If you’ve got a passion for food, becoming a street food vendor could be the ideal career choice for you. Mike Hardman, from professional catering supplies retailer Alliance Online, shares the four essential steps that all budding entrepreneurs should know before starting a street food business.
Street food businesses are becoming more popular by the day, and it’s little wonder why: they’re a hit with diners, they can be very lucrative and, compared to traditional eateries, they’re much more straight forward to set up and run. Plus, as the owner of your own street food business, you’ll have complete creative control over your menu, and will be free to decide when and where you’ll be working.
If this sounds like your dream career, you’ll need to make sure you have a solid business plan in place before you make any major decisions or invest in equipment. In this article, I’ll be sharing the four essentials steps you’ll need to follow before you can set up shop and get cooking — just read on to learn more.
Register as a company or sole trader
As with any business venture, the first major decision you’ll need to make is whether you’re going to register as a sole trader or a limited company. Both legal models have their own advantages and disadvantages, so you should weigh up your options carefully. Ultimately, your decision will depend on how much personal liability you want to take. If you’ll be running your business with a partner or co-founder, a limited company might be a better option, as this can simplify the process of splitting profits and sharing your legal obligations. It also makes it easier for one of you to leave the business at a later date.
If you’d like to learn more about both types of legal structure, including which type will best suit your business model, take a look at Business First Online’s guide to sole traders and limited companies.
Sort out the relevant paperwork
If you’re going to be preparing and selling food, you’ll need to make sure that both you and your staff have at least a Level 2 food safety qualification. This will cost around £100 per employee, and the course is usually a day long. It’s also a legal requirement to register your business with your local council authority at least 28 days before you start serving customers.
If you plan to serve food in public areas, then you need to have a street trading licence — you can apply for this through the government portal. Before you can start trading, you should also take out public liability insurance, which will protect you if members of the public suffer an injury or accident on your premises.
Once you have all the necessary certificates and licensing, it’s a good idea to keep all of the paperwork where you can easily access them, organisers of festivals and events will need to see these before you’ll be allowed to attend. You should also keep physical copies of your certificates with you on-site, too.
Invest in a truck or trailer and equipment
As a street food vendor, you’ll always be on the move, so your most essential piece of equipment will be your food truck or trailer. This will be your biggest investment, so choose carefully, and make sure that it suits your needs. You should be able to find a second-hand food truck or trailer, along with basic catering equipment, for around £5,000.
As you’ll be working within a confined space with limited staff, it may help to invest in any equipment that’s going to make preparing your food faster or more efficient. This will make your job much easier, and allow you to serve customers more quickly during busy periods. So, once you’ve designed your menu, be sure to think carefully about whether there’s any specialist equipment that could save you time, like a mixer for pizza dough, for example.
Remember that any equipment you use should be gas safety-compliant, and any electricals should be tested according to HSE protocols. Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got some firefighting equipment, like fire blankets and extinguishers, on hand in your trailer or kiosk at all times.
Create an irresistible menu and start serving
When it comes to creating a menu that’s going to be a hit with diners, there’s one key rule that you absolutely must follow: focus on creating just a few different dishes, preferably all in the same style of cuisine, and prioritise making these as delicious as possible. Keeping your menu simple will help to keep your overheads to a minimum, which in turn means you’ll be able to serve up dishes using high-quality ingredients for a lower price.
As you’ll be limited in terms of the equipment you can carry and the amount of food you can store, it’s best to go for a short menu with around 3–7 different items. Ideally, each dish should be something you can cook in less than five minutes, and it shouldn’t be too labour-intensive, so you can multitask and take customer orders at the same time. Once you’ve created a tempting menu, remember to design some attractive signage so potential customers can see what’s on offer.
Just like any other business venture, starting a street food business takes passion, determination, and lots of hard work. But, if you love cooking and meeting new people, you’re sure to find it an exceptionally rewarding career. Take this advice on board when creating your business plan, and your budding company should stand every chance of success.