I’ve been in BBQ Fest booths for several years as a guest, and now for one year as a team member. Team captain Chuck asked me several times, “Paul, what do we need to do to get some hot women in here?” As I walked around the park last weekend, I thought about that question – how DO you get your team’s booth to be the “party booth” where all the gorgeous women want to hang out?
I came up with the list below. This is one case where I really wish Blogger would let me enable comments on a post-by-post basis: I’d love to hear additional suggestions from readers. You can always e-mail them to me at email@example.com and maybe I’ll do a followup post.
Have a cave-like entrance to your team’s booth. This arouses curosity: People can’t see all of your booth at once, so they wonder “What’s going on in there?” and they want to come in to find out.
Build a double-decker (or triple-decker). There’s some kind of subliminal signal sent there. “Those people are higher up than I am, they must be having more fun than I am. I want to come up there and party too.”
Be prepared to really blow it out on Wednesday (“Friends & Family”) night. Make sure your sound and lighting systems are in good working order and your booth looks like a million dollars. Team members from other booths will come visit and get a great first impression, and by Thursday the word on the street will be that your booth is THE place to be.
If you use wristbands to hand out for guest access to your booth, write your booth’s number on the bands. I’m not talking about the offical Memphis in May team-member wristbands, that get you in the park for free. I’m talking about ones you buy on your own, specifically to control access to your booth.
Why is it important to write your booth number on the bands? Well, several times last weekend I had people tell me, “Paul, stop by (booth number), I have a team!” And you know what? In every case, I totally intended to go visit, but forgot which booth. If you write the number on the band, they CAN’T forget.
This means that it’s better to buy paper wristbands that you can write on, rather than plastic ones.
If you have a ribs team, invite lots of people who live/work on or north of Beale Street; if you have a hog or shoulder team, invite lots of people who live/work in South Main or South End. Ribs teams are typically at the north end of the park. Hog and shoulder teams are usually at the south end. This means that if you have a shoulder team like we did, and you invite people who work north of Beale, they’ll likely use the Beale entrance and have to walk past a half a mile of ribs teams before they get to you. Guess what will probably happen? They’ll get distracted and may never make it down to your booth.
Luckily, my team has some new condo owners in the South Main district, so if we do shoulder again next year they’ll know lots of people in the area to invite – and those people will probably use the Butler Street entrance, which is the one nearest to our booth.
Related: If you invite people from other parts of town who aren’t familiar with BBQ Fest, tell them the entrance nearest your booth is the best one to use. Scope out the parking situation near this entrance beforehand so you can make recommendations.
Use the velvet rope to your advantage. Quick story: I have some friends who loved Raiford’s. But if they went down there on a Friday or Saturday night and didn’t see a line, they figured nothing was happening and didn’t go in. It’s counterintuitive – who wants to have to stand in line? But that’s a sign that your place is the most popular.
So, station someone from your team as the door to act as the gatekeeper (this is also necessary to keep freeloaders out). The person controlling the velvet rope doesn’t have to be mean and confront every person who asks to come in; rather, he/she can simply engage each person in conversation for a few minutes, holding up the line.
Make sure your tent is amply stocked with beer and/or liquor. Well, DUH. If you run out of booze, people will go elsewhere.
Keep the Porta-Potties in your team’s booth clean, make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper, put a light in there, maybe a scented candle. Women appreciate these things. If your bathrooms are dirty, they’ll leave and won’t come back. If on the other hand you go out of your way to make them pleasant (at least as pleasant as a Porta-Potty can be), they’ll remember you for that and you’ll have repeat visitors.
Make sure there’s lots of activity near the entrance to your booth, with a good light and sound system. There may be a huge party going on in the back room, but if the front of your booth looks deserted, people on the sidewalks won’t know about it. Put the dance floor as close to the entrance as possible.
One caveat: I DON’T recommend placing your food, beer, or liquor where it’s visible from the entrance to your booth – it will attract freeloaders.
Get invited to more popular booths than your own. This isn’t hard to do – just go by there on Friends & Family Night and arrange reciprocal access to your team’s booths. Then you can go back on the party nights, and when you see a group of cute girls who have been there a while and are ready to see what else is going on at the festival, you can suggest YOUR booth.
Hire popular service-industry workers to bartend at your booth. All their hot friends will stop by to see them. Usually this won’t even cost you anything – you can probably get them to work just for tips, of which they’ll make plenty if your booth is good.
If a mixed group containing attractive women, not-so-attractive women, and guys asks to come in, invite the ENTIRE group in – not just the hot women. I’ve heard of booths where the guy at the door will say, “Okay, you and you (the good-looking females) can come in and party all night, but you and you (guys/not-so-attractive females) have to stay outside.” For a girl to go on in and party it up while her friends have to wait outside on a muddy sidewalk – that’s just SENSATIONALLY rude. That kind of girl, I wouldn’t even want in my tent. Inviting the entire group in is the respectful thing to do.
Wear your team shirt every day. This way, when you’re walking around the park or visiting other tents, you’ll get asked, “Oh, you’re on a team?” and you can tell them, “Yeah, I’m headed to my booth right now, come on!”
Don’t have a sponsor. For most teams that have one, Thursday night is “sponsor night” where they have all their corporate people and clients at your booth. That’s one less night you have to build your booth’s reputation as the place to party. Of course, for a lot of teams it’s cost-prohibitive not to have sponsorship, so this may be a suggestion you can’t afford to take. And it’s actually contradictory advice, because if you do the other things I suggested (cave-like entrance, double-decker, well-stocked with alcohol) you’re going to be more likely to run up costs that will make a sponsor necessary.
Come back next year. Some of the known “party booths” at BBQ Fest are so popular because they’ve built up that reputation over YEARS. Do the things outlined above and you’ll get there too over time.
One word of caution – are you sure you WANT your booth to be the party booth? Because if it becomes one, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of freeloaders – you’ll definitely need to station someone at the door to keep people out who don’t actually know anyone on your team, but try to say they know “Mike” or “John” or some other common name.
Last Friday evening when I got to the booth, I saw a couple of my team members putting security measures into place – asking everyone if they had a guest wristband, putting a rope across the booth’s entrance to restrict access. “Isn’t this a bit excessive?” I asked. But as the evening went on, it became more and more clear that they were completely correct to take the steps they took. Lots of people came by who obviously didn’t know anyone on the team, and they would’ve eaten and drank us out of house and home if we hadn’t stopped them.
Those are my thoughts as a freshman BBQ team member… maybe in future years I’ll add to the list. I’ll definitely bump this post back to the top a few weeks before BBQ Fest ’08 for my readers who are on teams.