How To Start A Street Food Business

A short guide to starting and running a street food business.

You’ve taken the first step: you’re here. This means you’re already a country mile further than half the people we speak to who have “this great idea for a street food van”. Good work. Below you will find a short introduction to getting started. This is not a comprehensive guide, because that would be a huge, book-like creation. Luckily we have one of those as well, in the form of our book. Read this first, because it’s free, but then you might want to consider reading that. The good folks on Amazon all seem to reckon it was pretty helpful, and we’ve just published a new version.

Any questions after that should be directed to the comments below, where we will get back to them as soon as we can!

Starting Up A Street Food Business

What is Street Food?
Which licences, permits and paperwork do I need?
What should I serve?
Should I serve burgers?
What kind of setup should I use?
Can I use my kitchen at home?
Do I cook on gas or electric?
Should I join NCASS?

Trading

When should I start?
Where should I trade?
Where can I get advice from?
How do I apply for pitches?
How do I know this fair/festival/market will be any good?
How many units should I take to this event?
Where do I find places to trade?
Should I serve hot drinks?
Do I need to provide seating?

Establishing Your Business

How do I stop people ripping off my idea?
Do I need a website and social media?
Does it work for couples?
Do I need an accountant?
How do I make money? Street food businesses at Stratford River Festival

What is Street Food?

We should probably cover this first. Street Food is the new way to eat gourmet dishes without paying the earth. It’s a bunch of passionate, motivated owner-operators who have a product they love and create it right there in front of you using local, high quality ingredients. The people you are buying the food from are the chefs, the owners, the drivers, the marketers, the buyers and the servers of the meal you’re eating. It’s artisan cooking at it’s most direct. This distinguishes it from more established cousins festival caterers (larger units, often many units owned by one company, mainly large festivals) and mobile caterers (think markets and car boot sales, selling straight forward food) although there is a lot of crossover, and you will find us all hanging out together when it’s raining.

Which licences, permits and paperwork do I need?

Set up as a sole trader or a limited company. Then you need to register a food business with your local authority. They will get the Environmental Health on your case and ultimately get you a Food Hygiene rating. That’s the only licence you need, but you will need some other paperwork before you can serve the eager masses: Public liability insurance is a must, a gas safe certificate (if you’re using gas) and a PAT Test certificate if you’re using electricity. Get all of these scanned onto your computer and ready to attach to applications and all you need are some events to attend.

Personally you need a food hygiene certificate, which can be done online and costs about £30. This proves you know what hand-washing is, for which we are all very grateful. At some festivals you will also need to submit your Risk Assessment, Method Statement, HACCPs and a whole variety of other documents. Do these well once and all you need to do is review them periodically. NCASS members get customisable versions as part of their membership, or check out the book for a detailed break down of what they actually are. 

What should I serve?

Good question. The food you serve needs to make you money, so while something rare and ambitious would be amazing, people won’t buy it. They just won’t. Not even that awesome crowd of really hip foodies over there. You know why? Because they’re having a dirty burger from the trader next door, which is just as hip and they already know tastes good. I’m not saying it can’t work. It absolutely can because there is a niche market for exciting street food, but it’s just that: A small gap.

No, hang on. You need to serve the thing you got into street food knowing you wanted to sell. The thing you’re all passionate and giggly about. You need to try that, but with an open mind and a business head that can identify the difference between the next big thing and the thing that just isn’t going to work, not in this life or any other.

Still not true. You need to be practical. It’s all about the passion, but if it takes you 45 minutes to make each portion you won’t make money. It’s also a lot about money. In the end, running a street food business is about picking a cuisine/foodstuff/dish rolling with it. I would recommend you pick one thing, and make it better than anyone else does. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it will keep your costs down and make your brand clearer.

Should I serve burgers?

Is there already someone doing a killer burger near you? Do you make an amazing burger? Would you mind eating nothing but burgers for a whole weekend? If you answered no/yes/no: Do it. Any other combination of answers and I would at least consider something else first. The reason for this is because no one is going to book two burger stalls when they could have a burger stall and something else. It will also take a whole lot more to stand out, but if your burger is the best burger there is, then you will wipe the floor with all other food vendors.

What kind of setup should I use?

Street food isn’t just about the meal; the people who give you pitches won’t have tasted your food. They will be looking for quirky vendors to enhance their festival/fair/show. I’m biased towards a truck, but here are your options:

Gazebo

The gazebo has merits. It’s the cheapest to get started, requires no insurance (other than standard public liability), always starts and won’t fall apart on the motorway. Most catering pitches are standardised to your regular 3m x 3m marquee so you also won’t be paying over the odds. You are at eye-level with the customer, which is an added bonus. It does involve a lot of carrying, so this is not an option if you have mobility or back issues.

