Roadside Catering Van - Forecast

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by BusterBloodvessel, Jan 22, 2018.

  1. BusterBloodvessel

    BusterBloodvessel UKBF Regular Free Member

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    Hi All. Long time lurker but first time poster here! :)

    I currently work full time but also co-own a successful part time catering business, so I have and am familiar with my food hygiene, HACCP, daily checks etc.

    I have an opportunity to expand this with a catering van that a friend has not been using for some time due to personal reasons and has offered on a "try before you buy" basis. My plan is to operate daily and I have identified a pitch in an industrial area - I am well aware that a business like this is hard work and certainly not easy, but it seems too good to at least try for very little investment other than my own time and hard work and I don't mind either of those!

    As I say the location is an industrial area, directly opposite one very large business (approx. 300 employees however I am unsure yet if they have their own cafe on site), with various small manufacturing & wholesaling businesses nearby (0 - 50 employees each on average), as well as commercial offices (one with approx 80 employees although they have their own cafe), and four smaller independent offices, 2 are currently unoccupied and up for let, but the others have smaller businesses in them with I estimate around 100 employees in total. I would say realistically there are 800 - 1000 employees within walking distance or a quick two minute "nip" round the corner in the car. My own personal belief is that when you are relying on people's breakfast and lunch breaks they aren't going to be driving more than 2 or 3 minutes as by the time they've got there, got their food and gone back their break is all but gone! The food would have to be something really spectacular for that. We have a good facebook following locally (6k+ page likes) and intend to use this as well as more traditional leaflet marketing to get going.

    Within this catchment area the only real competition is a KFC and a McDonalds as well as a Frankie & Bennys. A further 2 or 3 minutes drive away there are 2 traditional type sandwich shops within a couple of hundred metres of each other but luckily (for me) they are on main roads with no convenient parking.

    The plan is to open at 6.30am (to be confirmed - I am currently identifying when the shift changeovers are at the large business in particular, if they are changing shift at 5.30am it would be seriously worth considering being there for then) for breakfast with sausage, bacon and egg rolls with tea/coffee. Very traditional but using butchers bacon and sausage rather than cheap sausages that are deep fried!

    The main focus will be on lunch, again using high quality local butchers sourced food, serving hot sandwiches & wraps such as slow cooked beef brisket with jack daniels sauce, pulled pork with a spicy chipotle mayo, chicken tikka with coriander chilli sauce etc, as well as soups (traditional carrot & coriander etc, plus things like thai chicken noodle soup) and the usual crisps, cake bars & drinks, plus fries.

    The idea is to offer home cooked food, that might not be marketed as healthy (we'll still serve chips and crisps!) but that uses fresh local ingredients, and that offers something different from your standard ham salad roll! A bit more adventurous but that will still be around £3 for a sandwich and under a fiver with chips and a drink.

    So I have read with interest many thread for similar businesses on here but have 2 questions;

    1. What's peoples general thoughts on the idea and food?!

    2. The main one - I am really struggling with forecasting and break even scenarios. I have crunched all my figures and costs (I am a bit anal when it comes to costing spreadsheets even with the other business, e.g. even though a stock cube might cost 4p, if I know that makes 8 portions of soup, it goes on the spreadsheet at half a penny each - I hate when things are just considered to be cheap or throwaway so don't need accounting for! - Anyway, that's another rant)....

    ...What I would really like is any experience or knowledge of how many sandwiches could realistically be sold in a day. I know it's a finger in the air job but has anyone run a similar business and can confirm if they were selling 20 in a day or 520?! I am currently looking at scenarios selling 20 breakfast rolls and 20 lunch, which I cannot believe isn't possible. But then if I start to target 100 in total that seems like a very high figure to me.

    Also has anyone any experience of conversion rates for add ons. E.g. you would sell a coffee for every 3 breakfast rolls bought? Or in fact you sold more hot drinks than you did hot food, or a bag of crisps for every 5 lunchtime dinners bought etc. This would help me build a more realistic scenario and target.

    Apologies for the rambling post!! But I would appreciate any advice or general critique of the idea.
    Posted: Jan 22, 2018 By: BusterBloodvessel Member since: Jan 22, 2018
  2. billmccallum1957

    billmccallum1957 UKBF Ace Full Member

    1,945 410
    Mobile catering should really be multi-faceted, don't just look at industrial estates, but high streets at night, local fairs and car boot sales at week-ends, musical festival and antiques fairs, etc.

    It's been a few years since I helped my uncle with his business, but on the whole the industrial estates were the lowest income generators, but (he had three trailers) he moved them from the estate to the high street at night and did events at week-ends.

    A good day on the estate would generate £200-£300 a day, but the high streets would generate £1000 on a good day and a big music event could generate £3000 a day (this was 15 years ago).

    Note: he bought the cheapest burgers and sausages and charged the lowest prices locally.

    He had between 6 and 10 staff, with himself and my brother as drivers and stocking the vans.
    Posted: Jan 22, 2018 By: billmccallum1957 Member since: Feb 11, 2016
  3. BusterBloodvessel

    BusterBloodvessel UKBF Regular Free Member

    132 46
    Thankyou for the quick reply. Actually we have some experience already of a couple of private functions so a similar tack. The difference here was we were booked to provide 80 sandwiches for example for 80 guests. It's the guess work of what's a realistic target on the high street that I'm struggling with.

