For the vast majority of events, one objective, if not the main objective, is to generate a profit. Making a profit, by offering the public some form of entertainment for which a fee is paid, will require the event manager, cashier and staff to handle quantities of money.
You and your staff will therefore almost certainly be handling cash. If you haven’t done so before you may find that it can be quite a headache. There are many considerations to be made. The sections below outline the major considerations, though your special circumstances may well dictate additional considerations that must be covered.
Gate money can provide a considerable income, but to realise that income you will need the investment of detailed investigation, forethought, planning and staffing.
What to charge
The fee has to be pitched correctly. As a rule you cannot expect members of the public to pay £20 entrance fee for an event with one dull exhibit. You must pitch the entry fee at a level that they are willing to pay – a level that will allow you to make an income but will not frighten away the public.
You should remember that the economic climate has an effect on the amount of money that people can afford to spend on entertainment. You should also remember that family size could make the seemingly acceptable entrance fee appear exorbitant if a parent ends up paying for three or four children. Although an entry fee of £5 each does not seem too high to you, you should remember that a family of four would be spending £20 just to get onto the site. Will they have sufficient money left to spend the stalls and rides on the site, or will they simply refuse to pay that much and go home? If they do come on-site and have no money left to spend, the stallholders won’t make a profit so will not come back next year and may well ask you for compensation for their losses.
A seldom considered aspect of gate fees is the simplicity or complexity of operation. It is a thousand times easier to deal with a constant flow of the public if the fee is £1 per head, than if it had been set at say 86p per head. Imagine the problem gate staff would have simply calculating the appropriate change when a family of three arrive and attempt to pay with a £10 note. Now complicate that by adding the huge quantities of each denomination of coins that they will have to have on hand to guarantee that the gate staff could give the appropriate change.
Use common sense – make sure that the fee is sensible and rounded to the point where it is easy to quickly calculate the sum due for a family and easy to give change if somebody offers a £10 or £20 note in payment.
If you insist on an odd entry fee, you will pay for your decision by needing more gate staff, more change, more cash floats and suffer more disputes at the gates over wrong fees and wrong change, not to mention longer queues and delays.
Gate money collectors
You must have trusted staff to collect the gate money. It is far too easy to put every other £5 note in your pocket and not the cash box. You have to rely on the honesty of the gate staff- with a dash of supervision and control.
You should have adults collecting gate money. I don’t suggest that teenagers would be more likely to steal gate funds – it is just that a criminal may be more willing to steal the gate money from a 15-year-old scout than from an adult male.
Remember security of the cash collected as well. If while working, the gate worker takes out a handful of £20 notes, or starts fiddling with a bag or pocket full of coins, they are advertising the large sums of cash they are holding and have given an open invitation to an opportunist thief.
The gate staff must be sharp enough to spot forged notes and coins and to quickly calculate the fee due for any combination of people turning up at the gate. Nobody will be happy if large queues build up while the gate staff plod through mental calculations and discount rates for each individual and group that comes along. Imagine the desperation of a tired and distracted gate worker, faced with calculating an entry fee and appropriate change for a fee of 68p per person. Worse still, when a family of eight turn up, one asking for the pensioner rate, two children under 7 (or are they?), dad saying he wants the 35% club member discount and by the way he only has a £50 note! In such cases I have seen gate staff give up and let them all in for the £1.27 that dad had available in change!
Discounts should be considered. Group and family discounts may make the event affordable and so may be the difference between a group deciding to come or not. Everyone likes a bargain, so if you can be seen to be giving discounts, you are likely to increase your audience. As with most other things, the problem comes in getting the balance right.
Too much discounting makes the fee scale too complex, causes gate staff problems and holds up entry, possibly putting the public off. However, remember that not discounting may mean that a family cannot afford to come to the event.
Keep in mind that it is not just the gate fee you are after. Once inside, the vast majority of the public will spend money on food, purchases and rides, etc. A bargain entry ticket price could therefore boost your income in the long run.
Some possible discounts are;
- early ticket: sales,
- senior citizens,
- club members and families, and
- late arrivals (e.g. after 3pm on the last day).