‘Street Smarts’: Five Practices to Get Your Street Food Business on The Road
The recent popularisation of street markets and traders might be described as a modern revolution in eating, but in reality, the preparation, purchase and consumption of curb-side cuisine has been a feature of London living for centuries! From pickled whelks to Korean burritos, and grilled cheeses to artisanal grain pots, there’s a whole foodie culture out there to enjoy.
Londoners are flocking to gourmet street food trucks and markets across the capital for a sampling of the tastiest global cuisine. But it’s not just the intrepid diner that benefits from the multitude of mobile food vendors. Cities look to street food to develop their night time economies, kick start entrepreneurship and revitalise out-of-favour markets.
If you’re a passionate foodie or simply an entrepreneur wanting in on the game, here are five things to help get your street food business on the road.
Check out commercial kitchens for hire
If you’re taking a business on the road, there’s prep to be done before you get moving. If you’re going to start your business with a food truck, you’ll still likely need a preparation base, like a commercial kitchen, to serve as a starting point for your foodie venture.
Commercial kitchens are essential for any food truck business, providing plumbing, power and space, ready to adapt to your needs. The benefits go beyond functionality, offering sanitary and hygienic food preparation facilities to get you that all important five-star food hygiene rating.
Being able to rent a commercial kitchen for as little as three months at a time is incredibly convenient, especially for pop-ups that operate seasonally and/or on a low budget.
Find a gap in the market
The low start-up cost and risk, coupled with low legal entry barriers that street food pioneers enjoyed spelled opportunity. But now, as with any business, the true secret to success is about finding your niche.
As with all businesses, branding is key. When your business is mobile, an eye-catching brand image is critical to drawing a crowd. Choose a van that matches your identity and needs, and choose a foodie name for your business that’s snappy and easy to remember. Think about what you are selling and try to come up with a name that reflects that.
Your brand identity should encapsulate a ‘voice’ that portrays the image you want to show your customers. That means having a consistent theme from the look of the truck to staff uniform, napkins, menu and other accessories to the way you present the food. You can be kitsch and playful, dark and mysterious, ethnic, hipster, or whatever suits your fancy – but run with the theme.
Keep it simple
You’ll find that almost any dish can be served up roadside if pre-prepared in a commercial kitchen, but it’s important to consider the practicalities. Keep your menu simple and limited (there’ll be plenty of opportunity to expand later on), and remember to consider the boring things like take-away boxes and allergy information.
It’s important to maintain a connection to the food you’re serving. Now, more than ever, consumers are eager to trace the source of what they’re eating and are keen to learn that a product has been made with love. Enjoy your product, know it well, and translate that passion to the customer.
It’s all about location, location, location
It’s no secret that location is key to success. If you’re to tap into a lucrative market, it’s important they know where to find you. Travel interchanges, popular tourist locations and university campuses can be real hot-spots, so keep your ear to the ground and find a corner where hungry crowds gather.
What about more off-grid opportunities? Pop-ups in warehouses, disused tube cars, on roofs and even in people’s front rooms are becoming common across London. Wherever you end up, it’s important people know where to find you, so think about best how to maintain an online marketing or social media presence for your customers to follow and engage.
Familiarise yourself with the law
So, ‘street’ food is a bit of a misnomer; in reality, you can’t just pull up and trade on any street. Pitches can be limited and street trading rules differ between local authority boundaries. You’ll need to check in with GOV.UK for all the details concerning street trading licenses.
The best way to get cracking in the industry is with the experts on your side. The Nationwide Caterers Association offers traders legal protection and advice related to health and food hygiene. They can tell you loads about getting started in street food, and help you do it too.
It’s important to remember basic business practices too. Even if you’re moving from a commercial kitchen environment to a food truck, you might think you have it sussed, but mobile work requires workers to be flexible, do more heavily lifting and assist with transportation. It’s a good idea to research the tech for processing payments on the move too.
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