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Starting a burger/catering van. Just need a few bits of advice.

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by crazyshady, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    So the WWE shop didnt work out lol. I suppose these things happen. So ive decided to try a catering van. Ive researched this and done a few things but im a bit confused about what to do next and need peoples advice and help.

    Spoke to Glasgow Council licensing department who sent me to Environmental Health Services who are sending me a brochure and forms to fill in when i find a van. They will inspect and approve it at a cost of £35. This is where im stuck.

    The licensing department sent me to them and said speak to them first. The guy i spoke to on the phone asked me where i was thinking of trading, i didnt know what to say as im going to scout for possible spots tomorrow. I just said industrial estates and places like that. He said get onto licensing department and talk to them about granting permission to trade on the place i want to. So both of them are telling me to go to the other one. Which one do i do first?

    As many of you who read my previous posts know, ive never ran a business before. So from what ive gathered ill be registering as self employed and as a street trader. Now apparantly theres two types of license, one is to trade in one place, the other is to trade in multiple (maximum of 3) so ive no idea if the multiple one costs more money or anything or if i just pay the one off fee of £58 for the street traders license. Can anyone help me on that? The woman from the Licensing Department mentioned something about filling the forms, bringing my passport (expired in 2004) and a passport sized photo and theyll see about approving it. Some other stuff too but it made no sense to me.

    Yes im aware ill need a hygiene certificate, which the council provide at a cost! lol

    My main question to you all, including those involved in this business is what the hell do i do next? What exactly do i do first. Do i get a van first. Get it inspected and approved THEN seek permisson to trade? Do i get the traders license first? Or do i have to have a van in order for that to happen? Register as self employed? Im aware of all these things and feel free to correct me but i dont know in what order i should be doing them in. Id like a checklist of things to do.


    I feel bad for writing so much as i was excited but now im feeling really down and nervous. This is something i should probably create a new thread for but theres no harm in enquiring.
    I cant drive........and im gonna a little bit of help. I thought maybe family could have helped, but their either in jobs or on benefits and i wouldnt want them to lose current jobs or any benefit money by risking coming working for me. I cant do it alone. I read on one site, anybody working the van has to have photographic ID provided by the council. Dont know if its true. I guess i cant have people work on a casual basis. And yet i hear about people owning loads of vans paying young people to run them and giving them 40 quid a day. i guess they must be employing them. And then i read to do that you need to register as an employer.So does that mean i forget about the whole self employed sole trader thing? i now forget about that and call myself an EMPLOYER? Just because i need some help running the thing. Im assuming i need to pay NI contributions on their behalf. Family want to help aswell. I just dont wanna mess their money and jobs up.


    All a bit of a mess really. Slightly scary. Im really doing it on my own. Im not getting much help from people which makes me think it could all fail. As for picking spots tomorrow..........dont know what im looking for. What do i write on the form. Name of the street? Hope theres a parking space on the street each day? lol. Someone said take pictures. They make it sound to me as if i fill in the form and hand it in. I wish they could tell you these things over the phone. The idea of trading in 3 places sounds good, but only if one place is really crap, at least you can move on and try another. But if it means paying 3 lots of £58 then forget it. Sorry if ive bored and bothered you all again.
  2. Esk247

    Esk247 UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 7,750 Likes: 1,511
    dont panic..we're here to help :)

    i have no idea about setting up a catering van business thing...but its a good idea in some respects e.g. duncan bannatyne and his ice cream vans. its something you can build up and test your skills in business.

    i'd say just phone up one of the two licensing places and ask for more advice and just say 'hey, look they sent me back to you, you sent me to them, all i want is a license' kind of thing and get them to do the work they are paid to do really.

    i'd say get all your certificates and licenses in place and do some digging around for a vehicle but don't go all out and purchase it straight away in case there are any delays with licensing etc you don't want to be left with a vehicle sat on your drive doing nothing.
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  3. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    I think its the lack of support too. People really are leaving me to do it on my own and offering no help at all. Im dreading phoning them back. The van...IMO, should be the last thing i buy, but then again i need to make sure its tested and approved etc. So whats the point in getting a license and paying money to trade....if i cant get a van thats been ok'd? And then theres the worker thing. Do i register as an employer or can i be an employer and a sole trader? I need someone to sit down and tell me EXACTLY what i should be doing.

