How Music Festivals Became Food Destinations

Music festivals have evolved in countless ways since the 1970s, but there has been immense improvement in one simple yet essential component -- the food scene. We’ve come a long way from free farm milk and ox roast at the first Glastonbury Festival and every year the offerings get better and better.

In 2014, 32 million Americans attended at least one festival and they weren’t shy about spending while fest-ing with an average of $670 spent last year. There is no denying the festival industry is booming, and with this success comes the rise of another festival sub-industry, on-site cuisine. A perfect indicator of this quality-food-at-festivals trend is new fests, like the exciting Wake Up Call Music Festival from W Hotels, which provides festivalgoers with luxe fine-dining experiences at every festival location.

Millennials may be the source of this explosive culture. 14.7 million millennials attended at least one music festival in the U.S. during 2014 and are very vocal about how much attention and value they give to cuisine. Case in point, a whopping 99 percent of millennials are likely to recommend food they find at festivals, and 84 percent, in predictable digital generation fashion, are likely to post pictures of said food when they’re at grub-related events.

It’s also, no surprise, festival organizers took notice of this millennial affection for festival cuisine. Look at America’s highest-earning fest, Coachella, with its $114.6 million in earnings last year. Coachella food and beverage curator, Nic Adler, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, “If you're a festival and you don't have some type of culinary program, you're probably not doing it right.” And true to Adler’s words, the Indio, California, fest now boasts more than 100 vendors with a vast variety of cuisines. Continuing this trend, festivals the world over are also stressing the refreshments. From Japan’s acclaimed Fuji Rock to Canadian favorite Osheaga to international newcomer Wake Up Call Music Festival, these disparate fests all work robust and diverse food options into their lineups.

Take the W’s Wake Up Call Music Festival in particular. Whether it’s Hollywood, Barcelona or Bali, “guests will really get a taste for what festival dining can be,” explained Pablo Henderson, W Hotels’ Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing. That means a mix of luxe, crave-worthy cuisine available to every festivalgoer. W Hotels features distinct offerings from each festival location, while also highlighting their diverse roster of acclaimed chefs and restaurants. As W Bali Culinary Director Richard Bias explained, when talking about Wake Up Call Music Festival preparations, “We need to give options to everyone and not everyone wants a burger, so we have carefully thought about our offering and tried to balance this in our menus.” From bulgogi- and kimchi-garnished hot dogs served at pop-up stalls to Pan-Asian cuisine dished out at a beachfront restaurant, Wake Up Call Music Festival caters to almost every type of foodie. And, they deliver everything with five-star hotel service: “Guests can have what they want, when they want it,” noted Pablo Henderson. “It’s exactly the kind of Whatever/Whenever service that has defined the brand and enticed guests all over the world, now applied to the festival experience.” So, it’s clear W is rewriting festival grub standards -- but they could also be an indicator of what’s to come.