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From pizzas to paella, and curries to corn dogs, it seems like every type of food imaginable can now be found in ‘street food’ form – that is, served on the street (as the name suggests) or anywhere outside the traditional restaurant or café setting. It’s a revolutionary way of eating that people in the UK can’t get enough of, as proven by the street food festivals that are popping up everywhere from East London to Edinburgh. If you’re thinking of starting an artisan street food business, the time to do so is definitely now!

Why Start a Street Food Business?

Whether you choose to trade from a truck, a food cart or simply a table-top stall, the very nature of a street food business makes it more accessible, and less cost-prohibitive, than restaurants and cafes. You don’t need much formal catering or business training, and the start-up costs of catering equipment and a unit, plus the running overheads can be considerably lower, which can also offer the opportunity to make your prices more competitive.

You can also be incredibly agile with a street food business. Pitches can be sought out close to busy areas like shopping streets, office blocks and sports stadiums, and if your current pitch isn’t profitable, you can simply move on to somewhere else. There is also boundless potential to be innovative with your menus, with something different on offer every day – which is exciting for both you and your customers!

The Laws Around Street Food

However, the flexibility of street food business doesn’t extend to the laws around them. As with restaurants and cafés there are stringent legal requirements that street food traders must abide by, else they put themselves at risk of hefty fines – or worse.

The exact restrictions around street food businesses vary depending on the nature of the business and the area, as individual local councils can have different policies in place. You will always need to register as a sole trader and if you have employees, an employer’s liability insurance certificate is required.

Your food preparation premises must also be registered with the local Environmental Health Office 28 days before your first day of trading, and you should expect an inspection from them at any time. Food handlers may need some training, which will depend on the job, but you will be required to make a food hygiene management plan according to the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points), as well as carry out regular health and safety risk assessments. For businesses with five employees or more, you’ll need to produce a written Health and Safety handbook.

Other Important Things to Know

Although in theory you could set up your street food unit anywhere, the reality is that there are considerable limits on where you can trade. Street market or music festival pitches can be difficult to acquire and are sometimes expensive. Town centre pitches are typically licensed by the local authority, while some authorities do not allow this type of trading at all. Setting up in lay-bys is almost always banned, and even mobile traders like sandwich and ice cream vans are becoming increasingly subject to licenses that can restrict their movements.

Local authorities may also have constraints on the nature of the unit you can trade from, and the type of generator you can use to power it. You may even need to have a license to show that you are safe to operate it.

Then of course, there are the factors that nobody controls – the weather and the seasons. Unless you are lucky enough to secure a covered or indoor pitch, street food traders are very much at the mercy of the Great British weather, and when the months turn cooler your business may drop off altogether so you’ll need to make enough money through the year to cover your quieter periods.

That being said, running a street food business can be exciting, fun, and incredibly rewarding. We recommend joining the Nationwide Caterer’s Association (NCASS) to receive plenty of support and priceless advice, whether you’re just starting your business or taking it to the next level.


Lockhart Catering on 8 December 2014 1:12 AM

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