A checklist for mobile caterers out and about this summer
They come in many different forms, shapes and sizes – some mobile caterers run their business from something as simple as a makeshift kitchen table, many use purpose built portable units whilst others prefer to go the whole hog and use fully equipped trailers that they tow behind large vehicles.
If you’re planning to get out on the road this year to various festivals, events, weddings, air shows, music events and other large scale venues to please the masses and their guzzling appetites, then we’d recommend you have a think about all of the following points to ensure you’re trading safely, legally and profitably.
The Legal Stuff
You always need to ensure that you comply with a number of laws and standards before you head out and start trading. Ask yourself these questions…
Have I registered as a business?
One of the first things you need to do is register and set up your new business with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for tax. This is a quick and easy process which shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes.
Is the business registered with the local authority?
It’s also important that you register your mobile business with the Environmental Health Department. If you’re a mobile business then simply register with the department that’s closest to where it’ll be kept at least 28 days before you start trading. Simply enter your postcode to find the details of your local authority.
Have I got the correct licenses to trade?
If you’re planning to trade on public streets or roadsides then you’ll need a Trading Licence. If you’re heading to an event, show, or a private piece of land then you won’t need a Trading Licence providing the organisers already have one – you should double check this before committing to the job.
Health and Safety
As a catering business, it’s essential to stay on top of anything health and safety related, as a lax of understanding or knowledge could lead you into tricky business. A few things to bear in mind…
Have you and your employees had Food Hygiene/Food Safety training?
Anyone working in a food related industry will need some form of training. If you’re unsure about what training is required then the Nationwide Caterers Association offers online food safety and hygiene training.
Have you carried out a risk assessment?
All food businesses in the UK need to produce a risk assessment. Not only does it protect your workers and your business, it’s also required by law. Find out about the risks associated with running your business and discover how to carry out a risk assessment on your business.
Have you got a Gas Safety Certificate?
You need to make sure that your food unit has a CE label on it. If it doesn’t you won’t have a Gas Safety Certificate for it and event organisers will always ask to see one before you start trading to ensure you’re trading legally. Insurers are also likely to ask for it if you were to ever make a claim.
One more point on this - if you’re using electrical equipment for any catering purposes then it must be installed, inspected and tested by a Gas Safe Engineer every 12 months. Make sure that the engineer is qualified in Mobile Catering & LPG.
Have you got an electrical certificate?
It’s sensible for you to get an Electric Safety Check for the installation of all the appliances you’ll be using whilst trading, as there’s several pieces of legislation that state all employers must provide safe premises and equipment.
For more information on what your business needs to do in order to comply with health and safety law, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers some useful information.
For someone running a mobile catering business, insurance is a must! Not only is it needed to protect your equipment and goods, it’s needed to protect your vehicle, employees, and third party members.
The law states that any catering business with two or more employees must have Employers Liability insurance in order to trade legally. It’s strongly recommended however that you also have Public Liability insurance (this will provide cover against claims such as food poisoning). If you’ve got all this covered, that’s great but it’s worth remembering that you need to be able to provide proof so remember to take your Employers Liability certificate (at the very least) with you when you’re out and about.
Increasing your stock levels?
It’s important to be aware that if you’re planning to increase your stock levels after taking out your insurance policy then you’ll need to get in contact with your insurer as they may need to increase the level of your cover.
What if an event gets cancelled?
A question that many mobile caterers have is “What happens if the event I’m attending is cancelled? Will all my stock be covered?” The answer is no, this would normally be covered by the event organiser so it’s worth double checking with them before you take your pitch and buy in your stock.
What happens if my refrigerated unit breaks down?
Many mobile caterers will have refrigerated units installed that they’re reliant on for trading. If you’ve got one or you’re planning to get one installed and you’re worried about it breaking down whilst you’re trading, don’t worry. Many insurers will give you the option to extend your insurance policy to cover your refrigerated stock. However, don’t assume that it’s included in your standard policy.
If you’re unsure about what insurance you need, have any questions or queries or would like to take out insurance, then get in touch with us on 0845 122 2708 or simply apply online for a quote.
Location Location Location
There are many different places you can trade and it’s important that you choose a location that’s right for you and your business proposition. Once you’ve decided on your trading destination it’s vital that you secure your pitch and place (before someone else pinches it).
What you charge for your yummy goods will depend largely on what you’re selling and where you’re trading. We all know that food and drink can cost a small fortune at festivals whereas on the roadside it’s always a bit cheaper. We recommend that you do some research into a customer’s propensity to pay and your overheads in different locations and then set your prices accordingly.
Just remember wherever you are and whatever you’re selling, make sure you’re trading safely, legally and most importantly (for you) profitably. Happy trading!