Business development 4 November 2016

13 steps to becoming a street food vendor

street food
Roughly 2.5 billion people worldwide now eat street food each day

The image of street food has changed. The days of humble white-panel, greasy-spoon food vans are long gone. Nowadays, grub on the go has grown in popularity to the point where vendors of all shapes and sizes have established successful businesses.

Are you interested in becoming a street food vendor? Marketing head at Northgate Vehicle Hire, Jonathan Pearce, helps answer some pressing questions about the growing market.

How popular is street food?

The numbers do the talking in terms of answering just how popular street food is today. Search volume for the term “street food” has jumped by 83 per cent between 2014 and 2016 — up to more than 4,000 average monthly online searches this year compared to around 2,000 average monthly searches two years ago.

While the term “street food van” has seen average monthly searches remain below 1,000 searches over this same period, it is intriguing to hear that the search volume for this phrase has increased by 320 per cent over the past two years.

According to estimations by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around 2.5 billion people across the globe now eat street food each day.

Focusing more closely on the UK, it has been reported that there are over 7,000 units serving all manner of food at festivals and markets across the country.

Why opt for becoming a street food vendor over opening a restaurant?

To answer this question, take note that the Nationwide Caterers Association has stated it can cost more than £50,000 to get a restaurant open for business. On the other hand, street food can be more affordable.

  • It can cost under £5,000 to purchase a small used catering trailer or market stall
  • It can cost between £5,000 and £10,000 to purchase a trailer, second hand van or refrigerated vehicle
  • It can cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to purchase a new van or larger trailer
  • It can cost between £20,000 and £50,000 to purchase a new vehicle and get all of the conversions you require carried out on it

Streetfood.org.uk has pointed out that there are other benefits of becoming a street food vendor business on top of startup costs. This includes the chance to wave goodbye to traditional office hours and also being able to enjoy daily rents as low as £30-£100.

How do I get my street food business started?

Follow this step-by-step guide to becoming a street food vendor and your street food business will be ready to go before you know it:

  1. Purchase your food van.
  2. Transform your van into a street food vendor by setting up the following must-have equipment:
  • A grill, fryer or stove
  • A grease trap
  • An extractor fan
  • A food preparation area
  • A fridge, as well as possibly a freezer but this investment will depend on the food you’re going to be serving
  • Adequate storage for any food and ingredients that do not need to be refrigerated or frozen
  • Storage for utensils
  • Separate sinks — one for hand washing and the other for dish washing
  • A draining board
  • Water heaters and tanks
  • Electrical outlets
  • Good lighting
  • A waste disposal system
  • Fire-fighting equipment
  • A protective screen that’ll be placed at the ordering window so that customers can be protected from food that’s currently cooking
  1. Register as a business with HMRC.
  1. Register as a food business with your local authority, which in turn should see Environmental Health offering you a Food Hygiene rating.
  1. Take out employer’s liability insurance.
  1. Take out public liability insurance.
  1. Seek out a Gas Safe engineer for the fitting and certification of any gas equipment.
  1. Obtain a PAT test certificate for all sources of electricity.
  1. Obtain a personal food hygiene certificate.
  1. Set up a website for your business.
  1. Set up social media pages for your business.
  2. Contact those in operation of any events, festivals or markets throughout your region and enquire whether they are in need of your services.
  1. Purchase relevant stock for the type of food that you’re looking to specialise in. Need some inspiration? British Street Food has listed the following as Britain’s favourite dishes:
  • British food, such as beef and gravy sandwiches, a full breakfast, pie and sausages and mash
  • Chinese food, such as chow mein, hoisin wraps, shredded duck and Sichuan-style prawns
  • Indian food, such as beef vindaloo, carrot halwa, chicken Balti and chicken naans served with Indian slaw
  • Mexican food, such as burritos, fajitas, tacos and tortilla chips served with Mexican beef chilli
  • Thai food, such as khao phat, pad Thai, Thai green chicken curry and tom yum soup

Jonathan Pearce is head of marketing at Northgate Vehicle Hire/Van Monster.

New business creation drives growth for “dominant” UK services sector

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