Business is booming for the UK’s food van industry. It’s increasing in popularity due to the amount of street food that is available to a person when they are on the go. Although this is something that is relatively new to the UK, countries like Thailand have had a long popularity in street vans, and they have proven to be successful. Research done by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have said that 2.5 billion people eat street food around the world every day.
Search terms have risen in 2016. With an 83% increase for those searching ‘street food’, 66% searching ‘food truck’, 320% searching ‘street food van’ and 49% searching ‘food van’ from 2014. This gives a clear indication of a keen interest in not just the food industry, but food that is readily available on the street. A key selling place for those venturing into the food truck business are markets and festivals, with over 7,000 units being sold there.
The average cost of setting up your own restaurant can be well over £50,000. For this price, you can get:
- Small used catering trailer or market stall for under £5,000.
- Trailer, second hand van or refrigerated vehicle for £5,000 – £10,000.
- New van or larger trailer for £10,000 – £20,000.
- New vehicle that has been converted for your own specific needs for £20,000 – £50,000.
Although setting up a food van seems like the ideal dream to jump on this growing trend, there are some benefits and disadvantages to starting one up.
- Relatively low start-up costs.
- Chance to cook and enjoy your work.
- No more office hours.
- Rents can be as low as £30 – £100 per day.
- Laws against where you can and can’t trade.
- No guaranteed work.
- Early, unstable hours.
- Initial profits can be low.
Mercedes Van’s supplier, Van Monster have created a checklist of what you’ll need to get started. If you follow this checklist, you’ll be on the road in no time serving delicious food to people from all different types of backgrounds, just like Sofia Vergara in the 2014 movie Chef.
To get things started, you need to buy your own van and then kit it out to make it how you dreamed it would look. For tax purposes, you would then need to register as a business with HMRC. You now need to register as a food business with your local authority – which will give you your official Food Hygiene rating. Get your personal food hygiene certificate and display with pride.
The next step is getting your employers liability and public liability insurance. To make things safe for yourself and your customers, have a gas safe engineer fit and certify any of your gas equipment (you’ll need a PAT test certificate for any electricity). To make yourself stand out, set up some social media pages and market your own website – give yourself an online and offline presence.
You need to have a clear idea of what you’re going to cook when you’re out and about – whether this is at a local hot spot or a festival or event that will drive hungry people to your van. According to the British Street Food website, we have found out that Britain’s favourite dishes are Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian or just the regular British food, like pie or a Full-English breakfast.
Vicky and Alex who own Scream For Pizza, a Newcastle-based food van in a converted Peugeot J7 agreed to answer a few questions:
What led you to creating a van-based business?
“We wanted to make a big splash in the marketplace, and we knew having a fun van would put us in a great place for doing this. It’s a fantastic branding and marketing tool, and we knew we wanted to go the whole hog and really throw ourselves into this business.”
What are the main pros and cons of running a van-based business?
“We do pride ourselves on having quality produce, but having a van also makes you stand out from the crowd. We believe we get more work due to both of these factors. However, people love the van and so will pick this over other options for events and private gigs. The only con is that our van was built in 1978 and it costs more to maintain and repair.”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“Our favourite part is meeting new people and going to events. There’s so much happening around the North East and the UK!”
Any advice to people thinking about running a van-based business?
“Make your van stand out! Have a contingency budget for unexpected works and repairs too.”
So, does this have you inspired to jump onto the trend of food vans in the UK?