    And so far the council and EHS arent doing that for me. Then i could be surprised by the brochures their sending me.But both made it quite clear that they dont take anything to do with each other and they both do different jobs! Even though their next door to each other.
  4. Esk247

    Esk247 UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 7,750 Likes: 1,511
    its the usual thing with licensing authorities..all over the place.

    perhaps try business link as they can go through your business plan with you and offer you some advice.

    if you're going to be working the van on your own then your a sole trader and you telephone inland revenue etc to tell them this so they can send you some forms.

    if you plan to employ people in the van and you just own it then this becomes more difficult and you will be an employer so its best to set it up as a trading company rather than have all the responsibilities cast on yourself.

    sometimes its nice and easy to write up bullet pointed list of the targets to achieving what you want to do e.g.

    - Business Link
    - Inland Revenue
    - Licensing Authority
    - Commercial Vehicles/DVLA or whatever

    there will no doubt be lots of forms to fill out but if you're staring at a pile of paperwork then it becomes very very difficult to sort your priorities and you get stressed out because you make it impossible for yourself.

    simplify it by doing a task a day or an objective in the morning and another in the afternoon..ticking them off your list..as you do so you'll get more confident and get more support from the relevant authorities like inland revenue and business link.
  5. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Maybe van isnt the right, maybe trailor is. I thought apart from the OK by the EHS all it needed was to pass its MOT and stuff? Obviously i cant do it on my own, im trying to get my family involved, and they will and ill be in the van everyday myself, but is there no way round it? I have to officially employ them? Ive got an idea what to do i just need someone whos done it before or who is doing it to tell me exactly what to do and in what order i should be doing it.
  6. mitch@volume

    mitch@volume UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 194 Likes: 34
    business link would be a great place to start for advice, and they do some free basic business start up courses and stuff like that. - phone up your local one and make an appointment to see somebody

    Also I don't know how old you are? but if you are a young person you could try contacting the princes trust as the offer small business start up funding and a free business mentor for your business.

    also look into other government/charity small business help for example down here we have the Kent foundation who offer money and advice for start ups.
  7. tom111

    tom111 UKBF Contributor Free Member

    Posts: 151 Likes: 27
    OK... well, I would suggest cutting it down a little at the moment...

    There are two main ways of trading on the street, as a pedlar or as a street trader. If you want to trade from a fixed location (or three ;) , you will need a street trading licence, which you can get from the council.

    I would suggest that you should do several things, first, before applying for a street trading license:

    1. A basic food hygeine course, (call up environmental health to find out what they recommend, this doesn't necessarily cost you any money if you are on benefits). This is not legally obligatory, but it will save potential problems latter on.

    2. A drivers license.

    In terms of business, I think you will need:

    3. Public liability insurance

    4. A street traders license and,

    5. To register with environmental health. The enviornmental health department will inspect your van and etc. Having a food hygeine certificate will help at this stage.

    Personally I would recommend going to a city somewhere at low business hours, and talk to a local burger van driver, make it obvious you won't be directly competing with them, and ask them for advice. ( Hi, I'm thinking of starting a burger van in XXXX, do you mind if I ask you some questions ?).

    Thing to do is break it down... you really can't operate a burger van without a drivers license, can you? If you do steps one and two first, you will be on your way.
  8. Supertomo

    Supertomo UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 12 Likes: 2
    I have some factsheets on setting up a mobile takeaway/ hotdog or burger stand which will help you with prioritising. If you PM me with an email address I'll send you a copy.
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  9. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Guys, deepest apologies about the long absence. Ive had major problems logging into this site for a few weeks now. Having changed Internet Explorers and a few .dll files im now up and running again. Thankyou for your replies.


    Supertomo i will pm you and hopefully get those factsheets.

    Tom i have the paperwork from the Environmental Health detailing what the van needs, size of sinks etc so i know what im looking for when i buy a van. It will cost me £35 to get it inspected and approved for use. As for the street traders license....i have the paperwork. Such questions as if i act as a street trader describe the location of the stance. Im guessing i write pavement lol. As for the driving part well, the ones that are more in my price region are actually trailors and ill explain in more detail why i wont be driving it.

    I cant drive. I have family who do. Their willing to be helpful but this is something i need to clear up and hopefully someone will give me the right answers. If i want help in the van, and i get people to help me out with the cooking and serving, will i need to EMPLOY them? Now i know casual work isnt legal and im trying to ask this without making myself sound too bad. Ive read that i should register as a sole trader, but if i employ people i need to register as an employer. So is it one or the other or do can i/do i have to register as both? Ive heard registering as an employer is a lot more hassle and as such would i then need to register my 'business'? Theres really no way around it? I cant just have people help me out?

    Its £58 per year for the license, is that per spot or is that included in all 3 spots if i get permission for all three?

    And public liability insurance....im guessing thats different than business insurance. Do i really need either of these? I cant seem to find any price quotes anywhere for either.

