Mobile catering business has become a ubiquitous feature of urbanization in many countries around the world. Countries such as the UK are a classic example of the popularity of this business, and a number of mobile catering vans can be spotted at the busy destinations of London and other cities.
The good part about this business is that almost anyone with a basic knowledge and experience of food catering services may enter this business. It does not require much financial investment to start this business. At the same time, this business offers enough flexibility for the entrepreneur to scale up the scope of business along with the rise in market demand.
Before going ahead with the steps of setting up the mobile catering business, it is important to understand what kind of vehicles can be used for this business.
Food Cart: Starting Mobile Catering Business
A food cart is a sort of trailer that has no motorized operation. It has to be manually hauled to the point of sale. Usually, such food carts operate in public areas such as parks, picnic spots, or busy sidewalks. Such carts normally maintain an automated heating or refrigerating equipment to keep the food absolutely ready to serve instantly. Mostly such carts sell snacks, breakfast items, or desserts such as Ice creams.
Catering Van: Starting Mobile Catering Business
A catering van is generally a motorized vehicle that can be moved from one place to another easily. It sells a substantially higher volume of food than a food cart, and caters to a bigger clientele. Ice cream vans are a common example of such catering vans in the UK. Their immense popularity among the customers has made mobile catering business into a highly lucrative business opportunity for many new entrepreneurs.
Food Truck: Starting Mobile Catering Business
A food truck is a larger vehicle converted into a mobile kitchen with a commercial built-in grill, a deep fryer, freezer, and other automated cooking gadgets. Due to the better availability of space and more equipment, this vehicle is able to offer a larger variety of food items to the customers, and manage larger volumes with efficiency. Fish and Chip vans in the UK are a good example of such food trucks.
Concession Trailer: Starting Mobile Catering Business
A concession trailer is not much different from a mobile kitchen, except that it is a stationary vehicle. Therefore, such trailers are ideally suited for large public events such as fairs and community celebrations where a large number of people are expected to converge over a period of few days consecutively. Such trailers add to the facilities and atmosphere of the event, providing the visitors with plenty of opportunities to enjoy different types of food at low cost.
Anyone can launch a mobile catering business successfully, if one follows these basic steps to set up the business:
Step 1: Setting up the kitchen facility
The first step in this business is to decide whether the kitchen facility will be set up within the mobile van unit, or at another location. If the business owner decides to use his own home kitchen to prepare the food, it is important to obtain the approval of the local regulatory authorities in advance. Only after the conditions of the local law have been satisfied, the commercial kitchen can be operated out of home. Setting up the commercial kitchen may have to include separate provision for storage and refrigerating facility, dish-washing equipment, sufficient surface area for cooking, and larger size of cooking equipment.
Step 2: Deciding the menu and the pricing
A crucial part of the mobile catering business planning is to choose the menu, and decide the right pricing. This is the most sensitive business decision that may influence the destiny of the business over a period of time. A basic market survey and research can help to understand the local taste and preferences of food, and to identify the potential food items that are in high demand which is waiting to be satisfied. Similarly, the pricing must also be decided carefully to ensure that it competes successfully with other market players, and makes a reasonable profit margin for the business owner at the same time.
Step 3: Organizing the mobile catering vehicle
There are various options for vehicles available before the entrepreneur in a city like London or other cities within the UK. The choice of vehicle depends upon the ready availability of a vehicle, or the personal preference of the entrepreneur, and also keeping in mind the available financial budget for the business. The size of vehicle will also depend upon the scale of the business that the entrepreneur has planned. The heating, refrigerating, storage and preservation equipment within the vehicle will depend upon the kind of menu that has been decided for the mobile catering business. A fully functional kitchen may also be organized within the vehicle, depending upon the business plan of the owner.
Step 4: Advertising and Marketing the Mobile Catering Business
In the times of stiff competition, even a seemingly simple business such as mobile catering also cannot afford to ignore the importance of advertising and marketing. The menu of the business can be designed in such a way that it also serves as a brochure and advertisement for the business. Special brochures to advertise the business may also be printed and distributed to the local commercial establishments in the area to attract the potential office-goers to patronize the business. The mobile van itself can serve as the biggest advertisement for the business. The branding and slogan of the business must be displayed prominently and creatively on the vehicle. Usually the mobile vans in the UK and other countries can be seen parked in major locations where they can have high visibility for the local traffic in the area. Therefore, maximum advantage must be drawn by advertising on the mobile vehicle.
Another key idea for many mobile catering business operators who are looking for alternative places to establish their kitchen can be to rent space at a local restaurant or a local church or hall. Such places do not normally use their commercial kitchens in the early morning hours, and many of them are happy to rent out their kitchens by the hour. This opportunity can be available by the mobile caterer who can make long-term tie-up with a local restaurant or other commercial kitchen, and use their facilities in the early morning hours to make his food ready for the day.
With these innovative steps, it is possible to set up the mobile catering business successfully with a low investment. Over a period of time, as the business grows, the entrepreneur can expand the scope of the business by adding more facilities and more vehicles for the business.
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