How to start a street food outlet
Recent years have seen an increase in the popularity of street
food outlets as standards have gone up in the food on offer and
more people seek to launch their own food business but don't have
much of a budget.
The street food movement is not about flogging cheap
burgers and sausages of questionable quality; instead it prides
itself on sourcing high quality gourmet products, which excite the
crowds. These artisan street food traders target foodies who expect
quality products and care about provenance.
If you harbour ambitions to one day run your own restaurant,
this is a clever way to start out with small amounts of money and
also really get your brand out there. Once you reach a point where
you are in a position to launch your own restaurant people will
know who you are and what you do.
Is it for you?
If you have a passion for food, good social skills and are
willing to be flexible, a street food outlet may be for you. Petra
Barran, the founder of street food traders community Eat Street
says you must make sure your proposition is right. "You have to
start with something incredible," she says. "Do just one thing and
do it really well. Many people make the mistake of trying to do too
many things, but you should keep it simple, make it delicious and
have a really strong story behind you."
You can apply for a pitch on a market, allowing you to trade on
a regular basis and build up a customer base. Beyond that there is
a huge amount of festivals and events where you can apply to sell
your goods. Private events is another option but this should be as
and add-on rather than at the core of your business.
Obviously you need to have a passion for food and you need to be
good with people. You should also be driven, determined and you
must have the ability to multi-task and deal with pressure and
stress on a daily basis. You are going to have crazy times and you
have to be able to cope with all that. As Joel Henderson from
Burrito business Daddy Donkey says, "You know if you are one of
This is the most crucial part of your business. If you are not
in the right place with a decent footfall you won't make any money,
but of course any site with a good footfall is harder to get.
If the market is private, as is London's Borough Market, you
need to apply to the organisation but if it is council run
you should contact the local borough council; a process that
could involve a great deal more form-filling than a private market
Generally it is difficult to get hot food spaces in street
markets, as an example London's Leather Lane market has just three
pitches for this while the rest are for normal retail.
If a destination already has a certain hot food offering
you are less likely to be accepted as the organiser will want to
create the right trading environment for all. Some markets are more
focused on specific food types, making it easier to secure a spot
Regardless of your trading hours you will almost certainly be
required to make an early start. At the outset you'll
need to head to a market to pick up your produce first
thing, but once you get going you'll be able to set up agreements
with companies that can deliver to you.
When you start out you can use your own kitchen to prepare and
pack but as you grow bigger it is a good idea to rent an external
unit where you can also run your office from.
Once the preparation is done and you are on site it's all about
cracking on and selling as much as possible.
In recent years more street food hotspots have cropped up
across the country including Eat Street, a concentration of high
quality street food traders, in the new development in London's
started out as a community of street food traders and remains a
valuable source of advice and support. They organise workshops,
including information on how to set up, how to find a pitch and how
to market yourself for people, who are interested in launching
their own street food outlet.
Eat Street currently invites traders of high quality products to
apply to join the community. Outlets on Eat Street will be trading
Monday-Friday from the middle of May.
If you don't feel confident that you have all the required
cookery skills you should get trained as a matter of priority. It's
important to note that street food traders often don't have formal
training but have a natural skill and a passion for food.
Beyond the cookery you need to make sure you're on top of all
the food safety aspects. To be certain that you cover all areas it
is advisable to employ a food safety consultant from a company like
Food Alert or the Nationwide Catering Association (NCASS). They
will do all the food safety training you and your staff need and
ensure you have high-end supervisory food safety skills.
Once you start recruiting it is helpful to take on
staff who already have the required training from previous jobs.
They'll bring everything they have learnt and a lot more you
probably don't know and you can feed off them.
You will need to have the correct certifications before you can
start trading. Even though it's street food it needs to be managed
in the correct manner. You must register your premises with the
environmental health service at your local authority at least 28
days before opening. After that any time your environmental health
officer (EHO) will come and do a food inspections so they will want
to see certain levels of food safety certification.
Again a consultant will brief you on all this and what you need
to do and what you need to adhere to like doing your temperature
probes and recording when things are delivered.
To read about the requirements and see the check list on what to
do when opening a food business visit the Food Standards
NCASS offers various levels of membership, starting at £199,
which include food safety and hygiene training.
Obviously as with any business, when you employ people you need
to hold all the usual employers' licenses.
You can potentially start for very little money if you launch
with a low-fi stall rather than a van. But if you want to start
with a van a small catering unit would set you back between
£15,000-£20,000 and the bigger the van the higher the cost.
You must also factor in the cost of renting the pitch -
depending on the location the price of a pitch can start at a few
hundred pounds per month and increase the more popular the
location. Leather Lane market in Londond charges around £400 per
pitch per month.
Start small, market your idea, test it out and make sure people
like it before you get a market and a pitch so you know you can
bring people in.
In the catering industry it is very difficult to do anything on
your own, so try and have at least one person working with you to
take some of the pressure.
When you are established you can employ full-time staff but in
the meantime you can use temporary staff or contractors from
catering companies; be warned though that it may turn out to be a
little more expensive compared to doing your own recruitment and
Not getting the right location - the importance of the pitch
location cannot be overstated. If you get this wrong you won't make
it. Do thorough research and make sure you are in the right
Not paying enough attention to food safety - if
you are not thorough and diligent it can get
expensive. Doing the courses and using consultants
when you start out is not cheap - the courses and the
consultant don't come cheap, but this is a legal requirement and it
is best to spend a little money on that rather than having the
stress of potentially being shut down.
n a sunny day you may find that business is so good
that you sell out, but on a rainy day you may not take any money at
all. "If you want to make it in this industry you have to be
willing to ride this rollercoaster," says Petra Barran, the founder
of of street food traders community Eat Street.
driving licenses -
if you are driving vehicles make sure you have the right license
because if you have a trailer and got your license after 1996 they
changed the rule and so make sure you have the right HGV license.
Be sure to check with DVLA.
For more information
Eat Street: http://www.eat.st/ or twitter.com/eatstreet
The Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS): www.ncass.org.uk
NCASS has also set up a site devoted entirely to street food
traders. http://www.streetfood.org.uk/ has a lot of
information about what you need to start up.
Food Alert: www.foodalert.com
Food Standards Agency: http://www.food.gov.uk/