If your venue is in a geographic location that has a cooler fall climate and you don’t offer campfire sites to rent, you are missing out! Missing out on increased revenue from renting out the campfire sites, missing out on increased attendance from groups that come because you offer a private area for them to enjoy, and missing out on additional sales of items that your guests may need for their campfires such as hot dog or s’more kits. Let’s talk about the details of what it takes to pull off a successful campfire offering without creating too much chaos or increased stress for you.
Are There Insurance Requirements?
Just like anything you want to add to your venue, you should start by having a conversation with your insurance company. They may have certain requirements or restrictions around campfires that you will need to know before making the rest of the decisions below. If your insurance company tells you they won’t insure you if you have campfires, it is time to find another insurance company.
How Big Should Your Campfire Sites Be?
On average, we have found that it’s best to make the fire big enough for 25 – 35 people to enjoy. This is the size that we made the majority of our sites. We would also recommend having a few that would accommodate large crowds. Some of our scout groups would have 200 people or more so we had a few large sites available to accommodate those groups of 50 – 200.
Where Should Your Campfire Sites Be?
Location. Location. Location. For the majority of your sites, they should ideally be a little off the beaten path but close enough to easily walk to - somewhere that your groups feel like they have their own space but also convenient to all the activity areas. For some venues that don’t have unlimited space, this can be tough, but is so important to be able to keep them close so you can easily scale up the number of campfire sites while keeping the mayhem at a minimum. We found that there are some groups such as scout groups or youth groups that are looking for something even more private as they plan to have a meeting or discussion that needs less distractions. We have always offered remote campfire sites that are only accessible by hayride and, of course, they are more expensive than the others so it is an opportunity to upcharge. Keep in mind that remote campfire sites are hard to scale since they require transportation, larger fires, and more coordination.
How Many Campfire Sites Should I have?
Start small but plan for growth. If you are just starting out, a half dozen campfire sites may be enough in the first year. You may only have a couple weekends in which you actually use all of them at once in that first year. But plan for growth, be sure they are promoted on your website and social media, and you will be amazed at how popular they will become and how much of a difference it can make in your attendance. You will get people at your venue that are not interested in a corn maze or apple orchard but love hanging out with friends at a campfire.
How Should I Setup The Sites?
In our experience, we found it best for our smaller sites to have at least one picnic table and enough seating for 35. Seating can be logs, or hay bales with 2x10’s between them, or stumps, or benches - get creative. This is a campfire so don’t feel like you have to provide high-end park benches at every site. Start out economical and add better accommodations as the popularity and profit grows.
We very strongly recommend, for safety reasons, that your staff lights and maintains the fire. If you leave a pile of wood for your guests to self-feed, you will go through a lot more money in wood than the cost of having a staff member keep the fires maintained, and it will keep your guests safer and the insurance company happy.
It is also a good idea to rope off each site to clearly delineate the boundaries of each site. It really helps give the feel of a private area even if they have another group 20 feet from them. It can be as simple as T-Posts and yellow rope or you can get more elaborate with split rail fences or other professional looking boundaries.
We have found it very important to have clearly marked campfire site numbers. That makes your life easier when you tell your group that they have site #11 and they are able to find it on their own. A map is great to have as you offer more and more sites as well.
You should also have a daily schedule posted at the site right below the campfire site number. This should clearly tell the schedule for those that will be using the campfire site. It’s not important on those nights where you have no turnover at that site, but days like Saturdays where you may have people renting sites throughout the day, this helps reinforce to your groups when they have to vacate that site for the next group. If possible, leave your staff some time to reset the sites in between groups. We will talk about length of rentals in the next section.
For your large group remote sites, you will need to plan on multiple fires and lots of seating. For these sites, we have found it’s most economical to use large logs.
Also, be sure that each site is equipped with their own trash can or access to a common can nearby. This is well worth the cost as it will significantly decrease the cleanup for your staff.
Of course you will also need a fire ring of some sort at each site. Many farmers get creative and use old tractor rims, but some other options are listed below.
Here is an economical option on Amazon. I haven’t personally tested these so purchase with caution. Maybe purchase one to see how they work. http://amzn.to/2eiPIYK
Here is a great option from Amazon if you are going to sell hot dog or hamburger packages (or allow groups to bring their own food to cook).
We are currently searching for a recommended fire ring supplier, so if you have one you are happy with, please let us know where you purchased it.
Also, at our locations, we offered long-handled marshmallow and hot dog sticks. You can rent these to your guests, provide them free of charge, or include them if they purchase a s’more or hot dog package. Here are the sticks we recommend:
There are a couple different schools of thought around this. Some venues that have limited campfire sites rent each site for 2-hours. This allows you to really fit a lot of groups in during a given day but can be more difficult to pull off as your staff needs to keep people moving and vacating sites on time especially if a group shows up late.
Some prefer to rent their sites in 4-hour blocks of time. The advantages of this are a better experience for your guests who don’t feel rushed and less of a need for your staff to have to deal with groups that are not leaving on time.
My opinion is that if you have the space and resources to have more fire sites, the 4-hour rentals are much easier to manage. If you have limited sites, you may need to go to 2-hour blocks of time in order to meet the demand.
With our second venue, we had limited space for our campfire sites. We rented in 2-hour blocks but the guests had the option to book a site for 4-hours at additional cost.
How Much Should I Charge?
This is also something that will change based on supply and demand. It will also depend on whether or not you will be renting them for 2 hours or 4 hours. Based on what I have seen out there, it seems that the average price most people are charging is $15 per hour, so $30 for 2 hours and $60 for 4 hours. You may need to work up to that price if you are just starting out. That is in addition to their gate fee.
For the remote campfire sites for large crowds or those that need hay wagon transportation to get to, you will want to price higher or use as incentives to get large groups. Also, our campfires were only open to those that paid an entrance fee to the venue.
What Else Should I Consider Offering?
Once you have your campfire systems and processes down, be sure to consider other things that you can offer to your guests who rent your sites such as:
Party packages with balloons, cake, party bags, etc.. for those celebrating a birthday with a campfire
S’more kits. If you are a site that doesn’t allow your guests to bring outside food into the venue, this is a must. Include the ingredients, roasting sticks and maybe hot apple cider at a package price.
Food kits or food packages. Be sure to offer them things such as hot dog kits that include the dogs, buns, condiments, chips and drinks. Or you can have food packages where you cook the food at your concession stand and have it delivered to the site.
We have found that having a public campfire going on those chilly days and nights to be a great service. It makes a great place for parents to hang out and enjoy some concessions and warm by the fire while the kids are finishing the maze or other activity. We have gotten a ton of great feedback from offering this at all of our venues. Just be sure to locate the fire in an area that is in view of staff members to be sure some oversight is provided.
BYOB or Prohibition
Another decision you will need to make is whether or not you allow your guests to bring alcoholic beverages on the property. Again, this is a decision that should be made with your insurance company involved. We personally have never allowed it based on the atmosphere we were looking to have at our venue, but I’m sure that there was an impact on how many sites we rented out. You will rent more sites if you allow alcohol but you will also have more litter to deal with, potential for underage drinking on your property, and patrons that become obnoxious once the beer goggles are on.
As you can tell, I am a huge proponent of offering campfires at your venue even if you have nothing going on at night. Some of our most popular campfire times were October Saturday and Sunday afternoons when the daytime temperatures weren’t still reaching the 70 degree mark. The nice thing is you can test out offering campfires at your venue with little capital investment. I wish there was data available on the increase in attendance through the addition of campfires but I haven’t found any reports or studies. However, in my experience and opinion, the potential for increased attendance is significant enough to warrant your consideration.