There are many reasons why people want to get into the world of mobile catering. It might be that you want to work for yourself and have a passion for great food, because it’s fun and you want to show off your cooking prowess or because it’s a fairly low risk business. With very little investment needed, you can grow a successful mobile catering business, literally out of the back of a trailer.
There are, of course some pieces of equipment that you will need to get the best out of your business. Regardless of whether you are catering for events, on the roadsides or for functions, you will need a mobile kitchen with reliable catering equipment, for example, as well as all of the relevant documentation for health and safety, hygiene and catering training.
Mobile catering businesses
For those who are interested in running a mobile catering business, there are a number of different ways to do it. It is important to remember, however, that it is easy to get carried away – especially if you are passionate about cooking. Whilst it is great to do something that you love, it is important to run it like a business as well.
Some examples of mobile catering businesses include:
- Roadside catering – such as a kebab van, burger van, juice bar or ice cream van
- Events catering (for example, at festivals, public events) – similar to roadside, but might include tacos, bangers and mash or curry
- Private events – more upmarket catering for events such as weddings and other private parties
One of the most important aspects to running a successful mobile catering company is to have the correct relevant documentation. There are a number of documents, assessments and licenses which are needed to succeed in mobile catering, as well as insurance. These change regularly, and more information can be found at the NCASS (National Caterers Association) website for up to date information.
Depending on the type of catering that you are doing, you will also need to get good quality, durable and reliable equipment. Of course, it is important for any business to have the right equipment, but it is even more important when you are mobile to get reliable equipment, as a mobile caterer there are less opportunities to get equipment fixed. You should also bear in mind that if something breaks during an event, you will potentially lose a higher percentage of money than if you weren’t a mobile caterer.
Most mobile catering businesses will need cooking equipment, food storage equipment such as a fridge and freezer, as well as some way of presenting or serving it. Then, depending on your business type and what you are serving, you might need plates, cutlery, champagne glasses and napkins for example.
It is also important to think about cleaning facilities, sinks, protective clothing and toilets as well.
One of the most important things to consider is that you need to spend the required money, but to also be as resourceful as possible.
Vacuum packing and freezing ingredients is a great way to be resourceful as well as not reduce the quality and flavour of the food. The experts at First Food Machinery state that using vacuum packs helps to extend the storage time, which would be perfect for mobile catering businesses travelling longer distances.
You could also think about getting accounts at food suppliers and trying to negotiate good deals on buying raw ingredients. These could be supermarkets, or they could be directly with farmers and other suppliers.
It is important that when you are thinking about how to save money, you don’t let it affect health and safety, or the quality of your food. The Food Standards Agency offer guidelines into managing food hygiene and what your basic requirements are for a business.
The best form of marketing is to give people a great experience and wait for them to tell all of their friends as well as waiting for them to come back. That means great food and a great experience are needed all of the time.
There are also other kinds of marketing for mobile caterers, which can be very effective, and which don’t take up much time or money. Try using social media like Facebook or Instagram, running competitions or using your imagination.
If you are working at an event where you are competing with other mobile caterers, make sure that you are able to meet demand. You should have both the food to sell, as well as enough staff. When you don’t have much time to sell your food, you need to maximise the amount that you can sell.
Mobile catering is an increasingly popular field for an increasingly diverse number of people. By running it as any other small business, you can ensure that it is just as successful and a more enjoyable way to earn your money.
By Ella Hendrix