Food Truck

Arrive, open hatch, serve. We can be the last people to arrive and still start trading first. In the winter we will be deliciously warm compared to the stalls, even if it can get a bit hot in summer (Pro tip: paint the roof a light colour). Food vans are also rarer, so you and your unit will stand out, especially if you have a ravishing paint job. Before you rush off to buy one a word of warning: Food vans, old ones especially, go wrong. Humorously, continuously wrong. You may also end up paying for dead space if your pitch is measured by length, as you won’t be serving from the cab. However, anecdotal evidence suggests they would be the superior choice in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

If you are thinking of investing in a new one I would recommend having a browse on the subject of converting your own before you spend big bucks on a professional one.

Trailer

In many ways this is the best of both worlds. Practical but compact, without the overheads of a van, although a well kitted out trailer will still set you back thousands. Even with an amazing paint job trailers don’t have any of the iconic vehicle status that you get from a classic VW or Citroen, and they can still break down. I’ve heard some things, man. They are also not trucks. I love your optimism, but unless it has an engine, it’s a trailer.

Can I use my kitchen at home?

The short answer is yes, assuming your kitchen at home is not health hazard. If it is then you’d do us all a favour by renting someone’s commercial kitchen while they’re not using it, or choosing a food that doesn’t require any off-site prep. You will need to have it inspected by your local environmental health department. Contact them for details and make sure it is spotlessly clean whenever they come near your house. As a bare minimum you will need a separate handwash sink, colour-coded chopping boards, proof that animals and children don’t sneeze/sick/cat on your surfaces and a cleaning rota for when you are using it for prep.

Do I cook on gas or electric?

This will be your first mayor decision once you have bought your unit. The short version: electric is cheap to set up but expensive to run. Gas is expensive to setup but much, much cheaper to run. So it depends on what sort of budget you have starting out, and what kind of costs you want to deal with later. For a closer look at the debate I would recommend this post right here.

Should I join NCASS?

NCASS are a bunch of down to earth guys who love a bit of proper independent street food. They also provide loads of resources and free training, as well us a neat little texting service for local events. If you have never worked in the food industry they are the best way to get legal and certified. It’s worth joining in your first year just for this.

Trading

When should I start?

This is not something we get asked, but it is something you need to know. All of the big pitches that you want to trade at over the summer are handed out in spring, and applied for starting in the New Year. You need to be ready and funded to do these applications and pay deposits if you want to do music festivals. Smaller fairs, markets and certain speciality festivals can be applied for throughout the year, but the big guns will be done and dusted by April.

Glastonbury, the Oxbridge of festivals, runs trade applications even earlier, and has hundreds of applicants for every pitch.

Where should I trade?

Customers queuing for dinner at the Digbeth Dining Club The answer is: Where ever you like; and increasingly as more food vendors hit the pavement, wherever you can. Here is a little extra info on winter trading, as that has some extra complications. These are the kind of places you should look at:

Music Festivals

High up-front costs, but music festivals have the potential for huge takings over the weekend, especially as you have the opportunity to get to know your customers and can benefit from repeat custom. The customer/trader ratio is key here: too many traders and you will lose out. The festival might tell you this information up front, but ticket sales, recessions and the weather can screw all that up in a matter of weeks and your huge up front pitch payment might suddenly vanish with no hope of ever getting it back.

There are also as many types of music festival as there are genres of music, and each one will have a different feel, a different crowd and a different appetite for what you serve. While they all follow the same basic formula some have very restrictive trading hours, some favour wet or pill-shaped meals over actual food and others will, for no discernible reason, just not want your food at one particular mealtime. The only way to find this out? Foot the bill and take your chances, but for the love of all that is cheesy DON’T try and do a massive music festival in your first year. There are lots of smaller ones out there charging less.

Dedicated Street Food Events

Most major cities have at least one of these now. Going through the ones we do: Birmigham has Digbeth Dining Club and Seasonal Markets, Leicester has Canteen and Sheffield has Peddler. These (usually Friday night) events are excellent for meeting other like-minded people (both fellow traders and customers) tasting the competition and generally becoming part of the street food scene in your area. They often host bloggers or journalists and are a good place to be “seen” as in many areas they are considered a mark of quality if you trade there.

Weddings

And any other private, pre-paid gigs you can get your hands on. Often these will come from people trying and loving your food on site, or through searches for local caterers specialising in that food. You can also hunt these out yourself, see Online Service below.

Weddings are, obviously, pitch-fee and wastage free. They are also usually on the precious top 10 weekends of the year, so taking a wedding rules you out of a lot of high value events. Off-season weddings are the way forward. For more advice see this post about street food at weddings.

Using an Online Service

This magical new internet invention will deliver events to your inbox and then charge you either a percentage of your final fee or an upfront cost to quote for them. Most of the events you get through these services are delightfully poo (20 people for a three course meal at less than £5/head on the August Bank Holiday anyone?) but as you can be selective in what you quote for, you should be able to get work easily if you just need some hands on experience or ready money.

While there are many, the only one I would regularly recommend for new starters is Addto Event, as they get probably the best of a mediocre crop of events. You buy yourself credits up front and are then charged x amount of credits to quote a job. Investing a few quid here ought to find you some jobs that are worth the effort.

