Mobile catering: A guide to managing festival season

Peter Moore, CEO of Lolly, offers some tips for mobile catering start-ups and discusses getting your festival proposition right.

Mobile catering can be a good idea for a low-outlay business

Mobile catering can be a good idea for a low-outlay business

The Association of Independent Music Festivals has previously cited that each visitor spent more than £466 on average at independent music festivals in 2015 (including the ticket price). The UK festival season, which has become renowned around the globe, has arrived. And, every year, increasing numbers of small business or mobile catering start-ups enter into the festival spirit, each looking to take their share of the pie.

It is a well-known fact that festivalgoers are spending more money on food and drink, and festival catering has transformed beyond recognition over the years, in order to meet this demand. The final results are a higher quality of food, a more varied choice and easy ordering and payment facilities for customers. Best of breed technology and equipment are essential, to avoid potential downtime.

Most campers have come to rely on the varied food available at these summer events; after all it’s all part of the experience. This all presents an excellent opportunity for a range of mobile catering offerings, and one not to be missed due to a lack of, or problems with, technology.

  • What to trade from – first you need to decide what you’re going to trade from. Are you thinking about a market stall, a truck or van, a cart or trailer? Do you want to buy or lease it?
  • Size – next think about size, is it big enough for you to prepare all your food on-site or will you have to do that somewhere else?
  • Maintenance – have you considered the maintenance of what you chose, do you know a mechanic should you breakdown?
  • Equipment – the equipment you keep on board will be determined by the space you have and what you’ll be cooking.

As a minimum you’ll need to think about:

  • A safe food preparation area
  • Good lighting
  • Storage for food, ingredients and utensils
  • Fridge/freezer
  • A grill/fryer/stove or other cooking equipment
  • Electrical outlets
  • Water heaters and tanks
  • A hand washing sink and a dish-washing sink (yes you need two)

Technology

Make sure you opt for the right levels of support – a system that will remain operational when you need it to, without power failures or issues. And with back-office functionality to enable you to keep a track on your sales (peak trading times, and popular selling product lines).

Licences

You’ll need a trading licence if you plan to operate on public streets or roadsides. You don’t need a license, however, to operate on private land or at organised events.

Insurances

You need public liability insurance to cover you for any injury that you may cause to the general public and you’ll need employers liability insurance for the health and safety of the people who work with you.

Driver licensing

This can include tachograph requirements, drivers’ hours regulations, vehicle weights and length restrictions.

Although the event organisers will take care of promoting the event, you can do your bit too. Advertising to your customers before the event and taking part in social media can all add to the overall success of your attendance. The more everyone does the wider the audience you reach. Even if your customers or social media contact don’t come along it tells your audience something more about you. Don’t forget to post photographs or videos during and after the event too.

Preparing your stock for the event is essential to maximising your sales – having stock when others are running out is a smart position to be in. If the event is far away from your base get creative with other complimentary businesses who can provide you with short-term storage – you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help.

And when it comes to the event, be informed. Make sure that you know everything about the event, what’s there, what times can you enter and exit the site, what power supplies will you have, where will you be located etc. That way there will be no surprises when you get there, which could potentially put you out of business before the opening band performs!

Festival season presents the ideal opportunity for small business and start-ups to maximise the potential selling opportunities of mobile catering.

However, it is vital to be properly prepared and to ensure your technology and equipment don’t let you down – particularly when you are in the middle of a field and miles from anywhere!

Peter Moore is CEO of Lolly.

Further reading on mobile catering

Nominations are still open for the British Small Business Awards 2017, the leading event celebrating the brightest stars in the SME sector. Click here to enter, and make sure you get involved today using the hashtag #BSBAwards. Good luck!

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