SELLING street food from vans has become incredibly popular over the past few years, with the market being flooded with vendors of all shapes and sizes. Van Monster,  the UK’s largest used van retailer, part of Northgate plc, has some tips on street food vending to help businesses wanting to get involved in this revolution.

The popularity of street food

The numbers definitely do the talking when it comes to how popular street food has become as opposed to the the humble white-panel, greasy-spoon food van of in the past.

For example, search volume for the term ‘street food’ has increased by 83% between 2014 and 2016 – jumping from around 2,000 average monthly searches to more than 4,000 average monthly searches during this period.

While the number of average monthly searches for ‘street food van’ has stayed below 1,000 searches, it is also important to stress that the search volume has been boosted by 320%. On top of this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that some 2.5 billion people now eat street food across the globe on a daily basis.

This huge boost has been helped along by countries embracing the culture. In the UK, for example, there are now more than 7,000 units that serve all manner of food at markets and festivals.

Why set up shop in the street food sector?

The Nationwide Caterers Association has showcased the benefits of starting up or moving your business into the street food sector by stating that it can cost well over £50,000 to set up a restaurant. In comparison…

  • A small used catering trailer or market stall can cost under £5,000.
  • A trailer, second hand van or refrigerated vehicle can be purchased for between £5,000 and £10,000.
  • A new van or larger trailer can be purchased for between £10,000 and £20,000.
  • A new vehicle, including all of the conversions that you require, can set you back between £20,000 and £50,000 depending on the van chosen and the scale of the work carried out.

As well as appealing start-up costs, has pointed out that running street food business has further advantages, such as the opportunity to wave goodbye to office hours and the fact that rents can be as low as between £30 and £100 per day.

How to get your street food business off the ground

Are you interested in setting up your very own street food business? Here’s a handy step-by-step guide on how to get started:
Buy your food van and kit it out so that it’s ready to be a street food vendor. For this, here’s a mini checklist of must-have equipment for your van:

  • Electrical outlets – obviously keep these away from water.
  • Good lighting.
  • A food preparation area.
  • A grease trap.
  • A protective screen to be placed at the ordering window — it’ll protect customers from food that’s cooking.
  • Water heaters and tanks.
  • A waste disposal system.
  • A grill, fryer or stove.
  • Storage for utensils.
  • Storage for food and ingredients that don’t need to be refrigerated or frozen.
  • A fridge (plus possibly a freezer depending on the food that you’re going to be serving).
  • Fire-fighting equipment.
  • An extractor fan.
  • A draining board.
  • Separate sinks for hand and dish washing.

Street food vending rules and regulations

  • Register your business with HMRC.
  • Register your business as a food business with your local authority — this will lead to a Food Hygiene rating being offered by Environmental Health.
  • Obtain employers liability insurance.
  • Obtain public liability insurance.
  • Get any gas equipment fitted and certified by a Gas Safe engineer.
  • Obtain a PAT test certificate for any sources of electricity.
  • Obtain a personal food hygiene certificate.
  • Create a website for your business.
  • Create social media pages for your business.
  • Get in touch with any events, festivals or markets around your area to see if they require your services.
  • Buy stock relevant to the type of food that you want to specialise in.

So what will you serve up?

For inspiration, here’s a look at Britain’s favourite dishes according to research by British Street Food:

  • British food (for example beef and gravy sandwiches, a full breakfast, pie, sausages and mash).
  • Chinese food (for example chow mein, hoisin wraps, shredded duck, Sichuan-style prawns).
  • Indian food (for example beef vindaloo, carrot halwa, chicken Balti, chicken naans with Indian slaw).
  • Mexican food (for example burritos, fajitas, tacos, tortilla chips with Mexican beef chilli).
  • Thai food (for example khao phat, pad Thai, Thai green chicken curry, tom yum soup).
Jimmy Bean coffee van

Jimmy Bean coffee van – this could be you! (Pic: White Hot Vans)

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