Markets (weekly)

Town markets are a good regular source of income, and provide midweek trade as well as a coveted regular pitch, which is lovely if you need predictable income rather than flying free and loose like some of us. Note that customer-spend will be significantly lower here as people are not there to sup on your delicious food, but to nab a bargain.

Markets (speciality)

Farmers markets or speciality markets are probably more suited to street food, because they attract foodies over bargain hunters and have a higher spend per head. Unfortunately these markets are usually a single day at the weekend, meaning you will spend more time looking for them, and the potential takings are low compared to even a small festival. They are projects, to be worked on over several months as you establish yourself and build an audience.

Food Festivals (Paid)

I would approach paid food festivals with a healthy dose of common sense. Asking people to pay to go and pay for more food is a cunning business plan, and there are people out there who do pay. People will usually buy tickets for these events on the day, meaning that if it rains the place will be dead. On the other had a well established food festival can attract a fantastic crowd of food lovers keen to try something new, but again be careful of a bad ratio of traders to customers and be fearful of free food being handed out right next to your pitch.

Food Festivals (Free)

These guys have to make all their money from the traders, so expect a lot of competition, along with all the free samples. Visitor numbers will usually be much higher, because passing trade will get involved, but as with the paid for food festival, the moment it rains you’re done for the day. Additionally you will watch as everyone flocks to the hog roast. You will hate them for having it so easy.

County Shows

The food here is, as a rule, around 10 years behind everywhere else. We are now approaching 10 years of street food, so veeeery gradually these shows are starting to update the tired old multi-purpose units and bringing in new blood. Expect to sell lots of good, honest versions of whatever you do. Your cheese and ham toastie, if you see what I mean.

You may also catch the occasional gumble on the price here while they part with their hard-earned, lightly horse-aroma’ed cash. Don’t worry, the quality product wooes them all in the end.

Where can I get advice from?

You’ve found our blog; as far as I know we are currently the most comprehensive resource out there. We have also written a book which brings everything together in a usable way and covers the useful start up topics in much more detail. I’ve covered almost every topic I can think of at some point, so I’d recommend starting with the that and seeing how far it gets you.

If you still have questions try the search bar at the top of this page. If by some freak accident you can’t find it there then ask your question in the comments, I’ll either answer you directly or do a post about it in the next few weeks or both. If you are already up and running then other street food traders or general traders are often ready to chat on a quiet day, especially if you open by offering them a cup of tea (having this ability is one of the sweet, sweet saviours of a rainy day, just so you know).

How do I apply for pitches?

Almost every place to trade will have a slightly different method for applications. Bigger festivals will have online applications forms, most markets are managed by a company whom you will need to develop a working relationship with and smaller festivals will usually be .pdf forms to fill in and post back. You will need electronic copies of your liability insurance, food hygiene rating, gas safety check and PAT test if you have electrics on board. It’s worth also working out who you are and what you do, so that you can confidently sell yourself in an email if the occasion arises.

How do I know if this festival/fair/market is a good place to trade?

Mostly by going there and trading. Asking other traders is useful, as strictly off the record we will be more than happy to tell you if it sucked. But then again one person’s anecdotal story of a festival could be wildly different from another, as within the festival there is always the problem of getting a good pitch. If you can visit before hand and have a look round that will give you a good idea, but your location within the festival will make all the difference. I recommend that you expect to wind up finding out the hard way some times.

How many portions should I take to an event?

Once you know the answer to this I believe you win Street Food and we all get together to hold a little ceremony in your honour. The simple answer is: Enough to make the money you want to make. Less than that and you might as well not take the event, more than that and there will be loads left over. Here is some more detailed info about how many portions to take.

Where do I find places to trade?

Start with the internet. Work out how far you are willing to travel, and what sort of thing you’re looking for. Then spend literally hours digging through google picking over long forgotten websites and the wretched husks of neglected domains trying to find events. This is a long process, but there really isn’t an easy fix. If you already have some events in mind get those first, and start making a list. While we’re on the topic: A piece of trader-to-trader etiquette, never spoken, but always observed. Don’t ask to see someone else’s event list. We get asked from time to time by people just starting out, and I totally understand why you would, but we don’t share the list.

Should I serve hot drinks?

Yes in a van or trailer. No in a gazebo. You will need to have hot water to comply with health and safety regs, so get a tea urn. Not only is health and safety now happy, you also have tea. Apart from keeping you sane, as tea always does, it’s also a tidy little earner and nice and warm in the winter. As an added bonus it’s the perfect way to keep your gazebo-based trading neighbours sweet if they don’t have tea facilities. Make sure you mention it on trade applications. Otherwise the organisers might pop you next to a dedicated tea/coffee stall, and no one will be delighted.

Do I need to provide seating?

This depends on where you trade. At large music festivals and food festivals seating will often be available, but at markets and small festivals, especially quiet ones, seating can make a huge difference for two reasons: 1. People make their choice about food based on several factors, and one of them is sitting and eating. Especially at a festival where seating is scarce, your chairs will be prime real estate. 2. It makes you look busier, because it keeps customers outside your unit for longer. A busy food vendor, the thought train goes, tastes better than a quiet one. More in depth info can be found here.

