Member Spotlight: Poppy’s Pineapples – Part Two

Neon sign of NCASS Member Poppy's Pineapples.

How does a holiday to Portugal lead to tending three bars at Boomtown you might ask? Inspiration, dedication and a man dressed in a pineapple costume, naturally.

In part one of our interview we talked all things Pineapple Steve and the whirlwind of fun that was the first year of trading. In part two we talk about why a strong team are so important and what the future holds for Poppy’s Pineapples.

Are you planning to focus solely on festivals with a summer season running from June to early September? There are a growing number of people who are doing that because they like the freedom either side of the year.

That’s definitely what we’re aiming for. Because we started in late 2021 and we only did a handful of festivals, we weren’t lucky enough to be able to just enjoy our winter. My partner went back to carpentry but I definitely want to be able to book our whole summer up and then have winter off. The dream is to run it as a summer business from April to the end of September, ramming in as much as we can in because that’s our prime time to make an income.

That makes sense, I think your business model lends itself very well to summer as well, not that no one wants a drink in winter, but maybe not so much that tropical vibe in December!

We serve everything in the fruits themselves, so we’ve got Piña Coladas in the pineapples, we’re also going to do watermelon punches served in the watermelon and coconut cocktails as well in the coconut. Everything is served in the fruit, we don’t use any cups and it adds to the tropical vibe and I just don’t think that works as well in winter. Imagine being stood in the rain drinking from a watermelon! It would add to that feeling of ‘I wish I was somewhere else,’ although if the Piña Colada song is anything to go by some people don’t mind having them in the rain. That being said, we did say that this summer we’d go for it all and then in winter hopefully have some time off, but saying that I have also signed up to a wedding website so we are also open for weddings to hire us!

I feel like we should take those lyrics with a pinch of salt though maybe! You’ve mentioned how you have expanded your drinks, and this is admittedly a harsh question as you’ve not been trading long, but have you noticed an increase in sober curious customers who want alcohol free options?

We do offer non-alcoholic versions of our drinks but they are obviously not as popular at festivals. That option is always there on our menu as the alcohol isn’t added till the end. I don’t want to make sweeping generalisations about festivals but I think you’re less likely to find sober curious people, not to say that they aren’t there, but I would expect to see them more at a food festival. We also want to offer non-alcoholic options because there are loads of kids who like the ‘holding the whole fruit’ element and want to get involved as well.

Other members that I’ve interviewed who have a festival focused season consistently say that a strong team is vital to a festival being doable and a lot have said that if they didn’t have the team they did they wouldn’t touch festivals with a 10ft pole. Was that a similar experience for you?

100%! Especially at Boomtown! For the most part it’s been me, my partner and Pineapple Steve but when it came to the big festivals we got friends to help out and posted on Facebook, so we went from not knowing much about the industry to having around 18 members of staff it was crazy! At Boomtown, Joss and I had to run between all three sites which had about one mile in between each one, all day all night. My phone didn’t stop, people would be ringing from bar one saying they needed more coconut milk and then bar two would need more ice and bar three in the woods needed more straws. Running in between each site making sure everyone was happy was crazy but we felt so lucky that we could leave our teams on their own and so all we were really doing was making sure everyone was happy and had everything they needed. We knew that everyone was working hard and doing an amazing job so we could leave them but that was the first time that we had ever done that and it was weird. Everyone was really happy to be there and it was such a nice vibe so naturally people work harder for you and we didn’t have any problems with anyone. We even had a couple of new people who had responded to the ads I’d put up on social media and they were good as gold, probably better behaved than our friends!

Knowing my friends, they be the worst behaved because they would just be happy about the free ticket! You mentioned that you and your partner had no prior experience in this field, what has it been like adapting to this industry and what do you like about working in it?

My partner has wanted to be a carpenter since he was a teenager, he did work in a bar a for a bit before then, but he’s been a carpenter for most of his life. He’s gone back now and he’s miserable because we had the summer of our lives. He can’t wait to get back to it, all his life he’s never wanted to do anything other than carpentry and now we’ve done Poppy’s Pineapples he’s never been happier in a career. We didn’t think it was possible to love work this much and to get this excited about working again. It’s our baby and we want to make it grow and turn it into something special. We’re putting every penny we made in the summer back into the business.

This is another harsh question I must admit, but out of the festivals that you’ve applied for, which one are you most looking forward to?

I think it’s an obvious question for anyone that goes to festivals but Glastonbury; it’s got an application waiting list longer than my arm though. We’ve been put on the waiting list but booking Glastonbury is insane, there are some traders who were telling me that they’ve done Glastonbury for 20 years and they still go through the same process each year to find out if they will be trading there or not. But the organisers didn’t say no so I’m focusing on the positives! There’s also Notting Hill Carnival and of course Boomtown because we had the best time of our lives and that was the game changer for us. I’m especially looking forward to Boomtown because they look after us. They’re also obviously happy with us so they’re giving us the three sites again and it all feels very easy with them because when you have that relationship where you’re happy and they’re happy, everything runs smoothly.

How have you planned out your summer? Is it festivals back-to-back across the season or have you got a bit of time in between each one?

Back-to-back and I’m happy with that, if it’s not booked I’m annoyed! We really want to be as busy as we can because this is the best time to make an income. When it winter comes we haven’t got as much on so we need to be working most weekends across the summer. The set up will ideally be us setting up on a Thursday, we’re there till the Monday, then we have Tuesday and Wednesday to get everything prepared for the next one, washing our clothes, sorting all our stuff again and then on to the next. It’s going to be full on but we love it and that’s what we want.

I think once it starts as well it’ll be easier because you’ll have that momentum to keep you going through the busier season, meaning hopefully you can enjoy a quieter winter. How has your NCASS membership benefitted you and your business?

I can’t fault you guys. I have follow up phone calls from someone checking on how I’m doing and I use all the paperwork which has been extremely handy with going to festivals. We’re coming up to our second summer and we’ve already noticed that being an NCASS member at certain festivals means they aren’t worried about our compliance or anything because they know it’s up to scratch. For us that means one less thing to worry about because saying we’re NCASS members is like getting that green tick that we’re doing what we need to.

Follow their journey here and stay up to date with other Member Spotlights here.

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