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Charlotte Rouse does Glastonbury: A Week in the Life of a Trader

Having spent my whole career in the food service industry, my hands-on experiences in front and back of house over the years have allowed me to manage with empathy and problem solve when faced with challenges. I recently moved into the Fuel Experiences team as head of operations (maternity cover) where my main responsibility is to look after our portfolio of street food and restaurant partners and secure them bookings within WSH workplaces and venues.

Imposter syndrome kicked in within my first few months as it struck me that I didn’t really understand the nitty gritty of what it takes to run a street food stall or truck. I absolutely love this side of the industry and plan to have a lengthy career in it, so in the search of relatability I managed to bag myself a work experience that I’ll never forget – working for street food trader, Le Rac Shack at Glastonbury – and here’s how it went!

Arriving on the Monday, bushy tailed and all excited, I was warned that it would be an intense week ahead (perhaps my cheery spirit was a little too much for the team who had been building the shack set up and kitchen in the 72 hours prior!)  Getting stuck in straight away, the music was turned up loud and the chopping began. Three hours later and many tears shed from chopping onions, we finished up for the day and went to explore, watching the finishing touches of the festival site being put together, and headed to the Glastonbury sign to watch the sunset.

On Tuesday, the real prep began. Ten out of seventeen team members had now arrived, and the festival health and safety team came round to do their checks as we were scraping the cheese rind off from 150 raclette cheese wheels to allow a more efficient melt for a speedy service. Le Rac Shack had two pitch spaces to create one large stall with two sides, serving traditional Raclette and Poutine on one and steak and sausage on the other – served with melted cheese of course! For cost efficiencies, we (I say we, I did manage to swerve this job throughout the week) butchered over 1,000 kilos of 20kg rump of beef down into cuts suitable for cooking on the griddle and serving over fries or in a baguette.

It was Le Rac Shack’s tenth year serving at Glasto and owner Sam was a pleasure to work for. I was lucky enough to work alongside friends and Fuel Experiences partner Fink’s, owners – James and Lewis, who brought the back of house experience and the laughs throughout the week. Despite one of the team nearly losing a finger, (we can put this down to the three hours of sleep the night previous) there was a real camaraderie in the team with everyone putting in the graft throughout their nine-hour shift each day.

I bagged my first shower on Wednesday morning as we watched the festival go-ers arrive in their thousands, armed with trolleys filled with booze and even babies! A slow start, I was eased into service, picking up my new skill of serving raclette whilst trying to memorise all the prices, (there’s no till systems at Glasto). Located next to the Pyramid Stage, we were in a prime location for the weekend with the likes of Paul McCartney, Sam Fender and Diana Ross playing there.

On my break in between my split shift of 8am-1pm and 6-10pm – I headed to watch my favourite band, Blossoms play and checked out what other traders were offering. My weekend highlights were a surf ‘n’ turf bowl featuring blackened shrimp and Cajun chicken from BAYOU, a watermelon and kiwi ice lolly from Paletas and of course a loaded MFC chicken strip box from Fuel partner, Mexican Fried Chicken. Post shift I enjoyed the set of Billie Eilish then headed to Shangri La to dance until the early hours, thankful of my 1pm start the following day.

By Saturday, my newfound understanding and respect for traders really kicked in. With achy legs and sore feet and constant queues thirty people deep – there was little chance to look up throughout the shift. Thankfully, I was amongst experienced Glasto workers who had the punch bowl of Pimms to hand for a much-needed pick me up to keep morale high. We served close to 10,000 customers over the festival. Open from 10:30am to 2am, we were serving until the early hours and boy did drunk people love to watch us scrape a load of melted cheese onto their fries.

On Sunday night we got the team who were still standing after their shift together for a big night out, to say our goodbyes to the wonders of Glastonbury and celebrate our success over the weekend. With my longest night of five hours sleep and the sixth and final one in the tent, we woke up and began to pack down the shack – cleaning and dismantling everything as we went.

By 5pm I was back at the car and ready to head home, surprisingly feeling ok.  It was only when I arrived home and struggled to get out of my seat that I could really feel the effects of one week of ‘burning the candle at both ends’ and what over 30,000 steps a day had really done to my body. Two weeks later and I’m fully recovered and ready to do it all over again!

Our FUEL partners Cheeky Burger, Rice Guys and Mexican Fried Chicken all had a stall at Glastonbury. If you have experience in the hospitality industry and would be interested in working at Glastonbury (or any other festivals) next year, please email hello@fuelexperiences.com to share your interest with suitable partners rocking the 2023 festival scene.

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