Establishing Your Business

How do I stop people ripping off my idea?

Yeah, this is a tough one. You cannot prevent people from cooking the same food as you. You cannot stop them doing it the same way you do unless the method you use is a patented invention of your own. In most cases you will even find that some other idiot has already thought of your brilliant brand name and has registered the domain, twitter and facebook, then isn’t even using it. So you need to be the first (in your area) the best, and the most nicest. Do register the facebook, twitter and webdomain as soon as you can, because these days that is pretty much all the guarantee you need. Oh, and it’s worth checking the Intellectual Property Office to make sure your grand idea hasn’t already been taken. Once you’re all clear on that front, you can decide later if you would like it to be a registered trademark or not. For the time being, just get yourself out there. Oh, and don’t be that guy who rips off other people’s methods. This is your dream, do it your way.

Do I need a website and social media?

Yes. I mean have you looked out the window recently? No neither has anyone else – we’re all online watching it streamed live. So yes, everyone needs a website these days. But not urgently. While you probably won’t lose a pitch you have applied for as long as the application is up to scratch, you won’t be getting any extra business from other sources. That being said, not all street food businesses have websites, so you won’t be alone.

Social Media, on the other hand, is free to set up, takes only minimal web knowledge and at least gives you something to point potential events at. Make a Facebook page, put some pictures up, fill in the about section and ask your mates to like it. Then set up twitter and instagram, follow some of the big voices in street food and you have all the resources you need for asking questions. (I’d recommend your local street food collective, local events that you would like to join, local food producers, other street food folks in your area and @jabberwockyfood).

Does it work for couples?

Barny and I have been together for like, ages now. Since incorporating the Jabberwocky he has also proposed and we have got married, and started a family. For us, it works. For you? There’s only one way to find out. We do argue. When the day is going badly and you’re not going to break-even it’s really hard to find anything nice to say about the other person. In fact it’s pretty hard not to brain them with a colour-coded chopping board (Red). But on the other hand, when the day is going well; you can see your future together unfolding hand in hand with street food. Every customer is a sparkling happiness fairy and your partner is the god of toasties.

Rule of Thumb: if you feel like you’re stifling each other after spending two hours together on a quiet Sunday afternoon then I’d give this particular venture a miss. It’ll all end in tears. And blood.

Do I need an accountant?

It depends on what kind of street food business you are running. If you have a limited company like us, then yes, for the love of all that is cheesy get an accountant. You have better things to do with your time than paperwork. Check with a few, negotiate how much you are going to pay and then hand them your bookkeeping and watch the magic happen.

If you are a sole trader the paperwork is all self-assessment and can be done online. I’d still recommend consulting someone in the know, as the fines can be quite hefty, but once you have done it for the first time it’s reasonably manageable.

How do I make money?

You need to find a way to make the purchase price of the food + your labour worth the amount people are willing to pay for it. This is the ultimate goal. If every tiny change you make increases sales by a tiny fraction then that is what you need to do. Keep tinkering, never be entirely satisfied and make sure you know how to get money out once you have made it.

Flic Luxmoore, Director, curator and chronicler of the Jabberwocky. Purveyor of Street Food, specifically toasties, and alfresco dining enthusiast.

Questions? Ask us in the comments, and please do the right thing and mash a social button to show you care… or read on…

If you are hungry for more street food brain-fodder, you probably want to buy the book on Amazon. We also use Amazon Affiliates, so any purchases you make after following that link will dribble a tiny referral fee back to us, which helps to keep the website going. If what you have read has been truly helpful then clicking through and bookmarking this link as your Amazon page would be very kind, and costs you absolutely nothing.

While we love hearing from you, please understand that we won’t answer questions about setting up via email (or facebook/twitter message), as we want the information to be available publicly – post below and we will get back to you whenever we can!

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[…] For More see the Jabberwocky Blog http://www.thejabberwocky.co.uk/blog/how-to-start-a-street-food-business/ […]

Jess
Guest
Jess

What kind of licence did you apply for to trade? I’ve been having a look round and confused whether you have to apply for a licence every time you trade in a new area? For example, in Cambridge one week and then birmingham the next. Would you have to apply for a licence to both councils?

Thanks!

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

LOVE this site thanks loads of great advice, you have just answered some of my most worrying questions!!

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

hello
you’re article was really good, do you need any kind of degree or gcses for this and im only 16 ( I have a really good idea), how old is the legal age, can i get funded and if i cant, how much does this averagely cost to set up myself, can i do it on local streets.
it would be such a big help if you could answer them, thank you in advance (uve answered alot of questions)

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Jay
Guest
Jay

Hi this is been very helpful thank you. Just want to ask if using a gazebo exactly what equipment etc do you think I will need I.e if running a Caribbean food stool, do we cook the food prior and just run with bay Marie’s or…………..??

