A beginners guide to starting up a street food business
The street food revolution
Street food has become big business with 50% of consumers buying street food at least once a week and 64% are happy to spend more than the average lunchtime spend (£5 in UK). The timing couldn’t be better if you’re a foodie with an entrepreneurial head, but you might be wondering how to get started in Britain’s most explosive food scenes.
Great reasons to get into street food:
- You don’t need to rob a bank to start up
- Reasonably low rents
- You’ll be able to do private functions
- Instant cash return
- Work for yourself & be your own boss
- Low level of experience
- Fits in with your day job
- Growing demand
- There is support and help from experts
4 reasons be aware of when starting up a street food business
- It’s harder than you think
- Unexpectedly losing money on big events
- The British weather is a mood killer
- Competition is on the rise
Key pointers to focus on when starting a street food business:
It goes without saying, but your food needs to taste great! This isn't to say you need to come from a catering background. Some of the best street food stalls were setup by people from marketing backgrounds. Start simple, focus on a couple of dishes and get them right. Be flexible, if something isn’t working with your food then change it. Put the time into researching suppliers to provide you with a reliable and cost effective service because 1) you don’t want to be let down before an event 2) It will dent your profits!
Where you can you trade?
Its important to understand what commercially works best for your business and where best to pitch your stall. Research what kind of customers go, pitch fees, how established the venue is and what competition is about.
Street food events
Street food events are booming all over the UK, from Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club to London’s KERB, Boxpark, Market Hall Victoria and Mercato Metropolitano. These venues attract thousands of customers a week exploring alternative, authentic, artisan street food in a friendly and communal setting.
Many street food business owners will go on to work at a festival of some size. There is a big drive from festival organisers to only use suppliers with the best quality food and service at their events, making them hugely profitable for traders. Music festival and niche food festivals such as Vegan Camp Out, Cheese Fest, Wing Fest etc.., art festivals and local fairs all need caterers, and they are growing rapidly across the nation.
Wedding and corporate events
Street food traders have the opportunity to work at private functions such as weddings and corporate events. Street food caterers are frequently invited to set up their outdoor units due to their exciting individual eye catching styles and food types. Mobile bars, ice cream counters and coffee units can be very popular at private events. Fees and customer numbers can be accounted for before the event, so profits can be easily calculated.
Try not to use lots of equipment. Hiring is a great option to start out but gets expensive over time. Single stall / gazebo units start from around £100 a day for and get progressively cheaper to hire on following days. Don’t forget this is without any cooking equipment. You can hire a hot plate for around £70 a day. Visit https://www.bigkahunahuts.com - they have some great hiring and options. Just remember you don’t need to buy new! To keep you initial investment down look on websites like www.ebay.co.uk or www.gumtree.co.uk You’ll most likely be able to recoup your investment to either upgrade when the pennies start rolling in or if you decide its not for you. If you’re keen on buying new kit then a market / gazebo style stall including new equipment is going to cost circa £5000 (Relatively low investment). Now if you’re looking for a trailer or a van then the sky is the limit! The vehicle, fit out and restoration can get very expensive, but you do end up with something unique, attractive and fundamentally more work! Just don’t forget to get your power supply in order. If your self sufficient then liquid petroleum gas kits are the way to go but if your intending to operate at larger venues, consider an electric only setup as most don’t allow gas.
Be unique - Its crucial to stand out, your really selling a lifestyle and the businesses that stand out make a lot of money. Its inventible your branding will grow with you. Keep it simple, ensure your branding reflects your food offering and don’t be afraid to be unique. Start off with a large logo at the front of your unit, then add more as you grow. You don’t need a lot to get noticed, a simple logo will draw attention! Check out Le Bun, they have a really simple unique bold logo sprayed onto a piece of reclaimed wood and to continue the theme they have used pallets around their stall. It probably only cost them the spray can! This method will allow the brand to get seen. Don’t forget to brand your packaging! Greaseproof paper and custom printed stickers are a great starting point to brand your packaging. They don’t cost a lot to customise and are very versatile; you don’t need to order a lot if your brand develops faster than you think.
Your going to need packaging of some sort, what type will depend on the food you're serving. Customers are environmentally conscious and expect your packaging to reflect this. PackGenie essential packaging range includes; bagasse and cardboard food boxes, containers and trays that are great for burgers, chicken, salads and much more! Greaseproof paper sheets are great for wraps or food liners. Paper napkins and wooden cutlery and wood skewers shouldn’t be overlooked; eating food on the move can get a little messy!
Use social media and web marketing to create a story around your brand. Branding your stall and packaging is a great way to separate you from the competition. Adding social media to your marketing strategy can hugely increase awareness of your brand and food, engage with your customers with mouth watering photos and informative videos, let them know what’s on the menu, any offers and where to find you!
28 days prior to trading , all food preparation premises must be registered with the local environmental agency in the area in which the unit is stores. If your unit is fixed you will need to pay council tax too.
You will need a street traders licence if you trade on public streets or roadside. Apply through your local authority.
It’s always a great idea to display your hygiene rating for customers to clearly see. It shows you take pride in your food, and ultimately it’s what customers look for.
Make sure you let HMRC know about your catering business. Here are a few business options which might best suit your needs:
You must have Employer Liability Insurance, even if you're employing family. The certificate must be displayed in the work place.
All persons coming into contact with food must have hygiene training:
Level 1 Food Hygiene Training – For staff who do not have direct contact with food
Level 2 Food Hygiene Training - For staff who handle food
Level 3 Food Hygiene Training – Advanced hygiene course designed for managers, supervisors and business owners
Food safety management system and documentation (HACCP). Managing food safety hazards and implementing food safety management procedures. Businesses must comply with legal requirements by following good hygiene practices.
By Law, all food businesses serving food must have a separate hand and pot washing facilities. Failing to wash hands regularly is the biggest cause of cross contamination and food poisoning.
Get out and about:
Go and speak to other street food traders and do as much research as you can. The NCASS (Nationwide Caterers Association) offer traders legal protection, safety and a digital training course on how to start up a street food business and make it a success, but remember some business lessons have to be learned the hard way.