FOOD FIGHT: For a long time, the gold standard for a food festival among magazines in the epicurean category was the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo., now in its third decade. So last year, Pam Drucker Mann, the publisher of Bon Appétit, came up with a twist on the food festival for her magazine, which didn’t have a signature event to call its own.
Dubbed the “Grub Crawl,” Bon App’s was a roving festival, a tour of a particular city’s culinary scene through several of its break-out restaurants, and it went to three cities, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
This year, the title, citing the first iteration’s success, is expanding to five cities, adding Charleston and Chicago to the mix, and Drucker Mann said it may grow further from there. New York takes place this weekend.
“It’s a growth strategy that could end up in 25 different markets when we’re done with it,” Drucker Mann said.
Food festivals, Drucker Mann said, all have the same format. “They’re white-tented, you get a wine class, a sample of food, and you go from spot to spot. That model has been successful for years. For us, I feel the food culture has evolved, we need to evolve with it.”
Grub Crawl is self-sufficient, paid for by ticket sales and underwritten by sponsorship — MasterCard, which was looking to have a more prominent profile in the food and destination advertising space, is the largest sponsor this year.
And so the festival’s turned into a tidy source of revenue. BA expects to sell about 2,000 tickets, at $149 a pop, across the five cities. “We built it for the consumer,” Drucker Mann said. In addition, “We wanted to build something that would also drive revenue, because we’re running a business.”
Food & Wine’s Classic, meanwhile, is still going strong — it’s sold out 5,000 tickets over three days in June, according to an American Express Publishing spokeswoman.
At BA corporate sibling The New Yorker, their signature festival is expected to be one of the perks readers could get in exchange for higher-priced subscriptions once Condé Nast begins offering tiered or bundled subscriptions. Drucker Mann said BA’s festival will remain priced separately from subscriptions to the magazine. “It’s not something that’s part of our strategy right now,” she said.