FreshSarra
Guest
FreshSarra

Love your blog – funny, informative and addictive! Thanks. I have just bought an old Bedford to take deliciously healthy smoothies and snacks (and maybe more) to the streets and am in a whole world of unknown! I noticed you said about a boiler. Can I just have an urn for hot water for EHO and tea etc? Also looking at generators what fuel type do you use? Am concerned I won´t be able to get enough power without having to have either a huge noisy generator or loads of massive gas bottles with just little ol me to lug them in and out. Thanks for any wisdom and insight 🙂

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel

Thank you sooo much for every information provided. It will be very helpful for me and my brother in our journey. God bless you!

MagicMeat
Guest
MagicMeat

Glad I found this!! Just starting out with a gourmet Cornish burger stall and no previous experience at all .

Amber
Guest
Amber

Hi guys! Thank you for creating such a helpful blog! I am about to start trading, at my first market on the 19th July…! I am running off of electric, meaning that I will have to pay the extra at festivals/events. I will be using a Bain Marie and a cast iron electric griddle. I will be taking all my equipment in a trailer/car boot, and I was wondering…at the end of the day when I’m ready to pack up, how would I go about packing away the griddle, which I would expect may still be warm as it cools down. Just wondering whether there is a magic method you have heard of!! Thank you in advance 🙂

Chefjimmysals
Guest
Chefjimmysals

Hi all, I a m a chef with 20 years experience currently working as head chef for a very successful outside catering company, after travelling around South America marrying a venezualan chica and sampling some delicious food ! I have decided that the world needs arepa, a fantastic venezualan/ Colombian street food that has so many variations and flavours I couldn’t begin to list them! I have the necessary equipment, insurance, passion and staff at hand and just need some advice as to how to get a foot in the door.
I know a few people offering arepa but it’s untapped compaired to other street food but equally delicious with fresh flavours new to most pallets!
Any advice would be appreciated!!

Chefjimmysals

Tim
Guest
Tim

Hi guys, wondered if you knew as trying to set something up a couple of months down line with partner but wanting to reserve company/brand name. What is the correct process. Getting confused from all that i am reading.
Thanks

Felix
Guest
Felix

Just found this website, great advice!
I was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions I had:
– Could you give a very rough ballpark figure of startup capital needed for a tent/gazebo? (including all the things needed for licensing etc.)?
– Is it possible to start a stall anywhere or do local councils have set sites?

Thanks a lot!

Paul Lackie
Guest
Paul Lackie

Thank you for all the info, fantastic blog,

Linda Peel
Guest
Linda Peel

Hi wondered if you could offer some advice please? I am going to be starting a business soon, I have my food hygiene cert and public liability insurance in place. My business is selling homemade cakes and afternoon teas, using a vintage folding camper as a prop with tables in front and a gazebo over for a preparation area, the camper has a sink in and I also have a teal handwash so will have two sinks. will I need to get the camper approved by environmental health as i wont be preparing food in there or just my kitchen at home where I will be baking the cakes etc or both?

Ang
Guest
Ang

Hello! Thank you so much for all the info, very insightful & useful!
I was wondering if you could offer some advice, & I know it’s a silly question as there are so many variables & I guess the only way to find out is to just do it! But my partner & I are planning on setting up a vegetarian food stall (probably catering trailer) for next summer, we have made a few contacts that organise small festivals & so are hoping to secure pitches at their events along with others. We believe we have a unique product & are hoping to do around 10 small events over the summer and have no idea on the possible takings or profits, if any!
We are hoping to save enough through the summer to go travelling for a few months but are dubious as to how much money we will actually make. Any advice would be much appreciated, thank you

Lara
Guest
Lara

I am at the early stages of setting up a mobile coffee business and I am wondered if I could ask you a few questions about your operation? I hope you don’t mind and don’t think i’m being too cheeky for asking! I’m just trying to work out the viability of the business and try to pull some figures together.

When you attend markets and festivals, what is the average audience that you manage to capture? What would you say that your average customer spends?

What are your average monthly overheads before you have even begun to trade?

Louie Rudge
Guest
Louie Rudge

How do you find competing with the burger vans, hog roast and all the other types of common street food. I’m trying to start my own company at the moment. (i facebooked you yesterday) my head is telling me, do burgers and make them the best out there but my heart tells me do something different. mix it up. i love the idea of gourmet toasties and being ‘so very english’ i feel my love for good Tea needs to be shared with the world. rather then being the last thing on a list of different coffees. do you find that you have narrowed your market to a point that its difficult to succeed. Or do you see this as a positive step in the right direction. I would imagine that its easier to get a pitch if your not ‘yet another burger van’

also very helpful blog, i have just spent the last few hours reading your posts 🙂

lolaswingsuk
Guest
lolaswingsuk

Hi Jabberwocky! Just wondering if you could help us out by answering a question.. We are in our first year as a business and in the midst of gathering applications and sending them out. However, for many of the festival applications we have not been able to find prices or if we do find prices, no where that says what percentage will be due when, etc. Just wondering if you could give us some insight on what seems to be the case in your experience? what percentage a deposit usually is? obviously there is a massive variety of festivals out there and it will vary, but any sort of guidance will help. We are trying to avoid applying to festivals that will be completely out of our reach, but difficult to find out when they don’t lists costs on the applications!!
Cheers
Lola’s Wings x

Kate
Guest
Kate

Hello Flic! Thank you for providing a very informative blog, it has been extremely helpful! My partner and I are planning on starting a catering business ready for summer 2015. We were wondering whether you could help us with a few queries we have pretty please…..

