We’ve had several vendors urge us to reinstate Reserved Booths this season; it’s a simple concept with a lot of hidden complexities further modified by COVID-19 requirements. Thus reinstatement of RBs has been a topic which I’ve been pondering for some time, and discussing with my team, so that we get it right for both 2021 and the future.
The Reserved Booth approach of the past was flawed; we charged a small monthly fee on top of the setup amounts to those who held reserved booths, thinking “why would someone pay a Reserved Booth fee and not use their spot?” In reality, the fee was too nominal and it became more of a health club membership for many (paid for, but infrequently used) – which really gunked up the works. It was also used by some as an acceptable premium to simply guarantee their spot at only a few key events each year – again, not what we view as the purpose of a Reserved Booth.
The Benefits of Reserved Booths
From my perspective, there are distinct advantages with Reserved Booths which benefit both market vendors and organizers.
From the Market Vendor perspective:
- RBs provide a predictable booth location; you know where you will be setting up each week
- RBs guarantee access to a specific market – your participation is assured, provided you arrive on-time and prior to roll call (or call us if you are stuck in traffic).
- Early arrival/setup is encouraged, as your spot is guaranteed and predetermined.
- At some locations, such as the Chattanooga Market, only Reserved Booth holders are allowed to drive-in and unload inside the pavilion.
From the Organizer perspective:
- We know that our RBs are frequent/serious market vendors, and we can expect to reliably attend a specific market location every week.
- We have less scheduling/placement work to do each week, as the returning RB vendors remain in a fixed location and already know where to setup.
- Our RBs become the market elders and mentors for neighboring new vendors.
- The check-in process for all other vendors (those not holding a Reserved Booth) is faster and more efficient; it makes everyone a bit happier.
- This combo allows us to do more, with fewer staff, which keeps our overhead low and vendor fees reduced.
We only want our regular, frequent market vendors to hold Reserved Booths. Infrequent participants are definitely still welcomed, but they are not entitled to hold a permanent spot.
2021 Reserved Booth Policy
In order to reach the above goals/benefits, and to reactivate RBs in a timely manner, we are now accepting applications for RBs at all markets. Vendors with more than 200 Priority Points will be processed immediately, and those with less than 100 will be processed in May. As market registration has already been published through the end of May, the RBs will begin in June – if you become an RB holder for the rest of the season, we will preschedule your booth location for April/May to the best of our ability (the layout is definitely going to change for Chattanooga mid-season, but we believe River and Collegedale layouts will simply add vendor density - the existing locations can be maintained).
Unlike the past approach, there is no additional fee/surcharge for maintaining a Reserved Booth. Instead, we’re adopting the approach we rolled out in Collegedale to much success – we are combining the concepts of a Season Pass (all dates prepaid) with the Reserved Booth into a single offering (cleverly named our “Season Pass/Reserved Booth”). Our goal is for this to only be attractive to someone expecting to attend every single market. And as with all market registrations, these fees are non-refundable; be mindful of your commitment towards a particular market before signing up for a Reserved Booth.
The Season Passes for each regular market (partial season, starting in June) are as follows:
- River Market (Saturdays, 22 events, June-October): $550
- Collegedale Market (27 events, Sundays + Christmas Market weekend, June-November): $425 (was $540)
- Chattanooga Market (26 events, Sundays + Oktoberfest, June-November) $891
Chattanooga Holiday Market, Collegedale Freedom Market, Head of the Hooch and other special events are not included in the above bundles – these are our regular market series. River is a bit complicated as well - Fridays, both known/scheduled and any future dates added, are also not included.
If you have already signed up for April/May events, and are awarded a Reserved Booth starting in June – then your Reserved Booth will take effect immediately. We can’t change the fact that market registration is already open, and in some cases sold out, but this will bridge the gap between now and June for many.
Seasonal Farms (ie, fresh produce, etc) are always the exception – Mother Nature doesn’t publish her calendar, and we understand that. If you are in that category, we understand that your season is typically much shorter and less predictable than our overall footprint; we’ve got your back, just give us a shout.
2022 Season Passes/Reserved Booths will be enrolled in January, 2022 with renewing priority offered to 2021 Season Pass holders (deadline: first market event of the season)
Additional Chattanooga Market Change
COVID-19 required us to modify our check-in process to avoid groups of people gathering in close proximity every morning. Along the way, we discovered that the combination of advanced registration and prescheduling of booth locations allowed us to help people get setup earlier, faster and with less front desk congestion.
Moving forward, all non-reserved booths will be prescheduled at the Chattanooga Market. If you have a Reserved Booth (which historically, about 70% of our vendor population did have a RB) then you will check-in and setup as usual. If not, you’ll check-in when you arrive and be directed to your booth location which was selected by the Market Manager. At 9am, all unused/empty booths will be reassigned to the “standby” vendors; vendors placed outside can relocate to available booth locations as authorized by the Market Manager.
We will still have a 9am roll call for those vendors who did not register in advance, and do not have a reserved booth, and may not be provided a space at all – but everyone else will be able to begin setup almost immediately upon their arrival. We clearly are encouraging advanced registration and planning – it makes the event day setup process significantly simpler for everyone.
Specific Dates Included with 2021 Season Passes:
Dates in Green are included Special Events (Collegedale: Christmas Market; Chattanooga: Chattanooga Oktoberfest®).
UPDATE 3/23/2021: I’ve reduced the Season Pass rate at Collegedale to $425; daily registration rates will remain unchanged.