Restaurant Technology

State and County Fairs are Becoming Tech Savvy: How does this help your FoodService Business Generate Sales?

Around the country, state and county fairs have been bringing people together to eat incredible foods and cheer on the cutest mutton busters. Today we take a look at the history of the American fair, and how fairs are evolving in the Digital Age. 

The modern world has a new set of rules, and within those rules, traditions can often get sidelined. But despite the irresistible nature of modernity, the total annihilation of a tradition rarely happens. Traditions that transcend time are not your average activities; they are special, like the first dance at a wedding or the celebration of an athletic feat, and they become acts of joy. And so traditions last passed down across generations as cultural treasures. 

Among the oldest traditions are good old-fashioned fairs, dating back to ancient Rome and probably even before the birth of Christ. Fairs are distinct from markets or festivals, as they don’t divide entertainment and mercantilism. Instead, both are equally prominent, creating an event that revolves around rides, entertainment, commerce, education, and feasting.

The History of Fairs in the United States

In the Middle Ages, fairs came about as places of convergence for merchants to trade. The United States had a similar beginning for fairs: They were sites for agricultural and livestock farmers to meet and compete. Oxen, sheep, swine, and cattle from farmers and ranchers in the community would enter into competitions, and the person with the best animal would win a prize, oftentimes monetary. 

Believe it or not, the first few fairs in the New World took place in the northernmost region: Canada. The first fair was held in Nova Scotia in 1765, and many small fairs took place across French Canada. Eventually, the concept trickled down to New England, where a farmer and patriot Elkanah Watson would soon earn the title of “Father of US Agricultural Fairs.”

Watson helped neighboring communities develop their own local, county, and state fairs, and the influence grew like wildfire. Fairs were taking place across all 50 states by the end of the 19th century.

While trade was, at first, the reason for the gathering, entertainment was included early on, and soon the fairs were the mixed bags of events that we know them as today. The roller coasters and rides of today’s fairs are far from the simpler versions of earlier fairs, but the early versions were just as spectacular. At the turn of the century, there was no event more exciting to attend.

To get a real glimpse of just how big a deal state fairs were at the time, look no further than the 1944 Judy Garland classic Meet Me in St. Louis, in which the central family is very close to missing the fair. The angst that this evokes is akin to missing your best friend’s wedding. These state fairs were far from primitive; instead, the best of the best were involved.

New Agriculture (Ag) Tech Displayed at County and State Fairs

The Four State Farm show, which encompasses Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, is one of the largest fairs in the country, and they are embracing new farming technology bringing in new visitors. Check out how hosting drone demos and the latest farming equipment has helped them reach more agricultural visitors than ever before. 

Many farmers look forward to county fairs, and farm shows each year to see the newest advances to make their lives easier. These technological draws for ag consumers are listed online to stir up interest and bring in consumers from across state lines. The Four State Farm Show isn’t the only fair doing this, many fairs across the country see visitors from other states and counties. The better the promise of new equipment and technology, the better the turnout in most cases.

With more and more people turning away from the family farm and most farms being large corporations, bringing in what’s left of the agricultural communities and keeping local farmers on the farm is a huge commitment that takes new technology to fulfill. If farmers can’t compete with large corporations due to the physical demands, soon an old way of life will die off completely. Showcasing new technology gives mom and pop farms a chance to succeed well into the future and continue to pass on their heritage to their children.

Update Your POS to Go to the Fair

If you are planning to attend a fair as a vendor, it is important to have a mobile POS that will support you. Fairs are offering payment solutions to customers to allow card payments and mobile wallets, and your foodservice business needs to keep with the times in order to process payments for customers. With Lavu’s POS system, you will receive these added benefits that go with you no matter where your business takes you.

Mobile POS 

  • Ease of ordering – Press a few buttons, and the customer’s order is placed. This will send a digital order to the kitchen or print a ticket based on your settings.
  • Mobile payment access – Accept any type of payment with the mobile POS, never turn down a card-paying customer at a fair again.
  • Digital Receipts – Say goodbye to wasting paper and hurting the environment with paper receipts and give customers peace of mind by offering emailed or text receipts for their convenience.
  • Integrated Reporting – Our mobile POS links with integrated reporting and gives you access to monitor your reports while at fairs anywhere on the road.

Learn more about what our mobile POS solutions can do for your business here.

