Starting A Mobile Catering Business: All You Need To Know

In recent years there has been a bit of a revolution when it comes to street food. Entrepreneurs are pitching up in town centres and using local ingredients to create delicious meals and snacks we can grab on the go, and have a bit of fun doing what they enjoy while they’re at it.

Many who enter the world of street food will have a story to tell about why they do it, from those who chose to leave busy kitchens to ply their trade in a more public setting, to young and enthusiastic chefs with a passion for what they’re cooking and serving

If you have a passion for food and fancy trying your hand in the world of mobile catering, well there’s a lot to think about:

  • What do you want to serve?
  • How are you going to cook it?
  • Where are you going to source your ingredients from?
  • What are you going to serve it from?
  • How much can you afford to charge?

The street food scene may be bustling, but it’s also very competitive. Budding entrepreneurs are always looking for more exciting flavours and quirky pitches – anything from bizarre fusion foods that somehow come together, to food being served out of pitches ranging from simple gazebos to converted vehicles that catch the eye and draw you in.

What is the best way to start if you want to take the plunge into the world of street food?

Get Educated

Caterers’ courses can be a great resource for those wanting to start out in the world of mobile catering. Whether you want to open a pop-up shop or street food stall for your wares, you’ll find everything you need to know through organisations such as the Nationwide Caterers’ Association (NCASS). They can help provide advice on all aspects of your business – everything from health and safety to tips on establishing a pitch.

Get Equipped

Just like a mechanic is no good without his tools, a chef is nothing without his oven, and so finding out about what you’ll need to prepare your delicious creations is kind of important.

There is a multitude of options to choose from when deciding where to serve your food from, whether you’re looking to hit a festival or just set up a pitch in your local town centre:

  • Gazebo
  • Pop-up stall
  • Trailer
  • Van
  • Cart
  • Bicycle

These are just the basic options, but there have been all kinds of quirky vendors selling from converted VW Beetles and campervans. Consider your options depending on what you want to sell.

You’ll also need to shell out for the cooking equipment itself; this can be anything from a gas-powered oven, electric hot plate, barbeque or even a pizza oven crafted from an old oil drum.

Utensils are essential too, so you’ll need to price those up as well, so when you’ve got your tools it’s now time to…

Get Stocked!

Because what good is going to market if you have nothing to sell? Look into where you want to source your ingredients and try and negotiate the best deal you can. Speak with local farmers to see about sourcing good quality produce, for local produce can be an appealing draw for consumers.

Also look into where to source your packaging from – whether you want to serve your food in paper cartons or simple clamshells – catering and retail warehouses can be good resources for items like these.

Costing

After this stage, it’s time to establish your pricing, work out your overheads and the cost of ingredients once you’ve found them to determine how much you want to sell a portion for.

Remember that the world of street food can be quite competitive, so do your research into how much similar vendors are charging, as well as those around them.

And keep your audience in mind as well, think of how much you’d be likely to pay for what you are offering, keep it competitive but be careful not to sell your wares short!

Insurance And Safety

Once you’ve decided on your choice of pitch and have the equipment to cook it with, it’s time to protect it against accidental damage. Mobile catering insurance policies are available to help cover your vehicle, any equipment you use, your stock (Product Liability), and most importantly your customers (Public Liability) against any claims you might have brought against you. If you employ anyone to assist, you’ll also need to protect them against injury during work (Employers’ Liability).

You’ll also have to go through rigorous health & safety checks to make sure what you are selling is safe for consumption, so keep an eye on things like the cleanliness of your cooking area and any refrigeration units you may have to keep ingredients chilled.

RELATED: What is a Business Insurance?

Get Your Name Out There

So you have the pitch, the know-how and the kickass recipe, so you should be all set to go, right? But, no-one knows who you are yet, so…

It’s time to make some noise! Marketing is an integral part of the process when setting up a new business, so look into ways you can get yourself out there with flyers and business cards.

If you want to create a buzz for free to start with, establish a presence on social media and get yourself a website to show off your products – don’t be afraid to be quirky when coming up with a name and pitch!

Don’t be afraid to network either, by getting out there to trade shows, street food festivals and by speaking to and befriending vendors just like you on social media; you can pick up useful tips as to how to start out, what makes a good pitch and even find new and exciting taste inspirations.

Perfecting Your Recipe

With so many vendors out there vying for business, you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd with something that’ll draw customers in and tantalize their taste buds! Experiment with recipes, tweak things and put your own spin on familiar combinations, even make these the basis of your business with eye-catching names on the menu.

By doing your research thoroughly beforehand and ensuring you have everything in place before you set up, you can then pitch up and start dishing up delicious dishes to punters, wherever you choose to set up.