    I hope someone can help me out, ive done my best trying to read everything and understand everything. I just want to do everything properly.
  10. tom111

    tom111 UKBF Contributor Free Member

    Posts: 151 Likes: 27
    Good.

    I don't think the paperwork is standardised, but if it's like the ones I've seen it's certainly a pain.

    If they are just helping you out, you don't need to register as an employer. If you are paying them, you might need to register as an employer, the info is at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/PAYE/intro-register.htm .


    I think it's for all three spots, but you'd be advised to ask the council.

    A few people have mentioned that http://www.caterersclub.co.uk/ is a good insurance company for caterers. I haven't used them. By "public liability" I'm talking about insurance that covers any harm you might accidentally cause to a member of the public .
  11. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Well the problem is the people helping me dont have any other jobs and are recieving other benefits due to their children being at school. I suppose this is kind of what im saying, if for any reason the van got inspected would they need to show proof that their working for me or employed by me? Their certainly not self employed. If they do then obviously theyed lose any money their recieving. This is why i hate asking because i know how it looks bad. And obviously their not gonna do it for free which is why i hinted at 'casual work', cash in hand and that kind of thing.

    The book by environmental health says that if i am the sole trader and its in my name then i should be the one to train someone if they are helping me. Im assuming that means im the only one who needs to have a basic food hygiene certificate. As for the street traders license, its literally 2 pages. Ive to hand that in along with a passport sized photograph when applying. Ive no idea how long it takes them to approve it.Theres a small box where ive to state the names of the streets and areas i wish to trade. One of them is now a no go i think as it is just a few streets from a primary school. I know your supposed to be 500m away by law now but i didnt think it would have applied to primary schools as the children are not allowed to leave the premises. But with the choice of 3 places im sure ill get at least one of them.
  12. Comspec

    Comspec UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 7,115 Likes: 1,473
    I'd be looking to have a potential pitch sorted before I decided on a van tbh. Then I'd trawl around a number of people with vans and ask them what equipment they felt they'd like to have if they had the choice, to get a feel for what works best. Also I'd eat a burger a day for a while at different carts, just to watch and pick up the do's and don'ts.

    I told someone a long time ago when he was going into the catering trade - it is as easy to cook decent grub as it is to cook carp, so ensure you keep the quality up. It'll take the same effort, but you'll get many more repeat customers if your food is nice.
  13. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Thats part of the advice i was asking, what to do in what order. Theres many places i feel are ideal for a pitch but i wont know until i can try it. I know i need someone who can cook well, which is why i need the help, not that i cant cook of course.
  14. Comspec

    Comspec UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 7,115 Likes: 1,473
    I'd be doing it in this order, though I am far from an expert:

    1) Look for the perfect pitch, and maybe a backup one too

    2) Decide what type of food would go best in these pitches (useful for planning the inside of your van).

    3) Approach the licensing office, and get some movement on the pitches, so that you have this ongoing, and leave it until you are practically assured of one or the other pitch before seriously looking to buy a van

    4) Look around at what vans are available, and what additional work would need to be done to get them into the shape you want them. Realistically this could be started at any time, the earlier the better, but you gotta be careful not to get excited and agree to buy anything just yet.

    5) Start to talk to potential suppliers, of equipment and foodstuffs, etc. Let them fight with each other over prices to get you onboard.

    6) Go through the normal procedures to get a council approval to trade in the first place

    7) Get the pitch agreed, with some sort of plan in mind for the design of cart you want

    8) Get the cart purchased and fitted out if needed

    9) Get your initial stock bought

    10) Get your van out there, and do whatever you can to let everyone know you are there.

    There are a lot of things you can do to market your van locally, but the best one is to 'involve' people a little. If you are close to an industrial estate, go into the businesses and tell them when you are opening, leaving them a leaflet with menu/pricing/tel number to order their food on (this is excellent for busy people, saves them 10 minutes at lunchtime standing ordering food and waiting on it).

    what about a littl walk around with some samples of your food, catching people who are walking close by, but maybe not actually stopping with you. Walk around with a large tray of your chips if this is what you sell (I always find that myself and friends tend to judge chippy-type food by the quality of their chips), and maybe some small slices of burger, to show that you use decent ones and not the little frozen pieces of cardboard some vans try to pass off.

