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How To Start A Street Food Business In London

The street food market in the UK has seen significant growth in recent years, with an estimated worth of £1.2 billion. 

In 2019 alone, records published by Companies House show that 14,363 takeaway and mobile food service businesses were registered. 

This indicates a thriving industry that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

According to Globaldata, 33% of global consumers claim that street food inspires them to try new flavors when it comes to food and drinks.

If you’ve ever dreamed of running your own street food business in London, this is your chance.

In this guide, we will discuss the important aspects of starting and running this business, so continue reading.

What is Street Food?

Street food is a type of cuisine that has been around for centuries, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

Mobile vendors prepare and sell it, typically at outdoor locations or events. 

This type of food often originates from a particular culture and is cooked using traditional methods. 

And the common dishes include hot dogs, tacos, kebabs, and noodle dishes.

Street food businesses are an attractive option for those looking to start up their own business due to the relatively low cost of setup and the potential profitability they can bring in major cities such as London. 

A successful street food business requires the right blend of quality ingredients, exceptional customer service, and creative marketing techniques. 

How big is the street food market the UK?

The UK street food market is booming. 

According to industry organization British Street Food (britishstreetfood.co.uk), the annual revenue from street food in the UK is over £600 million and growing at a rate of 20% each year. 

This means more opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own street food businesses in London.

The market’s rapid growth can be attributed to an increased desire among people for unique, convenient, and affordable meals made with fresh ingredients prepared by passionate chefs. 

The demand for this type of fast casual dining has created a thriving market that provides a great platform for aspiring restaurateurs looking to enter the industry or build on existing successes. 

In fact, festival goers spend around £198 on food and beverage every year!

How many street food vendors are there in the UK?

Street food vendors have seen continuous growth of 20% year on year in the UK. 

And according to research conducted by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) there are currently over 7000 units that serve food throughout the UK at festivals, markets, and stadiums. 

This presents a great opportunity for aspiring street food entrepreneurs to enter into this ever-growing industry and launch their own businesses.

The range of street food available across the UK is also incredibly diverse, with options ranging from traditional British fish & chips to international cuisines such as Mexican tacos or Thai curries. 

Many vendors are also increasingly experimenting with vegan and vegetarian dishes that cater to an ever-growing consumer demand for plant-based menu choices. 

This further highlights how street food is a truly versatile business option that can be tailored to suit individual tastes and preferences.

How much do Street food vendors make the UK?

The exact amount that street food vendors make in the UK is difficult to determine, as it can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors such as location, type of food sold, and the number of customers. 

However, according to one survey conducted in 2017, the average daily earnings for street food vendors across the UK was £225. 

In addition to this figure, many street food vendors are able to increase their profits through additional services such as catering events or selling merchandise. 

For example, some street food vendors have been able to make up to £2,000 per day at large festivals and other special events. 

What street foods are most popular with UK consumers?

Street food in the UK is incredibly varied, ranging from classic fish and chips to international cuisines such as kebabs and curries. 

One of the most popular street foods in the UK is a traditional fish and chip meal. This classic dish can be found all over the country, with many people enjoying it as a quick snack or meal on the go. 

Another popular street food in the UK is Indian-style curries. 

These are often served with naan bread or pitta bread, making them a great option for those looking for something a bit more substantial than a traditional fish and chip meal. 

Kebabs are also popular, with many people enjoying these as a late-night snack after a night out. 

Finally, many other options are available on the streets of the UK, including burgers, hot dogs, pizza slices, and various types of sandwiches.

Quick Checklist of Starting a Street Food Business in London

  • Buy and equip your own van, either new or used
  • Register as a business with HMRC
  • Register as a food business with your local authority, and get a Food Hygiene rating from the Environmental Health
  • Get public liability insurance for your business and your employees
  • Have a Gas Safe engineer fit and certify your gas equipment
  • Get a PAT test certificate for your electricity
  • Get a personal food hygiene certificate
  • Set up a website and promote your business on social media
  • Buy stock, get in touch with events/festivals/locations, and start cooking!

Related: How to Start Food Business in the UK

1. Research the Street Food Scene in London

Before plunging in, first take a step back and assess the legal grounds.

The last thing you want is ending up on the wrong side of the law.

a. Understand What Types of Street Food are Popular

One of the key elements to a successful street food business in London is understanding what types of food are popular. 

