Do you fancy yourself as the next Jamie Oliver, but want to test the waters first? Or maybe you have an original food idea that you need to share with the world. Whatever your reason, the street food industry is a booming and exciting, if competitive, part of the food sector, with the number of people serving street food doubling each year. However, it can be a confusing industry to enter, with food regulations understandably tight, and as it becomes more saturated, the chance of decent success diminishes. But don’t fret, we at Make Space are here to break down the basics to get you started, and uncomplicate a complicated industry.
Is it right for you?
To begin, let's consider the positives and negatives of setting up a street food business:
Low start-up costs: Depending on the venue and type of food you are planning on using, you could potentially set up this sort of business for a couple of thousand pounds. This means that you wouldn’t lose a lot of money if it went wrong and are less likely to need to take out a loan in the beginning.
It’s easy to scale it up. Whether you make it into a franchise, set up a flagship restaurant or simply have multiple trucks, there are many avenues you can go down if your idea really booms.
They are a great way to check if people respond well to your idea before setting up a physical restaurant, without the costs that running an eatery entails.
It’s an unpredictable industry – a food festival gig which brings in thousands one year might not even break even the next year. The weather, how many people visit the venue and what else is on offer is completely out of your control. It can also be seasonal, depending on what events you target and what you sell.
It can be unsociable, especially at the beginning when you are travelling up and down the country trying to establish yourself. Furthermore, you may have to balance it with your day job at first to ensure you have an income you can live off.
The growing competition means that to become a well-known name within the industry is tougher. This shouldn’t put you off though- with enough dedication you can achieve anything!
Now you have decided the industry is right for you, we have compiled a step by step overview of how to set up a street food business:
Creating a Business Plan
-Ask yourself the following questions:
-What will you sell?
-What makes you unique from other street food businesses?
-What’s your target market?
o Full-time market stall
o Food truck going to events
o City based
o Private events – weddings, corporate events etc
-Food ‘genre’: trendy ‘Instagrammable’ food for millennials or traditional grub that everyone knows and loves?
-What will the price of each dish be?
-What equipment do you need?
Choose a Venue
-What will you sell from?
o Gazebo – cheapest option
o Food truck
o On site
o In your kitchen at home
o In a commercial kitchen
o Gas – cheaper to run
o Electric – cheaper to set up
o Contact suppliers directly to get trade prices and search around for the best deals.
o Do you want “cheap and cheerful” or more expensive and higher quality?
o For each event, make sure you have enough food for the realistic amount of money you want to make.
There are many assessments and forms that need completing before you can enter the food industry legally. Make sure to do your research to make sure you don’t miss anything, and complete everything in plenty of time, to avoid having to postpone your debut. Here’s a list of just a few of the legalities you need to cover before you can sell food to the public:
o Register with your local environmental health office
o Get a health rating
o Train all employees in food hygiene
o Carry out risk assessments
o Take out public liability insurance so you can’t be sued if someone gets ill from your food
o Get a street food trading license if you’re selling somewhere that isn’t a dedicated venue like a market (which should have one already in place that will cover you)
For more information, see the Food Standards Agency website.
Now you have a street food business all ready to go, you need to get the word out! Whilst simply going to food festivals and markets will bring you customers and relying on word of mouth will get you so far, by having an online presence you will be able to find a wider customer base and be able to advertise where you are going to be selling, so you have guaranteed customers before you even open shop. It is worth buying the domain for your website as soon as you can (even if you don’t build the website straight away) before someone else grabs it, and setting up a Facebook page at the very least. Other social media accounts worth having are Twitter and Instagram (which is especially useful if you are good with a camera, as many users follow accounts dedicated to pictures of food such as yours!).
Be sure to advertise your social media accounts and website at your stall, with your username for each account displayed on your stand somewhere. This means happy customers can follow you online, so they know how to find you to come back for more!
You should now have a better understanding of how to set up your own street food business. However, here are a few closing nuggets of advice to get you on your way to building a food empire:
-Make sure to set some cash aside before each day of selling so that you have some money left over if you don’t even break even.
-You need to be open to feedback and flexible – especially when it comes to your menu. If people aren’t buying something, then remove it from the menu no matter how much you love it.
-Look into investing in a card payment machine after a few months if business is good, as less and less people are carrying cash.
-When creating your brand, think about the ethos and story behind it that you want to sell. Also, really consider how to make your company stand out – for instance the Hip Hop Chip Shop’svan is shaped like a boom-box.
-If you are selling cheaper food that a lot of people sell, such as burgers, work on (safely) getting serving times down so you are quicker than other stands near-by selling the same thing. If you are selling a niche product with little competition (and so can rely on your individuality to get customers) really focus on the quality and experience (people will be more willing to wait a few more minutes if they’re getting something top notch).
-When you outgrow your home, look into self-storage facilities to hold your equipment and supplies. Make Space storage offers businesses flexible terms with no minimum stay and a loading bay included in the price, as well as on-site staff to accept your deliveries.
For more information about owning a street food business, see the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS)’s website.