Is 2018 the year you’ve decided to put your money where your mouth is by setting up your own mobile food business? Perhaps you’ve already got a menu in mind but need to iron out the important details like when and where you’ll trade and how to get to that point? Today we’re talking street food set up, covering the ins and outs of what you’ll likely need to get started. First, let’s take a quick look at why you might want to set up a street food business.
The Aussie Street food scene
Australia’s street food scene might not be as ‘authentic’ or steeped in history as some of our neighbours, but it’s certainly bustling, varied and thriving. Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and Brisbane all have a well-established weekend, evening and annual street food events, but it doesn’t stop there. Check here via your phone or online and you’ll be greeted with the locations of hundreds of street food trucks across the country representing so many culinary influences – from the Mediterranean to Malay, Chinese to American. Of course, with so many great traders around, it goes without saying that if you’ve got your heart set on feeding people via a street food set up, you’ll need food that stands up to the taste test of the wider public. And as the best food traders frequently find fame via social media, it won’t hurt if it looks worthy of an Instagram snap when it’s served up either!
If cooking up great food is your thing, joining the street foodscape tends to be considerably cheaper than opening a café or restaurant. That’s not to say that this type of venture doesn’t require sizeable investments of cash, energy and time. You’ll still need to navigate legislation, buy suitable equipment and potentially find and train reliable staff too.
While the cooking equipment you’ll need depends a lot on what you’re planning to sell, there are some things no street food trader can do without, starting with somewhere to sell from. If you’d like to test the waters before investing a lot of cash, simple gazebos can be a good way to go. They give you protection from the elements and allow your customers a good view of the food on offer, which can help persuade them to buy. If you go down this route, be mindful that markets and festivals usually have restrictions on how much space each trader can take up for their pitch, so think comfortably small but functional.
Fancy, customised food trucks are incredibly popular nowadays and are a great way to get your brand – and your food – noticed. They make it super easy to transport all of the kit you need too. However, along with needing to meet regulations, they can be very expensive. Lookout for second-hand vans in good condition and call on talented friends to help with branding and you could save considerably on your initial start-up costs. Similarly, mobile cooking equipment can often be purchased more cheaply secondhand, just be sure it meets gas safety requirements.
Not every market or festival will have things like clean water, a dedicated rubbish store or gas available, so these are other essentials you may need to factor into your setup. Be sure to ask what’s provided whenever you apply to be at an event so that you can be properly prepared. You’ll need to follow stringent hygiene rules as you go, which means setting up prep areas that adhere to food standards laws. You can check the food safety code online but you should also be aware that you depending on the county, you may also be required to hire or train a food supervisor too.
Finding your feet
Once you’ve got all the kit you may think you’re ready to hit the road and get going, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Before you can trade you will need to register and seek a licence from your local council. You’ll find more information about this on business.gov.au but the key thing to know is that you can’t simply pitch up anywhere and there may, in fact, be a wait list to operate in food truck areas in your home city. If you decide to visit food events at other cities you’ll still likely need a temporary licence and you’ll probably need to apply and perhaps pay event organisers to trade. While there are certain freedoms that come with being a street food business owner, there’s actually a lot of planning and admin required to make a success of it too. To give your business the best chance of getting off the ground, ensure you have a full calendar of events planned or a permanent pitch to give you the opportunity to make money through the seasons.
Running a street food business is a great way to showcase your culinary skills and has been used as a market test for lots of great chefs who have gone on to run their own restaurants and cafes. Is the street food life for you?