paul, Minnesota, Briquelle Neyens immersed herself in trade show research and the ins and outs of exhibit sales firsthand. She also engaged with Skyline's wide-array of products and services from an insider's perspective. Her blogs portray her expertise on what it takes to be a successful trade show marketer. She enjoys generating information that will help all trade show marketers in their decisions to become successful on the trade show floor.

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