Modern App Technology for Modern Day Fairs

Among state and county fairs, there is a growing trend of developing mobile phone apps. New apps are being developed to provide a better experience for fairgoers. Mobile apps allow a great deal of information to be provided in one convenient place. Attendees want to know as much as possible about their fairs, to plan their days accordingly, such as:

  •   Information on fair events
  •   Catalogs of vendors and food stalls
  •   Showcased rides
  •   Details on how to navigate fairgrounds

The amount of organization a phone app provides to fairgoers and fair producers is unparalleled—and no brochure can ever be its equal! Mobile phone apps have the unique quality of turning chaos into order.

Fairs Are Trying to Bring New Customers In with the Use of New Technology

According to OPB, the dynamics and demographics of local fairs are changing. Gone are the days where grandma and grandpa would bring the agricultural spirit to the fair. Today, fairs are focusing on ways to bring in new crowds by incorporating technology, entertainment, and education.

“A fair, just like a business, has to figure out how to survive,” said Teece to the OPB. “So technology is a great way of reducing the cost and increasing the reach.”

By integrating with local schools curriculum, following entertainment trends, people are interested in, and showcasing the latest technology fairs are starting to turn around attendance issues and see more visitors.

What Services do Fairs Offer?

County fairs have seen a decrease in visitors in the last 10 years. Due to this decline, new tactics are coming into place for marketing, and the fair event coordinators are forced to become more tech-savvy. Many fairs are investing in mobile apps that share information on their events such as; what musicians will attend, fair times and event schedules, vendors attending, and even the weather expected for each day of the fair. These apps often allow users to purchase tickets and share the information with friends.

Mobile apps for state and county fairs run the gamut on options and offer a mix of the following:

Ticket purchasing

Audio tours

Parking availability

Maps of the fairground and food stalls

Breakdown of vendors

A daily schedule of events

Sponsor information

List of attractions

Which State Fairs Offer Cell Phone Apps?

Almost half of all state fairs are using mobile apps for Android and iPhone users. See which states are the most forward-thinking:

Southeast Alaska (August 2017)

Arizona (October 7 to 30, 2016)

California (July 2017)

Delaware (July 2017)

Indiana (August 2017)

Illinois (August 2017)

Iowa (August 2017)

Kansas (September 9 to 18, 2016)

Maryland (August to September 2017)

Minnesota (August 2017)

Mississippi (July 2017)

Montana Fair (August 2017)

Nebraska (August 2017)

New York (August 2017)

North Carolina (October 13 to 23 2016)

Ohio (July 2017)

(Oklahoma) Tulsa (September 29 to October 9, 2016)

South Dakota (July 2017)

Virginia (September 23 to October 2, 2016)

Washington (April 2017)

West Virginia (August 2017)

The Big E: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New England, Rhode Island, Vermont (September 16 to October 2, 2016)

The Florida and Colorado state fairs also direct users to their apps; however, neither is currently available at the App Store.

 The Largest Country Fairs Are Also the Most Tech Savvy

Did you know that county fairs can pull attendance numbers that equal or are more than state fairs’? Texas and California are the home states to the Top 5 County Fairs in the country that are not just the largest, but that also use state-of-the-art mobile technology to provide comprehensive and useful phone apps.

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (2,483,193 attendances in 2015)

San Antonio Livestock Show & Exhibition (1,671,550 attendances in 2015)

San Diego County Fair (1,503,538 attendances in 2015)

Orange County Fair (1,301,445 attendances in 2015)

Los Angeles County Fair (1,276,817 attendances in 2015)

Traveling to these fairs as a vendor from other counties can cause a huge new following for your restaurant due to being listed in their apps and seeing the foot traffic to your food vendor booth or food truck.

How Do State Fairs Being Tech Savvy Play into Your Foodservice Business?

Because the entire world is becoming more mobile-friendly, state fairs being tech-savvy makes being a vendor at a fair even more profitable for your food truck, restaurant or other foodservice business.

Here’s how you can benefit from the technological advances being made at state and county fairs:

  •       Take card payments
  •       Get listed as a vendor on their websites and apps
  •       Share information to social media about being involved in fairs
  •       Network with other tech-savvy vendors
  •       Share event information to their pages from your social media sites

Social Media Connection with State and County Fairs

With everything we consume online becoming a part of a growing network of social media, fairs are growing their presence online. They are using geotags to have fairgoers tag their location in their fun selfies taken at the fair, which will attract more visitors. Seeing others have fun at the fair encourages others to attend.

Make sure the food you serve at a fair is just as presentable as the food you serve in your restaurant. As a matter of fact, take an extra step and garnish it with a hashtag such as #fairfood to not so subtly suggest to customers that they snap a photo and share your food and a story about where they found you on social media. People are more likely to take photos at fairs and events than in a restaurant, which grows your online presence when they share photos online.