The key to a successful barbecue is quality meat (selling gristly burgers will simply shoot yourself in the foot for future events). Offer fried onions too – the smell alone will guarantee sales! Local catering companies or butchers may supply you meat at a discount. Consider a vegetarian alternative such as halloumi kebabs. Read our in-depth feature on running a barbecue.
2. Cake stall
Cakes are always popular, and if you can get all your sweet treats donated, this stall will be pure profit. As you can’t guarantee that donated cakes were baked in an allergy-free environment, you should display a sign to that effect. Download donation request poems. Nothing helps wash down a cupcake like a nice cuppa, so position your tea and coffee stall near your cake stall! Scour local charity shops for old-fashioned cups and saucers and set up a pop-up café for a bit of vintage fun. Have a seating area where parents can mingle. For more tips read our guide to making the most of your cake stall.
3. Beer tent
Local breweries often supply barrels of real ale for PTA fairs – they might even offer a discount. Otherwise look out for offers in supermarkets. Aim to make around £1 a pint profit.
‘We sell 100-150 pints of real ale at our fair, for £2.50 each. We phoned a local brewery, who were very happy to help and even gave us a discount. The cost to us was £1.20-£1.40 per pint, so we made about £1-£1.50 profit on each. We sold out of everything - even the emergency reserves that I bought to reward my barbecue team! I think it’s dependent on the market, but we knew we had a good group of people who like a drop of real ale. We also bought a small supply of lager on offer in Tesco (three for £20). We sold all of that as well!’
Marc Brunel-Walker, PTA committee member, St Josephs RC Primary School, Berkshire
While contacting local breweries, you might want to consider this idea, too:
‘Our “barrow o’ booze” does well, with donated alcoholic bottles assembled in a wheelbarrow. Cloakroom tickets are sold for £1 per ticket and one lucky winner takes the entire barrow home! We use a standard garden wheelbarrow, with straw under the bottles. We wheel the barrow around the fair to drum up sales. Last year made over £200 profit.’
Maurice Snell, PTA member, Friends of Sheet School
4. Pimm’s (or summer punch)
The great PTA debate: Pimm’s vs Aldi punch (or other supermarket equivalent)! Charge around £2 for a half pint glass of Pimm’s. Aldi’s Austin’s Summer Punch comes highly recommended and costs a fraction of the price.
‘The Pimm’s tent at our fair was a massive draw – especially as it was a sunny day! We sold Pimm’s at £2 for a half-pint, full of fruit and lemonade. Most of the fruit was prepared in advance, then added to during the event as necessary. Our local Waitrose gave us a 10% discount and let us buy on sale or return too. We made £150 profit.’
Rachel Pearce, PTA treasurer, Foulds School, Herts
‘We hired a candyfloss machine from the local Scout group last year for £35 – this included bags, sticks and the candyfloss ingredients. They even ran it for us! We made a profit of £107 in an hour and a half, charging £1.50 a stick or £2 per bag.’
Kareena Perry, chair, Friends Of Parkdale
If you have enough volunteers and access to a freezer, make bigger profits at your event by selling ice-creams yourself. Remember that if you buy ice-cream multipacks from the supermarket (as opposed to a wholesaler), the ingredients and allergy advice will not be included on individual packets, so this should be avoided. If you decide to have an ice-cream van instead, the consensus among PTAs is to charge a flat fee of around £100 rather than asking for a percentage of profits.
7. External vendors
From pizza to crepes or curry, there are lots of mobile food vendors who attend events. Speak to local companies or search on Stallfinder.com.
Note: Any commercial third parties need their own public liability insurance.
‘We approached our local Domino’s Pizza and asked if they had a mobile pizza stall. They couldn’t have been more helpful! It cost us absolutely nothing, they sold slices of pizza for £1 each, of which we earned 50p. They sent two members of staff, a mobile stall and a supply of pizzas and packaging. When they were running low, they contacted their local store and had extra pizzas delivered by bike! At the end of the event they gave us £60.’
Lynda McCallum, former PTA chair, Whiteinch Nursery School, Glasgow
‘We sold samosas and bhajis which were very popular and very tasty. A local lady paid £15 for the stall and charged £1 each. We had a BBQ too and both sold out.’
Karen Todd, PTA secretary, Our Lady and St Teresa’s Catholic Primary
10. International cuisine!
‘Two mums from the Philippines run a noodle bar at our fair, serving a chicken-based noodle dish and a vegetarian one. They provide and cook on mobile gas rings. The takings last year were £440! We use an area of the playground for the BBQ and other food-related stalls, creating a food court. The noodle dish is priced in line with the BBQ (around £2.50). I think it’s vital to get parents of other cultural backgrounds involved in the organisation and running of stalls.’
Roo Kanis-Buck, chair, Holy Family Friends Association
For more advice
- Read our guide to catering at PTA events. For up-to-date advice on allergies and food, visit the Food Standards Agency website at food.gov.uk.
- Read our Natasha’s Law FAQs as answered by the Food Standards Agency.
- If serving or supplying alcohol on unlicensed premises you will need a Temporary Event Notice. For more details, read our FAQs guide to TENs.