    Lots on the marketing side you need to think about, but the points above are roughly the way I'd go about things in answer to your initial query.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  15. ginantonic

    ginantonic UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 954 Likes: 129
    We used to have a fish and chip trailer, then sold it and bought a van that we converted into a catering van. We had our insurance with Caterers Club - they are good, and the price seems reasonable. Liability insurance is an essential! You MUST tell your insurer if you are carrying gas canisters, too.
    The local EH inspection usually involves visiting the van when you are actually trading, then they can advise/criticise after seeing you in action, and you can then put their requirements in place. They do give you guidance literature prior to this, though, so it's not too hard to follow.
    Food and Hygiene Certs - can do online for about £30, I did.
    In our area (which may have different regulations to yours) you can trade on an industrial estate if you're not static, i.e. not parked in the same spot all day every day - if you are, then you need to pay the council, Highways Dept, or whoever, rent. If you're mobile, you're supposed to let the police know your regular route and stopping places, and use common sense, like don't park in a dangerous spot near a bend.
    Re marketing, we dropped leaflets at all the businesses in the area, and when we did a residential area, we leafletted all the nearby houses. A good idea, and well worth the money, is to have your van/trailer signwritten with eye-catching graphics.
    If you are only doing burgers and chips, sausages, beans etc, it's not rocket science, and it's easy to get up to speed cooking them, so I wouldn't worry about paying an expensive "chef".
    Re the staff - everyone running catering vehicles pays casual wages, either to family, friends, or students. OK, I know there's an issue there, but that's how it's always been done.
    Re the Self Employment thing - register yourself before you do anything, that way you're covered.
    Good luck with it, it's hard work!
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  16. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Again ive been researching things more and more. Id be interested in knowing more about the food and hygiene certificates online. Ideally i would have liked to have been parked at an industrial estate. I liked the idea of having 3 places to trade but i was hoping to get one good one out of 3 and just stick to it. I didnt know about paying council any fees for it.

    Again the wages and workers, this seems to be the big problem and i know how its done but knowing my luck id be the one to get pulled up about it. I need to know how safe it is to have family members working in the van with me. Ill be in the van too, its not like ill be leaving them there themselves. But i need to know A) What happens if EH or the Police or anyone question who they are and why their working and B) are they required to have the hygiene certificates too?
  17. ginantonic

    ginantonic UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 954 Likes: 129
    Try www.food-certificate.co.uk/online-food-hygiene-for-catering.aspx
    for your certificate, there are lots of others, too.
    If you are parking your van on a regular pitch on an industrial estate, you have to find out who owns it (ask at the Council offices) and see if they charge rent. You can't just park where you like. Things will affect where you choose - like if there is already a van/vans there, they may not allow any more, and most estates have them already.
    Re your workers - it is ok to have family members working for you, but they are also supposed to have their Food & Hygiene certs, even if you are with them at all times. You have to be really, really careful if you have someone working on your van and you know they are claiming any benefits. They will get done for it, and so will you, it's a serious thing, (fraud!) and they do check mobile businesses. You can have casual staff working for you if they have proved to you that they are self employed, it's actually as easy as them ringing up the tax office and telling them, then they are sent a Self Employed registered number, and you and they are then covered.
  18. PaulPaul

    PaulPaul UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 7 Likes: 0
    I ran a catering van for ten years. First check out the insurance costs - they have a habit of getting torched. I had two arsons back in the 90's. The street trading areas can be provided by your council. Some areas are excluded so best to find out where you can trade first before you buy anything. You need a van with good extraction that works! Frying bacon and sausages covers you in air borne grease. The hard bit with a van is getting a good reputation and if you work nights the drunks could really give you alot of abuse. Have a think about how much profit you may make out of each sandwich - you only have breakfast and lunch. It is very hard work - no holidays if you have a regular pitch and you may find the best sites are taken. Why not try a sandwich round - buy in the sandwiches from a sandwich factory - look at jiffy trucks.
    Paul
  19. Flying Hippy

    Flying Hippy UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 326 Likes: 13
    Hello,

    Best advice I can give will be buy a van with pitch included. That you get all you need and should be established so the trade is already there.

    trading estates require the owner approval as they are private property.
  20. crazyshady

    crazyshady UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 193 Likes: 6
    Got a van guys.Everything working in it well so im sure itll pass the inspection. Tomorrow im gonna enquire about possible 'pitches'. Can anyone tell me how long it takes to get approved? Im gonna phone the council first anyway but i want to know if theres anything specific i should mention?

    Also with insurance. Is it really necassary to have it at first? Is it a must? Out of all the online companies ive looked at not one have given me a price of any kind and im still clueless as to how much it is.

    Just to let you all know what im doing so you can correct me. Im applying and getting pitches approved first. Then im going to get my street traders license. I will also get the van booked in to be inspected by Environmental Health this week. So far i think im doing everything ok.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2009