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How to set up a mobile catering trailer business

If you have got a few thousand pounds to invest, there are much better places than putting it in the banks right now. If you are comfortable with a bit of risk, then going into business either full time or part time with a catering van may be a good option for you. This article gives some hints and tips about starting your own catering van business.

The business

Some people with catering vans have regular spots for nearly every day of the week. You can get permission to operate from shopping centre car parks and some people just do the odd few car boot sales or activity events (like country shows, car shows, etc.) every month. People with food vans usually sell fast food like hot dogs, burgers, chips, hot sandwiches, crepes etc and sell a variety of drinks like soft drinks, water, fresh juices, smoothies and the three star sellers, coffee, hot chocolate and tea. Decide what sort of thing would be most successful for your pitch - a fresh fruit and smoothie bar may not be as successful as a burger van which is parked up next to a construction site! Profits will vary enormously depending on the event that you go to and the food that you serve. Outside catering units regularly report taking around £6000 in profits from big events around the country. It is not difficult to see why either. Take a simple bacon sandwich. All you need to make it is two slices of bread, some butter and two rations of bacon. Even if you bought the food at retail price, there is a profit in it: Costs: bread (6p per slice), butter (2p per spread), bacon (25p per ration). Total: 66p. Some of the bigger caterers at large events can charge up to £2.00 for a bacon sandwich which leaves your profit at £1.34 per bacon sandwich. You could conceivably sell around 50 sandwiches an hour and operating a 8-hour day and so that is £536 profit just from selling bacon sandwiches!

Setting up

Setting up is relatively inexpensive in this trade. Used catering vans rarely cost more than £5000 and caterers will usually spend about £300 on food the morning before the event which they go onto to sell for over £1000. Most catering vans will come with equipment but you should not have to pay more than a few hundred to completely kit it out with new things. Remember your packaging costs and extras like sauces too.

Rules and regulations

Make sure you are approved by the authorities and follow the law!

Advertising and marketing

Get posters and cards out everywhere. Attracting repeat bookers is key to success here.

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