    I'd definitely be targeting more functions and festivals etc but I think these would have to be viewed as a bonus when they come up, and the vans bread and butter needs to be week in week out.

    Thanks again!
    Posted: Jan 22, 2018 By: BusterBloodvessel Member since: Jan 22, 2018
  4. MBE2017

    MBE2017 UKBF Enthusiast Free Member

    784 187
    I think a major problem re forecasting turnover is there are so many variables, from food quality, staff, location, weather etc. Only a guess but with a company of 1000 by your location, if you can't make that pay I doubt you should be in business.

    I would contact the company and offer a delivery service, many would probably like to use you but will lack time to visit.
    Posted: Jan 22, 2018 By: MBE2017 Member since: Feb 16, 2017
  5. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

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    Have you contacted the site landlord to see if he will lease you the spot, I doubt many will just let you park for free these days as they are experts in getting money from traders
    Posted: Jan 22, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  6. BusterBloodvessel

    BusterBloodvessel UKBF Regular Free Member

    132 46
    Hi Chris, sorry for the slow reply. The site is on a public road so requires a street traders licence not landlord permission.

    MBE - delivery is being considered, the issue of course is an extra wage for a delivery driver and having enough deliveries to cover that. I have faced similar issues with my other catering business (that does deliveries) where we scaled up output to meet demand, but to do that required an extra driver...but we couldn't scale up enough to make any more money, we were just covering the costs of the extra driver so giving ourselves a load of work for no extra return! It's a tricky one but a potential second step for sure.
    Posted: Jan 23, 2018 By: BusterBloodvessel Member since: Jan 22, 2018
  7. Mr D

    Mr D UKBF Legend Free Member

    14,288 1,557
    A couple of mobile trucks on industrial estates near me, one on a pavement and one on a lay-by.
    Hot pork baps seem to be common, along with the usual fare found at mobile catering - burgers, bacon etc. No idea of the custom but both vans have been using same sites for years.
    As you say the staff do not have time to go far on lunch.
    Saturdays one of the vans does the local market, roaring trade there.
    Posted: Jan 23, 2018 By: Mr D Member since: Feb 12, 2017
  8. simon field

    simon field UKBF Big Shot Full Member - Verified Business

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    Having worked on and around many industrial estates...

    I'd say only a very small percentage of workers on these estates eat takeaway food, with the vast majority taking a packed lunch. It's cheaper, healthier and avoids having to go anywhere if say its tipping down with rain or freezing cold outside.

    Also, all industrial estates have a visiting mobile hot food van these days. Those who do want takeaway are having it literally brought to them in the car park every day. They've no overheads (apart from fuel) in terms of a static van setup.

    How will you overcome that, how would you deal with so called 'turf wars'?
    Posted: Jan 24, 2018 By: simon field Member since: Feb 4, 2011
  9. BusterBloodvessel

    BusterBloodvessel UKBF Regular Free Member

    132 46
    Hi Simon,

    I suspect you are right on the small %, I suppose my question is trying to estimate what that % is. I was wondering if anyone might have been able to say "I was based in an industrial estate of 2000 people and sold 100 sandwiches a day" etc. A long shot I know!

    In this area at the moment there's only one visiting truck that sells coffees and pasties/pies so we're hoping to at least offer something a bit different. It also only comes around between 10.30 and 11 so might affect our morning trade but less so the lunchtime trade (I know people might buy them to eat later). Also I know at least 2 of the businesses based in offices around there have banned the staff from going out outside their break times, as they were all having a break at 10am, then just before 11 the pastie van turned up and everybody was rushing off from their desks for another quarter of an hour!
    Posted: Jan 24, 2018 By: BusterBloodvessel Member since: Jan 22, 2018
  10. tony84

    tony84 UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    5,488 957
    With a potential 1,000 people a day I would expect you to get 50 people.
    Chances are you will probably find you have up and down days. When I worked in town, there was a cafe we used to do a run to on a friday and on pay day. So basically as a group we would order 5 times a month.

    As individuals there would be people who went every day and people who never went.

    You can crunch numbers all day long, but you may as well just get the van and give it a bash for a month and see how it goes. If you only need to do 40 a day, I am sure you will be fine.
    Posted: Jan 24, 2018 By: tony84 Member since: Apr 14, 2008
  11. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

    10,267 2,079
    As others have stated

    In Yarmouth we have two mobile food van companies that do the rounds at set times each day and probably have far more than your 1000 potential customers per day

    They are all hot / cold vans so you can buy either and just return to base for top ups if needed and also supply company food for like boardroom meetings by pre ordered goods apparently quite a good market

    Might be worth a thought
    Posted: Jan 24, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  12. Cheeky charlies

    Cheeky charlies UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    1 0
    Hi there i had the same similar problem while i was looking for different things to try out , i stumbbled across some one who was doing fresh chicken wraps and tried it my self, just plain seasoned chcken thigh bit bit of salad and a 2p wrap and bobs you uncle had people turnign up to hot dog van who had never seen before and had to get a separate trailer after 13 weeks as over took the burgers etc.

    Good luck with what your doing mate
    Posted: Jan 11, 2019 By: Cheeky charlies Member since: Jan 11, 2019