We only have a small sum of money to start the business and so we figured that a well equipped trailer might be best for us, but we are slightly worried as I have read that ‘not all festivals accept trailers’. Do you know how accurate this comment is? We were hoping to sell our food at small-medium sized festivals, do you have any advice on how many customers per day we could expect to have depending on the total numbers at festivals? I understand that there are many different variables but is there any kind of pattern?

Thank you very much, Kate

Roxanne
Guest
Roxanne

Love your blog too, nice and very useful! I’m thinking to star selling pancakes at the festivals in Northern Ireland, but my problem that I don’t know from what I should start and how I can contact festivals organizers. I have contacted a few a half year ago and without results. So, if you can advise me how to start in Belfast and how to contact organizers, I will really appreciate!
Best wishes,
Roxanne

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

hi Flic
i am just starting up in the street food business and am trying to persuade my wife (the brains behind the outfit ) that giving up teaching for a career serving food is a good decision! I am making a spreadsheet of costs etc and wondered if there was a general average cost that one could add per unit which covered fuel, pitch cost (very difficult that one I realise) gas for cooking etc? i’ve got my cost so far for ingredients at 76p per unit.

I love your website and would certainly give you an A grade for writing style, content and humour.

kind regards

Jonathan Hamilton-Jones

Kate
Guest
Kate

hi, amazing website, thank you so much! I am putting together business plan for mobile coffee,tea, cake, soup business (maybe offer other things in time?). I want to offer it in a Citroen H Van if at all possible. How do i possibly work out how many cups of coffee i would get out of an LPG cylinder for example! Also, do you have any pointers in terms of working out how much personal, public and employers liability is likely to cost me per month? Also insurance on an old vehicle – i called one company for a ball park fig and they said between £100 and £2000 pa! Any pointers would be massively appreciated! Thank you and well done for what you have done x

Paul Melbourne
Guest
Paul Melbourne

Hi Flic,
Great blog and great to see you sharing your experience with lots of others who are just starting out, as we are about to.

We’re starting a food stall and will initially be doing some smaller events and smaller street food markets.

I was just wondering if you had any advice on how to get a gas safety certificate as our set up won’t be fixed in a vehicle and would be in a gazebo and therefore set up and taken down at the end of each day/event. Currently we will be using one gas bottle for our gas grill/bbq though may need to be using 2 gas bottles if we get a gas powered bain marie.

I read online that if you just used one gas bottle and it wasn’t a fixed set up then you didn’t need a gas safety certificate but did if you needed two? I was just wondering as I was looking at an application to trade at an event near us and they said they need to see a gas safety certificate.

Just wondering if you could offer any advice please?

Thank you!

Paul

Lou
Guest
Lou

Hi, great site with really useful information. I’ve been looking at buying a van and getting it converted to have a kitchen in it. Who did your van conversion?

Nina
Guest
Nina

Hi, Great blog, Thanks for all the info, Just wanted to ask if it’s not too personal. where did you purchase your food truck from? and about how much was it. We are looking to start a smoothie van but we only have 12k for everything. Any ideas or pointers for a cheap van/trailer would be perfect. Thank You in Advance.

Michael Palfreeman
Guest
Michael Palfreeman

Hello,

I asked you for some advice a while back and had a look at your blog which you suggested and wanted to say a huge thank you as it really was helpful to us.
I had a quick question that I thought you might be able to answer, we are in the process of purchasing equipment and are getting a fat fryer. We wondered if you knew whether there were power limits for caterers at events such as Digbeth Dining Club and small festivals etc. The fryers we are looking at range from 6kw to 12kw. Do they have power limits at such events?

Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions we really appreciate it!

Michael and Elizabeth

Beth Baxter
Guest
Beth Baxter

Some great background here. I think Marketing is key – understanding what sort of events your target market will be at and then hitting that market hard. Unfortunately this will involve some trial and error in the early days but do your research – look at the profile of the audience and check it matches your target market. We have a mobile coffee van http://www.camper-cafe.co.uk and although you may think that everyone drinks coffee, we still really need to pick our venues.

lolaswingsuk
Guest
lolaswingsuk

On some of the event applications they ask about water consumption and water wastage. This is our first year and we haven’t traded yet so I was just wondering about how much you guys use? I’m trying to estimate, but I really have no idea.Thanks for all your help, your blog is such a helpful tool!

trackback

[…] that touches food should be clean, safe and in a good condition. Even if you are going to sell food from a mobile venue (like a food truck or cart), the same rules […]

My Biz Hub
Guest

We love how detailed and practical your info is and mentioned you in our latest post on how to start a food business in the UK! Thanks for sharing your story!