Londoners have a wide variety of options when it comes to street food, with offerings ranging from traditional fish and chips to Indian curries, Italian gelato, and more. 

Popular dishes also include diverse international cuisines like Mexican tacos and Japanese sushi. 

As an entrepreneur, understand the local market and identify which types of foods are most likely to be successful. 

Additionally, research seasonal favorites and trends that might have been sparked by festivals or events occurring across the city. 

b. Understand the Regulations Surrounding Street Food Businesses 

In the UK, street food must adhere to The Street Trading Act of 2016, which outlines guidelines for vending on public roads or other public areas. 

Depending on which borough you operate in, you may need specific permission from local authorities before launching your business. 

Also, safety standards must be observed and your product should adhere to allergen labeling regulations as well as other food safety requirements outlined by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). 

Above all, keep up with any changes in legislation that can affect your business. 

For example, there may be restrictions on where and when vendors can trade in certain areas or limits on what type of items can be sold. 

2. Create a Business Plan

Now that you know the legal grounds, it is time to build a strong foundation for your business.

a. Choose Your Niche 

As we mentioned, there are different facets of the market. 

To have a shot at success, you need to focus on a specific segment of the market.

Don’t worry, you can expand later.

The first step in choosing your niche is identifying what food you will serve. 

Think about the type of cuisine that suits your cooking skills and interests best, as well as what may be popular among Londoners. 

For example, if you are particularly skilled at making Indian dishes, you could focus on setting up an Indian street food stall. 

Alternatively, if you want to offer something a little bit different then why not try Fusion Street Food? The possibilities are endless! 

At the same tome, think about where you will be selling your food from – this should depend on the type of cuisine that you choose and how much space/facilities are available. 

b.  Analyze the Competition 

Once you know your target market, the next thing is to understand who you are competing against.

Knowing what other vendors are offering and how they are doing can help inform your own business decisions. 

Take some time to visit events and locations where street food is being sold and observe the types of food that customers seem to be drawn towards. 

Note any unique ingredients or combinations that already exist and any opportunities for you to stand out from the crowd with something new.

You can also research online platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google Reviews for customer feedback about various street vendors in London.

Doing this will give you an idea of the quality standards and price points people expect when buying from a particular business. 

c. Develop Financial Projections 

This is an essential step in starting a street food business in London.

A detailed plan of your estimated start-up costs, income, and expenses should be created to ensure that you have the necessary funds to get your business off the ground. 

Start by creating a budget that breaks down all of the one-time and ongoing costs associated with running your business, such as purchasing equipment, obtaining permits and licenses, and paying rent for a mobile kitchen or stall space. 

It’s wise to include some wiggle room for unexpected expenses as well. 

Next, create accurate sales forecasts by researching similar businesses in your area and studying trends in the street food industry. 

Also, consider setting pricing goals based on what customers are willing to pay while still making sure that you can stay profitable over time.

Writing this down is crucial if you are planning on seeking funding later.

d. Create an Operations Plan 

This plan should include all the essential details on how you will run your business, including the products you will serve.

It should also show how they will be prepared, what equipment and supplies you need, where and when your business will operate, and how much staff you will need. 

Inside, include operational costs such as permits, rent or fees associated with operating your food truck (if you didn’t include them in the financial projections).

3. Find a Location

Like any other on-site business, location is critical to putting together a thriving street food business.

So whether you have a food van or a stationary place, you must identify the right spot.

a. Consider the Traffic Flow 

One of the most important ASPECTS of location is the traffic flow.

Before setting up shop on any particular street, assess how much foot traffic is likely to pass by your stall or food truck. 

During peak hours, streets with higher levels of pedestrian and vehicular traffic are more likely to bring in larger amounts of customers and profits. 

Additionally, take into account the type of people that typically frequent the area.

For instance, university students or tourists may be more receptive to trying out new foods than locals who have established eating habits. 

Also, factor in competition when considering a location for your business. 

If there are already other vendors selling similar types of food nearby, then it may be wise to think about setting up shop elsewhere. 

b. Research the Local Regulations 

Once you’ve picked a spot, research the local regulations. 

You see, regulations vary from town to town and may include rules about health safety, hygiene standards, staffing arrangements, acceptable menu items, waste disposal and more. 

In fact, visit the local authority website or contact their office directly for specific details on what you need to comply with in terms of regulations. 