Claire
Guest
Claire

Hey, i’m really sorry if this has already been answered somewhere but i cant find it! But does anyone know where we can legally store dried food ingredients when not trading? we only want to trade at the weekends as we are new to this, and still have full time jobs.
The problem is we live in a caravan which will not pass the environmental health check so we can store food at home. (We are living here so we can afford to set up a business)
Can you store dried food/cupboard food in the van when not trading? Can you store food at self storage?(I’ve only read cans, bottles of water, but how about sealed bags?) Hope someone can help, its our biggest hurdle to getting ourself up and running! Or do we just have to buy all ingredients on the day of trading? Thanks Claire x

Paul Lackie
Guest
Paul Lackie

Hi Felicity,

Just wondering if you could help me, I have bought a gas griddle to cook flat breads on, I have been quoted £400 to fit regulators and get a gas certificate (more than the griddle itself) Do you think it may be a wise move to sell the gas griddle and move to an electric given that we are only using it for cooking flatbreads, you help would be hugely appreciated!

Paul

Max Justin
Guest
Max Justin

Hi there,

Really fantastic resource you have here for someone looking to start in street-food such as moi. I need your help with some terminology perhaps! My business will sell curries and when looking at the equipment used by similar purveyors they seem to have a magical free-standing range type thing which allows for hot trays / big pans of curry to sit on to cook and be served from (sometimes using two to cover a wide pitch) It doesn’t look like has gas rings but just a large heated plate but for mass cooking.

I have done my fair share of researching but can’t for the life of me get a name for this magical cook-all type unit or find one. Would love to know what that kind of equipment is called and where you might think I can find one? I look on catering suppliers for gas griddles which in my head is closest to what I have seen but can’t find what I have seen at markets. I tend to only see really expensive griddles / gas ovens / and gas boiling tops which could work to cook big pans of curries and pans for flat breads on but are not ideal and look like they are designed for professional restaurant kitchens.

I’d be looking to buy a used one, gas powered for a gazebo / stall style set up with potential to move into a food van.

Any light you could shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

🙂

Many Thanks in advance.

Max

George
Guest
George

Hi there,

Thanks a lot for the detailed information provided. I was just wondering if in cities such as London it is possible to position/park a food truck anywhere if you get permit or is it just in markets that you can do that? Thanks a lot

Elizabeth Hurst
Guest
Elizabeth Hurst

Hello, firstly I just wanted to stay I have found your blog extremely helpful and think its amazing you take the time to help others trying to start up, so keep it up!

I have a question regarding event applications that you may be able to help with. We are just getting set up but haven’t started trading yet, with plans to start in June and want to do events from June-September. We have done all our research, bought our equipment and have our NCASS membership but saw that we will need public liability insurance to apply to events. Is this the case for all events? If we cannot start trading until June what you recommend to do regarding insurance for the applications? Would you recommend a certain public liability insurance company?

Many thanks!

Ocsy Róka Koma
Guest
Ocsy Róka Koma

Hi

First of all, thank yuo for this website, really great help!

We have some questions for start.

My mate and me want to set up a trailer, selling wraps.
Our questions>

1. I will be the owner, and my friend is my helper.
If we will both self-employers, how could I pay my mate`s salary?
What kind of contract we need to make everything right?

2. What is the first step we need to take?

buy a trailer?
set up business contract?
register local authority?
whet is EXACTLY the order step-by-step to take?

3. Equpments
Better to rent, or buy used/or new equipments?

4.
If we have to regitry a “food preparation place” (eg sauces, salads,
pancake pastry) is it could be our food trailer itself? (even if we
prepare the food at home?) Or have to be a proper kitchen? Could be my
home kitchen?
What are the regulations and specitications for a preparing food kitchen?

We hope we could register our food trailer for it…

5. money for start
5000 ponds will be enough to start this, or not?
(start from ZERO!)
(we have to buy trailer, equipments, registry business, pay NCASS, food hygiene, bookkepper, buy food, etc)
How much do we need for a wrap trailer?

6. buy or build?
Do
you think better to buy used ready to trade-trailer, and start, or is
it worth to build our own trailer? (buy some junk trailer on ebay, and
pimp up) How much does it cost?

Thank you for the answers!

benandtom
Guest
benandtom

Hey guys,

Firstly, great article!

Secondly, we’ve read the post on your trip to London to be on the telly-box (congrats!) and it got us thinking:

As you seem to be the go-to folks for all questions street food and with your knowledge of the toastie scene, do you think there is there room for another vendor, particularly in London? We’re very confident in our product, but we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or shoot ourselves in the foot before we’ve even begun.

We were also wondering about whether we could use the gazebo itself to register with EHO as our prep kitchen (as all of our prep would be done on site on the morning of the event). Does this sound do-able and legal?