Your local authority may also be able to advise you whether there are any extra permits or licenses that you need to apply for before starting your business. 

Have all of the necessary documents in order before launching your street food business as this will prevent potential problems down the line. 

Furthermore, make sure that any employees you hire are aware of all relevant regulations so they can help ensure compliance during operations.

4. Obtain Permits and Licenses

Prior to selling any products or services on the streets of London, you will need to register your business with HMRC as part of their Self-Assessment scheme.

Also, you must obtain the necessary permits and licenses. 

This process can often be complex, so familiarise yourself with the rules that apply to you. 

First, research the required permits and licenses that your business needs to operate legally in London. 

You may need a vendor or catering license, an environmental health certificate, or other specific permissions depending on the type of food you sell and where you are located. 

Once you know what is needed for your business, contact the relevant local authorities or organizations that issue these documents.

The next step is to complete the necessary paperwork and submit your applications for any permits or licenses required. 

Also, get insurance requirements such as public liability insurance which will protect both yourself and customers against any claims if something goes wrong at your premises. 

5. Purchase Equipment

Do you know what equipment you will need to run your street food business in London?

You may need food prep equipment, serving ware, storage containers, and other items that may be necessary for your particular business. 

Once you have a list, go through the local vendors to find the right price for the equipment you require as prices may vary significantly depending on the supplier. 

If you are fund-strapped, consider renting or leasing instead of buying if possible since it will reduce your startup costs and free up capital for other uses. 

Only purchase your tools-of-trade from a reputable supplier who offers a good warranty and after-sales service. 

Make sure that all the required safety certificates are in place before purchasing any electrical or gas appliances, as these must comply with UK law standards.

6. Get Ready to Launch

You are almost there, only remaining with a few pieces of the puzzle.

Here’s something no one will tell you. 

Testing your recipes is essential to starting a successful street food business in London. 

Your priority should be to ensure that customers enjoy their experience.

And that’s why it’s worth putting the effort in to make sure your food is as tasty and high-quality as possible.

The best way to do this is by taking the time to test your recipes before launching.

Your testing process should involve trying out different ingredient combinations and cooking techniques until you find the perfect balance for each dish. 

If you can, enlist the help of friends, family, or even professional chefs who can give feedback on how dishes can be improved. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with unusual flavor combinations or presentation styles – these elements are often what set street food apart from other dining experiences! 

7. Launch Your Street Food Business!

Now the stars have aligned, and the gods are happy with your efforts so far😊.

Let the countdown begin 10 9 8… and launch your street food business! 

After setting the launch date, create a buzz in the local community! 

Advertise in newspapers and create flyers to distribute.

Invite some friends over for a taste-testing session of your food items before you launch. 

This will help you gain feedback on what works well and what needs improvement regarding ingredients, presentation, or recipes. 

Use this opportunity to build relationships with customers that come back week after week – be friendly but professional☝️. 

8. Promote Your Business

Start by forming a presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; they are free to use and offer an easy way to reach potential customers. 

Localize your posts by using relevant hashtags and geo-tagging locations in order to increase visibility in the local area.

You can also create content about special offers or events you are planning which will help to encourage people to check out your business. 

Consider signing up for online food delivery services such as Deliveroo or UberEats as they provide additional exposure.

And make it easier for customers to find and order from you quickly and conveniently. 

9. Establish Your Brand

If you are doing this for the long haul, you need to build a recognizable brand.

As you are setting up your stall, you should ensure that you create a professional look and feel to attract customers. 

A strong, recognizable brand can help build trust and loyalty with customers as they will become more familiar with what you offer. 

Create customized branding such as logos, colors, and slogans that match the style and personality of your business. 

Have branded packaging for food items to entice customers with an attractive display.

Use consistent language throughout different posts on social media to maintain professionalism and increase recognition amongst potential customers. 

Final Thoughts

Starting a street food business in London can be a daunting yet rewarding experience. 

It requires dedication, passion, and the right resources to succeed. 

For those just starting out, here are some key takeaways to consider when planning your business: 

First, research is essential to understand the local market, regulations, and necessary permits. 

Familiarizing yourself with the competitive landscape is important to create a unique offering that will stand out from other vendors. 

Secondly, plan carefully – from developing an interesting menu concept to setting aside enough money for necessary equipment and supplies. 

Above all, don’t forget about marketing! 

Create social media accounts or start a website where customers can learn more about your business. 

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