Also, I’ve seen from your pictures that you use gas as opposed to electric grills. Why did you choose gas?

Many thanks for your time and for a great blog. Keep up all the good work, and do let us know when your book is coming out (and when you’re coming to London so we can grab a toastie!)

Cheers!

Ben and Tom

tim
Guest
tim

hi guys, i’ve been working on an idea for a while and am currently writing business plan. I am self funding but need this roadmap in place. what are the standard pieces of equipment needed and where is the best place to purchase these say for a 4×4 gazebo set up? I need a grill a couple of trestle tables. anything else? thanks.

Priya Bhambra
Guest
Priya Bhambra

Hi, I have a drink I have produced and want to take to market, I don’t have HUGE plans for it but its niche and different and I think people would enjoy it – I do however make this at home, what licenses/ approvals etc would I need to take it to for example Brixton/ Camden market for example?
Thanks!

Robert Alan Jones
Guest
Robert Alan Jones

Hi there,

I’m a very devoted foodie like yourselves and really want to start a very fresh and healthy food truck up in the north around Manchester. The only problem I have is trying to find someone who is just as passionate as I am who really wants to set on up. Also i think it would be too difficult to set one up financially by myself. Do you know if there is any website where I can find like minded people who are wanting to do the same? Great post by the way and wanted to also ask when your book is out? At the moment I’m reading books that are mainly associated with American food trucks, there OK but it doesn’t really talk about the legal side of stuff for the UK as your site does.

Thanks for sharing your wise words,

Rob

Carmellna
Guest
Carmellna

Hello,

Summer is nearly here.I would like to sell smoothies at farmers markets etc.I want to make them at home.Am testing the waters and using this as a market survey as well as make some money or at least cover cost.Is this allowed or do I have to hire a kitchen.What regulations, insurance do I need ?Am based in Leeds.Thank you.

Ocsy Róka Koma
Guest
Ocsy Róka Koma

Hi!
I will have a tiny market stall, and have to buy a mobile hand wash equipment.

The market told me I have to have a “hand washing unit with suitably controlled temperature of water”

What would you recommend for me?

1. which of those are you recommend for me?
http://www.tealwash.com/shop/handeman-mains-supply/
http://www.streetfood.org.uk/blog/gel-has-had-its-day

2. Am I really need mains or any electric supply?
Is it right just fill up with hot water, and that will keeps it warm?

3. How could I controll temperature if theese have just 1 tap?
How coul i set teperature if i put hot water inside?

Thank you
Andras

Louis jacobsen
Guest
Louis jacobsen

Hi there. I am currently in the process of starting my business and I am planning to get a food van. The problem I am having is the order in which to set up. What to do first? As I don’t want to buy a food truck and spend loads of money without knowing if it is a good idea or not. I want to conduct some market research to overcome this but this is when I realise I need a location to get accurate results and to be able to forecast sales, but being able to determine a location this early on is near to impossible, as when you speak to councils about locations they expect you to be up and running with licenses etc… Just wondered if you had any input in which order to start things up and how to carry out market research without a location set in stone. Sorry about the long paragraph! Would realy appreciate your veiw! Thanks very much. Louis

Puja Datta Sharma
Guest
Puja Datta Sharma

Hi, I really want to start a street stall for homemade cakes (preapred at home) and fresh milkshakes (prepared at the stall) but I am not sure what I need to do for that.. what kind of certification/insurance do i need to get. i am looking at selling at town markets and events like fairs and festivals. Can you please advise

marko
Guest
marko

I am in the middle of purchasing this I have my food hygiene passed accountant booked and lacking a space to put it in also looking for someone to check my gas and electricity so I can present my certificates to the council with my fee this is all new to me and I have took the plunge to start my own grill if anyone has any good ideas or may know someone who can do my lpg & electricity check that would be great thank you

Alexandra
Guest
Alexandra

Alexa

Hi! PLEASE HELP ME

I love this site very helpful information, I have a question that i just cant get my head around. I am staring a catering trailer and i have quiet few electrical equipment and some gas. Now what i seen the best idea would be to get a generator and i have seen one for 5000kwh, no what i dont understand and i cant calculate is that how many gas bottles will it take to run this for a whole day of trading? i know that the generator will produce 5000kwh but i dont know how many for example 19kg gas bottle to make it function for a day or a week? any ideas? also i would highly appreciate if someone could tell me how many bottles needed to run a gas griddle? If anyone knows please help me. Many thanks

Peter Sugar
Guest
Peter Sugar

Hi Flic, can we sell food from a truck in our driveway?

ByMigh Accounting
Guest

Street Food Live 29/30 September at the Excel Centre in London alongside the Takeaway Innovation Expo, will be a great source of information. Lots of information to help you start, grow and innovate your business. Many industry experts speaking too. As food industry accountants my firm will be exhibiting and speaking. Here is a link to Street Food Live http://www.streetfoodlive.co.uk. All the best with your food businesses.
Shirley Jackson FCCA

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